Flying in Flying out

– Documentary collection –

by Fernando Paramio

Halfway a happy summer camp, halfway a prison. It depends on your mind

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Photography Book. Introduction

In Australia, mining and energy are one of the most profitable sectors. Workplaces are located in remote areas, and thousands of workers fly in and out (FIFO) every day. They spend between 15 to 25 days working consecutively, during long hours shift.

One of the most attractive factors working FIFO is the salary. Starting between 80 and 100 k$ annually, it makes a difference in the life of many people.

There are some researches regarding the effect of working FIFO in the life of workers and their families. In some cases, this effect is positive, in others neutral and others negative. In the worst cases, it can have a devastating impact on the workers’ lives, struggling with mental problems, drug, alcohol consumption, and even suicide. Regarding the effect in the family, in some cases, children consider positive the experience, as they can enjoy more their parents’ presence during the time off work. Still, sometimes it has a negative effect, including bad behavior and bullying experiences at school.

Working FIFO was my last work in Australia before sadly deciding to return to my birth country, five years after arriving in this far, exciting and isolated country. As a FIFO worker, I just worked three months, the length of my contract. No complaints: no pressure, comfortable 12 hours shift, interesting people, good restaurant service, adequate facilities. However, it is not easy to spend 15 days away from family, an 18 months old son, and a six-month pregnant woman without family or friend support. Afternoons and evenings after the shift may become too similar and one needs to give additional meaning to the experience, not just work. Socializing, listening to music, playing the guitar, or reading were common activities. In my case, photography was my loyal ally. In fact, some elements were superb for a photography lover like me: powerful skies, intriguing plant labyrinths and, one of the most exciting parts for me, a massive amount of night bugs nicely illuminated by the camp corridor lights.

The following pages present my story with an image and an explanatory text, organizing the content from morning to night, as it could be any single day onsite.

[The last chapter, just about bugs at night, is not included here. If you would like to have a copy of this book, which would include the last chapter, please contact me; once there are enough people for a small print run, I will let you know]. 

Awards

This series and individual photographs contained within the series have been awarded in the following competitions:

  • 2020/12 – Honorable Mention – TIFA 2020 (Tokio International Photography Awards, 5th Edition) – Category: Professional – Section: Portfolio/Personal – Series: “Flying in – Flying Out” (a selection of 20 images of the total series were presented to this competition).
  • 2018/01 – Honorable Mention (Blue Ribbon Hellenic Photographic Society) – International Photography Competition “Photo Art Prague” (directed by PhotoArt Magazine; 608 participants and 2732 photographs) – Section “Nature” – Photograph “Ready for a fight” – published in exhibition book.
  • 2017/12 – First finalist (2nd place, silver) – International competition of Industrial photography organized by Galician Association of Industrial Engineers – Photograph “Infinity gallery”. Two other submitted photographs are exhibited during the prize-giving ceremony and they are displayed in the competition online gallery (“Recompensa al esfuerzo” & “Ingeniería de detalle” https://concursofotografia.icoiig.es/album-del-iii-concurso-de-fotografia/).

 

Photography book

To get the most from this book, as in nearly any other one, my recommendation is to read it from beginning to end. Just in case you do not realize, notice that next, you will find image sliders for every chapter: use the arrows to see all the images before jumping to a different chapter. However, if you are looking for something in particular, you can scroll down or use the following buttons. And sorry about my English, I am sure there will be a few inaccuracies!

1. The Camp in the Morning

2. The Plant Facilities

3. The Plant Guests

4. The Plant Machinery

5. The Plant Entertainments

6. From the Plant to the Camp

7. The Camp in the Evening

8. A Night of Fun

9. Camp Creatures

THE CAMP IN THE MORNING

Sunset lights

In the morning there is not much time for leisure. At 5:30 am and after an assorted self-service breakfast, we take the cars to go from the camp to the plant, a 2 km distance tour, to arrive in time for the 6:00 am daily toolbox meeting. Despite the rush, there are some skies that one simply cannot miss. The photo shows one of these sensational mornings, with the facilities of the camp in the foreground.

