I’ll never complain about work trips to California!
This week I spent a few days in central California looking at… yep, more dirt. The genesis of the visit came from Keaton Turner requesting a video summing up the entirety of his mining company in three minutes. I’ve learned to say yes first and figure things out later. We’re a new business, but we do everything we can to satisfy the needs of the awesome companies we’re fortunate to work with.
Video was a personal struggle until recently. I realize that video is a crucial part of any marketing plan, no matter the industry, but I can’t stand video. I stressed about putting up with video anyway, until I spoke with Chris Burkard (who I go into detail about HERE). He was quick to explain that you can be the best at one, or good at both. With that, I dropped the idea of doing any kind of video myself, and have since poured everything I have into photography.
That said, I needed someone capable of making great videos. I’ve spent the past few months looking for other construction and earthmoving companies with great marketing online, and figuring out who’s behind it. Enter Zach, who I met online after noticing the incredible work he’s created for the earthmoving company he works for full-time. (Check out that dozer shot!) I asked him to join me in California for the trip, and shortly after we were off.
Turner Mining is currently operating in three different parts of California, and we planned to hit all three in a two-day window. With that much ground to cover, driving out was my best bet to ensure I had a vehicle capable of romping around mines and California highways. Cue another Sunday spent driving…
After a nine-hour drive, I arrived in Pismo Beach and went right to the water for a run. Traveling is mentally and physically challenging, and I’ve found that spending some effort to do activities like running on the beach is a must. After a few miles barefoot in the sand and surf, I was ready for a few dirt-filled days.
We began Monday in the coastal hills of central California. Turner Mining is stripping overburden to open up more ground for a quarry. Unfortunately, the morning was extremely foggy ― so much so that we couldn’t shoot or fly the drone much. There’s no sense in getting frustrated, so we waited for the fog to lift and the mid-morning sun eventually burned it off.
We hit the road before lunch on our way to the Bay Area to visit the second and biggest project of the trip. They’re moving hundreds of thousands of tons of rock in a pit nestled in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley. The crew of about 30 works from noon well into the night, so we spent the rest of the day until dark filming and photographing the operation. With a Cat 374 working next to a Volvo 750, it’s a spectacular sight!
Day two brought more driving ― this time east of the bay to a sand and gravel facility. They’re loading road trucks in a pit, which then transport the sandy material to a plant for processing. They can’t use articulated off-road trucks due to a few hundred feet of paved road in between the pit and the plant. It hurts to see such inefficiency, but that’s the case at most pits and quarries around the country. With the economy booming, production is at a record high. Most materials companies are only concerned with keeping up, and thus most pits will leave you scratching your head for more than a few reasons.
With the morning over, we raced back (by race I mean sat in traffic) to the Bay Area to shoot at the same mine we shot at the day prior. The only difference was that Keaton Turner and a majority of Turner Mining Group’s management team was in attendance for interviews. With any other company that would be nerve-wracking, but with Turner it was a blast. Most everyone is young, and they all want to make the mining industry a better place. They genuinely love what they do, so our job of getting them to say great things for the camera was easy.
With the two-day shoot with Turner wrapped up, I started heading back home the next day. I just so happened to be in Graniterock’s neighborhood, so I decided to stop by their famous A.R. Wilson quarry for some photos. I showed up completely unannounced and they welcomed me with open arms. Their management is fantastic! My new truck is MSHA compliant, so they gave me a radio and I was off into the pit to check out D11s and 992s.
After shooting one D11 up close, I decided to break out my brand new drone to shoot the other D11 working high up. About five minutes in, I crashed. I hit the highwall and the drone went tumbling to the ground near the working D11 dozer. So embarrassing! The dozer operator saw me crash, and thus ensued the most expensive drone recovery ever. The operator and the quarry manager used the D11 ― designed to push mountains over ― to carefully cut a little walking path to the crashed drone. After about 30 minutes of watching on in terror, they finally reached it. I’m not completely certain, but there’s a good chance that this was the world’s first D11 dozer drone recovery.
I took this as a sign to leave and quickly got back on the road. Everyone sees my photos online, but they don’t see the absurd amount of travel I have to endure to create them. After a brisk 11-hour drive through the farmlands of California and the desert of Arizona, I was back home! What a week!