Photojournalism Files - The Fern Hollow Bridge

Getting a last minute call for a front page cover story image can catch you a little off guard. This past week, the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, PA was suddenly nearing completion. This was a big deal for Pittsburgh Residents. 

On January 28, 2022, at 6:39 a.m, the Fern Hollow Bridge collapsed.  Nearby residents reported hearing a loud boom and a whooshing noise around 6:35–6:40 a.m. Many credited the early morning time of collapse for the lack of fatalities, as the bridge was a route for many school buses, public transportation, and commuters to work. Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said it was very fortunate the collapse occurred before the morning rush hour. The bridge was covered with a blanket of snow from an overnight storm that had passed through the area.

Interestingly enough, that very same day, President Joe Biden was scheduled to speak in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University about, you guessed it, Infrastructure. 

Budget dollars were released and in less than 1 year, a new bridge was erected. Construction of the replacement bridge began on May 9, 2022, marked by drilling for caissons and concrete pouring. By July 25, the support piers had been completed and the first prestressed concrete beams had arrived on-site, where they were lifted into place. The replacement bridge was completed by December 2022. These photos were shot on Tuesday, December 20th. 

All photos were captured in 48 MegaPixel RAW and graded in Adobe LightRoom. Time to complete the job, from wheels up to location to final delivery of files was less than 3 hours. 

Stacking Multiple Exposures

If the conditions are correct, stack those images! This snap of America’s (and Pittsburgh’s) favorite ketchup factory is a prime example of what can be achieved when stacking a bracketed exposure.  For this image, there were areas of the image that were extremely bright and there were areas that fell into a dark shadow. In order to create a balanced exposure, 5 images were taken. A optimum exposure (or center exposure) with 2 images pushing into overexposure (to bring details out of the shadows) and 2 images pushing into underexposure (to preserve the details the sky) Stacking and aligning these images together will produce an image with pleasing dynamic range from corner to corner. 

I mentioned using stacking when “conditions are correct” so what conditions are not? If the subject matter contains moving objects (cars, boats, waves, flags) then stacking will reduce some pretty crazy (and unpleasing) effects. Sharpness is reduced and strange artifacts are introduced. 

Capturing and editing this image this evening inspired me to spread the word on the benefits of the stacked image. When used tastefully and in the right conditions the results can be pure magic. 

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