Coronado Bridge at Sunset
The Coronado Bridge is a massive structure at 2.1 miles long and 200 feet tall and connects the Island of Coronado to the city of San Diego. The height is required so that Naval ships can pass under the bridge and it makes for a dramatic drive up and down the bridge.
How to get this type of shot
I wanted to get more than just the bridge itself in this shot and from my many times to Coronado I knew there would be some small boats on the beach that I could use as foreground objects. These small boats are used to get to the larger boats moored out on the waters of the bay.
I used a focal length of 24mm to get the composition I wanted and an f-stop of f/22 to maximize depth-of-field since the nearest boat was only about 5 feet from me with the bridge around 1/4 mile away. During my morning pack out of my gear, I wanted to travel light so I only took my Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM. Normally, for focal lengths under 28mm, I like to use my 17-40mm f/4 USM since it is much stronger in that range compared to the 24-105mm. If I were to attempt this shot again, I would definitely use the 17-40mm.
Getting a clean composition was a bit of a challenge since there are literally dozens of these boats on the beach. I arrived around 40 minutes prior to sunset and was able to experiment with different compositions with varying number of boats in the foreground. As with most cases, a simple composition worked best. I walked to the very end of the line of boats and shot so that only two boats were in the frame.
The shot was made right at sunset, and since the sun was setting directly behind me, the light remaining in the sky was already fading in color and intensity. However, since the foreground was in shade I had to use a 3-stop graduated ND filter to compress the dynamic range in this shot. I also made a shot where the lights on the bridge were illuminated, however this caused two problems. The first was since the lights did not turn on until about 30 minutes after sunset, the light in the sky was all but gone. Secondly, a street lamp around 10-feet behind me started causing light contamination on the beach and boats.