Arrábida Bridge, Porto

Arrábida Bridge (Porto, Portugal)

20 sec, ƒ/18, ISO 160, 17 mm

There’s a vehicle bridge called Arrábida that spans the Douro River between Gaia and Porto, which is also the bridge closest to where the river meets the ocean. On Saturday Paulo and I met Carlos in Porto to shoot the last rays, and I suggested that we head towards Foz, otherwise we’d run out of light too quickly and we’d have to move closer to catch the sun disappearing over the horizon. On our way there, I spotted the Arrábida Bridge and suggested we stop to shoot it. The light was wrapping all around it, and since it’s well into December, the light would not hang around much longer.

The Arrábida Bridge is currently 50 years old. At the time of its completion in 1963, it was the largest concrete arch in the world.

Arrábida Bridge (Porto, Portugal)

I find this bridge unusual in that the design of the span is concentrated on the underside rather than the side or above, as most bridges are. From the side, Arrábida looks rather plain and there really isn’t anything to see when you’re driving over it. But the advantage of this as a passenger in a vehicle is the open view to the ocean. When there are spans in the way, just try and get a clear shot of the view — sometimes it’s next to impossible if the spans are close together or the moving vehicle is going too fast. But the real beauty of the Arrábida bridge is best viewed from below, by passing boats or pedestrians. It’s as if the engineer, Edgar Cardoso, turned the concept of modern bridge-building upside-down: utility and functionality on top, aesthetics on the bottom.

I’ve shot a lot of bridges over the years and I typically have to position myself higher to get the best view, because bridge undercarriages are generally unsightly. It can also be a bit perilous to look up since bridge traffic vibration can dislodge debris, not to mention the danger of getting hit by litter thrown out of cars (which peeves me to no end)!

Arrábida Bridge (Porto, Portugal)

It took a heavy tripod with a ball head and 18 seconds with a wide lens to capture the top and bottom photos, and I was able to get water reflections in the top photo. Since I uploaded this picture, people have commented on its resemblance to a corset back (familiar to me after dozens and dozens of weddings, and wedding dresses!) or a zipper. Do you see something else?