Big Dam Bridge

Big Dam Bridge at dawn, Arkansas

Big Dam Bridge at dawn, Arkansas

This past Saturday, my wife’s workout group was planning to meet for an exercise session at the Big Dam Bridge, and she asked if I would like to go.  I, being very health conscious, said no.  “Well, you could go take pictures while I work out,” she countered.  I thought that sounded like a good idea, so I said I would go take pictures.  She asked what time I wanted to go to the bridge, and I told her I wanted to be there before the sun came up because I wanted to get some nice sunrise shots.  That meant that, since sunrise would be about 7:00 the next morning, I wanted to be at the bridge by 6:30 so I could find some good angles from which to shoot.  I don’t think that was quite what she had in mind, but she was good sport about it nonetheless.

As we arrived at the bridge, I noticed that a new lighting system had been installed since the last time I was there about two months ago.  This new system illuminated the bridge in a variety of different colors that changed every 20 to 30 seconds, and I thought the lights would make for some interesting photographs.  I parked my truck and got out to begin gathering my equipment.  That was when I quickly realized that it was not nearly as warm of a morning as I thought it might be.  Fortunately, I still had a jacket and hat in the backseat from my last cold weather photo trip.  That problem was solved.

As I began making my way from the parking lot toward the riverbank (with my wife deciding she would stay in the truck), I discovered two things.  First, it was darker than I had anticipated it would be.  Second, a thick cloud layer covered the sky which all but negated my chances of getting some nice sunrise images.  As I scrambled over the large rocks and boulders to get to the riverbank, I found the clouds offered one advantage:  they reflected enough light from the bridge to allow me to somewhat see where I was stepping so I didn’t break a leg.  That was a good thing.

It wasn’t until I had gotten to the edge of the river that I realized how strong it was flowing.  I guess all the rain we’d had over the last week or two combined with all the snow that was melting in the Northeastern part of the country had come together to really add a lot of water to the river.  Standing there, it looked and sounded like the waves of an ocean as the water rolled in and crashed over the rocks.

This is one of the shots I took that morning as my wife sat in the truck waiting for her exercise group to arrive, and there are a couple of things I really like about this image – the repeating patterns of the brightly lit support columns and the lights of the lamps along the top of the bridge and the soft, almost pastel colors that illuminate the support columns and how those colors are picked up by the river in the foreground.

My biggest concern was ensuring complete depth of field throughout the image because of how dark it was.  Because of the darkness, I could not use the smallest aperture on my lens, f/22, because the shutter speed would be well in excess of 30 seconds.  I had to open up the aperture until I got a shutter speed that was within the camera’s limits which meant opening the lens up by one stop to f/16.  Because the bridge was far away from the camera, relatively speaking, the slightly larger aperture did not affect the depth of field as much as I feared it might, and depth of field was not compromised.  Had the depth of field been less than complete, this picture, in my opinion, would not have been good.

While I didn’t get the sunrise shots I had hoped for, all in all, the trip was a success.  I got some really nice images, and my wife was able to meet up with her exercise group and work out like she wanted.  Perfect ending!

Settings:  Canon 5D Mk II, 55mm, 30 sec, f.16

1 Comment

  1. Hello, Bob, I have nominated you to take the “Black and White Photo 5-day Challenge.”  It’s just a WordPress activity to foster fun and friendship, and it’s no big deal if you don’t wish to participate.  You can learn more about it on my Day 4 challenge blog post.

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