Aerials

This picture just shows a composition of two aerials close to the camp, at a very special time of the day, when the sun has just woken up but still keeps his eyes partially closed so we can just barely sense his presence

 

Camp cabins before sunset

Earlier than usual I take this photograph of the camp cabins where we sleep. The loneliness, the feeling of adventure always present when in the countryside in Australia, and the lights at dawn, make getting up early a rewarding experience.

 

Industrial Horizon

From the camp park, it is possible to see on the horizon both the water treatment plant and the gas facility. The photo shows something rare during my stay: on this day, the gas treatment plant was burning the gas instead of exporting it and what in the picture looks like the sun appearing on the horizon line is actually the gas flame (once the gas well is perforated the gas needs to keep flowing permanently, so when for whatever reason there is no gas demand, or it cannot be delivered, the well keeps releasing a minimum gas flow, which is burned for safety reasons)

 

Sunset through the trees

To wait for my workmates in the camp parking has gratifying moments, such as this sunset behind the trees.

 

Welcome to the camp

We work for a big company which is developing a project worth billions of dollars. The big companies where I have worked tend to make something well, which is to comply with some minimum image requirements, such as welcoming workers at the camp entrance.

 

The camp park

About to leave.

Leaving to the plant

On the way to the plant

THE PLANT FACILITIES

Brine lagoon in solitary landscape

Waiting for the toolbox meeting at 6 am, my workmates may have another coffee while conversing. I would like to join them, but due to the stunning early morning lights, I walk as fast as I can to cover the long plant distances to try to take a good picture and return just in time to the meeting. The image shows the brine pond under an asymmetric and mesmerizing sky.

Technical note: when the gas is extracted from the underground, a certain amount of water is also removed. That water needs to be treated for its safe disposal. Approximately 90% of the water is converted to a high-quality effluent; the rest is disposed of to the brine lagoon, where it is evaporated using solar energy.

Brine lagoon (II)

A closer look at the brine lagoon to appreciate its size.

Treated water lagoon

The treated lagoon contains water of outstanding quality, which the local birds seem to appreciate.

Golden Offices

Waiting for the early toolbox meeting, I discovered that the prefabricated administration offices, made with plastic and usually lacking any architectonic glamour, look even pretty with the early morning lights reflected at the right angle.

Caution (snake)

One morning this whiteboard appeared in front of some abandoned offices, used during construction, just 20 meters away from our administration offices. The whiteboard said “Caution, 1 meter+ brown snake seen in area. Use care when entering. Stay out of area if possible. Pete HSS” (Health and Safety Representative). The brown snake is the one that causes more bites in Australia and it has the potential to kill an adult in 45 minutes. As long as I was aware, there was no antivenom on site, and the site is far from any hospital. That leaves a narrow margin to find the required help in the event of an emergency. With caution and fear, I walked around the offices, wishing to take a photo of the snake, but I did not find it for better or worse.

Admin offices

Around the plant, there are a series of transportable offices. When the plant starts operation, they will not be needed, and they will be dismantled. These offices are at the entrance of the plant and can only be accessed with the corresponding permits.

Admin offices (II)

Sunset from PTF

The treated water quality requirements are so strict that not only the water ions concentration needs to be decreased to very low levels, but even the oxygen in water has to be reduced to the minimum, in an adjacent treatment facility (PTF, permeate treatment facility), before pumping the water into the aquifer. The image shows the facility that reduces the oxygen concentration, a photo taken just before the sunset, in an epic race with my camera and tripod to arrive at this facility, the furthest in the premises, before the morning toolbox meeting.

Endless labyrinths of the water treatment plant

Thanks to the Earth’s gravity, when I go down through this labyrinth of pipes, I can know in what plane I need to remain to arrive at my destiny. Otherwise, with all space dimensions used by pipes, instruments and devices, I could end completely disoriented.

Endless labyrinths of the water treatment plant (II)

The yellow lights are highly recommended here, in inland Australia, to mitigate insects inside the facilities. The reflective panels on the roof and walls are used as heat insulators. This combination, which resembles the modeling lights of studio flashes, and the inner silver surface of the flashlight modifiers, makes me feel like in a gigantic photography studio, which makes me absolutely love the atmosphere of the place.

