Capturing the Spirit of the Mines with Chad Hurst

Chad Hurst ( is an accomplished Utah photographer specializing in advertising and portraiture. Chad is the cofounder of canSURVIVE, an annual fundraiser for UCREW (Utah Cancer Resource and Education for Women). He spends each year photographing cancer survivors to be showcased in a gallery stroll, the proceeds of which benefit the group’s Needs Beyond Medicine program. Chad's work has been featured in The New York Times, Communication Arts, and several ad campaigns. Today Chad talks with us about his coal mining portraits project, which appeared in a campaign for Industrial Supply.

These shots were taken on a coal mine site in Helper, Utah in May of 2012. I first shot the miners back in 2010 as a personal project. Industrial Supply saw those images and bought three of them. They wanted to revisit the campaign this year, so I arranged to go back to the mine.

They actually just wanted me to just shoot the miners' hands, but I wasn't about to waste an opportunity to shoot more portraits. My goal was to capture dignified heroic portraits. Coal is so vital, and without it, our country would grind to a halt. These are the men and women willing to put their lives on the line to extract it.

I lit these with two Profoto 1200 lights hooked into a single battery pack. I also used a Profoto beauty dish as my key. I love the beauty dish and how crisp the light is, not to mention how quickly it can fall off when you add a grid.

My fill light was a 3-foot Elinchrom Octabank backed way out. The fill light was necessary to bring detail back into the shadows under the miners' helmets. I used the sunlight to back light the helmet and shoulders of the miners standing in front of the mine entrance. I wanted to shoot as shallow as I could to allow the miners to really pop off the background but still allow the details in the background to read through. Shooting wide open meant I had to stack on 2 ND filters to bring the lights into a usable range.

I shot these with the Canon 1D mark III and 5D mrk II. I used the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.2 and the 85mm 1.2.


Stay connected with Chad: Website

October 2012Portrait photographyPortraits

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