Walker Ellis Associates are capturing some of Britain's largest and most challenging construction projects from the air, on the ground, over-time and on film. We have the privilege of witnessing British engineering at its' best; miles of new road laid without injury or incident, complex bridge structures, innovative traffic management solutions as well as energy harnessing schemes. They are all amazing projects!
We feel a genuine sense of reflected glory and to channel our enthusiasm we hope to share our clients' successes and achievements through the images and film we make here. Pop back regularly so you too can appreciate what is being achieved on all our behalves up and down the country.
This is the first blog post on the drone versus plane aerial photography debate that we have with ourselves from time to time. It is around five years ago since WEA purchased a first generation drone. In fact WEA were one of the ‘early adopters’, being the first photography company in the country to invest in drone technology.
So one would think, five years on, together with the mega growth in demand for drone photography, that it we would be a big part of our work. Surprisingly not. On very few of our projects do we find that drones work out more cost effective, quicker and simpler than good old fashioned aerial photography taken from a plane.
The difficulty we face when costing for jobs at the moment is that there is a general assumption out there that drones must be cheaper than hiring a plane and on occasion specifically request it in their tender documents. But this is not always so.
To photograph an extensive stretch of road, a pipeline, or a bridge for example, would involve us hiring a plane, flying, photographing along the route, processing the images and turning the images around ready for the client within twenty-four hours. We are doing this every month for many of our clients. You would be hard pushed to do the same with a drone. Granted, the weather does ground us from time to time, as it does drones, but you plan for that.
Owning a drone is becoming increasingly regulated, with the industry learning from an increasing number of collisions and near misses. Professionals are now required to participate in regular training, as well as apply for licenses, insurances, memberships and organise specific land access permissions. All this makes the industry safer, but also impacts on the price and complexity of using drones.
We’re not saying that there isn’t a place for drone photography because clearly there is. They undeniably offer amazing opportunities for innovation, both within and beyond the photographic industry. And we use them too. But for many of the bigger construction projects that we typically photograph, where access and terrain on sites is constantly changing; and machinery working at height creating lethal obstructions to a hovering drone; it would often be too hazardous to use a drone taking two rather than one of us, in two, rather than one, days to complete.
Concluding on the subject for now, when considering your photography needs for the next major construction project, talk to us about your needs and we can help you work out the best package of photography that is tailor made to suit your needs.
It was three years ago, almost to the day, that Walker Ellis Associates shared the good news that we would be photographing the construction of the Mersey Gateway. We have done so monthly since then, until this week, our last visit to photograph progress before it makes a quiet opening under darkness tonight, followed by a firework display tomorrow night. And it is with some nostalgia that I drive back for the final time.
One of the joys of our job is to witness the seemingly inconceivable transform in to reality, right before our lens. Each time I visit the Mersey, accompanied on site by my host and driver, Dave, I am amazed by what has been achieved. With camera in hand, togged up comprehensively in PPE, I seek out 'progress' to photograph, observing the site like a real-life ‘spot-the-difference’ puzzle. And as I do, I can’t help but consider the enormity of the task at hand...completely in awe of all those who have contributed to the building of this iconic structure.
The 2012 Olympic games was the last time I found myself asking ‘how did the organisers make this incredible spectacle happen? And again, while taking in the progress up-close here each month, I find myself asking the same again. I try breaking it down in to bitesize chunks, speculating on what each role must involve. But as a layman, this too is mind-blowing for me. I really can’t imagine for example, how one would budget, or populate a spread sheet with viable quantities and costs at the outset, when the job ahead is so massive and there are so many unknowns. The quantities are too large for me to comprehend...colossal, finger-in-the-air kind of figures!
Not living nearby, I will not benefit from the improved road links and reduced journey times the bridge between north and south of the Mersey will bring those nearby. Yet as locals breathe a sigh of relief as diversions and police cones lift, I will miss seeing these same roadworks that greet me for the start of my working day on the Mersey, and monthly game of 'spot the difference'. Climbing dozens of flights of scaffolding, or shooting up to the top of one of the pylons with its' panoramic views of the estuary, never fails to invigorate, and provides an unusual, albeit gusty interlude to my working week, negating the need for any gym visit that night!
From tonight, the bridge will be used for its' intended purpose and will soon enough slip from our minds, as drivers pass across it, ambivalent to the complexity of the bridge's structure now hidden under layers of tarmac. I feel privileged to have seen it, to have witnessed the volume of rebar and concrete that went in to it, and will never look at bridges the same way again!
A big well done from us all at Walker Ellis Associates, we salute you all on your massive achievement.
While January might be the month you've choose to batten down the hatches and hibernate, for some of us the call of the open sea is too strong! While the bitter winds were blowing and the driving sleet was coming down we were down on the Mersey Gateway Project for the monthly progress shots. We spent the day capturing progress of the bridge construction which despite the weather conditions is progressing really well. This stint saw our James make the move up from the standard safety boat to a hover boat with two engines with the ability to go on sand and water - James (Walker) Bond eat your heart out!
When I first started working for Walker Ellis Associates about five years ago the Mersey Gateway project was on my radar and over the years I've followed it's developing status. It's case had been in the pipeline for 15 years so we weren't the only ones to be delighted when it finally got the go ahead. We'd spent a long time following the project and keeping in contact with those involved with the development, so you'll understand our delight when Walker Ellis Associates were awarded the photography contract.
We were thrilled, the contract involves ground progress and time lapse photography for three and a half years.
The Mersey Gateway Project is a major scheme to build a new six-land toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes that will relieve the congested and ageing Silver Jubilee Bridge, the scale of the new bridge is the biggest under development in England at the moment.
It's fantastic news it's great to be awarded such a long term contract and get a chance to work with a new client. It's testament to our vast experience in construction photography and time-lapse, our 100% safety record also played a big part in winning the contract.
For us it's really proved that making that early contact is worth while, keeping abreast of the developments can actually pay off in the end.
Melanie Wheatley, Marketing Manager.
We here at Walker Ellis Associates are certainly seeing a turn in the economy with some major contracts that we've been following for many years getting the green light. The Heysham to M6 Link Road is finally underway, Costain had an Early Contractor Involvement arrangement for the £124.5 million project and we've been commissioned to deliver imagery and survey data to the team.
We got involved early too, testing out our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Costain to see which benefits they wanted to make use of. We cover the project in a day capturing in excess of over 1100 photographs which we then stitch together to produce one seamless Orthomosiac which shows the whole 4km scheme. In addition to a high resolution up to date aerial photograph the survey team can also use the accompanying data with their GIS software
We were the first photography company to invest in this UAV technology and it's great to see one of the leading UK's construction companies utilising it on a major road building scheme. It will save the client considerable time and is a very efficient way of collecting data over a very large area.
The new road will see a dual carriageway constructed from the A589 between Morecambe and Lancaster to an upgraded Junction 34 on the M6. The project will include a new bridge over the River Lune. There will also be a footpath and cycleway along the entire route. The new road will provide better access for residents, businesses and tourists to the area.