Rockville Bridge Milky Way and Grafton Ghost Town

The Rockville Bridge and Grafton Ghost Town are just outside Zion National Park. The bridge was built for the National Park Service in 1924 to provide a link between Zion National Park and the North Rim area of Grand Canyon National Park.

The Rockville Bridge is 91 years old now and is showing its age. The Department of Transportation’s inspection of the bridge in 2012 revealed such deterioration that the bridge’s load rating was reduced from 25 to 14 tons and the Town of Rockville was put on notice that “something” needed to be done about the bridge.

Plans were made to put up a new bridge next to the old one but the town objected. In 2016, the Joint Highway Committee allocated $2,500,000 for the Rockville Bridge to be rehabilitated – with the condition that the Town submit a plan for an alternate route for a new road and bridge to cross the Virgin River at another location.

In March of 2017, the Town of Rockville finished raising the matching funds required for the Federal funding of the bridge restoration project. The project is scheduled to get underway in October of 2017.

The preceding three paragraphs are slightly modified excerpts from The Rockford Bridge Organization. The organization has a photo tour.

Feature Image Details

For daytime shooting, the Canon 14mm lens is nicely corrected for most distortions. Photographers do not often use that lens for night photography because it has poor coma correction. Points of light at the corners look like bat wings. I was not aware of that artifact and fortunately stopped down to F4 which seems to have eliminated some of the batwings.

For night photography, the lenses of choices for most photographers are the Rokinon 14mm and Rokinon 24MM F1.4 lenses. Both have their problems, especially the 24mm lens. I will discuss this in much greater detail when I do a series on photographing the Milky Way. For now, let me say the Rokinon 14 mm lens will make straight lines look wavy. Lateral distortion is not a problem with many landscapes but it would have ruined the lines in this image.

The Rokinon 24 mm lens has serious manufacturing issues. People buy a lens, test it, and return it, repeating the process until they get a good one.  Why bother? Because if you get a good one lens it performs better for night photography than Canon or Nikon lenses costing four times as much. A search for best lenses for night photography will provide much discussion on this topic.

Viewed magnified, the lights show some trailing especially in the upper left. Some of that is coma and some due to the length of the exposure and how critical one wants to be.

Maximum Exposure Time – Rule of 400

The formula I use for maximum exposure time for night photography to keep stars as points of light is 400/Focal Length. In this case 400/14 = 28.6 seconds. 30 should be ok but I generally round down. For a 24mm lens, the calculation is 400/24 = 16.67 seconds. I recommend 15 seconds.  Some use a rule of 500 or even 600 but those will show a lot of trailing in my opinion.


Obviously, you need a tripod. The first major problem was getting the camera perfectly centered in the bridge and perfectly level with the road. This was difficult because I had the camera just above the road, as low as my tripod would go. Car traffic was the second major problem. I had to move my camera many times, ruining the shot. Each time it took at least a minute to find the center and get things level, or nearly level. Finally, getting light painting correct without blown out highlights or missed spots was difficult. In about 40 minutes, I got one good frame.


Here is a set of intermediate results.

The first frame above shows I was not properly centered. Worse yet, the camera was ever so slightly tilted. Third, there is that wire. It is used for Christmas lights. I edited out the wire in Photoshop.

Although I prefer working in Lightroom, many adjustments are much easier in Photoshop, but some easier in Lightroom. The latter has easy to use perspective controls. Leveling the lines and centering resulted in clipping the image. I could have used “constrain crop” but it would have resulted in that section of the image totally cut off. I cloned a bit of sky to fill it in.

Milky Way

November is a lousy time to photograph the Milky Way. The core of the Milky Way is not even visible. The best viewing season for the Milky Way is April-September.

I will cover this in depth later.

Grafton Ghost Town School

The Grafton ghost town is just down the road from the Rockville Bridge. I used a Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L Tilt-Shift Lens for the school house image.

Architecturally, the 17MM Tilt-Shift Lens is a beautiful lens and the best in its class of any manufacturer. I use it to maintain perspective. For night photography, however, it has an even bigger batwing problem than the 14 mm lens.

I lit the light inside the building with a small flashlight on the rear window covered with a handkerchief for diffusion. I light painted the front a bit with an Eagletac G25C2 Mark II Flashlight with the added diffuser.

The clouds are lit by a moon that was just about to rise.

There are lots of possibilities at these locations. If you are in Zion for an extended period it’s worth checking them out.

Other Zion National Park Articles 

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne
  5. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1
  6. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 2 (After a Rainfall)
  7. Zion National Park – Autumn – Middle and Upper Emerald Pools
  8. Zion National Park – The Watchman – Autumn
  9. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part I
  10. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part II
  11. Zion National Park – Autumn – Hiking “The Narrows” Part III
  12. Zion National Park – Autumn – Clear Creek


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Closing Comment

This finishes my Zion series. The next set of images will be closer to home. Whooping Cranes and other birds at the International Crane Foundation, Baraboo Wisconsin.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

5 thoughts on “Rockville Bridge Milky Way and Grafton Ghost Town

  1. Awesome photos. Had you not explained otherwise, I would have guessed they were composite or multiple images sandwiched together.

  2. Did you know that Grafton was the setting for the famous Bicycle scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

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