Endless labyrinths of the water treatment plant (III)

The image shows the same galleries a morning that the power supply went down, and the yellow lights switched off. I quickly grab my camera and take this photo, which shows a very different atmosphere compared to the usual ambient. The advantage to run the pipes through galleries is that in the event of a leak, the water will not cause a flood or uncontained spill.

Second prize, industrial international photographic competition, third edition, Galician College of Industrial Engineers (2017)

Sunset at the back of the plant

The back of the plant is used to store large volumes of process chemicals, some of them very corrosive, such as 98% sulphuric acid or hydrochloric acid. For security reasons, these tanks are in the back of the plant and in the area of departure of the prevailing winds, to minimize the likelihood of health issues to the plant personnel in the event of an accident.

Midday at the back of the plant

The land where the plant is located is mostly flat. Also, there is hardly any construction, so making use of a small ladder, it is possible to create a geodesic vertex in any part. This makes the footbridge at the back of the plant a good place to stretch the sight up to the infinite.

Back of the plant panoramic view

Panoramic of the same part of the plant. The merging of the images creates a distorted perspective

Permeate Treatment Facility View

The combination of mighty storms and wonderful dusks, together with the plant location, which allows nearly a 360-degree view, brings frequent and beautiful cloud formations. The photograph shows the facility to remove oxygen from the water (annexed to the main plant), just before a strong and short temporary shower.

Main plant building

This warehouse, which constitutes a good refuge against the suffocating sun, is the main building of the plant. Inside we can find the control room, some offices, the laboratory, and two of the primary process units (the ultrafiltration and the reverse osmosis; another necessary process, the ionic exchange, is on the outside).

Electronic corridors

The great automation of the plant is one of its key features. Switches, surge protection, input and output cards, analogic and digital signal transmitters, programmable logic units, variable speed drives, UPS or battery backups, and big “etc.” make it possible to run the plant automatically, with just operator supervision. These components are cloistered in cabinets, which are grouped in big rooms, forming long corridors with mysterious appearance.

Communication tower

The communication tower. Without it, we would have been uncommunicated in this remote region of Australia. Thinking about it, and in other luxuries that are implied nowadays, FIFO jobs can indeed result complicated, but nothing compared to what past generations underwent before us.

THE PLANT GUESTS

Waiting for the 6 AM meeting (I)

After arriving in the admin offices, before heading to the plant, we have some spare minutes until the first meeting of the day starts. The mobile phone, the coffee and chatting are the most common activities.

Waiting for the 6 AM meeting (II)

Purush and Bill

Waiting for the 6 AM meeting (III)

Last coffees before the meeting starts.

Waiting for the 6 AM meeting (IV)

The meeting is about to start.

Toolbox meeting

From Monday to Sunday punctually at 6 am, in the plant admin area. All personnel attends the general toolbox meeting. 1 or 2 speakers inform about arranged plant activities, safety matters, weather information, and concise training lessons. To make it more casual, there is a section for the word of the day (definition of a not commonly used word) or question of the day (context to find out the answer to a question). This meeting is also a good indication of the progress of the project and the transition from construction to commissioning and operation, as the number of employees keeps decreasing successively.

Department meeting

Every morning just after the toolbox meeting there is a department meeting to review the general goals and the individual progress of each employee. It happens in our prefabricated three windows office.

Body activation

Physical activity is important. Even more, if we are spending 12 hours working, sometimes just in front of the computer. That is why in the morning, just after the general toolbox meeting and the department toolbox meeting, every department puts in practice a body activation session. In our case, every day a different team worker guides the exercise routine. Good habits make a great difference in the long term.

Shared offices

The offices, with their computers, are shared, 15 days the first shift and 15 days the next one. Shifts overlap one or two days to report the progress made. Every role is duplicated so progress is never interrupted. I am lucky as I overlap with both shifts, so I interact with a higher number of employees

Bill and Gareth

Bill and Gareth fit quite well with a pattern that I think is not difficult to find amongst Australians. These two guys are very relaxed, they listen, they think before they speak, they are constant, they are helpful, they do not worry uselessly… I only have good words for them.

