Following on the heels of my night photography of the Richmond Hill Avenue Bridge for BL Companies, I was contacted by Lamb-Star Engineering out of Plano, Texas. Lamb-Star had just completed construction engineering coordination of more than a half-dozen projects in Maine, replacing bridges and rebuilding roadways.
The Veterans Memorial Bridge excited me from the start because I had watched and appreciated this bridge when it was under construction. Principally designed by T.Y. Lin International, it consists of two variable depth, pre-cast segmental structures, with each structure approximately 1,600′ in length. It was built in the balanced cantilever method of construction. It’s graceful both on the top deck and when seen from below. And it is beautifully lit with modern LED lighting.
I knew right away that this bridge would be at its full glory at dusk. Being that it spans a tidal river, I also knew I needed to shoot that dusk at a high tide; in lower water one sees the bridge piers encrusted with algae, mud and muck. Practically speaking, one can shoot two evenings around each high tide arriving at dusk. High tides at dusk arrive only every two weeks or so, not to mention being at the mercy of the weather. This put the shoot off a number of times. If you follow my reasoning, there are not many opportunities to shoot in a month.
And that modern LED lighting? It was so new, it wasn’t completely working correctly. Lights were out in key places, frustrating my chosen shooting angle. Repairs were too long in coming. I kept checking the bridge at dusk high tides, and waiting fruitlessly for the wheels of the DOT to spin up and order the repair. I finally had to go with a composition that showed less length of the total span, in order to avoid a big dark section in the foreground. A section out in the distance I was able to fix in Photoshop, but the near section was simply too big for post correction.
I got to know this bridge well in those weeks, and explored other views to show its Portland-side curve and traffic. This telephoto view compressed the elements visually to tell a different story.
Most new bridges are solid and functional, not pretty, doing yeoman’s duty in everyday service. An example is Lamb-Star’s work on the Piscataquis River Bridge in Howland, Maine – just the type most people take for granted once completed. My challenge was to make people notice what they usually are inclined to ignore.
It was dead winter when I landed in Howland to shoot the Piscataquis River Bridge. The river was frozen and, like all frozen rivers in Maine, the Piscataquis is a highway for snowmobilers. I’ve a fine appreciation for many kinds of motor sport, but you’ll never convince me in our era of global warming that it’s a good idea to take a 700 pound sled onto ice with moving water beneath. I saw open water around the piers of the bridge in Howland, and not more than ten feet away snowmobile tracks crossing the river!
The bridge was built with deliberately unpainted steel, a kind of steel that gets a rust patina and then stops corroding. It’s solid, modern, and functional but plain. I documented it fully in the daytime, but in the glow of sunset it became much more appealing.