logo


The president visits the Tappan Zee Bridge project
by Daniel Spitzer, MD

I decided that a photo, not of the President himself (many would capture those) but of his helicopter, Marine 1, flying over the Tappan Zee Bridge, would be a fitting way to document the Presidential visit. The image of a middle aged machine (the Presidential helicopters are due to be replaced shortly) passing over the aged and rusting bridge, with a plethora of old barges and new cranes below, would serve as an interesting contrast—visual and historic. This was, of course, a gamble; the weather promised to be marginal at best, and of course I have no way to predict, much less influence, the flight path the helicopter would take. Ultimately, I chose a spot half way out the Piermont Pier and waited.

The inbound flight passed too for to the east, and with the tail of the Helicopter most evident, the images were uninspiring.

(While the President was in Tarrytown, I went to the gym and hit the elliptical!)

With binoculars I could then follow the return of the motorcade to the flat staging area just north of Tarrytown and watch closely as the helicopter rotor spooled up.
A race was in process: a high deck of clouds was filling in from the west, muddying the light, while a low layer of cloud and fog was moving rapidly in from the coastline to the southeast, threatening to reduce the backdrop to a boring off-white.

Fortuitously, the outbound trajectory chosen by the pilots was further to the west, and closer to mid-channel, so the helicopter passed over the center span of the Bridge. The inclement weather slowed its approach and I was able to capture Marine One essentially mid-span as it turned south on its trip back to NYC. Five minutes later, the high overcast and low cloud layer had both filled in.

I particularly appreciate the booms of the four (count carefully!) cranes pointing up toward Marine 1, drawing the viewers’ eye from the inverted arch of the bridge superstructure up toward the helicopter itself. The detail and definition of the photo (especially in the original, before downsizing for the 300 dpi resolution and size needed for the magazine cover) is astonishing. Individual rivets on the Bridge’s steel skeleton stand out prominently, as do hawsers and cables, signage and cordage. On the original, it is possible to count the stripes on both (again, count carefully!) American flags flying in the stiff breeze.

Technical Data: 5.14.2014 @ 4:18 pm
Leica M240 ASA 500 1/1500 sec
Leica 560 mm lens 6.8,
Distance to Helicopter approx. 2.3 miles
minimal post production in Photoshop.