Yea! I made it out to the vineyard a couple nights ago. Making photographs of the machine harvest at night has been on my wish list for a long time. Harvest started early this year, but this is my first photography trip into the vines. I get a bit nervous going out there... I have a terrible sense of direction and I tend to feel lost every time I go deep into the vineyard. I'm always amazed at how everyone else just seems to "know" where they're going. I was lucky to arrive at the same time as some of the workers, so I just followed the dust trails from their cars to the harvester and tractors. Then I followed the dust trail of them as they moved to the block being harvested. All the way, I tried to look back at the turns so I would be able to recognize them on my way out... in the dark.
I enjoy learning something new every trip into the vines. I learned a lot from talking with Gy Thomson from Garton Tractor Inc. He explained that each time the machine harvester starts in a vineyard, it needs to be adjusted for the vines. Over time, each vineyard will get a different lean or size and from block to block they can be different. I made a few photographs of the workers inside the harvester doing these adjustments. It took some time to get the harvester ready, so I wandered and made a few photographs with the full moon. However, in the switch from the little car to the pickup truck, the tripod got left behind. A very bad thing for a photographer hoping to make some low light photographs.
I also learned not to stand behind the harvester once it's started. As the driver climbed up, everyone around me quickly moved back with a least one row of vines between them and the harvester. I followed, then saw why.... a sticky, wet, dusty, cloud shoots out from the harvester as it shakes the fruit off the vine onto the conveyer belt. Larger items, leaves, twigs, etc. flew out as well. You definitely don't want to get too close.
It took awhile, maybe 30 minutes to go up and back a row. Once they moved over the hill, it got very quite. I could hear coyotes not very far away. It was a deliciously cool evening. I climbed up in the back of the pick up and used the cab to stabilize my camera. I loved watching the little cluster of lights and the team of people working bit by bit along this vast quiet vineyard by the light of the full moon.
As it started getting chilly, I packed up and said my good byes and thank you's. Driving slowly back to retrace my steps, I was hopeful that I had something terrific in the camera. There are some more images that need some work. I'm editing out some of the dust and grain from the environment and lighting. I enjoy working on them during the 100 degree afternoons, when they can take me back to a cool moonlit night.