Tunnel Boring Machine Photography

Tunnel Boring Machine in acronym is known as TBM.

Been an industrial or construction photographer. I was always awed by the huge machines on site, watching the capability of what a machine can perform to its maximum performance, i also love the loud coloring painting around the heavy metal. There are various types of complex machinery to build roads, tunnels, bridges, housings, airports, facilities and so on. This is why i love to capture pictures of construction and industrial photography.

I usually make industrial pictures on the surface or climbing high up onto an oil storage tanks. But i never had the opportunity to go underground. Sometimes the local news will report story about deep underground storage or the more common news is about building tunnels. I always see those lucky photographers and journalist got the chance to go down there to make pictures. I was wondering how would it be like down there to work? What would i do if am there? What are the challenges i am going to be facing? So many curious questions but no one to answer unless i try it myself.

One overseas construction company require my service a while back. The director needed me to document their important engineering progress, workers on-site with proper safety gears and working safely, company branding etc. One day, the site engineer on the ground needed me to go down to take pictures of their newly assemble TBM. Wow, i am going underground to not only make pictures of the construction but also taking pictures of a tunnel boring machine, i was super excited!

The power of visualization

With the bright open top, lighting was not an issue in this scene. Here you can see the workers were doing the final assembly of the various parts. Yesterday, i was speaking with another engineer from Germany, he told me, “assembling a TBM takes 2-3 months to complete, that also depends on the experience of the workers and engineers who are setting it up.” Seeing the complexity of this machine from the inside, 2-3 months or even longer is understandable. Is like building a huge lego set, except it is like 100 times more difficult to me.

This is the first time i get to see the machine’s front end, also known as the cutterhead. It has dozens of teeth that chip away the ground as it rotates. The TBM can bore through anything from hard rocks and sand. Am using a Canon 17mm tilt shift lens for this picture. I don’t want to have a converging effect from the bottom, i want the client to view their beautiful TBM in perspective. I love the deep contrast of the red and blue.

Despite all the digging and shifting of soils and sands. The air quality in the underground was not suffocating as there was cold air pumped in from the ventilation fan through the various long yellow air vent (or air bag). For work safety purpose, i believe there must be a certain temperature to maintain in the underground. The lighting must be sufficient to see things clearly.

From an aerial point of view, i can see the cutterhead and the tunnel shield. The shield is the protective barrier between the ground, the workers, and the equipment. Another angle picture for the client to use the images for their business presentation and portfolio.

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