Quad Cities I-74 Bridge project. APAlmanac.

Months ago, we we had the honor of being selected by Rosales + Partners to photograph the new I-74 bridge spanning the Mississippi River.  The mission was photography which illustrate not only the final completed structure, but also the beautiful landscapes surrounding the twin arching bridges.  We set out to capture ground level, aerial, day, sunset, and night photographs to showcase the bridge’s summer season, LED uplighting, and key structural details.

The Interstate 74 Bridge, officially known as the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge, and often called The Twin Bridges, or the I-74 Bridge, are basket-handle, through arch twin bridges that carry Interstate 74 across the Mississippi River and connect the cities of Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois.  Located near the geographic center of the Quad Cities, the new bridge replaces the obsolete green steel suspension bridge built in the 1930’s and adds much more vehicle plus pedestrian capacity for the modern era.  The new bridge project boasts four lanes in each direction, four large shoulder lanes, a pedestrian/bicycle path and an incredible glass floor oculus with viewing platform looking westward to the mighty Mississippi.  The build has an estimated cost of $1.2 billion dollars. The arching white arches are visible from miles away down the shorelines during the day and when illuminated by LED uplighting at night.

After waiting months, due to the lingering, non-photogenic late Spring Midwest weather, and juggling other clients, we were finally able narrow down a couple of ideal June days.  So after attending a wake of a family member for a great friend & client, we started the across the state drive traveling from Chicago to Iowa.  Arriving into town at sunset, we had to head to our hotel to sleep.  But at the last moment we decided, what the heck, let’s go check it out!  Once we got to the bridge, we couldn’t just look at it and say “yeeeep, that’s a nice bridge”, so out came the camera gear & drone and we started at it.  We weren’t at all prepared for the level of insects that accompany the Mississippi.  The bugs were in our hair, eyes, ears, mouth, nose & everywhere else including the front of our lens elements. Even the drone had bug guts all over the propellers and body.  Looking back we should have brought our chickens, they would’ve loved this place!  

On night one, we photographed the bridge until dark and we were happy with the results.  After only 3 hours of sleep, at 4 am we flew out the doors of the hotel, to prepare for the next morning’s violet hour shots.  Before sunrise, we parked at the casino near the bridge and grabbed a coffee meanwhile trying to avoid the drunken gamblers stumbling & mumbling out to their cars.  We nonchalantly shot from the rooftop of the casino’s garage avoiding security before focusing on shots by the riverfront. 

Ryan recalls the few issues he had while flying the drone.  “Not many people know this but the larger Midwest river areas are home to the American Pelican and there were a ton of them.  Typically during drone flights, there is one bird we fear when flying which is the Red Tailed hawk — as they will easily attack drones and take them down, game over.  We’ve had a hawk attack happen a few times actually, not fun.  After this shoot, we can add the American Pelican to the list because we were almost hit by a few that day.  I don’t think they were coming at the drone aggressively like hawks do, but more like a freight train that could care less what was in it’s way.  One of them got so close that the bird’s body filled my entire frame on the controller.  Needless to say, I let out an audible “Oh Shi*t!” As I pictured our $6,000 drone splashing into the Mississippi.  The second flight issue was restricted airspace nearby.  It was pretty simple, no matter what stay well away from the island to the immediate west — it’s the military’s Rock Island Armory where they manufacture weapons.  Flying over it is a definite no no.  Another issue was the color of the river.  With its muddy bottom and swift current, the Mississippi looked like a flowing brown artery of chocolate milk.  But with the right lighting, angles and a smidge of Photoshop, we think we were able grab some aesthetically pleasing material that masked the unappealing water color.”

Overall, we had a blast shooting this project.  The weather was perfection, walking across the bridge was a beautiful experience and we felt confident in what we captured.  We left the project feeling inspired at what incredible things humans are capable of building when putting their minds to it.

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