The Electrical Worker online
April 2015

Voters Pick Favorites in
17th IBEW Photo Contest
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High above the earth, linemen carefully replace a high-voltage structure that was battered by Washington's winter. By framing the scene with towering evergreens and a mountainous backdrop, Seattle Local 77 member Derek Williams turned this moment into the most popular shot of the 17th IBEW Photo Contest.

"Looking down the [valley] corridor, being out in the woods, in God's country — it gave us a nice view," Williams said of his photograph that features linemen and apprentices who work for Chelan County Public Utility District.

Iconic images of linemen on the job scored big in this year's contest, which drew more than 4,000 votes overall from members and the general public.

Boston Local 104 member Derrick Maciel nabbed second place with a shot of members working atop a massive transmission tower.

Third place honors went to Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 member Shawn Murphy for his vivid, colorful shot of three linemen apprentices plying their trade.

About 300 submissions from members across the U.S. and Canada were narrowed to a field of 15 finalists in January. Voters selected their top three favorites via online ballots between Jan. 26-Feb. 9.


 1st Place Winner ($200)
 Derek Williams, Seattle Local 77

Storms and wintry weather can deal blows to transmission infrastructure. East of the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington, a barrage of Mother Nature's worst wreaked havoc on lines during the 2013-2014 winter.

"There were heavy snow loads and trees were breaking around power lines," said Williams, 31, who spent much of that winter pulling marathon shifts to help get the power back on for thousands of residents in the central part of the state. But their work would be a temporary fix until conditions would allow for crews to come in and make lasting repairs to the high-voltage structures.

On a balmy September morning last year, Williams and a crew of journeymen and apprentices took to the poles near Stevens Pass about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Seattle. While the crew — including line foreman Kenny Pfister, journeyman linemen Jessie Nick and Jared Montgomery and apprentices Joel McIntosh and Brandon Hughes — worked on the repairs, Williams snapped his winning photo on a digital camera that the employees keep handy to document jobs.

Without the aid of bucket trucks, the members performed the needed upgrades by hand — "old school rigging," Williams said — which he estimated ranked popular with contest voters who are experienced in the trade and appreciate the difficulty and skill such a task entails.


 Second Place Winner ($150)
 Derrick Maciel, Boston Local 104

Teamwork isn't just a word — it's a vital insurance policy when doing high-altitude work like the two members in Maciel's photo. Here we see both safety and symmetry, hallmarks of the union ethos and art in the everyday.

Maciel, a third-year apprentice lineman working for contractor L.E. Myers Co., snapped this photo of a travelling apprentice, left, and fellow Local 104 apprentice Brian Wilson while they put new lines on a transmission tower looming more than 360 feet above the Penobscot River in central Maine.

"It was a good job to be a part of," said Maciel, who spent a year-and-a-half on the road doing the project. "We usually pulled six tens a week, more in the summertime."

Being that high above the ground inspired Maciel to take the photo with his camera phone. "It was one of those things where you've never seen anything like it — you just have to take a picture."

Maciel said that his fellow apprentices were happy with the photo and the quality, on-the-job skill it represents. "The apprenticeship is going really well for us," he said. "I was lucky to get in, I've got six more months, then I'm a journeyman. In the cold weather it can get really tough, but I love it all. What's not to love?"



 Third Place Winner ($100)
 Shawn Murphy, Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245

Take away the workers, the wires and the pole, and Murphy captured a crisp, clean nature scene worthy of a travel brochure. Add the members back in, and you get a sense of how, for thousands of IBEW men and women, outside work isn't just a job — it's a natural calling.

In Murphy's photo, apprentices Bill Jordan, top, Kyle Giesser, left, and Will Baker are at work about 70 feet off the ground changing rotten arms and installing new insulators on a pole overlooking an area golf course. The members work for Roseville Electric, a small contractor.

"They're going to be great journeymen," said Murphy, who took the photo with his iPhone from a nearby bucket truck. "It's a good trade — it takes a different breed, a different kind of person to be a lineman."

With more than a decade in the trade, Murphy said he often takes photos on the job site. After seeing an ad for the photo contest last year, he decided to enter for the first time.

"I thought the picture looked really nice, and I wanted to get these apprentices some good recognition for what they do," Murphy said.


 Honorable Mentions ($50)
 Michael Vander Weit, Cranbury, N.J., Local 94

As the previous photos show, working in the outdoors lends itself to bright, bristling colors. But here, Vander Weit's skillful black and white rendering offers a noir-like take on a perennially popular image.


 Honorable Mentions ($50)
 Thomas Lawless, Long Island, N.Y., Local 25

Lawless' vibrant photo of the Big Apple, with the Tribute in Light beams shining heavenward, commemorates the tragedy of 9/11 while also showing the vitality of a resilient city that thrums with life, movement and energy.


Editor's note: Unfortunately, a few individuals tried unsuccessfully to bypass the computer safeguards on our contest page, resulting in hundreds of fraudulent votes that judges flagged and discarded. We appreciate the vast majority of the members and the voting public who played fair, keeping in mind the spirit of fun and friendly competition that this photo contest has represented for nearly 20 years.