Driving across the Chicago Skyway Bridge Olympus XA Kodak T-Max 400 2020
I barely slept the last night we were in Chicago. So I handed my car keys to Margaret. It gave me this lovely opportunity to photograph the Chicago Skyway Bridge while we were crossing it.
This bridge, built in 1958, carries the Chicago Skyway, also known as I-90, across the Calumet River. At the end of the Skyway, eastbound, is Indiana. This is a toll bridge, but thanks to my EZPass transponder I have no idea what the charge is. I just add some money to my account before we go and let the EZPass pay the toll.
It was midmorning Monday. Traffic was light. For a moment, it looked like we had this busy bridge all to ourselves.
For weeks now I’ve been sharing my photos of bridges in my Tuesday/Thursday “single frame” series. I’ve wanted to share one of the beautiful Jefferson Boulevard bridge in my hometown of South Bend. But I couldn’t choose just one. So I’m sharing a bunch of photographs of it in this post, to wrap up the series.
The Jefferson Boulevard bridge was built in 1906, carrying one of downtown South Bend’s main east-west streets across the St. Joseph River and forming a gateway with the east side of South Bend.
You can walk right under two of this bridge’s arches on a pedestrian trail that runs along both sides of the river.
When you do, you can see the telltale signs of the formwork that held this bridge’s concrete in place while it cured.
MIT-trained South Bend city engineer Alonzo Hammond designed this bridge. He used a cutting-edge construction technique known as the Melan arch, in which solid steel arch ribs, rather than iron rebar, were used inside the concrete.
490 feet long with four spans, with a deck 51.8 feet wide, it handled a twin-track street railway as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Today the streetcar tracks are long gone. Hammond’s bridge easily handles two lanes of traffic in each direction, bracketed by sidewalks.
Hammond configured the east approach of the bridge to complement recent improvements in Howard Park. which is on the right in the photos above and below. I made the photo below from a onetime railroad trestle now used by pedestrians on the river trail system.
I’ve photographed this bridge more than any other. I enjoy its design and its setting. Every time I’m downtown in South Bend with a camera, I wind up around the bridge looking for a new angle.
But mostly, I like to shoot the bridge up close to consider its delightful details.
Sometimes the morning or afternoon light plays beautifully on its sides.
I made this photo from the LaSalle Street bridge one block to the north. It shows the orange di Suvero sculpture and shallow man-made waterfalls. It also shows part of Island Park on the right.
I made a similar photograph the first time I shot this bridge, on a downtown photo walk in 1988. At that time, the bridge was a dull brownish gray. It underwent a restoration in 2003-4 that strengthened it to serve another generation, and brought it to its current creamy hue.
Shadow play on the old truss bridge Canon PowerShot S80 2010
I love driving under a truss bridge on a sunny day. You can almost feel the truss shadows as you move through them.
Indiana has done a very nice job of reusing many of its obsolete highway truss bridges. This is one of them. You’ll find it on a country road in Carroll County, Indiana. At the time I came upon it, it had clearly recently been restored.
Let’s return to my 2006 road trip along US 40 and the National Road between Indianapolis and the Illinois state line. The next old alignment of this road is at a place called Pleasant Gardens, in Putnam County. When I made this trip I did not know yet that the road was realigned several times in this area, including an alignment that took it through Reelsville, a town slightly north of here. Read the whole history of the National Road and US 40 in this region here.
Just past Manhattan in Putnam County was a turnoff for 620 W, which curves into a segment of an old alignment. US 40 is visible from some of this segment; it’s about 100 yards away.
The road crumbles away about 1,200 yards later at a dead end with the current US 40 road bed. To exit, we had to backtrack to 625 W, a crossroad that bisects this alignment.
The next segment begins maybe 300 yards from where this one ends, as this map shows. Notice how 300 yards to the west another old alignment starts again, labeled 750 S. It seems obvious that these two segments were once connected.
