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You're walking through the countryside and your path leads to a bridge over a river or a stream. You walk forward onto the bridge, and then what? Well, if you're like me, and just about everyone I've ever observed doing this, you stop in the middle and turn to look either upstream or downstream. It feels like the natural thing to do. We don't seem to be able to help ourselves. So what is it about bridges over water that make us stop and look, when discretion might be urging us to keep going until we're back with our feet fixed firmly on terra firma?
I suppose it's the pleasure that comes from surveying a stretch of moving water, no matter how small. And the curiosity about what it might contain - the fish, frogs, rocks, weed and the other things that we can see: and the lurking things we can't see, but wonder about, in the dark, still pools. Could it be a relic of our primitive past when a stretch of water offered the chance of fresh food? Or maybe it's an aesthetic urge to trace a river's course with our eye, following the banks, the depths and shallows, the brooding shadows and dancing highlights, the never still ripples and eddies, as they move towards us, under our feet, and away. Then there's the smell of the air above water, fresh clean and sharp from streams that flow quickly over rocky beds, slightly musty and dank from slow flowing waterways as they meander through the lowlands. And finally, there's the sound that varies from the crashing roar of a rocky river in spate, to the gentle swish and occasional plop of a slow moving stream.
The other day I stood on a small footbridge that spans part of the River Welland at Deeping St James. This is a fairly slow moving, quiet river, but at this particular point it was noisy because there was a man-made weir below me. I'd heard it from a distance as I approached the river, and found it, fast-moving, with spray, swirling ripples, and shooting water. I stopped half way across to take a few photographs, closing down the aperture to f22 to slow the shutter speed and blur the moving water. I've taken shots of this kind before, but here I concentrated on where the water tipped over the edge of the small weir and slid down an incline before hitting the pool below. The differing speeds of the water in each part of its journey gave differing effects, and I reflected that making images like this is yet another reason for pausing when your path leads across a bridge over water.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 106mm (212mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f22
Shutter Speed: 1/13 seconds
Exposure Compensation: -2.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On