Archive for March 28th, 2023

It’s not always bad news…

Reason #50- Bridges

Bridges can be physical structures that span and provide passage over rivers, bays, lakes, canyons, railroad tracks, roads or other barriers to travel, but can also connect two segments of music, support your cue in billiards, provide raised views from a platform on a boat or ship, or support your nose on your face.  A bridge can also connect people of differing viewpoints or cultures.  Here, though, I’m talking about the physical structure you can traverse on foot, by bike or in a car.

If you ever doubt how you might be taking bridges for granted, you’ll be reminded when one is out on your journey.  We have had to take up to five-hour detours because a bridge over a river was blocked by construction, not counting the times when the destination was simply not available by any detour at all.  Just think what driving would be like without the high-tech structures that bridges have become.  There was a time when the only possible passage over a river was via ferry or barge.  Gorges were impassible, and some railroad tracks were blocked for hours by train traffic.

A bridge can also be a friend of the amateur or professional photographer, providing scenes of technology, history, majesty and comparable size.  These views can be anything from quaint to awe-inspiring.  I love shooting rustic covered bridges in Ohio and New England, but also the enormous, towering bridges that span lakes, bays and canyons.  Memorable behemoths include the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Michigan’s “Big Mac” over the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Maine, the New River Gorge Bridge in Virginia and the curved Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland.  All around the country, you’ll find the picturesque, the awesome, the beautiful and the historic, if this is a photographic subject you enjoy.

I’ve probably snapped photos of over a hundred covered bridges and I never seem to tire of them.  There has been a concerted effort to preserve them in place, when possible, but some have been moved to protect them.  This has been aided by a new competition between states as to who has the most, the best and the most beautiful covered bridges in America. 

Pennsylvania seems to be the leader in quantity, with 219 still remaining in place.  Kentucky was known to have had as many as 700 covered bridges in its history, but only a dozen remain, and, similarly, over 400 were built in New Hampshire with only 54 surviving.  Ohio had an amazing 4,000 in its history, but that number has dwindled to just 42, 40 of which I have photographed.  The Clint Eastwood-Meryl Streep movie, The Bridges of Madison County, in 1995 also served to generate new interest in covered bridges.

As you would expect, the first bridges were made by nature, as fallen trees made a path across a river or stream. The first bridges made by humans were most likely made from logs, planks and stones with little or no support structure.  Interestingly the first cable-connecting spans were designed after watching monkeys swing on vines from tree to tree.  The first such bridges were constructed in China as early as 206 BC.  Expertise continued to improve in China and by 605 AD the oldest surviving stone bridge was built during the Sui Dynasty.  Of course, the greatest pre-modern bridge builders were the ancient Romans, the first to use a form of cement in their materials.  With the Industrial Revolution came steel, then designs of beam, cantilever, arch, suspension, cable-stayed and truss bridges.

The best thing for tourists is the sheer number of bridges of all sorts everywhere in the country, and in most of the world.  Whether you aspire to take the perfect bridge photograph or just enjoy visiting historical structures, there is much to like about bridges, and many to like.


I’ll leave the discussion with a particularly appropriate quote from 20th-century architect Santiago Calatrava, who said, “What I do is the opposite of building walls. I build bridges. A bridge is something that connects instead of separating.

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