Bill focused at work

A project’s performance depends on multiple factors, such as the motivation, involvement, and concentration of the employees. Management plays a crucial role in staff productivity. However, no matter how management performs, there will be always people more or less committed.

Gareth and the gift of the word

Gareth. He takes about four seconds to answer, speaks without rushing, and only says meaningful things. Another great guy working here.

Purush

In Australia, a great part of the immigration comes from the closest areas, such as Asia. There is a significant population from India, Japan, and China, and this diversity enriches the Australian culture and gastronomy.

Irish blood

I met Edwin more than a year before I started working on-site, in the headquarters in Brisbane. He was sent to the site very soon, while I kept working in the office. A year after I was lucky to be sent to the same facility where he was working, amongst the multiple sites that the company has in construction and operation. As he does not have family responsibilities, he was making the most of his time off from work traveling through and outside Australia. In my opinion, FIFO is an excellent work opportunity at specific moments in life.

Three thousand kilometers from home to work

Ian flies in and out from the South Island of New Zealand. It is not an isolated case, a few others come from Perth, 3600 km away. Ian, a guy with remarkable maturity, is also a good conversationalist, a committed professional who needs to make some sacrifices for his family, as most of the people here.

Working under pressure

For some weeks we received a visit that we appreciated less than usual: sticky flies which seemed to love our orange shirts. During their visit, a new form of body activation became quite popular: arm-stretching with a fly swatter. At least they helped to increase our capacity to concentrate under the influence of external distractions. The photo shows Dominic, a true work eater.

John, a nice guy (I)

John, area boss of one of the shifts, who turns into a model unintentionally

John, a nice guy (II)

John, a social guy (I)

Although the plant is quite big, as our department belongs to the commissioning team we do not have offices inside the plant, they belong to the operation and maintenance department.  Our office consists of a transportable cabin, located on one side of the plant, and equipped with 8 desks and a symbolic kitchen. We spend long hours working in this space, but there is always time to take a break to remember something memorable. John is one of my two direct bosses here (back to back with Daniel), and Peter is a colleague, although we belong to different companies.

John, a social guy (II)

John, a fed up guy with my photos

When you have a guy taking pictures of you even when yawning, it is unavoidable to get pissed off at some stage. This image shows how finally I achieved John to exhibit certain dissatisfaction with so many photos. Let it be clearly understood that despite this gesture John is a good boss, good person, nice, professional, approachable, polite, and never showed any abusive behaviour.

Exemplary attitude (I)

Geoff was 71, and he was able to handle three complex software platforms at the same time. I do not know whether he works because he needs it or not, but his energy and simple, curious and friendly attitude are laudable.

Exemplary attitude (II)

Gender asymmetry

There is a clear gender inequality among plant staff, and more in the technical area. Nicole is the only female in our department. I have only seen one girl in the operation department, Simone, and another in the start-up department. There does not seem to be a discriminatory policy in the enterprise. I do not know the causes of this imbalance and I could only invent the reasons.

Gender asymmetry (II)

Simone, the only female plant operator around. 

Former mate visit

The image shows a short break to welcome Russell’s visit (on the left). After working here for a long time, he was promoted to another site and came to visit us on one occasion, contributing to the good mood of the group.

Happiness machine

This is one of my favorite photos working for this project, as it records a very genuine moment, when Evan (from South Africa) got up from his desk, grabbed Simone – an employee from a different department, who seldom came to our office –  and offered her a waltz, while her expression shows her surprise and Nicole laughs amazed at the background. Before knowing him, my colleagues warned me: “You will have a good time with Evan”. And indeed, he became a really good friend, an important part of the experience. Sometimes it is more important who you are with rather than what you do.

 

Bringing my son to work

I did my best to try to bring my family to the area so they were not alone at home. It turned out to be impossible, as it was not permitted for them to live at the camp, the closest population was far and I would not have had the permit to drive after my 12-hour shift (company safety requirements). Unfortunately, the only way I managed to bring and mix my family and work was through the computer wallpaper. At least I can assure you that the kid never misbehaved while virtually attending the site.

