Behind the Iron: Caterpillar Photographer Reflects on 10-Year Career

We’re celebrating World Photography Day with a trip down memory lane with Caterpillar Photographer Nick Pflederer.

In his 10 years as a corporate photographer, Nick has traveled to 25 different countries photographing everything from Cat small portable generators to a 400-ton (363 tonne) 797 Mining Truck. He’s met customers and dealers from all walks of life, and even people like U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His travels have taken him 1.5 miles underground to a Canadian mine, to jobsites above the clouds on a mountain range in China, to the deserts of Dubai and farmland in Chile.

Photographing The Doers

While much of his photography is of Cat equipment, you’ll notice many of his favorite photos are of people. “Capturing photos of the people who use our equipment is the best part of my job,” Nick said.

One of his favorite memories is from a trip to China in 2012. After a trek up the Altun Mountains, a customer invited him into their home for tea and lunch.

“At one point during the lunch discussion, my translator said that I was the first American that had visited the site,” Nick said. “After lunch I photographed the machine, customer and some of the workers. The customer didn’t have much, but they showed me a lot of hospitality. It’s something I experienced throughout my time in China, and the part that stands out the most even 8 years later.”

From Pouring Concrete to Photography

Like so many people, Nick didn’t have a clear-cut career path straight out of college. After graduation the Great Recession hit and he spent a year working in the machine yard at his grandfather’s crane company.

“I was given tasks that definitely brought a big-headed college graduate like me down to earth,” Nick recalled. “I did everything from sweeping the floors at the end of the night to pouring concrete blocks in the mornings.”

The job was character-building. It also gave him the opportunity to get hands-on with the heavy equipment he now spends much of his time photographing.

“Looking back, it’s exactly what I needed at the time. I owe a lot to the people who gave me these opportunities and I hope I can pass it on someday.”

Nick is one of many creatives at Caterpillar who capture the essence of the Caterpillar brand. Make no mistake, his role is much more than a point-and-shoot gig. Rather, Nick captures the very essence of the Caterpillar brand. He envokes the power, beauty and impact that Caterpillar products and services have on our world and the people who use them. If a picture is worth a thousand words, Nick could fill up a library with the stories captured within his photos. Here are some of his favorites from the past 10 years.

Learn more about the career opportunities that exist at Caterpillar, where creatives, builders, doers and dreamers can do the work that matters.

 

Nick Pflederer
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Nick Pflederer

Corporate Photography in the Altun Mountains
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“During my first trip to China in 2012 I spent 7 weeks in 26 different cities. We drove to a jobsite in the Altun Mountains and encountered a bad storm on the way up and lost visibility. After a couple close calls we emerged above the clouds at our destination.”

Boot Image
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“In 2013, I was on a photoshoot for a D6K with [fellow Caterpillar employees] Sam Meeker and Dave Cusac. I think Sam stepped in the sand and created this almost perfect Cat boot print in the morning light. Of course, I had to flip the image in Photoshop so it didn’t read backwards.”

785G
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“This 785G was captured during a new product photoshoot at the Caterpillar Tucson Proving Grounds in 2013.”

ATL Portrait
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“Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to collaborate with outside agencies like Ogilvy, Gelia, and Simantel. In 2018 I was in downtown Atlanta for a shoot for Gelia. This was a spur-of-the-moment portrait where I used a machine’s side view mirror to bounce light from sun onto the talent’s face.”

Skid Steer Auger
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“Very wide angle of Auger in action during photoshoot in Atlanta, GA.”

Tyler Schweigert portrait
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“I’ve spent a lot of time with the Demonstrator Instructor’s over the years on various photoshoots. All of these guys are great to work with and exceptionally talented behind the controls of anything yellow. Tyler Schweigert just happens to be a fellow Tremont High Alum, and we found each other working together all these years later. This was at the 2020 CONEXPO during an early morning meeting.”

Assembly Employee
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“In 2018 I traveled to Mannheim, Germany to capture portraits of employees at Caterpillar’s MWM assembling facility. This was one of many great smiles from the employees at that facility.”

Dubai Portrait
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“I was shooting a backhoe loader in Dubai, UAE for our Building Construction Products division in 2017. This man was standing nearby watching the photoshoot. He graciously allowed me to take his portrait.”

Paddlewheel Scraper
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“A scraper in action in the obviously dry California conditions during the historical 2012 drought.”

Chilean Portrait
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“My 2017 ended with a trip to Santiago, Chile during their summer solstice and I remember working from sunup to sundown the day this photo was taken. There was a Chilean Farmer who was mending a fence near the photoshoot of a Cat backhoe loader. This is another example of on-the-fly opportunities of culture that happen to be a few feet from the photoshoot.”

Nick Pflederer
Corporate Photography in the Altun Mountains
Boot Image
785G
ATL Portrait
Skid Steer Auger
Tyler Schweigert portrait
Assembly Employee
Dubai Portrait
Paddlewheel Scraper
Chilean Portrait