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Covered Bridges

by Philip Greenspun, 1993-1996

A postcard-quality covered bridge inside the Flume State Park, New Hampshire I saw a movie once where it turned out that by photographing covered bridges, you could end up in bed with an Italian immigrant. So I have set out every year with high hopes but I can tell you that I never got so much as a smile from any foreigners up in New Hampshire or Vermont. The author of the book is a business school professor and all the women I know are just wild about guys with MBAs. So I figure the guy must be some kind of expert on romance and yet he seems to have been wrong in this regard.

So in case you just want a bridge photo for its own sake, here's my advice... The photo at right is what you'd see in a postcard. What could be more typically New Hampshire? The freshly painted covered bridge. The mountain in the background. No parked Honda Accords. Yes, this scene is so typical that you'll find it on practically every postcard in the White Mountains. Also so typically that you'll find nothing like it in New Hampshire except in a state park. Yes, this image was made in Franconia Notch, right next to the Flume. The only vehicle that ever drives over this bridge is a tourist shuttle.
Covered bridge in Woodstock, Vermont The interior of this bridge in Woodstock is a little more like what I'd want a covered bridge picture to be. Canon 20-35L lens set at around 20. Fuji Sensia film.

About the longest covered bridge anywhere connects New Hampshire and Vermont in Windsor, NH (about 15 miles south of Hanover). These first four pictures were taken half an hour after sunset. The exposure for the first one was 30 seconds at f/2.8. I scrambled up a railroad embankment and then walked out over the water on what seemed like a rather loosely held together railroad bridge. Canon EOS-5 and 70-200/2.8 lens. Fuji Sensia. Aperture Priority autoexposure.

Note how vibrant the colors in the above images are. However, if I want to include some sky in the image then anything on the ground is going to be rendered practically black. In these pictures, I exposed to retain some color in the sky. I didn't have a graduated neutral density filter with me on the bridge, but I guess if I really wanted to play with PhotoShop, I could glue together a sky from one exposure and a foreground from another.

I came back one morning to find the bridge partly shrouded in fog. I'm not quite sure that these results justify getting up at 6 am. Actually I'm not quite sure that any results would justify getting up at 6 am...

These are my favorite covered bridge shots ever. The were taken after dark with exposures like 30 seconds at f/2.8. Canon 70-200/2.8L lens and Fuji Sensia.

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This free service is made possible by the generosity of Boston Photo, which scanned the images presented here, and Hewlett-Packard, whose FlashPix technology will let you optimally view and print these images (and whose servers power this 20 hit/second Web site). Text and photos copyright 1993-1996 Philip Greenspun

Article created 1993-1996

Readers' Comments

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Carl Pearson , March 25, 1999; 10:28 P.M.

Man, just to take pictures like you!!!

Ray Moore , October 11, 1999; 12:16 P.M.

The real beauty of covered bridges lies in the different ways they can be appreciated. One can admire the work of skillful workmen and marvel at their accomplishments with what today are considered primitive tools and methods. One can admire the artfull work of a photographer or painter. Another can admire the convenience they added to past and current daily life; not waiting for a ferry or searching for a ford across a stream. They can be seen to add a certain pastoral quality to the landscape. Certainly, admiring God's handiwork at dawn, dusk, or sometime in between is a worthwhile reason to visit a covered bridge. They are such special creations, evoking memories of the past and the promise of the use of man's abilities for the future.

Ray Moore

Francis Dietz , September 01, 2000; 01:53 P.M.

Great photo of the Woodstock covered bridge. I grew up in Woodstock and have been over the bridge many times. Unlike most covered bridges in New England and elsewhere, the Woodstock bridge is not old. It used to be a regular iron bridge, but a covered bridge was built there in the 1960s (I'm not entirely sure of the date) to enhance the charm of the town. In 1969, I believe it was, the bridge was set afire by local hoodlums during the Fireman's Ball (when they were most likely to have a hard time getting there), and nearly destroyed. It was rebuilt to its original look a year or so later.

An older covered bridge can be found in Taftsville, about 3 miles East of Woodstock. That bridge was built in 1836. It was nearly carried away by the flood of '73, but its original, quality civil engineering saved it.

George Hannah , September 12, 2002; 02:00 P.M.

Thanks for the article, and the great pictures. I just had to respond to your comment about "the longest bridge just about anywhere". It looks like a two-span covered bridge, which I think would make it somewhere in the 200 ft range I guess.

The longest covered bridge in the world is in Hartland, NB, with 7 spans, and 1282 ft. Definitely worth a look if you ever get up this way.

Jeanne Daigle , November 17, 2002; 09:29 P.M.

Your 'longest bridge anywhere' is the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, New Hampshire Covered Bridge number 20. It is 460 feet in length and built in 1866. It IS the longest bridge anywhere - anywhere is the US, that is. :-)

marty desilets , September 24, 2006; 02:10 P.M.

The shot of the cornish - windsor bridge is amazing... I love the perspective - Marty - Vermont Nature Photography

Suzanne D , August 29, 2010; 10:41 P.M.

Wonderful photos.  These help me get an idea of what to expect when I go there in October.

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