Bennett’s Mill Bridge

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Bennett's Mill covered bridge, South Shore, Ky., June 1976.


The story: Beginners luck

This is the photograph that started everything. You might call it image number 1 of my more than 100,000 photos. 

This photo of Bennett’s Mill Bridge near South Shore, Ky., taken in June 1976, was the first image on the first roll of film I used in my first 35mm camera. It was also the only shot on the 36-shot roll of Tri-X that was in focus and properly exposed (remember – this was long before autofocus and auto-exposure).

And I have no idea how I did it.

It was a difficult exposure, with the dark interior illuminated by light streaming through openings. The background was brighter than the interior. If I had known what I was doing I would have needed to adjust for all of these variables. And I must have used a small aperture to get the depth of field that makes this shot work. But all I did was point and shoot. Pure luck.

This was back in the days when Kodak sponsored an annual national photo competition for amateurs, with newspapers around the country soliciting photos to be judged. Regional winners were used in the newspaper. A smaller selection - national winners - became part of a traveling exhibit Kodak displayed in museums around the country the following year.

This photo – the first image I ever shot and the only image properly exposed and in focus on that first roll of film – was part of Kodak’s national traveling exhibit.

I guess this means the high point of my more than 35 years of photography came the first time I clicked the shutter. It’s all been downhill since.