June 05, 2008
  East Of Oildale

Kern River Oil Fields, Bakersfield, California

(Kern River Oil Fields, Bakersfield, 2008; click on image for larger version. Image copyright Hamish Reid).

Bakersfield has been one of my bigger photo obsessions over the years — a Central Valley town with a varied history that combines Okies, country music (Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, at least, and with a touch of Bob Wills), agriculture (on a vast industrial scale), industry, and ... oil. The oil's hard to miss: there are refineries throughout the area (there's even a couple within the city limits), and there are those mesmerizing nodding-donkey pumpjack pumps everywhere: vacant lots, the side of the road, agricultural fields, suburban side streets, even domestic backyards. The surrounding area has vast barren hillsides and lots just covered in pipes, pumps, tanks and wires. Oh, and the place is hot as hell in summer.

The first time I saw all this I was amazed and enthusiastic about the visual richness and steely complexity (but how could people live like this? Well, I spent some time a long time ago working in a refinery as a process control engineer, so the environment's kinda home to me, at least). But also, for years, I've struggled with how to show all this: the most difficult thing to depict, of course, is the constant slow up and down movement of the pumps; that's something more suited to video, and not something I've spent much time thinking about for still photography. I think it's the sheer scale and ubiquity of the industry, the way it's insinuated into almost every part of the area and everyday life, that's the real challenge. Over the years I've tried and failed: it's usually just too difficult to evoke or transmit the strangeness, and images of single pumpjacks don't really do it.

But the last time I was in the area I tried something different: rather than get up close and personal with the pumps (and use a wide angle lens, the sort of thing that seems natural for this sort of subject), I stood back a bit (a long way, really) and used the 70-200mm lens to get a series of hand-held long shots of the dry pipe- and pump-covered hills of the Kern River oilfields on the north bank of the Kern just outside town. I think it sort of succeeds (just looking at it, though, you miss the fact that almost every one of the dozens of pumps in the image is slowly moving up and down ), and if you look at the 17x22 inch print version, it's amazingly detailed. I'll keep trying — and still failing — but I think this does some sort of justice to some small part of what I see in Bakersfield whenever I'm there….

Photolalia: Some images... and a few brief words about them. (Like Dancing About Architecture).

Site feeds: [RSS] and / or [Atom].

About Me
Hamish Reid is a photographer, designer, and software engineer living and working in the Jingletown district of Oakland, California. This is his full profile.

You can get hold of Hamish at xyzphotolalia at ylayalixyz dot com without the xyx's.
Some Previous Posts
This blog has moved
Mission and Third
State Surrealism
The Business End
The New California Barber Shop
East Of Oildale
Castro Street
Right Place, Right Time.
The Indecisive Moment
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
January 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
November 2006
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
April 2010
Around Jingletown
Some Photoblogs I Like
(In no particular order, and rather capriciously:)

Powered by Blogger

Photolalia is part of the Ylayali complex.

All images and text on Photolalia are Copyright Hamish Reid unless otherwise specifically noted.
View My Profile