One of the photos that I always seem to miss on my travels is the Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge which crosses Tampa Bay. I’ve been wanting to photograph it for years and the timing has never worked out, or if it did, it would be in the middle of a thunderstorm. Last weekend I nearly missed another chance, but the rain cleared up just in time to provide a crystal clear night to get my shot.

Growing up I always knew this as “the new bridge” following an accident known as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge Disaster where the original was brought down by an empty phosphate freighter during a storm when I was nine years old and living in Bradenton. I clearly remember hearing about it that morning on the radio as my mother was dropping my brother and I off at day care so she could go to work. When something like that happens so close to home it’s hard to forget – especially every time you are driving over this new bridge. That was 30 years ago this year and I still get creeped out driving over it.

~ click on the image to enlarge ~

About 11pm on a Sunday night with light traffic and the wind dying down, I went off in search of the best place to get my shot. I eventually decided on the north end of the causeway leading to the bridge. It was still quite a distance but the air was crisp and clear and I had my good tripod with me. Using my 300mm lens fully extended and shooting with a 30-second exposure, I was able to get enough light at ISO 250 to catch the streaking lights of a couple of cars to help define the bridge while keeping everything clean and simple. The lower portion of the sky held just enough ambient light from the lights beyond to create the perfect amount of contrast to separate the rest of the bridge from the cloudy night sky behind it. Mission accomplished!

Rich Leighton
July 30, 2010