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Mining photographer illustrates life underground

After more than a decade shooting weddings, families, engagements and babies, James Hodgins felt like he was losing his spark. But all it took to reignite his passion for photography was a jumbo drill or two.
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Photographed under the right conditions, a jumbo drill at Vale’s Coleman Mine in Sudbury takes on a ‘cool’ factor that doesn’t translate in ordinary photographs.

After more than a decade shooting weddings, families, engagements and babies, James Hodgins felt like he was losing his spark. But all it took to reignite his passion for photography was a jumbo drill or two.

Sudbury-based Hodgins, the proprietor of James Hodgins Photography, started photographing mining-related images a few years ago, and is now working for some of the top names in the industry.

“I actually prefer doing the mining industrial than a wedding,” he said. “It’s more of a challenge.”

You could say Hodgins’ photos are the glamour shots of mining.

He captures on film equipment, miners and un­derground operations for clients seeking to give people a new perspective on their products and ser­vices.

“It’s a tough industry to crack when it comes to photography because it’s not like weddings or babies where anyone can pick up the camera and go photo­graph,” he said. “You can’t just walk onto a mine site and start taking pictures. You have to have some sort of experience, you have to have some sort of creden­tials, you have to have some sort of training.”

Not bothered by the dirt and grime he encounters on worksites, Hodgins ventures into some inhospi­table places, lugging with him a camera, lighting, lenses and other equipment needed to get the per­fect shot.

Shooting mines isn’t an area that appeals to most photographers, because they’re working in condi­tions that can be hostile to sensitive lenses, and lighting can be a challenge. Hodgins has a separate set of equipment for his industrial work, a lesson he learned the hard way after wrecking too many expensive lenses by dropping them in muck piles.

He also owns all his own safety gear, including a hard hat, boots, a respirator and harness, and has been safety-certified to make him eligible to work on industrial sites.

One of the greatest challenges he faces is educat­ing the client on the difference professional photog­raphy can make.

With the proliferation of digital photography into the mainstream, it’s easier for the average person to take decent shots. But too often, companies settle for images that are “good enough” instead of images that really pop, Hodgins said.

His “crappy-versus-snappy” outlook is often enough to convince clientele there’s an advantage to having him on board. Side-by-side comparisons of a photo shot with a regular camera and a profes­sional shot easily demonstrate the difference good lighting, meticulous setup and professional know­how can make.

Having its own photos instead of having to rely on stock images also gives a company an advantage in the industry, Hodgins said.

“The problem that companies were seeing was that the same photographs they had on their website, four other websites had exactly the same photos because it’s all stock,” he said. “Now the industry is starting to come around to having their people from their sites doing their work, and so they’re getting a little bit more personalized with it.”

This year, Hodgins will say so long to wedding photography for the first season in 17 years to focus solely on his industrial work. His aim is to become the go-to guy for mining and industrial photography in Sudbury and the North.

As lucrative as wedding photography can be, he’s looking forward to having his weekends back to go fishing and hunting. And, of course, he’s ready for that challenge that mining photography offers.

“There’s just something about it,” Hodgins said. “Every mine site is different. I could be under­ground, or I could be in Matachewan on the side of a big huge crane above the headframe shooting, or in helicopters. It’s a completely different challenge every time.”

www.miningindustrialphotographer.com




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