Sometimes the picture that wins the IBEW's annual photo contest captures a quiet moment. A portrait or a vivid sunset.
And sometimes you get a picture that is the visual equivalent of a Neil Peart drum solo: Mudslide! Mountains! Roaring river! Fog! Helicopter! Rainbow! Hundreds of thousands of volts! Men dangling hundreds of feet in the air!
Vancouver, B.C., Local 258 member Brad Masse's 2020 winner of his brothers Steve Fyfe and Aaron Seaton preparing to reconductor a transmission pole on the Skeena River is packed with stimulating sights.
Not only did it win the most votes, but it also marks the first time a submission from Canada has won the top prize.
"We were looking up at that valley saying, 'This looks like Avatar.' I mean, it is unreal," Masse said.
Masse took this picture in September of 2019, a year after a massive mudslide took down a transmission tower, knocking out power to about 8,000 residents in northwest British Columbia around Prince Rupert.
He was part of a crew of 40 IBEW members that stood up the poles. Each morning they drove 50 km from the town of Terrace to the fly yard just outside the frame across the river. Then helicopters hoisted the men onto the tower. Masse asked the pilot to just hover for a second while he took the picture.
"When I took it, I told everyone, 'This will be the best picture of linework, like ever,'" he said.
Video of the project can also be found at bit.ly/AvalancheRestoration.
Voters loved helicopters this year. In this shot, 19-year journeyman lineman and foreman Nathan Mendoza said the job he was working here involved lots of helicopter support. Because what they do is so out-of-the-ordinary, he and his crewmates often take pictures with their phones or Xcel Energy-supplied GoPro cameras. While reviewing the day's remotely taken GoPro photos, this one caught Mendoza's eye. It captured him, journeymen linemen George Hollabaugh and Adam Boggio and apprentice Anthony Crane working atop a transmission tower in the picturesque Rocky Mountains.
Aaron Brooks is a superintendent for signatory contractor J.F. Edwards Construction. He was working at the Ameren-owned High Prairie Wind Farm in northeast Missouri when he captured this Midwest sunset in the town of Greentop near the Iowa border. "I love old barns and I drove past this one almost every day," said Brooks, who used his iPhone 11 to snap the photo. "I drove past this time with the sun setting and thought, 'This would be such a beautiful picture,' so I picked a spot and shot it."
Mark Perlewitz was part of a team of We Energies hydro electricians performing maintenance work at the Chalk Hill Hydroelectric Plant in Stevenson, Mich., when he took this picture with his iPhone. Fellow member Brian Bancroft is using dry ice to clean a generator that is clogged with oil and dust after decades of use.
Shaena Sullivan can look at a worksite and see art. Even "the back of a dirty bucket truck," said the groundman with Seattle Local 77. The copper dead ends and other materials amid debris and a dusting of snow caught her eye when she visited her husband's jobsite last fall — an alley in Spokane where Jake Sullivan, a Local 77 journeyman lineman, was changing out poles. She captured the scene with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera. While still an active member, Shaena has been pursuing photography since being laid off from a utility company. A former firefighter, she said she especially enjoys making "artistic photos of professions that I'm passionate about."
The Mystic Lake Hydroelectric Project sits at the head of a narrow valley, 8,500 feet up in the Sawtooth Range of the Rocky Mountains. Most of the times that Local 44 member Daniel Walsh visits the site to test the accuracy of the intertie meters, he works 1,000 feet down from the dam lake at the generation station. But once in a while, he rides the 100-year-old, 1.6-mile funicular to the head house — just him, the sky and Custer National Forest.