Millau Viaduct
1 year ago 0
Posted in: Blue Hour, Bridge

Millau Viaduct

European Road Trip Journal Day 14 (Travel Diary Day 261)

The motorway is winding steeply around, seemingly without end. The darkness makes it hard to see where we are going. Cars are passing us on the other side of the road so I can’t keep my high beems on for very long. I feel like I’m pulling Betsy from pillar to post.

She’s making noises that make me wonder if we’ll ever arrive in one piece. I turn the radio up to drown out the high pitched engine noise she’s making: Out of hearing, out of mind.

It was 6:00am and we were trying to get to Millau Viaduct, the tallest bridge in the world, located in the south of France not far from Montpelier. We hoped to arrive before sunrise but the thick cloud cover told us we had little chance of seeing the sun.

It’s funny, the first thing I thought to myself when I woke up this morning was ‘Is it worth it?’ We had 4 hours sleep and were now facing an hour and half drive ahead of us. When we stepped out of our hotel and felt the droplets of rain, I asked myself the same question again.

No sunrise and a longish, tiresome journey in the dark. Couldn’t we just go back to bed?!

In the end, I convinced myself the same way I always do at this ungodly hour, by asking ‘What if?’ Despite the rain and dull light, we simply can never predict what scene we’ll encounter as photographers, so the question of ‘Is it worth it?’ suddenly becomes ‘What if it’s worth it?!’ and we, or at least I, feel compelled to make the effort, just in case…

We pull up into a service station with a large, well lit car park. Only Betsy and a camper van populate the parking spaces. It’s still dark as we make our way up the hill to get to the viewing point of the bridge.

As we spot its pointy tops, I start to feel a familiar sensation. Whether I’m standing at the foot of an ancient temple like Prambanan, or a modern structure as magnificent as The Petronas Towers, a feeling of awe washes over me and for a few moments I forget about photography and think about the sheet effort involved in creating these mammoth monuments.

I set up my equipment and Rachel started running up and down the hill. That’s her thing, you see, she’s fanatical about exercise. Since photography doesn’t float her boat, she often exercises while I’m snapping away. At Chateau Chambord recently she was doing jumping jacks at blue hour.

From the point of the view of the drivers coming across the bridge, it must have been an odd sight. With relative darkness all around, they could see a silhouette of a man with a camera and tripod, while metres away there’s a woman running up and down a hill. All of this is taking place in the middle of nowhere, with no buildings to be seen for miles. One driver was kind enough to beep his horn.

The weather forecast was right, sadly – the sky never cleared up. In fact, it’s still raining now. Nevertheless, with patience and post-processing I came out with an image that I enjoyed, and that certainly answered my question – yes it was worth it.

I’m looking out of our hotel window at the large, and long, wall of a huge prison about 50 metres away. We really know how to pick accommodation.

For the rest of the evening we’ll drink wine. Our days in France are numbered so it would be rude not to enjoy enjoy some of the country’s sacred grape.

Today’s Photo – Millau Viaduct

This is said bridge. Since the scene was flat, with no beneficial light, I had to create a source of light to the right where the car trails are, while adding a feathered vignette towards the left of the scene to emphasise the source of light.

This was processed in Photomatix using 3 exposures (-2, 0, +2). I then manually painted back some of the original base exposure and cleaned up the light trails. Luminosity masks were used to make fine, localised adjustments.

For my workflow, please refer to my tutorials:

Beginner’s HDR tutorial

Digital Blending HDR Tutorial