Gritty, real, and industrial is a niche Austin, Texas-based documentary photographer Scott Van Osdol knows very well. His background working alongside heavy machinery rendered him an assignment for Crushing Tigers — an equipment supplier that sells and services huge rock crushers used in mining and construction. With companies like Samsung and Tesla growing rapidly, Austin is a boom town these days. Their construction companies need lots of site work and lots of gravel, that’s where Crushing Tigers comes in.
You can’t get more gritty than rock-busting machines. That’s what Crushing Tigers sells and services — rock crushers as big as locomotives.
Scott was hired by the Chief Marketing Officer at a capital investment firm that funds Crushing Tigers. His industrial portfolio for clients like YETI, Exxon Mobile, and various utility companies made him well-suited for an assignment that called for wearing a hard hat.
I submitted a proposal for a two-day stills and motion shoot with a basic crew — a lighting assistant and a sound-tech for video. That got whittled down to a half-day stills-only shoot, working solo. No matter. Big budget or small, you give it your all.
In the interest of serving a new client, Scott arranged for a no-cost location scout at a limestone quarry. With its shiny new machinery, Scott immediately felt at home. His time was well spent as he was able to meet the owners and staff and discuss their vision for the project.
I was able to plot the exact sun track so they could pre-position big machines in advance. We kept a close eye on the weather, rescheduling once due to heavy clouds and a bit of rain. Good light is glorious—it makes or breaks the photo.
Crushing Tigers already has plenty of images of machinery from the manufacturers, so Scott concentrated on people at work, making sure to feature the women who work in blue-collar jobs. While a career as intense as crushing rocks may seem like a job suited mostly for men, Crushing Tigers is a proud member of the National Association of Women in Construction.
I wanted human shots that would grab the viewers attention — people operating monster machines, sparks flying, gritty character portraits showing experience and conviction. All while looking like the friendly, helpful folks they are.
A few months after their initial shoot, the company invited Scott back to show off their new fleet of service trucks alongside their refreshed inventory of rock crushers and sorters.
I found myself strapped to a forklift, 20 feet in the air — a poor-man’s drone. I shot stabilized B-roll video from on high, panning across the yard to show scale and the number of vehicles. I got fun pics of a worker driving a huge crusher using a cable-linked remote controller. It’s the biggest RC toy I’ve ever seen.
Scott also captured photos of employees at a corporate training meeting, which he described as “the very picture of dull,” but telling images nonetheless.
I liked the juxtaposition of workers, rode hard and put up wet, and their focused expressions. These are smart folks, and their questions and comments reflected that.
Founded in 2011, the company’s managing founders have combined their 40+ years of industry knowledge, business, and engineering backgrounds to grow a people-focused organization.
Scott looks forward to working with Crushing Tigers again in the near future and hopes to eventually work alongside an ad agency that “knows the industry, designs great ads, and is adept at buying effective media.”
I’ll ask to begin at dawn with lots of grinding and rock dust. With the right light, rock dust is golden. If a bit gritty. I’ll wear goggles and bring plenty of lens wipes. I love making those big behemoths look beautiful.
See more of Scott’s images on his Instagram.