Living in a river valley means that I have bridges all around me. Most of the time, I take them for granted. As a matter of fact, I drive across them every day! Yet, if I step back and take the time to actually look, these structures of wood and steel can provide some interesting material photographically.
One of the bridges in my neighborhood just happens to be a very significant tourist attraction. I guess that happens when you are surrounded by natural beauty. The New River Gorge Bridge, near Fayetteville, WV forever changed the face of the local economy and made travel through southern West Virginia much easier -- some would even say possible. Today, thousands of vehicles cross that bridge everyday, and most of their drivers think nothing of it even though it is the longest single span arch bridge in the western hemisphere.
There are a few people who will venture into the gorge below now-a-days that the journey is not required. Most travel by tourist bus to and from their rafting site, though some who cannot or will not take the plunge purposefully experience the 40 minute drive that used to be the norm in order to cross the river. Either way, those adventurous souls get to see the bridge from a different angle.
Now that I am not able to take the whitewater adventure trip, I really wish I had my camera with me way back in 1980 when I first experienced the view from the river. It was the most perfect optical illusion I have ever seen. For the above photo, I am standing on the old bridge about a half mile upstream from the Gorge bridge. The first time I saw this sight, I was finishing up my first whitewater adventure, and the illusion that the smaller bridge was directly underneath the large bridge persisted until we were literally underneath of it. That was perhaps the beginning of my learning to see.
If we choose to, we can view common everyday objects from a different vantage point. Take the next photo for example. It is an interstate bridge that I have traveled quite frequently. It is functional; it gets me across the river without getting wet, and many might be content to see and experience it in that way. But if you look for beauty, even in the functional things around us, it is likely that you might just find it!
But living in southern West Virginia means that there are streams that must be crossed all over the place. Not all of the bridges that we have are meant for vehicle traffic!
Though I had been in the neighborhood several times, I recently discovered this beauty in the middle of the forest thanks to a tip from a friend and fellow photographer. Ironically, one part of learning to see is learning to listen! She told me how to get there, and so I ventured further than I had previously gone and was greatly rewarded.
On that same day, I continued playing with my newfound fascination with bridges. And on the way home stopped at an old familiar site. Railroads were central to the economic development of the area in the 1800's through the modern day, as that is the best / easiest / most cost effective way to transport the coal out of the region.
But, as I said previously, there is beauty hidden within, if we only open our eyes to see. Here, I used a fisheye lens to present this standard subject in an exciting way. It tells an especially important tale of how long the history is with these bridges, how difficult a task it could be to traverse the rivers underneath, and the challenge of moving through the mountainous terrain. Yes, bridges are a crowning necessity in southern West Virginia! They have carried us forward for many years.
The old train depot at Gauley Bridge is a fine example of the past leading into the present. As we see the grass growing through the little used section of tracks, we begin to visually understand how a once thriving industry and economy has all but abandoned the present.
As the steel rusts, and the grass grows taller, we are reminded of the strength of the people who have gone before us, and the robust mining economy that once existed in these parts. If we have eyes to see it, we also can experience the vision of a bright future, one that lies just beyond the bend of the old tracks that have brought us this far.
But I speak of pictures of course!