How I photographed a high-wire act
There were hundreds of wind turbines spinning in the delta breeze, except for one: tower D18. I was in the rolling Montezuma Hills northeast of the Bay Area to document the repair of a giant fiberglass blade attached to an idled turbine high atop a steel tower.
I had seen photographs in a Patagonia catalog, sent to me by a colleague, and was inspired to do something different and capture images of my own.
After researching the area, checking maps and astronomical charts for sunrise and sunset times, I found my trip might coincide with the blood moon eclipse. Weather would be a main factor, as too much wind would scrap operations. The forecast was favorable, and the trip was on.
After arriving in Bird’s Landing for a safety briefing on-site, I spent the afternoon looking for landscape images to show the turbines in their environment. I drove out into the hills as livestock grazed and blades cast rotating shadows. A “whoosh” sounded through the air. As the sun set, I searched for a spot to photograph the rising moon. Clouds obscured the horizon, and around a corner I saw the moon, now too high for composing an image. That meant extra pressure and getting up before dawn, hoping to capture the blood moon lunar eclipse among the turbine fields as the moon set.
The next morning I wasn’t disappointed as the clouds diminished, the eclipsed moon appeared and dawn broke over the hills.
Up next was a 10-hour day with the repair crew. After meeting early to go over a safety checklist, turbine technician Matthew Kelly strapped into his climbing harness and climbed a ladder inside the D18 tower to his “office” 262 feet up. Kelly’s partner Lloyd Hardin managed the ropes and wind speeds. I also had to monitor the wind, as the only way short of getting certified to climb the tower myself was to fly my drone to capture Kelly at work. Employing the drone and telephoto lenses I was able to capture Kelly working throughout the day on the tower, until the sun set and Hardin guided him back to terra firma.