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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Long exposure of clouds and a river in Lancaster County

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Long exposure of clouds and river water with a bridge.
The arches of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge run over the Suquehanna River and beneath storm clouds riding an oncoming cold front.

LOCATION: The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, Columbia, Pa.

EQUIPMENT: Canon 5D Mark IV | EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM | Manfrotto Tripod | Hoya Pro 1 Digital Filter ND x64

THE STORY: Photographers become weather nerds. It's a necessary part of what we do.

The words "breezy" and "clouds" and "chances of a thunderstorm" can illicit excitement in us, which might seem strange to our non-photographer friends.

We see in weather reports possibility. We sense a calling we should follow. There's an image to make, something that can inspire others, something that can draw out a feeling in someone who sees it.

This concrete series of arches you see above is the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which carries Route 462 over the Susquehanna River between Lancaster and York counties, Pa.

It's a well-known spot for people who fish, boat, kayak.

It also attracted my imagination. An east-west bridge running over a north-to-south river with clouds rushing over top? Count me in.

Making such long exposure images requires patience. This image meant keeping the shutter open for 90 seconds. That's not a long time, until you sit next to your camera waiting to see if 90 seconds creates the proper exposure.

If it doesn't, you need to try again. And those minutes are precious at sundown as the light changes quickly and seems to fade even faster.

You don't have ogles of time to work with. You can't spend a lot of time experimenting. And once you think you have the proper aperture and exposure time, the light changes again and so you have to adjust.

It's best to embrace the challenge. You'll make one great image from an hour or so of work, but that's all you need. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the weather show, and work toward that one great image (credit to Rick Sammon for that inspiration).

And if you don't get it, check the weather apps again. The forecast is always changing, and in that constant change, there's opportunity.

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can email him at

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