Minneapolis photographer Steve Niedorf proved he was worth his salt when Cargill’s News Center asked him to take a trip to the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Cargill, an international provider of food, agriculture, and industrial services, enlisted Steve to shoot their sea salt production operation on the tiny island fifty miles north of Venezuela. Some of Steve’s earliest childhood memories are walking through the metal fabrication plant where his father worked as a mechanical draftsman, so it’s no wonder he feels right at home with industrial shoots like this.
These early experiences must have imprinted because the industrial landscape has been a favorite place for me to work.
Steve’s biggest challenge in preproduction came in the form of inter-island airlines. He had to make extensive plans, coordinating many flights between small distances, and even with all the planning, flights outside of his control managed to get messed up. Napoleon’s line, “The first casualty in any battle is the battle plan,” ran through Steve’s head as flights were delayed, connecting flights were missed, and luggage was lost.
Yes, we plan, create shot lists and shooting schedules, but you also know that disruptive things will happen and those plans and schedules may have to be altered based on events that may be out of your control.
A compact carry-on bag containing 1 camera body, 3 lenses, spare batteries and data cards saved the shoot. As the airlines scrambled to find the rest of Steve’s equipment, including a 400mm telephoto lens required to shoot the feature location, he forged on with the clothes on his back and his emergency photography kit.
The mountains of white salt in southern Bonaire have been a staple in the industry for almost 400 years. Using a solar evaporation method to extract the salt, the tiny island produces over 400,000 tons annually. With limited equipment, Steve captured the unique beauty of the rich blue skies and white mountains above purple water, as his “fixer” called in more than a few favors to get their equipment flown in before their last day of shooting.
Freshly reunited with his 400mm telephoto lens, Steve was able to take on the featured location of the shoot. The internationally recognized Flamingo Reserve is a special breeding ground for the pink birds, and is nestled amongst the salt pans. Capturing Bonaire’s signature bird after all of the complications of production was a deeply gratifying end to the shoot.
Since the shoot, Steve has been excited to see Cargill’s use of his salt images.
The images have been received very well with generous spreads in the magazine and as stand-alone stories on the corporate intra-net pages. They have also been in heavy rotation on the huge LCD screens in the corporate lobby.
To view more work from Steve, visit niedorf.com!
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