05.22.22: A natural bridge

The forest is seen through Carter Caves Natural Bridge in Carter Caves State Park near Olive Hill, Ky.

The forest is seen through Carter Caves Natural Bridge in Carter Caves State Park near Olive Hill, Ky.

Photographing interesting geologic structures

It’s a photographic challenge to get a shot of a natural bridge that does justice to the scale and depth of the rock structure. 

When I’m hiking with my camera I’m usually looking for wildlife photos. But when I’m hiking in Carter Caves State Park near Olive Hill, Ky., or in the Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio I’m looking for interesting geological formations.

Carter Caves State Park is known for its caves, of course. The park has about 20 caverns, with four open for guided tours. It also has four natural bridges, sometimes called natural arches.  The caves and natural bridges in Carter Caves State Park were formed by centuries of erosion. Flowing water eroded limestone, creating the geologic features in the park.

Natural bridges can be found in many locations around the world. Unlike natural bridges I’ve seen in other locations, which tend to be narrow arches, many of the natural bridges in Carter Caves State Park are more like long tunnels or long caves with large rear entrances.

This is a photo of Carter Caves Natural Bridge, not to be confused with the better known Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge State Resort Park in southeastern Kentucky.

It’s a photographic challenge to get a shot of a natural bridge that does justice to the scale and depth of the rock structure. I prefer to be under the bridge, shooting toward the adjacent landscape, rather than outside the bridge shooting an overview of the exterior of the structure. I think viewing the scene from under the bridge creates a more interesting photograph. To capture as much detail and depth as possible I use an extreme wide angle zoom at its widest setting (10 millimeters, which is near fish-eye) to pull everything into the frame and a small aperture (f/22) to ensure the entire structure is in focus.

Carter Caves Natural Bridge isn’t the largest bridge in Carter Caves State Park. That distinction goes to Smokey Bridge, the largest natural bridge in Kentucky — 90 feet high, 120 feet wide and 220 feet long. It’s impressive.

But Carter Caves Natural Bridge is impressive in another way.  It serves as an actual bridge for a roadway that crosses it. 


Tech specs

  • Date/time: Jul 9, 2006 7:33 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 20D
  • Lens: 10.0-22.0 mm 
  • Focal length: 22mm
  • Aperture: f/13
  • Shutter: 8 second
  • ISO: 100

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