Michael Wells is the Director of RaPAX® Construction Photography, a professional photographic business for the Australian civil and construction sectors.
Today, we chat with Michael about how his passion for photography led him to start RaPAX® in 2013 and the highlights of shooting some of Australia’s biggest civil and construction projects.
How did a Civil Engineer get into construction photography?
Michael: Good question Anna. I actually started photography back in 1986 when I was at university studying Engineering. Film was the go back then and as my career developed, I naturally had a camera somewhere close. When capturing photos on film you need to know what you are doing, and I quickly gained “an eye” for the composition of construction-related photographs.
How did your civil engineering career prepare you for running a construction photography business?
Michael: It helped in a few areas. Firstly, I understand what is going on and can pre-empt what is needed. Secondly, when the client is giving a brief on what is required, we actually understand what he is asking for. Thirdly, at RaPAX we understand the safety requirements and the approach needed to work safely. We are pretty relaxed on the worksites because the environment doesn’t feel foreign.
What has been the most interesting project you have photographed? Can you tell us about this project?
Michael: We’ve worked on a few interesting projects over the years. There were two standout projects. One was the relocation of the dragline up at Moranbah. That machine was huge and you had to see it to believe it.
More recently we were involved extensively with the Port of Brisbane and the new International Cruise Terminal. The size of the piling hammer and piles on this project were extraordinary, the largest in Australia I believe and well over 4m in diameter.
What are the main challenges when photographing a construction site?
Michael: Keeping my gear out of the mud!
Is it difficult integrating with other trades on a site when you are shooting?
Michael: Most of the people on site are fine, although sometimes it takes a while for the trades to get used to us on site. Typically, we try and keep out of everyone’s way.
What makes a great image stand out from a good one?
Michael: I like to add movement and depth in my photos, and of course, having people in the photos always adds emotion and a bit of interest.
What is the most enjoyable part of the job?
Michael: I love getting great shots that just “pop” and say “wow,” shots that are unique and creative. Having the flexibility of site-based work and office work (post-processing) also breaks up the routine and adds variety.
Currently, anyone can take a picture or a video with their phone – can’t people take their own construction photos?
Michael: Sure they can and they do. However, I remember a potential client once asked me “Wellsy, show me what you can do that my iPhone can’t.” We had a short meeting a week later and since then they have become a loyal client of RaPAX.
The reason is that there is actually a big difference in the results and if you want to stand out with your advertising, a small investment in professional photography will make your product noticed.
What is something most people don’t know about photographing construction sites?
Michael: There are plenty of things you don’t photograph. In fact, sometimes this is more important than what we do photograph. Knowing what is important to capture and what is important to avoid would be the biggest things.
Do you need to make any special preparations before you visit a construction site?
Michael: Obviously, at RaPAX we prep our gear, but typically we spend a bit of time chatting with the PM and site team to get their confidence and for us to understand the no-go zones and work environment.
What is your favourite piece of equipment and why?
Michael: I love using two particular pieces of kit, the first is a 14-24mm, full-frame lens and this beast gets amazing shots with vibrant colour. The other is our 40foot pole cam. This lets us get close shots in danger zones and aerial shots when drones won’t cut it.
What are your long-term goals for RaPAX?
Michael: We currently also supply time-lapse cameras and PTZ cameras, and I would like to build the company so that it’s a one-stop-shop for the provision of photographic services to the construction sector.
RaPAX® Construction Photography was established in early 2014 to provide the construction industry with professional construction photographers that understand construction and the dangers of working on a busy work site.
The team at RaPAX® includes videographers, photographers, and editors, with a thorough understanding of the etiquette for filming on a modern construction site.
- Time-lapse cameras, from several hours to several years.
- Drone Operation (licensed by CASA)
- Ground and aerial photography and videography
- 40 feet carbon fibre pole cams
- Underwater camera solutions
- SWMS and other risk controlling documentation ensuring safety in all steps of the process
- Public Liability insurance to $20m
- PPE applicable for today’s construction industry
To find out more about RaPAX® visit www.rapax.com.au