Friday, January 29, 2010

Building a Bailey Bridge

When a culvert failed over Boulder Creek near Beaver, Oregon, it didn't take long for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Tillamook County Public Works to mobilize and address the problem. The solution? A Bailey Bridge.

A Bailey Bridge is a pre-fabricated truss style structure that is built on-site - one section at a time - and slid across a series of rollers spanning the crossing and then jacked down into place on top of the bearings on the other side. The job was completed in about a week and I was on hand from start to finish to photograph its progress and to produce a photo essay chronicling the entire construction process.

Photo essays, layouts, and picture stories allow photographers the opportunity to document and explore a single subject in depth. In Visual Impact in Print, Gerald Hurley and Angus McDougall explain: "If picture pages are to excel, the editor must graduate from single-picture thinking; editor and photographer together must plan assignments and think pictures; the photographer must be perceptive and must have time to probe. Pictures must be edited for variety and impact. And the page must "Read"."

Multiple picture packages are typically distinguished by the size and depth of the project. A Photo Essay is a set of 20 or more images collectively representing a unifying theme (e.g., Fly Fishing in Oregon), while a Photo Layout is a set of 10-20 images that represent an aspect of a unifying theme (e.g., Dry Fly Fishing in Oregon). Finally, a Picture Story is a set of 10 or fewer images that represent a specific subject that is drawn from an aspect of a unifying theme (e.g., Dry Fly Fishing for Rainbow Trout in Oregon). Note how each example is simply a further refinement or narrowing of focus in subject matter and scope.

But regardless of which picture package you plan to pursue, remember all photo stories share a few common elements. The classic formula calls for a good variety of horizontal and vertical images where one particular photo dominates the layout and a wide angle scene-setter, telephoto portrait, and a tight, macro or detail shot round out the story.

This picture story was derived from a photo essay of 100 images and edited to show the construction process as clearly and simply as possible. Successful and succinct communication, that's the goal of any picture story so don't be afraid to experiment, observe, and reflect while you record -- build your story like you're Building a Bailey Bridge!

(Note: Once again, special thanks to ODOT PIO Kevin Beckstrom for his encouragement and support and not to mention superb picture editing skills! You can see his blog and wonderful collection of cartoons here: