Covered bridges in winter



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Following my (freezing) visit to West Rutland Marsh, I drove out to Proctor and through the old town, past the buildings where I worked summers while in high school and college, and on out the back roads to the Gorham Bridge, one of several remarkable wooden covered bridges in the area.

Gorham Bridge has always been my favorite, in part because I used to cross it to and from work most days.  I’d drive slow – slower than the already low speed limit – with the windows down so that I could smell the scent of the wood, the scent of the river below.  It was a visceral pleasure on a day that was otherwise spent in a climate-controlled building and a moment I always looked forward to.

Now, years later, I keep returning, including on this wintery morning, just about the time that the sun was cresting the eastern mountains.  Which sounds perfect, but is in fact a tricky time of day to try and photograph the Gorham Bridge.  The bridge crosses Otter Creek right at the border between Proctor on the western shore and Pittsford on the east.  In Proctor it’s closely backed by a tall hill, while it Pittsford the road runs fairly straight past an old farm, which provides an excellent, if somewhat cliche, backdrop.

So it’s best to photograph the bridge while standing in Proctor, looking towards Pittsford at the farm and mountains beyond.  Except that on a winter’s morning this puts you almost squarely into the rising sun, leaving your bridge almost silhouetted, as you will see in one of the photos below.  I’m not entirely sold on this semi-silhouetted look, but at the same time I kept hesitating when I tried to delete it, so in the end I kept it.


Life is full of small challenges.  I made the best of it, trying several angles but being happies with the opening photo, a panorama of the bridge taken from a Fish & Wildlife area on the Proctor side, and with the photo below, taken from inside the bridge, looking out at the old farm.

[Side note – I’ve photographed from within the covered bridges several times, but it’s something that must be done while exercising extreme caution; there are no sidewalks inside the bridges, which are one-lane affairs.  Fortunately they are also very low traffic affairs, but should a car come, you don’t want to be inside the bridge, and I always make sure that I’m positioned and aware in case I need to make a hasty exit.]


Given the conditions (uniform blanket of snow, position of sun, limited working angles), I didn’t stay too long at Gorham before driving across it and hanging an immediate left, which took me into Pittsford where, only five minutes down the road, I was able to cross and park next to the Cooley Bridge.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty cool to be able to drive across two beautiful, functional old wooden bridges that close together.


The Cooley Bridge is challenging as well; there’s a large nature preserve on the north side of the creek, where there’s access, but again getting an angle on the bridge while shooting into the morning sun can be tricky, and I’d say that this is a bridge that’s probably best photographed at sunset.  That said, the photo above is passable, the dark water and ice against the touch of flare from the sun, just out of the frame.  But the one below I like better, although the bridge is only a bit player as I look past it’s side upstream to the often-flooded marshy region.


I’ve been photographing the covered bridges in and around Rutland County, Vermont, since I started serious photography almost ten years ago.  All along there’s been some vague idea of doing a book, or some kind of publication, showing these truly beautiful examples of craftsmanship throughout the seasons.  That hasn’t happened, at least not yet, and I always feel that at least part of the reason is that I’m no longer local, and therefore somehow am not around enough to really document them except as an outsider.  Maybe that doesn’t matter, and maybe someday I’ll pull my collected bridge photos together and make a go at doing something with them.  But for now, I’m content to keep visiting when I can.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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  1. Marie Pennington


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