Chris Bixenman and his “Battle Of My Life”

While photographing on the Ohio River Bridges Project in July I met Chris Bixenman as he repaired a piece of drilling equipment. We struck up a conversation and Chris shared that he was in “the battle of my life” because he has prostate cancer. The prognosis isn’t very good but he has a strong will to defeat it and recover his health. His constant companion, Minnesota , is a source of support for him and makes his days more enjoyable as they move from repair job to repair job around the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana.#2

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Minnesota. #2

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Chris is employed by Walsh Group and is a member of Operating Engineers Local 181. He has continued to work because he needs to feel that even though he has cancer; cancer doesn’t have him. Chris has been to one of the major cancer treatment centers here in the US but they weren’t able to offer him much hope. Even with that news Chris hasn’t given up his fight. He has decided to try to get a type of treatment in Mexico that has shown good results but is not used in the US by American medical treatment facilities.

Evidently the treatment is very expensive and while Chris has some resources he still needs help paying for it. His wife has set up a fund for people who want to help him afford the treatment and he hopes to take time off in December to go to Mexico. It sounds like a long shot but he and his family are willing to take the risk in the hope that he can recover and live a comfortable life.

Anyone who wants to donate to Chris’s medical fund they can do so by sending their donation to the: Christopher Bixenman Cancer Fund, Bank of Buffalo, 2375 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville KY 42748.

I’m sure that Chris and his family will be eternally grateful to any and all those who can help.

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Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana.#1

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Minnesota at work on the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville Kentucky July 2, 2014

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Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana.

Wherever you see the Bixenman Equipment Repair truck you’ll see Chris and his wolf hybrid Minnesota.

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Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana at work on the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville Kentucky July 2, 2014 (#2)

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Minnesota at work on the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville Kentucky July 2, 2014 (#2)

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Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana.#2 B&W Version

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Minnesota.#2 B&W Version

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Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Montana.

Chris Bixenman and his wolf hybrid Minnesota.

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People Working on The Ohio River Bridges Project

Monique Jones in her "office" on  the Front End Loader.

Monique Jones in her “office” on the Front End Loader.

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The opening image is a shot of Monique Jones in the cab of here Front End Loader while working on the Ohio River Bridges Project. “Moe”, as she is known by the crew members at the Kentucky Approach of the Ohio River Bridges Project, is seldom without her wonderful smile. She is on the go all day long moving everything from rock for the project to large containers of parts.I don’t think I’ve ever seen her when she wasn’t sitting up there in her “office” smiling.

Monique and Nan confer on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Monique Jones and Nan Grant confer on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

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In this second image of Monique she is talking with another Operating Engineer, Nan Grant. Nan is the Oiler for one of the cranes stationed on the Kentucky Approach to the Downtown Span on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Todd Blankenbaker, crane operator, on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Todd Blankenship, crane operator in Section One of the Ohio River Bridges Pr0ject.

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The photo above is of Todd Blankenship one of the many Crane Operators on the Ohio River Bridges Project. It seems that nearly every photo I shoot of crane operators is from this vantage point. I think it is appropriate since their work has them looking high into the sky over the job.When guys like Todd have a load hanging from the crane they are constantly looking up to see the signals from the people they are working with. The job of a Crane Operator is one that carries immense responsibility; any mistake by them could cause a catastrophic situation if the load or the crane itself were to topple.

Slade Rock and Jimbo Clark tying rebar on the Ohio River Bridges Project.imbo Clark and Slade Rock tying rebar on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Slade Rock and Jimbo Clark tying rebar on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

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In this photo Slade Rock and Jimbo Clark are working together to build a rebar structure for one of the many pier caps that support the roadway. In the background you can see a column with a concrete cap sitting on it. The structure Slade and Jimbo are working on will be lifted up and placed inside the concrete forms on another column to strengthen the concrete cap. Jimbo is a Journeyman Ironworker and is training Slade, who is an Apprentice Ironworker, how to layout and properly tie the rebar according to the blueprint specifications. As an Apprentice Slade will spend thousands of hours under the watchful eyes of experienced Journeymen like Jimbo learning the Ironworker’s Trade.

Jimbo Clark tying rebar for a new abutment on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Jimbo Clark tying rebar for a new abutment on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

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I shot this photo of Jimbo Clark as he was tying the mat for the new roadway that will carry eastbound traffic onto I-71 North out of downtown Louisville. I liked the way the concrete abutment and the rebar for the barrier wall framed Jimbo in the shot. One other interesting thing about Jimbo is his love of photography. Almost all of the people on this job carry smartphones and snap photos of one another throughout the course of a day though few have as good an eye for composition as Jimbo. Jimbo shared several images on his phone with me one day and I was really astounded by the way he had framed his shots. When he told me he had been carrying a camera with him since his early days as an Ironworker I understood that he too was an avid photographer.

