In August 2012, my wife and I traveled to Summersville, WV to meet up with some friends for a weekend of camping. Part of that trip included taking the “Bridge Walk” – a guided tour along a narrow catwalk beneath the massive New River Gorge Bridge. For those not familiar, The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet (924 m) long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia, in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. With an arch 1,700 feet (518 m) long, the New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world’s longest steel single-span arch bridge; it is now the third longest. Now here’s where things get, uh…interesting. The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet (267 m) above the New River, making it the fifth highest vehicular bridge in the world, and the third highest in the Americas (thank you, Wikipedia). You read that right – 876 feet up. Higher than the Empire State Building. And the Bridge Walk has you walking directly underneath the roadway, on a narrow catwalk, in the open air.
When we arrived, storm clouds were rolling in and it was about to rain. We asked the Bridge Walk employees if rain was an issue. They gave us a funny look and said, “you do know you are walking under the bridge, right?” Ok, point taken, but what about lightning? “It makes the trip more exciting”. Okey dokey. This “excitement” was put to the test just before we stepped foot on the massive metal structure, as a nice streak of lightning followed by immediate loud thunder flashed nearby. The tour guide seemed nonplussed. For those who are wary of heights, I’ll warn you that the Bridge Walk is not for you. They do tether you into a long cable system that sits directly above you, promising that if you somehow managed to fall, you’d be safe. Still though, it’s pretty freaky. Being that high up is almost surreal. You may say to yourself, “don’t look down” but then you realize that’s the entire point of taking the Bridge Walk in the first place. I personally found that you eventually get somewhat used to the situation.
The photography on this trip was done using a Canon 50D and a 50mm EF 1.4 prime lens. Having a prime lens with no zoom options presented a fun challenge (you might have heard of the “50 challenge” – shooting exclusively with a 50mm lens). The crazy low f stop on that 50mm really came in handy considering the sky was overcast and we were under a bridge. Also the overcast sky helped to even the light out quite a bit. The rain actually stopped just as the tour ended (the tour lasts about an hour) and I was able to get a nice shot of the bridge surrounded by some nice foggy elements. I was also able to quickly sneak back in and get a shot of the empty catwalk, which had some insane leading lines.
If you aren’t afraid of heights, I’d highly recommend taking the Bridge Walk. They even have a night walk which sounds crazy (and would not be so good for photography). You can check them out here – http://www.bridgewalk.com
I also included a couple of shots of Summersville, WV (last two photos). An amazing place for a vacation that hardly anyone knows about.
Enjoy the photos!