There’s an old railroad bridge over the James River downstream from Glasgow, VA, that has been repurposed as a pedestrian link for the Appalachian Trail; it’s also a great inspiration to photographers. It’s called the Foot Bridge not because it’s a footbridge, though it is, but because it’s named after William T. Foot, who was quite active in AT activities with his wife; the couple were known as “The Happy Feet.”
On a clear (and chilly) mid-December day, my friend Ted Burrowes and I set out to cross the Foot Bridge in order to view the aftermath of the Matts Creek fire in November that burned over 11,000 acres, mostly just leaf litter, bushes and the occasional dead tree.
Fortunately the fire was blocked from further expansion by the James River on the East and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the South. But it did produce voluminous smoke, which mostly drifted East due to the prevailing winds.
“Mostly,” I say, except for one day where it nearly occluded the sun where we live.
We never made it to Matts Creek. Instead we were arrested by the light. The air was still, the river calm, and the illumination truly amazing. I believe in the old adage of taking a picture whenever and wherever the light is great—a picture of anything will look fine, but if you’re lucky you’ll be in a lovely place in that lovely light and it will be stunning. I also believe in “serendipitous satisficing”: making something good enough out of surprising fortune. These images are the result.
The bridge is fairly long for pedestrians, but solid and secure.
While not exactly handsome, on this calm day it yielded some nice views from underneath.
We walked across the Foot Bridge and for a short distance along the river. The light silhouetted the tall trees, making a fine filigree against a vivid background. But I was most taken with the serenity of the river.
While we were returning across the Foot Bridge, we had another piece of good photographic fortune: a very long coal train from West Virginia rushed across the river on the “new” bridge just downstream, which has rusted to a fine patina.
The Foot Bridge was constructed on the old railroad footers and affords a good view of the current train tracks.
Meanwhile, looking back across the river, the trees were a treasure. Mostly sycamore along the river, and denuded of leaves, their ghostly branches and trunks were reflected almost perfectly in the still waters of the James. This is a small sample from my hyperactive shutter-finger, differently-processed in ON1 to produce different looks.
Well, Ted and I didn’t walk far on this cold December day, but we had a wonderful adventure nonetheless. May you be as fortunate!
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