Unfortunately, my wife told me that he had extremely sad days, unable to understand why I was not with him. For my pregnant wife, the situation was not easiest either. In combination with the uncertainty about what was going to happen once my contract finished and my visa status, were the worst parts for me working FIFO.

 

Mobilising us

One day, another body extension.

Where is your neck Evan?

Generally, we work individually, but from time to time, we meet, and funny things may happen. I do not recall why Geoff is smiling, but something I find funny about this photo is that Evan is 15-20 centimeters taller than him; however, no one will say it.

Edwin eating in the sky

In case the 12-hour shift is not long enough, some people continue working during the 30-45 minute lunch. That is the case of Edwin, holding the last part of this meal while studying a diagram he has just plotted while eating. Being so good, no doubt he will fly to the sky once everything has finished.

Frugal lunch

Time to eat and work mixed in the work office. Very short lunch that sometimes does not interrupt even work. Nothing compared to the three-course menus in my home country, not to mention napping.

Frugal lunch but not for that less cheerful (I)

Sandwichs, caffeinated soft drinks, avocado, desserts and laughter.  

Frugal lunch but not for that less cheerful (II)

Sandwichs, caffeinated soft drinks, avocado, desserts and laughter.  

Evan, can you look here?

Deep into the screens

Similar chair angle, similar posture, similar activity

Deep into the screens (II)

Another moment of concentration at work

Superficially into the screens

Healthy disconnection

Technological challenge

Three computers, three keyboards, four screens, two handheld communication devices and just one brain.

Evan wrapping Nicole

This scene can be explained from a mathematical point of view: end of a long project + job change prospects +  12-hour workday + actual workload less than 12 hours + Evan = guaranteed fun moments.

Unemotional employee

Despite enjoying some fun at specific times, most of the time this is our normal state onsite, without external wrapping.

Empty staff plants

Water treatment plants are highly automated and as a result staff during the operation will be very scarce, despite the millions of liters per day that the facility will process. Now still, infrequently, you can find some individual outside the busy plant in some task or conversation.

Two men, a giant and one destiny

They went out to fight, away from them apart from the glances, with their cartridge strips around the waist, arbitrated by a giant. Miraculously both opponents returned, but the wear of their tools confirmed that they had not left only to speak.

Self-portrait in front of the ultrafiltration trains

This is usually the guy behind the lenses. 

PLANT MACHINERY

Pipeline delivery

Massive lagoons surround the plant, used to receive the feed water and to store the rejected and permeated water. The image shows a considerably big pipe, bent by its own weight, being transported on the side of one of those lagoons. If I have had to bet I would have said that the pipe, apparently rigid, was going to break, but it showed much more flexibility than I initially thought.

Forklift

Forklift, used to move containers or equipment.

Boom

The plant is lost in the middle of the countryside. In fact, the company had to build part of the road to access the facilities, and part of the way consists of a dirt road. Excluding two towns with less than 200 inhabitants, the closest towns to the plant are Roma (2 hours distance, around 6900 inhabitants) and Miles (two hours distance, in the opposite direction, around 1900 inhabitants). That is too far away to be waiting for slow machinery to perform works. Therefore, part of the assets here includes machinery to lift or move all kinds of materials. Such as this boom which reminds me of one of those machines with a hook to catch toys for kids.

4wd

As a big part of the paths to travel in and out of the facilities consist of dirt roads that may become slippery after rain, all cars in the plant are 4WDs. Safety is the first priority of the company and this is reflected also here. Apart from the front signaling flags and the emergency lights on the top of the cars, which need to be on while driving through the facilities, the worker needs to perform a company training in order to get the permission to drive them; speed limit through these roads is 40 km/h (10 when entering into the plant and to the camps); and the cars are equipped with a mechanism that sends the location of the car and its speed to a remote monitoring system, activating alarms in case the driver is not complying with the norms. If someone thought that 4WDs are fun, exclude these ones, it is not their purpose.

Tap water truck

We generate hyper pure water, and yet drinking water is received by a “road train” in containers. These Australian trucks, American-style, compared to those in Europe, with a rectangular front, protruding from the driver’s cab, with the upper exhaust pipes, the multiple headlights, sometimes with a “bull bar” to “clear” from the road to the “animals” that can be crossed, and other possible painted elements, have for me an evocative design that makes me want to put myself to drive them every time I come across with one.

