Scenes From A Shipping Yard


I had a couple of “missions” yesterday, and I fulfilled the second one, leaving the first one for another attempt today. I took a different approach and headed out to Mississauga, where I was able to complete it, with some improvisation. One more check off the weekend list.

On the way home I spotted power lines that nearly made me stop to photograph them, then I thought the better of it as there wasn’t anywhere safe to pull over. Driving further east, I spotted shipping containers piled one on top of the other and it was just too tempting to pass up. Having lived in various coastal cities around the world (Melbourne, Sydney, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Vancouver, etc.), I’ve become somewhat of a cargo ship spotter. I’m fascinated by shipping and will stop to watch freighters go by. You get a sense of the immense size of these vessels while standing on shore, but especially when you’re in a motorboat on the water.



This afternoon when I saw the stacked containers from the Queensway, I searched for a road and followed it past fences and gates to an area full of containers by a railroad track. It was deserted — not a single security guard — and I parked my car near the entrance.

This is probably a good time to talk about safety…



A shipping yard is not the safest place to take photographs alone. I probably wouldn’t come here at night unless I brought other people. In other parts of the world shipping containers are homes for people, and here in North America it’s a decent-enough shelter for the homeless. I’m not afraid of homeless people, but I didn’t want to disturb anyone (especially anyone who might be paranoid) or discover illicit activity or encounter anything that died in a container. I proceeded with caution, and I sent a tweet with my location… just in case. (I never use the location feature in Twitter except for situations like this.)


So why would I go to a shipping yard in the first place? Good question. I knew I had completely the wrong lens for it. I was wishing my 17-5mm f/2.8 wasn’t still at Nikon Repair because to shoot in a shipping yard requires a wide-angle lens. A 50mm on a DX camera equates to about a 75mm focal length on an FX camera, which means I had to stand far away from the containers to get them in the frame, and it didn’t capture the feeling of being dwarfed by giant metal walls. (Because of the limitation of the lens I was using, I was going to turn some of these into tilt-shift fake miniatures, but after one conversion I gave up — takes too much time!)

Still… there’s no denying the lure of textures and colours in industrial sites, especially on a brilliantly sunny day like today. In fact, it’s a fantastic place to stage an engagement shoot or a music video. I’d love to return with lighting equipment and some (preferably big and burly) friends to shoot at night, with creative use of car headlights.