Studies in Fernbridge

Southern Humboldt Bay-18

Fernbridge is a 1,320 foot historic bridge connecting the “Victorian Village” of Ferndale with the rest of Humboldt County. Named the "Queen of Bridges" when first built, it is still the longest, functional poured concrete bridge remaining in use in the world. It makes an interesting subject for photography.

The day of the full moon in August 2011 turned out to be an excellent time for photographing the bridge, as there was a mixture of clouds and sun, leading to a fine sunset followed by a decent moonrise. Capturing such a scene with a digital camera turned out to be an immense challenge because of the huge dynamic range between the setting sun (and rising moon) and the back side of the bridge. Even the Pentax K-5, despite it’s unparalleled ability to capture wide dynamic range, fell short. The only way to get the shot was to combine multiple exposures.

Consider the following shot. The bridge is exposed well enough for practical purposes, but the sky and sunset is washed out:

The next photo suffers from the opposite problem; the sunset is well exposed but the bridge is too dark:

But combine the photos and you get something closer to an optimal shot:

The same technique was used to produce the following two photos:

Photographing the moon rising under a part of the bridge also posed huge difficulties because, even though the moon isn’t very bright when compared to the sun, it does emit a good deal of light, without, however, illuminating much on terra firma. As the light from the setting sun faded, the moon became brighter and brighter compared to the bridge and its surroundings. Again, multiple shots had to be combined. Normally, a well exposed shot would look like the following:

The moon is too bright, lacking all detail. But replace with a well-exposed moon, and you get something like the following:

With the moonrise shots, I used longer glass, eschewing the ultra-wide and fisheye zooms utilized for the sunset pictures in favor of a tighter focal length, for this would lead to a larger, more distinctive moon:

And let’s not forget to do a vertical shot: