Old school metalwork photography

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Metal work and lathe imagery

I visited a local Eccles-based manufacturing unit recently and produced a set of images from one of their soon-to-be retiring professional machinists.

His skill with a lathe was truly superb. I'm sure it was second nature to him, but I watched in wonder as his knowledgable hands made quick, clean, and fine adjustments, and after a smooth rack forward produced a beautifully hand-machined seal.

When I first studied for a City & Guilds 744 professional qualification, a lathe was one of the first items I ever photographed. I was reminded of this experience staring at this scene in front of me and I had a moment to marvel at how life can reveal itself in neat circles. That was stepping back through nearly 30 years of memory, but this lathe was still producing fantastically precise metalwork in the hands of metallurgy professionals.

In this workshop, they machine o-rings, face seals, and die gaskets to very high tolerances. Using diamond grinding and precision lapping to finish the surface before finally checking the lapping by reading the light bands.

I love working in industrial areas like this, it offers a rich palette of textures and some very interesting materials to light. In amongst the heavy oil and metal aroma, this style of environment provides some lovely foreground items to work behind to provide a shallow depth of field which I feel suits my eye.

I mostly used natural light to capture this work and occasionally supplemented the ambient with some off-camera flash to provide some edge detail and forced light direction.

If you've got a project that would suit this style, why not get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.