The map shows this segment in three sections: 750 S and, strangely, two labeled 725 S. If you trace the road west of the segment’s western end, past the intersecting road (800 S), you can see a faint trace or ridge that suggests how the segment used to flow and merge with the current roadbed.
The turnoff to this segment was gravel, the only time we saw an unpaved turnoff on this trip.
After rounding the curve, the pavement became the familiar chipped-stone concrete, although it did not have an expansion joint down the center as did the concrete pavement we encountered earlier on this trip. It was overgrown on both sides and the surface was wearing away in spots, but it was otherwise intact.
Soon the road comes to a bridge that crosses Big Walnut Creek.
From the bridge it’s easy to see the current US 40 bridge, maybe 500 feet to the south.
The concrete pavement ends abruptly about four tenths of a mile west of the bridge. A one-lane asphalt road curves sharply to connect back to US 40.
I decided to see if there were traces of 725 S from the other side. We drove out onto US 40, turned right at 800 S, and drove up to what the map said was 725 S (but was signed 750 S). The road was concrete, but without the stone chips we’d seen on other old road segments. But shortly the road curved right into the woods on the right, as the photo shows. Beyond that curve, the road was gravel. We walked up to where curve met woods and saw no evidence in the woods that the road ever went through. But why then the curve?
I would learn much later that this concrete road used to go through, connecting to the abrupt end of concrete road we found in the previous photo. It’s all part of the puzzle of these old alignments, which I finally untangled a couple years ago and explained in this post.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
The National Road and US 40 has been moved around several times near Reelsville in Putnam County, Indiana. Big Walnut Creek flows through here. As various bridges have come and gone, sometimes the road was moved. I sorted out the whole history in this post.
I say this bridge is on the National Road. It is, in that this was an alignment of that road used from 1875 to 1923. But this is not a National Road bridge, as it was not built until 1929. By this time, the National Road had become US 40, and US 40 had been realigned to a new road a quarter mile to the south.
This bridge was designed by Daniel Luten, whose pioneering design for concrete-arch bridges is patented. That’s why this bridge was restored in place after a new bridge was built next to it (in about 2006). If you can find a place to park, you can walk out onto this old bridge.
It’s remarkable to me that this old bridge out in the country was saved. Also notice the pitch of the new bridge. Its construction eliminated a wicked hill.
It is such fun to make photographs well after nightfall, holding my film SLR in my hands, with only building and street lights shining on the scene. As I walked along the river in Chicago, Kodak T-Max P3200 let me make photographs as if it were 9 a.m., not 9 p.m.
It was cold that night, being the first weekend in January. My Nikon F3 can handle that kind of treatment, which is why I chose it. I mounted my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens so I could fit more of the city in each frame.
My wife and I had just come from Navy Pier, where we photographed the Chicago skyline from the Ferris wheel. We had plenty of time for a leisurely walk along the Chicago River before our dinner reservations within the Loop. We walked on both sides of the river, crossing the bridges wherever we felt like it.
Chicago at night is a perfect subject for Kodak T-Max P3200. The built environment generates plenty of light to render subjects beautifully.
I forget exactly what apertures and shutter speeds I used to make these photos, but they let me shoot easily and comfortably. My lens wasn’t wide open, and I didn’t have to worry about camera shake.
As you can see, the P3200 does return noticeable grain. A couple of these photos do show slight underexposure. My F3’s meter did the best it could to read this light but didn’t always nail it. A few of these images looked a little foggy, but a little tweaking in Photoshop cleared that right up.
I remain amazed by how well this film works. I know some people push other films, such as Tri-X, to 3200 and get good results. But you have to push your processing accordingly. That’s not a huge deal when you process your own. But I send my 35mm black-and-white film to a pro lab. It’s nice not to have to pay extra for the push processing on P3200.
My wife and I had a lovely walk along the Chicago River as I shot this roll of Kodak T-Max P3200. I look forward to doing it again someday — and to finding other subjects that this film can make sing.