Stay Golden Pittsburgh
© 2017 Adam Kenneth Campbell
Smithfield Street Bridge
I can’t take credit for the composition of this image, since I’ve seen many Pittsburgh photographers take long exposure shots from this location with a similar composition. I would be a total prick if I tried claiming to be the first person to think of this. However, the way I have fully embraced letting synchronicity rule my life is quite evident when it comes to my version of this image.
While juggling a day job as an art director and user experience designer in Pittsburgh along with the photography business for about 2 years, I worked for a company in the Landmarks Building in Station Square right next to this bridge.
Long ago, the building served as the headquarters for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. Now the entire former train station serves as a local tourist trap and office buildings.
Like several other great photographers in town, I wanted a long exposure shot from this location — but I didn’t want to get beaten to death by the asshole city cops. You have to be careful climbing around on structures like this and setting yourself up in a place you’re not supposed to be.
I made sure to get my tripod set up, lens set to the correct focal length, shutter speed, ISO, and aperture set appropriately before hopping over the concrete barrier between the sidewalk and the road, and climbing onto the barrier separating the two halves of the road. It ended up being a total failure. Due to the mid summer sun setting late in the evening, traffic had died down significantly. I wanted to get light trails from city busses or other tall vehicles going both directions.
After sitting in this spot for about 45 minutes without a single inbound bus going crossing the bridge, GOD was laughing his ass off as I walked back across the parking lot to my Jeep and 4 inbound busses in a row crossed the bridge.
I decided to wait until after we set our clocks backwards for the Fall. I’m always significantly depressed for the weeks following that disruption to my circadian rhythms. Getting this image would be a good mental health boost for me.
The next day day after setting the clocks back I was in Pittsburgh for meetings and the weather looked perfect. Right after work I walked outside and the light wasn’t quite dark enough, so I walked across the bridge and just happened to catch a barge passing right underneath me as I walked past. I was able to get some really great wide angle shots of the barge against the city, with the twilight sky and city lights just starting to turn on.
When I walked back across the bridge the twilight was perfect. It was right in the middle of rush hour so there were plenty of vehicles passing in both directions to get the shot I wanted. Once again I gathered my equipment and entered the proper settings before hopping the concrete barrier to risk getting killed by the asshole cops over a photograph.
I was getting strange looks from most people who drove past, with a bunch of assholes honking horns and screaming at me. I am sure many of them were calling 911 because they are a bunch of sheltered suburban douche bags who can’t mind their own business.
I did have a pleasant encounter with the driver of the bus you can vaguely see in the photo. She had to who had to stop for a number of seconds for traffic, so she opened her window and told me that she hopes my photographs turn out great! I felt like that was the universe telling me to stick this out until I complete this self-imposed assignment!
Staying just long enough to get the shots I wanted, I got the fuck out of there quickly. The whole time I kept remembering when Pittsburgh Police officers grabbed a friend of mine who was walking on a concrete barrier along a bridge, threw him to the ground and hog tied his hands and legs together, and drove off with him face down in the back of a squad car. They ended up throwing him down a flight of stairs while still hog tied, wrote him up a fake ticket which was dismissed by the DA, and dropped him off in the ghetto where he was subsequently mugged and lost everything in his wallet.
I wasn’t taking any more chances than necessary with these assholes. Trust me, the Pittsburgh Police are by far the biggest pieces of shit you’ll ever encounter. You could ask all of the unarmed people they’ve killed over my 20+ years living here — but unfortunately those people are all dead.
People think photography is all fun and games, but sometimes we do risk our lives to show you the beauty that surrounds us!
My absolute favorite part of the whole story is the graffiti spray painted on the central column of the yellow tower on the bridge. I did some research by looking at several photos other photographers took from this spot, and the words “Stay Golden Pittsburg” had been visible for several months. You can tell that the idiot didn’t plan out the letterspacing after running out of room for the “h” on the end of Pittsburgh!
I took the time to look this up because the very next day after taking this photo, I walked out to grab lunch to witness a group of Pittsburgh “Graffiti Busters” covering up that graffiti with large blocks of grey primer! If I had waited just one more day to grab this shot, there would have been several large blocks of grey primer all over those columns, along with my favorite part of the photograph being lost forever.
While I’m not the only person to catch this very similar photo from the same exact location, I’m certainly the LAST person who captured that moment in bad graffiti history.
pittsburgh, smithfield, street, bridge, pennsylvania, long, exposure, traffic, bus, busses, lights, streaks, vibrant, twilight, city, dusk, yellow, stay, golden, light, trails, rush, hour