Ironworkers gather their tools to start the day on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Ironworkers gather their tools to start the day on the Ohio River Bridges Project.

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One of the great pleasures of being a Heavy Highway and Bridges Construction photographer is getting to see the sunrise. Building our nation’s infrastructure is a demanding job that requires the women and men working there to face the elements each day. Many of them have commented to me about a beautiful sunset that they saw that morning especially if I get to their section later in the morning and fail to see what they saw. In this image I wanted to tell the story of how the day begins as the sun rises and the workers gather their tools and get their work assignment together.

Neil Childress grading along I-71 as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Neil Childress grading along I-71 as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project.

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Whenever you see the Road Grader on the site you can be sure they are preparing the new road bed for the next phase of construction. The size and power of these massive machines is needed to move hundred of truckloads of gravel into place and leveled according to the plan specifications. On the Ohio River Bridges Project there in only one such grader working in Section One; it is operated by Neil Childress, another member of the Operating Engineers Union Local 181 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Progress on the Bridge Towers is Going Strong

Progress on the Bridge Towers is Going Strong

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In the image above you can see the beginnings of five of the six towers that will carry the Downtown Span of the Ohio River Bridges Project. Since this image was taken a couple of weeks ago the sixth tower has emerged from the river and is well along the way to climbing into the sky.

Concrete forms for bridge columns along Main Street.

Concrete forms for bridge columns along Main Street.

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I liked this shot because it shows the concrete forms for square bridge columns along Main Street and the silhouette of the worker in the background.

Crane Flying Column Form Into Place

Crane Flying Column Form Into Place at Slugger Field

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This image from above the construction near Slugger Field show a square concrete form being “flown” into place along Main Street. It will be lowered over the rebar structure and then stabilized and filled with concrete to form another bridge column.

Slugger Field Progress

Slugger Field Progress

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This view of the area by Slugger Field shows the progress being made on the current phase of Section One. On the right side you can see the cap for carrying the girders for the new roadway. On the left can be seen another cap that has been formed and will soon have concrete poured inside to make another pad for the girders that will carry the road. In the background the first completed section of southbound I-65 is clearly visible as it passes by Slugger Field.

Carpenters Installing Safety Rail

Carpenters Installing a Safety Rail on a Concrete Form

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In the image above two Carpenters are working together to build a catwalk and safety rail around a concrete form for a bridge cap. Safety is paramount on the job and shows the commitment of the workers to preventing injury to anyone on the job.

Carpenters assist a Surveyor while building a safety rail around the top of a concrete form.

Carpenters assist a Surveyor while building a safety rail around the top of a concrete form.

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While building these concrete forms it is important that the Surveyors measure and verify that everthing is within the design specifications. In this image a Surveyor is being helped to get on top of the concrete form to take measurements.

Steel Girders for the I-71 section of Spaghetti Junction march east.

Steel Girders for the I-71 section of Spaghetti Junction march east.

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This image shows the steel girders that will carry the roadway from I-65 onto I-71 when the project is completed.

Shadow pattern of cross bracing and steel girders making an "N" on the earth.

Shadow pattern of cross bracing and steel girders making an “N” on the earth.

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I couldn’t resist taking this shot of the shadows formed by the steel girders and cross braces that placed cast initials on the ground. I took it as a sign that I am where I should be at this time and that my desire to document the Ohio River Bridges Project is the right choice for me.

 

The Crane Crew of Donny and Ray

Portrait of a Crane Crew, Donny Cooper, Operator and Ray Mansfield, Oiler.

Portrait of a Crane Crew, Donny Cooper, Operator and Ray Mansfield, Oiler.

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Every mobile crane on the Ohio River Bridges Project has a two man crane crew. The crane crew in this image is Donny Cooper who operates the crane and Ray Mansfield whose role is oiler for the crane. Together they coordinate any movement of the crane itself and verify the safety of the machine.

The operator is responsible for the actual lifting of the loads. The oiler is responsible for the crane itself and attends to the day to day inspection and maintenance of the machine. On this particular morning they were working with Ironworkers setting massive steel girders in place.

I was there shooting the installation of the girders when I realized that I had an opportunity to get a great shot of the crane crew too. The sun was being blocked by the crane boom and cab but they were still strongly backlit. I opted to shoot a three frame bracket set of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures which I later merged in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2. I used the Balanced Preset as a starting point and made some adjustments to the Detail and Drama sliders before taking the merged file into Adobe Camera Raw where I darkened the sky and opened up the shadows. I the moved on to Photoshop CS5 and added a new layer using the NIK Viveza plugin to add just a small amount of punch to the final image.

