Over the last few months, our team has been working hard on bringing together a fully-fledged corporate coffee table book for the second biggest oil company in Oman. Towards the end of 2012, they have a celebratory sales conference making it the perfect occasion to document what the brand has achieved and their vision for the future. Tim, our copywriter, has been interviewing different members within the organisation, external partners and ministry officials, to capture their personal stories and record what makes the company so unique. Whilst I’ve been travelling to Oman to photograph their oil operation, artists are working on sketches and the design team is putting the initial pages together so it’s been all hands on deck with creativity let loose.
I would love to reflect a bit on my Oman time related to this project. I’ve been travelling around the region for a decade now and every time I am blown away by the joys of working with Omani’s. They really have found their niche in friendliness and hard work and they have a genuinely warm approach to hospitality that I don’t seem to have experienced in other GCC states. Perhaps I’ve not ventured off the beaten track enough in other states but speaking to other industry professionals, Oman does seem to stand out in their approach to life.
All in all, I’ve spent nearly two weeks photographing the oil operation in Oman and it’s been a real eye opener as to what it takes to pull oil out of the ground. I’ve come from the typical consumer side where I pitch up at the fuel station and within 10 minutes, the tank is full and we’re good to go. But hey, it’s hard work extracting oil from 1000’s of feet below the surface let alone the amount of research and technology it involves. As a result, I loved spending time with the guys on the rigs, understanding the 24hr drilling operation and photographing their efforts.
We’ve had to pull together our own creative brief and shooting list. What to shoot wasn’t handed to us on a silver platter and once actually in situ, we needed to constantly adapt to what was actually achievable, adding new compositions and working with whatever shooting conditions nature threw at us. We’ve had it all; great light, blue skies, featureless skies, rain in the desert and sand storms. The best of the best and worst of the worst!
The operation runs 24/7 so it didn’t feel that strange to wake up daily at 4am to capture the sweet morning light knowing that once outside, everything was in full operation anyway. Still, the long days were exhausting, creatively draining and either you love it or not. I choose the former and certainly had a blast!
One special moment I recall was shooting portraits on top of the high towers of their MVC installation. It was 5.30 am and the sun was rapidly rising. We dragged Profoto B3’s up the stairs but once set-up, I couldn’t get the flash output low enough without killing the picture.
The logical solution would be to add diffuser but that was down in the car, a good 10 minutes walk up and down the stairs and time was a variable not on my side. I looked around for another solution … mmm … the only one that sprung to mind was to take off my down shirt (which luckily was yellow and warmed up the scene) and wrap it around the reflector. So I did exactly this and it worked. It worked wonders actually despite the initial strange looks coming my way.
On the photography side, I’ve walked away with tons of amazing content. It’s partly up to the designers now to select what will make the pages of the book but I’m delighted that we’re so spoilt for choice. A luxury in this business!
More to come.