Setting the Scene – The Ben Franklin Bridge connecting Philadelphia with Camden
The Delaware River creates a natural border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In Philadelphia, there are four huge bridges that span this river and make interstate connections. These are the Betsy Ross Bridge, the Walt Whitman Bridge, the Commodore Barry Bridge, and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge which is pictured above.
This immense suspension bridge was constructed in 1926 and originally cost $37 million USD! At the time, and between a period of 1926 to 1929, it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world, however it has since been eclipsed. Regardless, it is a historic monument and important byway that connects the two states.
Across this bridge, there is both road and rail traffic. The rail line carries the PACTO Speedway which is a rapid transit system that runs between Philadelphia and Camden. This speedway runs from 15-16th & Locust in Philadelphia, over the Ben Franklin Bridge, and terminates at Lindenwold in New Jersey.
For road traffic, the Ben Franklin Bridge contains the US 30 Highway, and the I-676 highway. There is also a fantastic walkway on both sides of the traffic that offers amazing views of the river and the two cities. To photograph the bridge at sunrise, we headed to a small section of piers and walkways on the Philadelphia side of the bridge, next to Morgan’s Pier which is a popular bar and restaurant. From here, you can see the expanse of the bridge, and the sun is rising in the right direction.
Creating the Composition – Making use of the beautiful sunrise colors
As mentioned, this photo was taken from the Philadelphia side of the Delaware River. I have included some video and info below to help show where we were. The angle was easy to capture as there is a sidewalk and promenade that runs along a good stretch of the river underneath the Ben Franklin Bridge.
The timing was important, and we had to get up early to catch the sunrise – we arrived on location with our group shortly before dawn to be sure we would not miss the opportunity! It was an amazing sight watching the sun rise across the river and slowly light the cityscape in front of us.
We also took time using our drone to create some aerial footage of the bridge and the Delaware River. In the video section below, you can see my camera and tripod setup, and the amazing position we had next to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Also, you can see the PACTO train running along the bridge during the time lapse at the start.
In terms of composition, I knew that the bridge had to be the central subject. However, I positioned it off-center so that the sunrise and gorgeous colors of the sky could clearly be seen too. Also, I wanted most of the Delaware River in focus as well, so that the sunrise would be reflected on the water.
When taking sunrise or sunset photos, you must be quick! The colors in the sky can change rapidly from second to second. You can easily miss an opportunity if you do not have your camera set up and ready to shoot!
What Makes This Photo Stand Out?
Photos taken during the following times of the day always look fantastic. These times include sunset, golden hour, blue hour, dusk, and of course, sunrise. At sunrise, you get a completely different set of colors and reflections as you would at sunset. Also, the lighting can differ depending on the weather conditions. For example, in this photo, the temperatures were incredibly cold. As a result, the colors are sharper, and have an edge to them. Whereas sunrise during the summer can present a softer scene.
The sunrise is of course the main element of this photo. The sky looks amazing, and the reflection cast on the underside of the bridge, and the water make the colors pop. Also, the composition itself is great and the bridge takes central position in the photo. It is framed perfectly and leads your eyes off into the distance to the banks of Camden and New Jersey.