The Port Mann Bridge; is this a compelling image?

Port Mann Bridge_20160929_075129
Port Mann Bridge, in the fog.

I joined David DuChemin’s The Compelling Frame, an online workshop and Facebook group. David describes the class as a Mentor Class in Creative Composition, helping us to become fluent in the visual language and making more captivating photographs.

I found the first two lessons very helpful, for the first time in a very long time I sat down to review my work. I have printed some older images as well as new ones, for review, and it has been a fascinating process so far. I thought I would share with you my musing about the current lesson that I am working on,  “The Frame; Orientation and Aspect Ratio” as it relates to this one image.

Before I could decide what orientation and aspect ratio of an image is appropriate I needed to understand the intent of the image, what is it I want to photograph.  We also have to understand how those choices affect the reading of the image, this is where David’s thoughts and insight are most helpful.

A little background, I was visiting the Vancouver BC area and drove across the Port Mann Bridge twice a day for two weeks. I was sitting in the passenger seat and had an amazing view of the bridge, I was in awe, and yes I photographed it from the passenger seat, through the windshield of a moving vehicle. If you know this bridge you will also know that traffic moves very slowly during rush hour most days! But there is no way to get out of the vehicle without putting lives at risk.

The intent of this images is to show the expansiveness of the bridge and how it dominates my view. The horizontal orientation supports that idea because the cables seem to wrap around from all sides, while a vertical image implied a height rather than an expansiveness.  I also looked at different aspect ratios, this is my preference, the 16:9 was too narrow horizontally. The square ration also works, but it doesn’t quite give the same feeling of all those cables wrapping around the viewer.

All of the elements lead the viewer’s eye to the center support that is almost lost in the fog, even the vehicles at the bottom are headed in that direction, and I believe support the premise of the image. There is room for the eye to move around, and I don’t think there any elements along the edge where the eye gets stuck.

To work through David’s third assignment I used photoshop. Opening the image in photoshop, although any photo editing program would work, this allowed me to look at all the different aspect ratios, orientations and framing options that might have been available.

This assignment was really helpful, and I have learned two things, I shoot quite intuitively and my camera has all these aspect ratios available to me in camera. So, my next self-assignment is to set up the tripod and photograph the same scene in different ways to study this further. By working on this in camera rather than in post processing I believe I will learn even more about choosing the framing orientation and aspect ratio that best fits the subject, and have even greater options for my portfolio.

One of my goals for this class is to photograph more intuitively, and I believe that can only be accomplished by being better informed and conscious of the choice that is available.

I would love to hear your comments you might have regarding the image or my process, and I would recommend David’s online program, or any one of his books, to anyone wanting to improve their photography.

8 thoughts on “The Port Mann Bridge; is this a compelling image?

  1. I’d recommend working with a tripod – if you can be bothered to heave it round with you! It has a way of slowing you down a smidgeon – giving things a second thought before firing the shutter
    As to this image.. I can see your intent, the upward curve of the bridge helping in this respect…. but the fog seems to be giving me the impression that have something obscuring my vision – which it is, of course, but more as though I have dirty specs. Exactly the same image without the fog ace – also perhaps the same image but all the bridge wires disappearing into the fog, into an unknown so to speak may also be interesting.


    1. Hi Stephen, I really need to start working with a tripod more often, and then I would take more time to think about the different options! It is always interesting to hear what people have to say about an image, I personally like the idea that the top of the bridge support is disappearing into the fog, but the bridge is impressive without the fog as well. I do have a couple of examples on my Instagram feed if you would like to have a look.
      Your input has given me some things to think about and I do appreciate that. thanks

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like such an interesting process. Ive enjoyed reading your study and process of this image. Ratio and aspect can really change the story.
    I think this is quite a memorable image and I love it in B&W.
    Look forward to reading more about your discoveries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tripods are critical for careful composition, but there is also the possibility that they can be deployed too soon in the creative process. Some photographers tell me that they like to walk around a bit with the camera handheld trying various possibilities as they become acquainted with the subject (when this is possible; if the light is changing quickly one needs to decide quickly). They tell me that once the camera is placed on the tripod, it tends to define the location of the capture and therefore the compositon. Perhaps some elevation adjustments and/or focal length settings with a zoom lens, but moving the whole setup is significantly less likely once the camera is attached to the tripod. It seems to make sense, but I am always interested in the approach followed by others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Robin, I really need to drag, or as Stephen said, shlep my tripod around a little more often, I agree that it can suddenly limit the possibilities explored by the photographer. The other option that I don’t think is explored enough is the vertical verses the horizontal orientation, photographing both, but the really new one for me is changing the aspect ratio during a photo session, so that all options are studied, so once the tripod has been place there are still lots of options that I have not been really thinking about during my time with a camera. thanks for your comments, I was hoping this would spark some discussion.


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