Photographers' Blog

Shooting deep under the peaks of the Swiss Alps

October 18, 2010

After over a decade of work Swiss engineers drilling the world’s longest tunnel broke through the last section of rock. With a length of 57 km (35 miles) crossing the Alps, the train tunnel should become operational at the end of 2017. The pictures coverage of the final break-through at the Faido-Sedrun section, shooting and transmitting the pictures from the intestines of the earth was a rare and difficult challenge for Zurich based Reuters photographers Arnd Wiegmann and Christian Hartmann.

Working on this major Swiss story for the past few years and covering all major steps of the construction, we decided to go underground some days before the ceremony, to produce pictures to illustrate preview stories. Our images were very well published in the week before ‘Drilling D-Day’.

Visitors walk through the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel at the Erstfeld-Amsteg section October 5, 2010.    REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

While working underground we managed to secure an internet connection, essential to send out our pictures promptly. To shoot the right images is important, but to make them available for clients as soon as possible is the basis of our wire agency business.

As a special event needs special equipment, Arnd built a camera support in order to trigger simultaneously three cameras installed on the same tripod. “I wanted to release two Canon EOS 1 Mark IV cameras with two 16-35mm lenses from the same angle to shoot the moment of the final break through with short and long shutter speeds. In order to fix a 3-D camera it was necessary to build a special plate for the head of the tripod”, he explained.

A view of the camera set-up to cover the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

After talks with officials, it was clear that the number of media representatives would be strictly limited to 40. Among them would be a regular Reuters photographer and a Pool shooter provided by our agency.

Leaving at 6.00am on October 15 from Zurich, we crossed the Oberalp mountain pass and drove to Sedrun, a side entrance of the giant construction site. It was the beginning of a unique adventure trip, a far cry from our daily routine. After taking the funicular up to the Sedrun operation center and getting security equipment, we were welcomed on the first works train and traveled into the heart of darkness. A few minutes later we reached a landmark of engineering: a lift propelling us 800 meters down at the speed of 12 meters
per second. The last stage of our trip was a comfortless train that took us on a rough track some thirty minutes for over four miles to the muddiest and wettest TV stage we had ever encountered.

At 2.00pm local time, the TV super production starring giant drill Sissi started.

A combination of pictures shows the drill machine 'Sissi' break through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

A few minutes later, all the key moments were stored on our CF-cards.

Miners watch as the drill machine 'Sissi' breaks through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Making our way through the crowd, we tried to reach our computers, an arduous run with temperatures reaching 30 centigrade and extremely high humidity in the cavern.

Miners watch as the drill machine 'Sissi' breaks through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

As we had feared, our internet connection died before we could transmit all our production, forcing us to commence a final run to take a train, a lift, a train…… before moving the last images.

A miner stands in front of the drill machine 'Sissi' after it broke through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

For all the tunnel fans, not permitted underground to freeze this historic moment, the 10 hour broadcast provided the possibility to take some nice snaps, from TV screens…

An elderly man watches screens as drill machine 'Sissi' breaks through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel, in an electronics store in Bern, October 15, 2010. On a central tv screen Swiss Minister of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications Moritz Leuenberger speaks to a journalist. With a length of 57 km (35 miles) crossing the Alps, the world's longest train tunnel should become operational at the end of 2017. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

It was, for sure, a trip we will never forget. Never.

Miners wave a Swiss national flag and flag of the canton Grisons as they celebrate after the drill machine 'Sissi' broke through the rock at the final section Faido-Sedrun, at the construction site of the NEAT Gotthard Base Tunnel October 15, 2010.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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Comments
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What 3-D photo? Reuters produces 3-D photos now? Where can we see it?
Lucas
http://www.pictobank.com/

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