Bridges in focus

Ophir bridge by Jacqui Scott.

From a simple bridge over a river to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, bridges make great photographic subjects. Not every bridge is wonderful to photograph but a great bridge can provide us with unlimited creative opportunities. A bridge is man-made but becomes part of the city/landscape. It has a functional purpose, but can also have its own unique architecture.

Sometimes it is not the bridge itself, but the location that makes it special and it is we photographers who get to decide which aspects are worth shooting. When considering camera setting a small aperture (large f-number) can give us a good depth of field which will keep the bridge sharp from beginning to end. However if we are photographing individual parts of the bridge or we have a confusing background, a wider aperture can be used to isolate our subject. A wide-angle lens is really useful, not only because it will enable the inclusion of the whole bridge, but also for more abstract shots as it can exaggerate parts of the bridge in the foreground making the subject look larger and more dramatic.

A telephoto lens can give us some great zoomed-in shots of the structure of the bridge and, when we get in close, make those structures look much more dense and complicated. Often the best time of day to take our pictures is the golden hour – the time an hour or so either side of sunrise and sunset. At this time the light is soft and diffused.

We should try to put something in the foreground to give our viewer something of interest to focus on. This could be part of the bridge itself or some other element, for example a boulder or a tree. Line is an extremely important element in our composition, so bridges are in many ways a perfect subject to photograph. They have strong leading lines that help to draw our viewers eyes into the scene and gives the image a sense of dimension and depth. If the bridge is long we can use them for a vanishing point perspective.

The angle we choose to shoot a bridge can make it look more powerful. If we position our subject so that it creates a strong diagonal from foreground to background we are likely to get a much more interesting image than a bridge shot parallel.

Bridges are also great places to find symmetrical compositions. It is best to use a telephoto lens if we find a bridge that features a mirror on both the right and the left. So centre our viewfinder in the middle of the frame for a really interesting composition. Symmetry is naturally fascinating as it not all that common, so whenever we find it we should make it a major feature of our photo.

As well as an overall view of the bridge we should get in close and shoot details – nuts and bolts, suspension wires, textures, signs and supports are just some of the details that can make good pictures. This is particularly true of older structures but can also work well with new bridges . We should also remember to look up when photographing bridges as features above our head can often make interesting pictures.

So that’s it! Let’s get out and have some fun, remembering not just to think of the bridge but the landscape surrounding it, take shots from every angle and as we get closer look for details.

A great example of how to photograph a bridge is Jacqui Scott’s image ‘Ophir Bridge.’ Jacqui was out early in the morning looking for pictures of hoar frost. She began in Alexandra but found nothing inspiring so moved towards the Ida Valley. As she approached Ophir the sun suddenly came out and beautifully lit up the bridge. Jacqui was delighted, but only had time to take two shots before the sun disappeared again and the opportunity was gone! She took the photo with an Olympus E-M5 Mark11 camera attached to a m40-150 f2.8 lens set at 40mm with an aperture of f4, shutter speeds 1/800th sec and an ISO of 400. Jacqui’s picture impressed the club’s monthly adjudicator who gave it a merit award.

Wanaka Camera Club is dedicated to help improve the skills of anyone interested in photography. We welcome anyone to join us, irrespective of photographic ability. If you know nothing about photography we will teach you. Come along and see what we can do for you. Our next meeting is Monday June 10, 7.30pm at the St John’s Rooms, Link Way.


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