The Electrical Worker online
March 2014

16th Annual IBEW Photo Contest Winners
Water Worlds, Weather & Wonder

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Since the earliest days of the IBEW, images of linemen climbing poles have gone from common to iconic. And this year's photo contest winner offers a frigid take on a classic.

Levi Gossard of Casper, Wyo., Local 322 snapped this year's winning shot of two members performing emergency storm repair work in the icy hinterland of the Bighorn Mountains just south of the Montana border.

More than 500 entries sent from across the U.S. and Canada vied for honors in the 16th year of competition. After a team of judges narrowed the field to 15 finalists, thousands of IBEW members and the public picked their favorites in online voting at in January.

Miami Local 349 member Chris Zischka scored second place for his novel shot of Florida linemen performing repairs — from the deck of a small motorboat idled in the Gulf of Mexico under a utility pole.

By capturing the annual Sept. 11 memorial to victims of the 2001 attack, Long Island, N.Y., Local 25 member Tom Lawless' crystal-clear shot of searchlights beamed skyward earned third place honors.

This year's contest also featured many dynamic shots that would have made the final cut, if not for some representations of unsafe work practices. Next year, if you submit a photo for the competition, please make sure you are showcasing IBEW workmanship that exemplifies the high standards of safety we all should adhere to on the job. Portraying unsafe work practices isn't just a problem of image — proper safety gear and procedures exist to ensure that everyone gets home at the end of the day.


Pulling an all-night shift is hard enough. Doing it in the midst of a cold snap that ruptured lines in the frostbitten Wyoming wilderness is even tougher.

But such determination is part of what makes Gossard's early-morning photo of Local 322 members Cory Jensen and Mike Bingham so great. As Jensen climbs an icy pole to repair a downed line, the rocky world around him looks encased in glass.

"I was getting ready to walk over and help my co-workers," said Gossard, a lineman at Powder River Energy since 2002. "Right away I thought, 'Wow, what I'm seeing would make a great photo." Pulling out his work-issued Samsung cell phone, Gossard quickly snapped the shot before joining the team to finish the job.

Days after the storm, the communications staff of the utility was looking for images that they could use to share on social media to promote the excellence of their IBEW employees. When Gossard offered his photo, the public relations team was so impressed that they used it for a poster and for an article in a newsletter that was mailed to customers.

While Gossard was flattered, he said it took a convincing push from a fellow member to get him to submit the image to the photo contest.

"I had looked at past years' winners before entering, and they were all such good shots," he said. "I thought, 'No way mine will win.'"

More than 1,300 votes later, Gossard said he was happily proven wrong.


As a lineman, Zischka knows what it's like to perform potentially risky work strapped into his safety gear at 120 feet above the earth.

But unlike many, he also knows what it's like to do that job hovering over the ocean, far from land.

"It's rougher up there over the water," said Zischka, a Florida native with nearly 15 years in the trade. "There's more wind, you have to yell down to the guys in the boat to send you your tools — it's really important to have a seasoned crew."

In Zischka's shot, two linemen man a 20-foot flat bottom skiff. Above them, two more linemen ascend the structure, preparing to make repairs.

"You have to go out in the boat, see what the problem is, go back to shore, put all your tools in the boat and then go fix the line," Zischka said.

As an employee of Florida Keys Electric Co-Op, Zischka and his co-workers maintain part of a string of power lines that stretch from the southern tip of the mainland down through the archipelago leading to Key West. In order to get power to about 80,000 residents of the various islands, lines that are threaded over the water are held up by concrete towers and can only be accessed safely by boat.

Zischka got this shot late last winter when the normally high temperatures had dropped into the '50s. "It was nice working weather for us," said Zischka, who captured the crew on his Nikon from a nearby bridge.

The photo was a hit on sites like, where linemen share and compare photos from the trade.


Pride in one's union and pride in America go hand in hand.

So it's fitting that every Sept. 11, members of New York Local 3 assemble to help produce the Tribute in Light — an art installation of 88 searchlights near the site of the World Trade Center that shine toward the heavens to commemorate lives lost during the 2001 attacks.

Lawless, a photo enthusiast since childhood, took this image of the lights from across the East River in Brooklyn during last year's memorial.

"People can sometimes become complacent, but we really can't ever forget what happened to us and our country on that day," said Lawless, who scored an honorable mention in last year's contest with a shot of the George Washington Bridge leading into the Bronx, New York's northernmost borough.

The 20-year member and electrician with Gordon L. Seaman, Inc., got his first camera from his grandfather when he was just a boy. "Every year, I take a trip by myself just to take photos," he said.


In Friesen's dizzying shot, a member pauses to take in the view atop the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario.

As harnessed electricity courses through power lines, the ominous clouds above threaten to unleash some energy of their own in Windsor's dramatic photo.