I climbed down the bank to see what kind of bridge this was. I was richly rewarded — it’s a true beauty.
That was in 2008 when I toured Indiana’s State Road 42, which stretches from near Indianapolis at Mooresville to Terre Haute. Along the way the road reaches Cagles Mill Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project. This bridge was built in 1951 to span the lake, and SR 42 was realigned to cross the bridge. Upon my visit, it had been freshly renovated. It looked like new!
In the years since I stopped clambering down banks to see the undersides of bridges. Perhaps after seeing enough bridges I stopped being surprised and delighted by them. I’m sure that as I’ve gotten older I have become more risk averse — climbing down a steep bank can be hazardous! But after I visited the new SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green, I knew I wanted to see the Cagles Mill Lake bridge again, up close and personal. It wasn’t too far away.
It was like old times when I clambered down the bank to photograph this bridge. I had my Nikon F2AS along with a 35-105mm zoom lens attached. This unwieldy kit did not make it any easier to get into position.
I made one shot at 35mm and another at or near maximum zoom. Neither of these photos turned out as well as I hoped. When I visited last time, the bank was clear except for large rocks placed to retard erosion. This time, the rocks were still there, but so was a considerable amount of brush that made it hard to get a good angle on the bridge. A lot of brush can grow in 12 years! I’m also not pleased with the exposure in either of these photos. But at least I got them.
The best photo of the visit is this one of the deck. I love how the road disappears into the trees.
I fell in love with bridges because of this bridge.
In 1987 I was a junior in college and I had a girlfriend at Indiana University. My buddy Doug also had a girlfriend at IU — and he had a car. He generously let me ride along every time he drove to Bloomington.
Terre Haute and Bloomington are connected by State Road 46. It rolls and winds gently through the countryside. It’s truly a lovely drive; make it if you’re ever out that way.
I never paid any attention to bridges until Doug and I started making this trip. Just west of tiny Bowling Green, State Road 46 crosses the Eel River. Starting in 1933, it did so over this two-span Parker through truss bridge.
Passing through this bridge became a quiet highlight of the trip. I probably never mentioned it to Doug. I came to enjoy the shadows the sun cast through the overhead trusses as we passed.
I came to enjoy other truss bridges in my travels. Soon I was curious about other kinds of bridges. My inner bridgefan had been awakened.
A regular inspection in 2011 found some failed gusset plates, critical to the bridge’s safety. They were repaired in a one-month closure. Then in 2012 more structural problems were found, leading to a three-month closure for repairs. But the Indiana Department of Transportation could see that this bridge would soon need either a thorough restoration — or replacement.
I’ll cut to the chase: INDOT chose replacement. People who lived near the bridge wanted it restored. They rightly pointed out that this bridge was on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its association with settlement and economic development in the county. Their arguments only delayed the inevitable. In 2019, this old bridge was removed, and this bridge was built.
It’s been years since I had been out this way. Since moving to Indianapolis in the mid 1990s, I had little call to drive the road between Bloomington and Terre Haute! But in August I met one of my sons at a state park near his home for a long hike. Because of COVID-19, we hadn’t seen each other in at least six months. We were long overdue. That state park is on State Road 46.
After our hike, my son needed to be on his way. I had a couple hours to kill, so I plotted a long drive and went on my way. My first destination was this bridge. I knew not seeing the old truss bridge would be challenging. Fortunately, SR 46 is just as charming a drive today as ever. Enjoying the drive took some of the sting out when I came upon the new bridge.
I’ve lamented modern bridges before: they stir no hearts. Their utilitarian design probably makes them less expensive to build and maintain. As a taxpayer, I appreciate that. Also, when this one has outlived its useful life, nobody will protest its demolition and replacement.
I’ll say this much in praise of the new bridge: it’s plenty wide. The old bridge’s deck was just 23.6 feet wide. Encountering an oncoming semi in there always felt like an uncomfortably close encounter! Actually, those semis are a big part of what make old truss bridges like these obsolete. Trucks just weren’t as big and heavy when these bridges were built. Today’s semis simply wore these bridges out faster. The new bridge offers no eye candy, but it is stout enough to take on any vehicle the modern era can throw at it.
Because of the bridge’s historic status, all is not lost. It was dismantled and will be relocated to a park near Nashville, Indiana, where it will serve as 2 single-span pedestrian bridges. When I hear that this project is complete, I’ll make a trip to see — and experience this old bridge once again.
I thought it was a shame I hadn’t shot my Nikon F2AS in a long time, so I put some film through it recently. The meter led me to shutter speeds that seemed slow for the full-sun conditions, out of line with Sunny 16.
I shot four subjects twice, once using the F2’s meter and once using the my phone’s light meter app. The app consistently had me expose two additional stops!
I shot Ilford FP4 Plus through my 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Nikkor lens (which I like less and less the more I use it). I developed the film in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II using VueScan. I brought the scans into Photoshop where I unsharp masked them all, corrected perspective if that was necessary, and on one shot toned down the highlights, but otherwise left them alone.
There are so many possibilities in any scene, from how you expose it to how you develop it to what you do with the negative in printing or scanning and post-processing. These pairs show it well. The F2 metered shot is first in each pair. In this first pair, I like the second shot more for its better definition in the houses, and the more silvery reflection in the pond.
In this pair, I prefer the second shot again for its rich, smooth tone in the tennis court surface and the better definition in the houses.
In this pair, I like the first shot better for its slightly better shadow detail. The first photo is the one where I toned the highlights down slightly in Photoshop. The path was a little washed out in the original scan.
In this pair, I like the first shot better for its slightly better shadow detail and its better definition in the sky.
What do you see in these photos? In each pair, which do you like better?
I think to some extent what we’re seeing here is the good exposure latitude of FP4 Plus — these are all technically decent photographs. Also, what we all like in a photograph is subjective.
After I finished this roll I checked my F2’s meter under a bunch of lighting conditions and couldn’t reproduce the odd meter readings I was getting. Soon I’ll mount a lens I know and like better, probably my 35mm f/2.8, and shoot this F2 again to validate the meter’s functioning.
Old State Road 46 Nikon F2AS, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 2013
State Road 46 stretches across Indiana from Terre Haute to almost Ohio, east to west across south-central Indiana.
At one time, SR 46 extended through Terre Haute all the way to the Illinois state line. It ran through Terre Haute along a series of what are now city streets.
The road was truncated to Terre Haute’s eastern edge long before Interstate 70 was built through the south side of town. That new highway cut across State Road 46’s original path just south of town, slicing the old highway in two.
A little segment of old State Road 46 north of I-70 is this brick road, left intact even though it goes nowhere because it serves two businesses. This photo faces north. To follow old 46, veer left at the first stop sign. Then at the second stop sign, take a slight right to where the red car is in the photo.
Blue Star Memorial Nikon F2 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros 2016
I don’t have a military bone in my body. My dad tried hard to convince me to go into ROTC in college. Even though it would have paid most of my way, I wouldn’t have it. Dad was serious about men serving their country. I’m surprised now that he didn’t insist.
But I admire the men and women who did and do serve. I’m always saddened to find military graves in a cemetery, because it reminds me that some gave all.
Have I ever mentioned that when I was in middle school I wrote short stories? I don’t have any of them anymore, and I’m sure none of them were any good. The only one I remember at all was the one where I had the main character drive a step-down Hudson.