Whether you live in a big city or a rural area, there is bound to be a bridge nearby you could photograph. You may not live near one of those awe inspiring, famous bridges but almost any bridge has visual interest that is photograph worthy. If you are looking for new material, consider taking a drive to find a bridge. There is no "right" way to photograph a bridge, but there are definitely things to consider in terms of equipment, lighting, and composition. Read on for tips on breathtaking bridge photos.
Perspective and Lens Type
When you first encounter a bridge, you may want to get a shot from a distance that includes the bridge in the context of its environment. For this type of shot, you want a telephoto lens. Take the shot with a small, storytelling aperture (high f-stop number). This type of shot will not be as impactful if the background is boring, or the bridge itself is not particularly impressive. On a sunny day, a polarizing filter is useful to reduce glare from the water and enhance blue skies. If you are a traveler, be sure to include a shot like this to capture the bridge as a part of the overall cityscape and community.
The angle and viewpoint from which you approach the bridge will make all the difference in the outcome of the photo. If you can get close to the bridge or on the bridge itself, a wide angle lens is very useful. (You want a lens with a focal length that is 35 mm maximum or preferably shorter.) With a wide angle lens on, look for bold foreground details to include in your shot.
Shooting from down low will give an added impression of size and add drama and impact to the composition. Again, you want a small aperture, f/16 or greater, to get the entire shot in focus. Your goal is to have an extensive depth of field. Consider your composition carefully. Creating shots that follow the leading lines of the bridge will draw the eye. When done up close with a wide angle lens, it gives the appearance that the closer pillars are larger and that they get smaller as they move towards the vanishing point.
There really is no ideal time of day to photograph a bridge. Just like people, bridges will look their best in the glow of golden hour light. Unlike people though, bridges also lend themselves to shadowy, harsh light that creates a contrasting, dramatic image. Just take care to check your exposure. If you are shooting in the middle of the day, you will have both sunlit areas on top and underside areas that are very dark. You can try exposing for the highlights and adding some fill flash for the shadows. A more advanced technique is to bracket your photos.
An awesome time of day to photograph a big bridge against a cityscape is at night. In these low light conditions, use a tripod! This is absolutely necessary to avoid camera shake. You will need a long exposure - somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-30 seconds. If you want an even longer exposure, try your camera's bulb setting. This setting can be fun but drains your battery fast so have that baby charged up beforehand. If you want a warmer look to the light in the scene (think candlelight tones), you can try using a daylight white balance setting rather than auto.
Other Cool Ideas
Another great way to photograph a bridge is to use it as a natural frame. If the background is ugly you may want to avoid this but otherwise this creates a great shot that is very visually interesting. It is worth your time to check out the view through the underside of the bridge. Even average bridges may frame a beautiful landscape.
Last but not least - don't forget the details. Even bridges that may seem somewhat boring overall often have interesting features when isolated. Get close ups of the details. Bridges have all sorts of nuts, bolts, rivets, you name it that hold them together and can make interesting shots. Take a close up of those moss covered stones or intricately laid bricks. Suspension bridges provide lots of opportunity for detail shots of the masses of cables and other engineering marvels that hold them together. Look for patterns and capitalize on them in your composition.
Now that you have bridges on the brain, it is time to go out and take some shots. Search out a bridge near you and photograph it from a variety of perspectives. Use a wide angle lens if you have one. Choose a small aperture for overall scene sharpness. Include the distance shots and the close ups. If it is safe, take a shot from the bridge looking down the length of it. Look for lines, patterns, and frames to utilize. Cross the bridge, just to get to the other side, and check out the view from there! Beautiful, breathtaking, bold bridge photos await!
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