« Kevin Ngo

Capturing Bridgetown

1 Oct 2013

Bridgetown is one of Portland’s many names. Portland is divided into east and west by the Willamette River, with 11 bridges crossing the water like arteries to the heart of the city over a span of 10 miles. I recently declared a foray onto photography, and one of my forays will be onto the bridges of Portland. Since I live in downtown Portland near the waterfront, as a project called Bridgetown, I will create a photograph of these 11 Portland bridges.


Today, I captured the scarlet-red Broadway Bridge and arching Fremont Bridge. The weather was rough this morning, with water dumping onto the northwest, but it subsided, allowing the city to dry to taste. As I was walking home, I felt the spirit of the autumn. Fall is my favorite season, the temperature begins to nibble, but not too roughly. Everyone begins to settle down after their exciting summer. They layer up in autumn-colored attire, a blend of muted red, olive green, orange, and brown. The mood turns from upbeat to a gentle mellow. Today, I felt like photographing.

With the sun setting, I hopped on my skateboard and zipped for the water. I live right in front of Fremont Bridge, which paints a glorious backdrop in the sky when walking home north. I had taken pictures of Fremont Bridge before, but that was then, and I am a better photographer now. The results from this shoot were much better.

It took a couple of minutes to skate to the waterfront. Hello, Broadway Bridge, you industrial bloody-red wonder. Cityscape shots at sunset usually call for long exposures. Now I don’t yet have a tripod (one on the way), but I usually find a way to improvise a steady shot.

Using railing as tripod

Using the steel wires as a make-shift stablizer.

With some modern day MacGyver, I wedged my camera in-between the steel wires of the railing. I took some shots at first lying stomach down on the ground, but came up with better-angle shots this way. The bridge’s lights turned on after several minutes, and I soon got a good shot I could work with. My final shot in RAW, unprocessed form.

Raw shot

Unprocessed, raw shot of the Broadway Bridge.


Shooting in RAW format initially yields a particularly boring (yawn) image, but contains a ton of image data under the surface that can be brought out in order to make a polished photograph. It took about 30 minutes to process the photo exactly the way I wanted it since I liked the shot. Behold, the Broadway Bridge in processed form!

I turned around and shot (360-deg-no-scope) the Fremont Bridge while I was at it. I think I could do better on another night, but I got a decent shot of that sexy archy beast.

Fremont Bridge

17-50mm at 17mm, ISO 100, f/32 for 2.5 seconds (w/ dirty sensor!). The arching Fremont Bridge, world’s second longest tied arch bridge.

The bridge shots are on my photography page. Don’t cross me, Portland bridges, because I will shoot you all.