What the Mid-America Trucking Show lacked in weather, it made up for in getting to see old friends and meeting some new ones. One of the new friends John and I made was a “mate” from Australia who drives and takes amazing pictures. Warren Aitken decided to make the trip to Louisville, sure that he would find some awesome trucks to shoot, especially at night. Night photography of big trucks is what Warren is really aiming to specialize in, and after helping him with a night shoot of John’s truck and trailer, I must admit that I haven’t seen anyone else using his special and time-consuming technique.
Growing up in New Zealand, Warren’s uncle Goeff Abram was a truck driver. When Warren was little, he would run and hide when his uncle would show up in his truck. As he got older, Warren began riding with his uncle in the truck, and that is when his love for trucks and trucking really began. His uncle taught him how to be a “truckie” the old-school way, back when drivers would help each other, and you would get in there and do the work. Eventually, when he became old enough to do so, he took a course and officially got his 1 stage license in New Zealand.
Photography was a hobby that Warren easily incorporated into his trucking career. Taking pictures of the trucks that he loved was how his second career began. He started out with print film, back when you had to wait for the film to be developed to see if he got the shot or not. This was especially hard when he started doing night shots.
Talking to Warren and helping him with the night shot he did of John’s KW at MATS made me remember how my friend Bette Garber used to “paint the trucks with light” on some of her night shots. He does the same thing, but with a modern twist. While taking a long exposure shot (the shutter is open for an extended period of time to allow more light into the photograph), Warren “paints” light with a flashlight all over the dark areas. Although this technique is not uncommon, Warren takes it a step further by taking multiple shots, up to 20, and then later, on his computer, merging the pictures together for one perfectly-lit shot. It can take hours to merge the layers and get it all just right, but Warren loves the unique and detailed outcome.
New Zealand is about three times smaller than Texas. In New Zealand, a night trip might be 240 kilometers (150 miles) and a really big trip would be 750 kilometers (466 miles). Our friends “down under” love our trucks here in the US, and I think they have some pretty cool trucks there, too. Especially the ones that run in the isolated Outback – those are definitely some large cars!
It seems to me that drivers are the same no matter what country they drive in. In New Zealand, Warren was driving a 460-hp Isuzu and he was showing off to another mate about having more power than his 450-hp truck. That driver told Warren his truck was “powered by angry hamsters” and the joke became the rig’s official name (The Angry Hamster). When he drove for an outfit delivering LP tanks for gas grills, those trucks had names like “On the Gas” and “All Gassed Up” and “Full of Gas” – I thought those were pretty clever names. When it comes to naming a truck, some drivers can be pretty creative.
Warren drove in New Zealand for 10 years before moving to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia where he got his MC license (Multi Combination), which allows him to drive “anything and everything” in Australia. But, like here in the US, to transport Haz Mat he needs a Hazardous Goods endorsement.
Unlike his native country of New Zealand that is small, Australia is about the size of the US, but unlike the US, most of the people live in cities close to the sea. After 100 years there is still no railroad from north to south, so everything goes by road. There is no freeway from coast to coast, either. There are thousands of miles between the cities and no hills, which is why the Australian Road Trains make a lot of sense.
A “normal” Australian Road Train is three 44’ trailers hooked together with a twin-axle turntable dolly under the front of the two hooked trailers behind the first one, which is attached to the tractor. The load is 120 tons spread over the three trailers. Normal road trains are three trailers, but in the mining game they might haul six trailers or more.
Most of the rigs used for Australian Road Trains are actually US makes, with the big two being Kenworth and Mack. They must be manufactured to road train standards, which means the chassis is made stronger with more crossmembers. The chassis is not allowed to be too long, so you don’t have any room for a big sleeper, and there are double the number of air tanks, extra fuel tanks and more. In Australia, they have log books and regulations that are similar to ours (you just can’t get away from them).
After moving to Australia, Warren got more serious about his photography. After a man who was starting a trucking magazine used a couple of his pictures, his “second career” really began to grow. In the first issue, the stories were not the best, so Warren asked if he could write the stories to go with his photographs. Warren’s wife Rebecca was a teacher before becoming a deputy principal, so she started helping him edit his stories. As Warren says, truck drivers can tell some pretty good stories (yes, we can)!
Wanting to specialize in his night shots, he’s found a niche that no one else is really doing. But he hasn’t completely quit his “day job” yet – he still drives sometimes as a relief driver, and I totally understand when he says, “Once you get it in your blood, there’s no getting it out.” So, getting to both drive and shoot trucks is like the perfect combination.
Warren Aitken is looking forward to the next time he can come to the States, and I hope to be able to help him line-up some trucks to shoot when he comes. It will probably be next year before he can come back, but if you are interested in having him shoot your truck all lit-up in the night, look for him on Facebook at Aitken Automotive Photography. Be safe over there, Mate. We look forward to seeing you again when you come back to the States real soon!