THE PLANT ENTERTAINMENTS

Galahs’ visit

A couple of days in the morning, dozens of Galahs appeared grazing in front of the treatment plant. A bit worried about being cautioned, I went out to photograph them because this moment has something special that characterizes Australia well from my point of view: the unexpected appearance of a unique creature in unusual scenery.

I want to add that my boss confessed to me that someone from a different department tattled to him about me when he saw me taking these photos, and his answer was something like, “I will tell him (me) something when you stop playing around with your phone”. Thanks, Daniel

Galahs’ visit II

The same flock of Galahs

Galahs’ visit III

The same flock of Galahs. Notice the acrobatic posture of the first Galah, at 90º: they are very agile birds that seem to have fun flying.

Dragon lizard

Chemical bunding area. This is where the chemical tanks stand up to collect spills in case of an accident. A colleague was able to see a brown snake here twice and took a photo with his phone. I was not so lucky, but at least I came across these friendly and not poisonous dragons, probably also of interest for the snake.

Site aerial tower and Ibis

Another brief visit to the plant was this flock of ibis. In contrast to the Galah’s visit, they did not stop, they did not ask any technical question: they just enjoyed the view floating in the sky, polluting nothing, able to effortlessly flow to their next destination in the blink of an eye, while I remained in my workplace thinking about the limitations of my visa and the meaning of freedom

Fanciful tree frog

On a wet day, this big tree frog appeared, supporting its body using the gap between two handrails. It was there for hours; I don’t know whether the frog was feeling terribly comfortable or so embedded that it could not be released.

The pantry of the fatal red back spider

A steel support gives shelter to a redback spider and its thick web, where a stock of food is trapped, waiting for its three eggs to hatch. This spider can kill a human being, but since the invention of the antivenom, it has not killed anyone, thanks to the slow speed of the venom reaction. Anyway, it is not recommended to get too close as its bite keeps producing nasty effects. The red color of its back is more intense than usual, which means that the spider was annoyed and ready to bite.

Extreme manners of the male spider

I found these two guys under the steps of a  steel platform. The female spider was eating something that looked disgusting. The male one was going from left to right below the plane of the female spider, and from time to time, he was brave enough to quickly and gently touch the belly of the female, trying to catch its attention pointlessly. Male spiders need to be very careful as if they do not move through the web generating the right vibration frequencies, the female spider may confuse them with an insect, and they will become part of their food. Under these circumstances, I guess they need to be extremely polite when addressing any comment to them… Who knows, maybe the female spider was eating a previous male with very rude manners.


Exciting maintenance duties

Spiders like industrial facilities to create their webs. The photo shows two flowmeters and a Gold Orb Weaver between them, as big as the head of the display units of the flowmeters. Maintenance and cleaning tasks have never been as exciting as in Australia.


The plant warrior

Emerging through the steel grid, from the dark depths of the plant, a mantis makes its appearance, ready to withdraw the life of any bug that dares to cross its territory without the corresponding job safety analysis in place.


Silvery abdomen

This monster may not look as scary because there is no object to show its size. Its abdomen size was spectacular. It was on the roof of the feedwater strainers, above my head, so I took the photo and I run away to preserve my life.


Dying mantis

On the last shift I was in, they fumigated the plant and camp. A large number of bugs appeared or died or, like this mantis, writhing in pain. I was sorrowful about it,  not only because of the huge number of bugs, which was a continuous source of photographic opportunities, but also because once you dive into a new world, it is difficult not to develop some kind of empathy.


Arachnid dodging

This is definitely not the kind of friends you want to make onsite, and it was necessary to dodge them on several occasions to not bump into them.


FROM THE PLANT TO THE CAMP

Harbinger of thunderstorm

To return from the plant to the camp, 2-5 people share the same car. However, on a couple of occasions, I had the chance to return driving alone. That gave me the opportunity to stop to capture some photos.

Power station

Flexibility is one of the key parameters of the design of industrial facilities. In extreme cases like our plant, this flexibility includes even the power feed supply. To guarantee power supply, it is expected that the plant can receive external energy but also produce its own energy by burning the own extracted gas. The image above shows the electric station (in progress), under one of the common skies of the place.

