Three Keys to Taking a Great Bridge Photo

Danielle Schroeder didn’t have to think twice when she was asked to join the judges panel for ASCE’s 2020 Bridges Photo Contest.

“Bridges are my life,” Schroeder said with a laugh, yet also quite serious. “It’s my job – I have the honor of working on a variety of projects in the greater Philadelphia area ranging from design to rehabilitation of bridges as well as performing bridge inspections as a team member. And I have always been fascinated by bridges. There’s so much history that comes with a bridge.”

Schroeder is an associate bridge engineer for Pennoni in Philadelphia. She’s also a state-certified bridge safety inspector. And she’s bringing that bridge expertise to the annual ASCE Bridges Photo Contest as a judge.

The contest is accepting entries through March 15, with two winners selected in seven different categories, as well as 12 photographs selected as finalists for the Viewer’s Choice Award.

Schroeder offered three things she’ll be looking for in a great bridge photo:

Photo Roberto Clemente Bridge, Pittsburgh
The 2018 Viewer’s Choice Award winner: the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh, photographed by Caitlin Girwood

1. Lighting

Maybe it goes without saying, but it’s probably a point so essential that it is always worth emphasizing.

“The word ‘photo’ is derived from the Greek word ‘phos,’ which means light,” Schroeder said. “It’s important in every photograph to be able to see the breadth of all that you’re looking at in an interesting way,” Schroeder said. “And lighting plays a crucial role in being able to show that subject.”

Photo, South Grand Island Bridge, New York
The 2017 Historic Bridges first-place winner: South Grand Island Bridge in Grand Island, New York, photographed by Brendon Lutnick

2. Showcase different elements of the bridge

“Find unique perspectives and angles,” Schroeder said. “There are so many different parts of a bridge – there’s the superstructure, the substructure, as well as numerous components and connections that help the bridge span abutment to abutment.

“A bridge has a lot more going on than what you see just driving over it.”

Spoken like a true technical admirer.

Photo, Forth Bridge, Edinburgh
The 2019 HDR first-place winner: Forth Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland, photographed by Carrie Crane

3. Capture the essence

This is probably the most nebulous, most artistic, most magical part of photography, right?

“There are so many different kinds of bridges – arch, suspension, cable-stayed just to name a few,” Schroeder said. “And the beauty of bridges is that even the same type of bridges each have their own diversity.

“Bridges are structures designed to connect people and places and are amazing accomplishments in their own right. Capturing the ‘why we need bridges’ makes an awesome photo … and I look forward to seeing how those who submit show this.”

Learn more about the ASCE 2020 Bridges Photo Contest.

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