Setting the Scene – The Henley Street Bridge, Knoxville
I have taken many photos of the different bridges that span the Tennessee River in Knoxville. The river divides the city, but there are six bridges that span the water and provide vital access. I love that the bridges are a mixture of modern and historical styles and designs – it makes the stretch of the river incredibly interesting to photograph.
Two of the most contrasting bridges are the Norfolk Railroad Bridge, and the Henley Street Bridge. The Norfolk Railroad Bridge is an old structure that is made from stone, iron, and steel. In contrast, the Henley Street Bridge uses more modern building techniques and is made mostly from concrete.
The photo above is of this more modern bridge. I say modern, it was still built-in 1931! The Henley Street Bridge looks impressive with its huge concrete arches – it is also an important road bridge as it carries Route 441 which is locally known as Henley Street. This route is an important road and goes into downtown Knoxville.
Back in 1936, the bridge cost $1.15 million and was built by the Booth and Flinn construction company. In today's terms, that would be $19.688 million – a bridge of such magnitude just wouldn't be built for that amount today! What a bargain!
Creating the Composition – Showcasing the bridge and its colors
I had already taken night time photos of the neighboring Norfolk Railroad Bridge – now I wanted to tackle the eiree colors of the imposing Henley Street Bridge. Luckily, these bridges are virtually right next to each other, so I didn’t have to travel far.
Also, on both sides of the bridge, there are some gorgeous promenades, walkways, and parks. The riverside setting in Knoxville really is fantastic and incredibly photogenic. As a result, I found a spot on the right-hand side of the bridge and got ready to shoot. The temperatures were still freezing but that didn’t matter – these are minor inconveniences and things you often have to cope with as a photographer.
I knew it would be tricky to photograph the bridge and create a sharp photo at night whilst still emphasizing the colors. As you can see, the bridge is lit up with a purple light, and I wanted this to be the main point of the photo.
Therefore, a tripod and a long exposure shot would be required. The tripod was vital to ensure no motion blur whilst taking the photo. At night time, even the slightest movement when using my Nikon D850 handheld would create a blurry photo. Also, a long exposure shot would help emphasize the color of the bridge, and the reflections in the water.
I feel the end result is perfect. The photo is sharp, the bridge is framed using the rule of thirds, and the lighting looks fantastic. I could not have been happier with the purple glow and reflection of the bridge – it makes a statement and is accentuated by the arches and columns of the bridge structure.
What Makes This Photo Stand Out?
I think the most striking part of this photo is the strong purple coloration of the bridge. It immediately draws your attention and makes the structure look futuristic. This is further enhanced by the purple reflection in the water. The bright purple glow of the bridge and reflection also contrast to the black sky which helps further its effect.
The framing of this photo is also fantastic. In photography, you can often create natural symmetry and show patterns from both natural and manmade objects. There are several layers of symmetry in this photo. For example, the bridge mirrors perfectly with its reflection in the water. Next, you have the symmetrical curves of the arches. Even the streetlights above the bridge create a pleasing line towards the background buildings.
The symmetry is again enhanced by the dark and I feel this effect would be lost somewhat in a daytime setting. In terms of color, this photo has a relatively muted pallet – you can only really see black, purples, and warm light colors. This works well, however, and helps make give the photo a cohesive look, and emphasize the strange color of the bridge.