Bottle tree

The tree in the middle of the image is called bottle tree, given its trunk shape. Behind, the gas plant.


Australian Bustard

One day, driving back to the camp, I came across this bird which I had never seen before. In fact, none of the passengers of the car knew it. It is always exciting to discover an unknown animal. Different from the Spanish bustards, it is also a bird that stands out given its big size.


Cane toad embedded on asphalt

This image tells the story of two short-sighted, as traveling at a maximum speed of 40 km/h, it is hard to believe that neither this huge cane toad nor the driver could have prevented the impact. Note that the toad is embedded, below the asphalt.


THE CAMP IN THE EVENING

Camp corridors

The camp is nicely designed. It is big, comfortable, it has some green areas… it reminds me of a compressed village with long streets surrounded. Not sure how many people can leave here, probably more than three hundred people, and there are at least three close camps.

Camp water tank

The photo shows the camp water tank in the early afternoon, one of the days I was in this place earlier, picking my belongings to return home, after 15 days working

Moving forward despite the wind

Quickly after returning to the camp, I used to throw my backpack to the floor of my room and go for a walk around the area with my camera, still on my work clothes, to make the most of the time. At the back of the camp, there is a pitch. The photo shows an intimidating column of water approaching the camp. The wind blows strongly. However we keep going. We have learned to face adversity. 

Whimsical touch of colour

I took this photo after the image “Running despite the wing”. It was a beautiful moment, a tiny region of the sky was orange while the rest of the sky was dark and threatening. To find the right composition, I run to an elevated location, and I was lucky to find it before this whimsical touch of colour vanished.

The passage of time

These two photos reflect the passage of time and the extreme weather conditions on-site, with a water level showing 1.4 meters in the first photo and no level three months later, and vegetation turning dry. Temperature can rise to 40ºC degrees, making it counterintuitive to wear our thick work uniforms, which is completely necessary to prevent sunburns.

The passage of time (II)

Luxury resort

Again, thanks to the reflection of the sun rays at the adequate angle, the camp room cabinets look nicer than what they really are.

The gnomes

I remember a couple of company communications when I was still working in the office, before traveling to the site, to notify the tragic death of a couple of workers at different moments. Although the causes of the events were still under investigation, they pointed to voluntary termination of life. I heard nothing else. Then, soon after starting my work onsite, walking around the camp after my shift, I came across this collection of gnomes with a cross where it was written RIP (rest in peace). My blood froze for a moment. I am not sure whether this cross was related to the communications I had received in the office, or even if it was really related to any death, but working FIFO, and although I value the overall experience in a positive way, I can easily understand how difficult can be when there is not a simple alternative to be here, family and work problems grow, time passes for months or years, and nothing changes.

Sometime later, while I was still working on-site, another employee of my company working at a different plant committed suicide. The company sent a psychologist to encourage people to talk, and there were posters to become aware of the matter, with messages such as “Talk to a mate”.

To me, this photograph represents the negative part of the experience overall.

Spending time alone (I)

Aristoteles said that human beings are social by nature, and who is not social might be superior or inferior, but not a human. During my stay at the camp, I came across many people spending the time alone, including myself, some of them indoors, others outdoors. Everyone has his/her own reasons, but what is true is that human beings need or we have to spend time by themselves throughout our life, and the better we know how to enjoy time alone, the more beneficial. The photo shows a lonely person playing with a ball in a vast space.

Spending time alone (II)

The photograph shows a lonely person with headphones while gazing at the dusk, allowing time to flow until the next day. The image resembles me somehow to Edward Hopper’s paints, whose images often show a solitary person in an environment.

Sixty thousands kilograms capacity

I started working onsite after the construction period, during commissioning, before the plant started operation at full capacity. Construction is the stage that requires more human resources, and during operation only a bunch of people is needed to run the plant. I witnessed how the number of employees was decreasing successively, and consequently, accommodation facilities were not needed anymore. Parts of my camp were closed, and one of the adjacent camps was being completely dismantled. The photo shows the adjacent camp, where a crane with a capacity of up to 60.000 kilograms (equivalent to around 800 adults) was used to dismantle the room cabinets.

