Let me tell you guys about a crazy adventure that I had a few weeks ago when Gary Wilson of Masterlift Forklifts invited me to pose for the company’s 2019 print calendar. His marketing people had hatched a bold scheme to present twelve months of influential people doing curious activities in interesting places all over the Greater Toronto Area. Each shoot showcases somebody different inside the inner workings of some local manufacturing or warehouse business that has bought, rents, or requires routine maintenance and repairs on their forklifts. Gary just got on the phone and rang up his besties for commando-style photoshoots inside their businesses.
“Wear some fur Laura”, was my only instruction. “You’re going to be photographed in a cold storage warehouse” was all they told me. And that made sense as I’m sure they have forklifts in such places… I didn’t ask a whole lot of questions because I know Joel Levy the photographer, and the agency doing the shoot. I just set out expecting the unexpected – like a blind date.
While driving to the proscribed location, a cold storage depo across town, and wearing the appropriate costume for a photo shoot in a refrigerated warehouse, I suddenly got a phone call. “Change of plans”, they said; now you’re going to Dan’s Welding & Fabricating Ltd at 3485 Mainway, Burlington, ON.
Alright. What’s there? I wondered.
Remember that TV show Forbidden Places? They missed this location. If I had not said YES to this adventure, I would have never otherwise ever have seen this marvelous metal works. And from now till the day I die I’ll probably never drive by the place again without remembering the forty minutes I spent inside that place. What a trip! Wearing fur and leather I was paraded through what seemed like an 18th century steel fabricating plant with men in dull grey blue coveralls using sledgehammers and acetylene torches to beat, cut and shape metal. The air was thick with exhaust and testosterone and the energy on the factory floor was raw, authentic and beautiful.
Dan’s Welding is a wonderfully old charismatic location; I half expected to turn the next corner and see them assembling a steam engine. The place has provided welding and custom fabrication services in Burlington since 1960 but it appears even older. It looks historic. Just in my five-minute tour I could see them working with a wide variety of metals including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, checker plate, expanded metal, tubing, bar, cast iron and more. We set up our photo shoot at the back of their 18,000-square-foot shop beside purpose-built machines for shearing, rolling, bending, and drilling holes in metal. And everything was active. All around our photo shoot there were CWB-certified welders who were all clearly very skilled in MIG, TIG, and Stick welding. And they didn’t even slow down on their busy schedule to watch us; its like people shoot forklift calendars in their factory all the time.
The Forklift was the Star of the Shoot
Dan’s welding has a heavy-duty Masterlift forklift; I’m not sure the model number, but I know it’s a sturdy beast because steel is heavy, and this machine must frequently heft heavy loads. Forklifts are rated for loads at a specified maximum weight, for which they are counter balanced with additional weights on the rear of the truck. This gives each forklift a specified forward center of gravity, and that information is important for the operator. These specs are usually printed on a nameplate provided by the manufacturer, and loads must not exceed these specifications. Plus, it’s a crime to alter or remove the nameplate.
Another critical characteristic of the forklift is its inherent instability. There’s a reason why you don’t see forklifts driving on the highway. The forklift and load must be considered a combined unit with a continually varying center of gravity with every movement of the load. A forklift must never negotiate a turn at speed with a raised load, where centrifugal or gravitational forces may combine to cause a disastrous tip-over accident.
Joel Levy Portrait Photography
Joel Levy of Toronto Guardian was the same individual who shot most of the pictures at my book launch. You can see Joel Levy in my Single in the City book launch party blog post. So I felt comfortable having him shoot me here in this strange place where it would be easy to look awful, or crazy like a mad fur wearing scientist. Anyway, Joel is working for these guys making portrait photography for Masterlift using a technique which, although I’m not sure the name, I will try to describe. First, he gets the proper exposure and then he adds a light which makes the subject two-stops over-exposed, and then he reduces the shutter speed and aperture two stops so just the subject is properly exposed, and the rest of the image is two stops under. You know that’s probably not so innovative, but you can see in the featured image the difference between that and the other pictures included here in this blog post which are flat and not as interesting.
Disclaimer – while I do sincerely wish the best for MasterLift in 2019, and I will certainly tell my friends and entrepreneurs to use them and so help it grow, prosper and lead the market by setting itself apart as the progressive and innovative forklift truck dealership, I should mention (in case it wasn’t 100% obvious) that I was paid for the shoot and this blog post about the occasion which was something I will never forget and added immensely to my life experiences and so in that respect it was rather priceless.