Pile Driving Crew at Work On The New Spaghetti Junction Interchange

Andrew Miokovic Carpenter

Andrew Miokovic Carpenter/Pile Driver

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I spent a little time with a Pile Driving Crew earlier this week as they drove 70 foot steel beams into the earth to build a foundation for another bridge pier. These guys have to get these huge beams upright and then drive them into the ground using a single cylinder diesel “hammer”. They must make sure that the piling in perfectly plumb so that it can transfer the weight of the bridge directly to the bedrock. It is heavy, dirty work and the crew has to pay close attention to every aspect of the process to make certain that the pilings are properly placed

Pile Driver Climbing the "Hammer"

Pile Driver Climbing the “Hammer”

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Once the piling is positioned and ready to be hammered into place one of the crew must climb the hammer frame and set the hammer, a single cylinder diesel engine for driving the pile. In the image above he is climbing into position to do that. The line coming down to his back is a safety line to prevent him falling to the ground in the case of losing his footing.

Pile Driving Crew Positioning the "Hammer"

Pile Driving Crew Positioning the “Hammer”

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In the image above you can see the entire crew working to drive a second section of piling which will extend the length to almost 140 feet. Just above Andrew Miokovic’s shoulder there is a line where this second piling has been welded to a section that is already 65 feet into the ground. The man climbing the hammer is also the welder for the crew and has already welded the beam to the top of the one in the ground.

Pile Driving Crew Positioning the "Hammer" #2

Pile Driving Crew Positioning the “Hammer” #2

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In the above image the hammer motor has been energized and as soon as the man climbing down the hammer frame is clear the motor will be started and the pile will start descending into the earth about 4 to 6 inches each time it fires.

Hammerhead and Slope Wall

Hammerhead and Slope Wall

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Once the work of the pile driving crew is completed other crews of Carpenters and Ironworkers will start building another bridge pier such as the “Hammerhead” in this photo. It would be impossible to install the structural steel that will carry the new roadway without the unseen work that the Pile Drivers do to ensure a solid foundation. As in so many major projects there is a lot of work done that we never see or consider when viewing the final product.

Structural Steel Heading East

Structural Steel Heading East

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This final image in the post shows the structural steel that will eventually carry traffic east out of Louisville onto Interstate 64. I chose this composition to use the leading lines of the shadows to carry the viewer’s eye down along the sloping terrain and into the background. The three engineers  happened to come into the scene as I was composing the image so I attempted to capture each man just as he stepped out of the shadow lines.

All of these images are HDR images created using a three frame bracket set of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures. I merged them using NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 and then took the merged file into Adobe Camera Raw where I adjusted the final Brightness, Fill Light, Recovery and Exposure. Once I was happy with the image I returned it to Photoshop CS5 where I performed a Levels Adjustment, Lens Correction where needed and applied Smart Sharpening. After that I added another layer where I tweaked the final details using NIK Viveza.

 

The First Sunrise of Fall 2014

Sunday morning I went to Waterfront Park to try to capture the first sunrise of fall over the Ohio River Bridges Project. As I drove into town in the dark a heavy rain began falling. I thought the chances of a dramatic sunrise were slim but I went ahead with my plans. I wanted to show the progress that has been made on the bridge towers and the cranes along the site. Fortunately the rain was short lived and the sky was beginning to open up as the sun rose. Unfortunately the clouds were still blocking the first rays of sun and I had to content myself with capturing the last remnants of them.

I shot three frame bracket sets of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures because I knew that I would need to process the scene as HDR in order to reveal details in the shadows and highlights. I neglected to bring a tripod with me but I did have a monopod so I boosted my ISO to 1600 early in the shoot. I was aware that doing that would introduce some noise but it was the best compromise I could be comfortable with. The first image in this post is one of those ISO 1600 brackets and close inspection will reveal a lot of grain in the final image.

Ohio River Bridge Towers on the First Day of Fall 2014

Ohio River Bridge Towers on the First Day of Fall 2014

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The second image is a little later in the morning after the sky had cleared somewhat and show the tower bases and the cranes in a lot better light. I was able to capture the first direct light on the bridge and the work site but by that time the sun was much higher in the sky and the clouds had moved out of the scene. If you look closely you can see all three tower bases and the progression of their construction. Near shore there is only one tower base visible while in mid-river the towers are a little taller and further north you can see the towers there have passed above the Kennedy Bridge in the background.

Ohio River Bridge Towers on the First Day of Fall 2014 #2

Ohio River Bridge Towers on the First Day of Fall 2014 #2

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