Is it a fork or is it a bull?

In Spanish, we call this machine mechanic bull, in English forklift. Seeing things so differently, no wonder the Spaniards have sometimes not understood with the English speakers.

Camp dusk lights

At least there were three big camps in the area. They were equipped with a gym, a pitch, a bar, a common area to socialize, and a nice restaurant to top up the energy reserves. The photo shows the vast sky at dusk above one of the adjacent camps.

Camp dusk lights (II)

Closer look to the near camp.

Camp lights

Although there were other camps closely, I never visited them. I don’t know if it was permitted either. Also, I don’t think I had found anything different from the camp where I was. My perception was half the feeling of being in a prison, half the feeling of being in a summer camp. Honestly, I will always wish to return, but actually, I will never want that to happen.  

Spending time with a beer

Healthy beer-drinking proved to be a good remedy to avoid being alone in the camp. Add the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained, and no surprise why it is such a popular drink. I took these images on different days, but it was a scene that repeated day after day.

Spending time with some beers

The common camp outdoor area is the place to meet colleagues and share a conversation. Friday nights there is a barbeque, and sometimes there is live music too. Also, the camp has a gym and a common camp indoor area.

Man shall not live by beer alone

It was quite common to find these two charming guys, Ian and Sion, spending time with a bottle of white wine.

Holly restaurant

One of the places that I loved the most was the camp restaurant. The first reason was the food: self-service free buffet, tasty meats, fishes, pasta, salads, legumes, veggies, ice creams, cakes, fruit, coffees… You could eat as much as you wanted, and I could see how some of my colleagues put some extra weight (no doubt I would have been one of them if I had stayed longer). The second reason was the chance to come across some other nice guys who worked in different departments, so it was the only opportunity to socialize with them. In the photo Pete (right) and Andre or Tristan (Andre and Tristan are two identical twin brothers that studied the same and worked for the same company in the same position, back to back one for each other, so I do not remember which one of them appears in the photo).

Solitude camp

Excluding the restaurant and the common area during some periods, the camp was not a busy place. However, when returning at night to my room after taking photos, the camp appearance was always similar: not a trace of human activity.

In some occasions I hear drums

One day I received a package from the office with some additional uniforms to wear onsite. I could not contain the laugh when I saw the comment that someone wrote in the package, referring to Abba’s song. Both living in England and Australia, I have always found a surprising number of people that sing me that song when I say my name or shortly after meeting me.

A NIGHT OF FUN

As a unique event, one night, our boss Daniel took us to Yuleba, the closest population, to hang out, about 40 minutes away. 183 inhabitants according to Wikipedia. But judging by the number of houses (I can only see a handfull of houses along the road), it seems that no more than 20 people are living here. If in the camp there were few things to do, in Yuleba probably less…

Travel preparations

Oh, omnipresent beer

Water tank

View of Yuleba from the bar

From the bar backyard

My workmates inside playing billard.

Game

We bring some laughter to the place, which enriches the atmosphere.

The waitresses

Except for us, the atmosphere is quite dead, it is even sad, but at least the waitresses are friendly.

CAMP CREATURES

After having dinner in the camp, I spent most of the time enthusiastically taking photos of the great number of bugs that appeared on the corridors. I was usually the last one to go to bed. It was a pity I did not find more unusual animals, but at least I had a great time with these others that I show next.

Latent danger in the camp corridors

Halfway through my stay, signs were placed in the corridors of the camp, alerting that there had been seen the potentially deadly brown snake and red-backed spider. Being in Australia, nothing that can surprise anyone

In case you want a hard copy

I hope you have enjoyed this photography book and thanks so much for reading up to this page!

If you would like a hard copy of this book, with more than 40 additional images of the last part of my experience, the camp creatures, contact me. Once there are enough people interested we will go for a small print run. Thanks and keep healthy!

 

You don’t intimidate me

Honorable Mention (Blue Ribbon) International photography competition Photo Art Prague 2018.

Better ambiances

Improved sensations

Greater comfort

Greater prestige

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