Night Time Concrete Pour of the Tower Base at Pier Four of the Downtown Span

These photos are HDR images from the night time concrete pour at Pier Four of the Downtown Span of the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville, Kentucky. In order to place over 700 cubic yards of concrete into the tower base form the crew of Walsh Construction workers used two concrete pumps working from 9:00PM through the night until mid-morning of the following day.

To deliver enough concrete to meet the needs of such a massive pour also required the use of two towboats and barges. The concrete was delivered in a continuous rotation of the towboats between the shore and the work site in the river. On shore over 100 truck loads of concrete were placed into containers on the barges which then transported the containers out to the site. Each trip brought an additional 30 cubic yards of concrete to the pour, 7.5 cubic yard per container, and required two concrete trucks to fill them. Once the towboats were tied off to the work barges in the river the crane lifted each container up to the hopper that fed each concrete pump.

Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #1
Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #1

 

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The first image was captured from the deck of the towboat barge as the first container of concrete was lifted up to the hopper that fed the concrete pump truck. I chose to frame it so that the shadows from the work lights were accentuated on the barge deck and provided a silhouette of the man monitoring the process. By applying the use of a three frame bracket set of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures I was able to reveal detail in the shadows while also showing the details in the lighted sections of the scene.

Processing the resulting images in NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 and using the Balanced preset with  a 60% Anti-Ghosting setting gave me the basic image I wanted. Before returning it to Aperture 3 I also adjusted the Detail slider to Accentuated and the Drama slider to Deep. I then finished the merged file using the adjustment panel in Aperture 3 to set contrast, saturation, sharpening and individual color channel saturation and vibrance settings.

Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #2
Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #2

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This second image is also a three frame bracket set using my customary settings of +2, 0 and -2 EV exposures. Once again this approach gave me three exposures that captured details in the shadow and highlights while maintaining the mid tones. I used the same process steps as in the first image and by doing so I was able to reveal the bridge above the river as well as the tower forms and the concrete pump booms. I really like the way the lights reflect on the water and add depth to the composition.

Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #3
Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #3

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This image shows the men as they work to clear a clog in one of the concrete delivery pipes. As you can see the long exposures required at night allowed some blurring of the workers which I knew would happen and I feel it adds movement to the image.

Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #1
Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #1

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This image was captured on the barge of the towboat as it waited to have it’s cargo of concrete unloaded. It too is a HDR image processed in the same way as the others in this post. I chose the composition to capture the city lights along the shore and the searchlight beam of the towboat. Using HDR techniques allows me to reveal color and texture that would be nearly impossible with a single exposure with my equipment. Even if I had the latest model Nikon camera I would still be limited by the narrow dynamic range of it;s sensor.Low light sensitivity is much better than it was a few years ago but it still has it’s limits when dealing with extreme lighting disparities.

Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #2 (Palladium Preset)
Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #2 (Palladium Preset)

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I liked the composition of the color HDR image so i decided to experiment with it in Topaz B&W Effects to see what feelings I could elicit with a couple of mono-tone versions. For the image above I used one of the Palladium presets and then tweaked the settings for my own taste.

Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #3 (Black and White Preset)
Towboat and Barge Delivering Concrete for Pouring the Eastern Base for the Tower at Pier Four. #3 (Black and White Preset)

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I don’t recall the exact preset I began with for thsi version but I’m fairly sure it was on of the traditional presets. It certainly has a much colder, almost film noir feel than the Palladium version.

15 thoughts on “Night Time Concrete Pour of the Tower Base at Pier Four of the Downtown Span

  1. I’m thrilled over and over again by your documentation of the bridges project. Not only is the photography spectacular but your explanations are so rich in detail. You are making history that will last longer than the bridge itself. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent.

    1. I am very honored that you feel this way Laurel, I’m only doing what my heart tells me to do. I truly hope that what I do today will stand the test of time and show the world what the men and women on this job did to create the Ohio River Bridges Project Downtown Span.

  2. Good info to know, I am heading back to Minnesota in about a week and I am hoping to find time to photograph the lift bridge in Duluth. I’ve always had trouble with night shots and a lot of background lighting, I will definitely try the HDR technique.

  3. I also meant to ask if you feel the 3 steps is best or would it be worth using 5 steps for more depth? Although my camera is capable, I’ve just never used more than 3.

    1. I have come to this number after years of experimenting. I rely on Histograms and using my bracket set gets me three solid shots encompassing everything from black to white. My experience with more frames is that they also create more noise and more artifacts to contend with. In my trials and evolution to this method I have taken as many as 11 frames 1 stops apart to as few as two frames 2 stops apart.

      1. This is very helpful info, Nick. I’m getting ready to shoot some outdoor sculpture against the dawn and I planned to do HDR (sadly, I don’t have all your plug-ins), so the 3-stop process is good information that will save me a lot wasted experimentation time. Great photography, by the way. My compliments.

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