By Ellen Dennis, Daily News staff writer Sep 26, 2020 Updated Sep 26, 2020
A Pullman photographer recently cleaned up at a selective international photography contest by winning not one, but two, awards. Hundreds of bridge photos from all over the world were entered in the American Society of Civil Engineers bridge photography contest this year, and judges were tasked with selecting the 14 winning images.
Two of those images — both shot in the Northwest — were taken by Ken Carper, a retired Washington State University architecture professor. After his retirement 10 years ago — and with plenty of newly found free time — Carper started to pursue his love for photography. He said he enjoys photographing landscapes and structures.
“This is a perfect place to live if you like to do landscape photography — people come from all over the world to photograph this area. It’s a great place to study light and shadows,” he said. “Photographers refer to it as ‘the Tuscany of the West.’ ”
Carper’s enchanting winter photograph of the Benson Footbridge in Multnomah Falls, Ore., took first place in the “All Bridges” category of the competition, which is the highest honor. A second photo he snapped on his home turf took second place in the “Historic Bridges” category. It captures the Rosalia Railroad Bridge, also called the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Bridge, catching the evening sunlight.
Once earmarked for demolition, the curved concrete arches of the historic Rosalia bridge stand tall, and the monumental proportions of its structure are framed by a sea of rolling hills in the majestic Palouse Valley. Carper said the architects and builders of the railroad bridge went above and beyond when they constructed it in 1915.
“There were two other railroads that went through the area that had a view of the bridge, so the builders wanted to impress those other companies with a magnificent structure,” he said. “I also really think that the designers had to be thinking of the unique character of our rolling Palouse landscape, because it just fits there so well.”
Although he’s driven past the bridge hundreds of times in his life, he said the moment he took this award-winning photograph was the most beautiful he’s ever seen because of the afternoon lighting. “It’s especially beautiful in the evening when the sun is going down — that’s when I took this picture. I was really lucky to see it in that light at that particular time of year,” he said.
Carper was born in Colfax in 1948 when his parents were attending WSU and there was no hospital in Pullman. He grew up in Spokane and moved to Pullman to follow in his parents’ footsteps and attend WSU, and he’s stuck around ever since. He feels honored that his photography gives the Pacific Northwest representation among the contest winners which include photos taken of bridges in China, England, Germany and Japan.
The Rosalia Bridge photograph was the first time a photo of the Palouse has ever been featured as an ASCE bridge photography contest winner, which Carper believes pays tribute to one of the most notable structures in the region. “It will always be there. I think it’s one of the more permanent structures in our region — right up there with the concrete grain elevators.”
Ellen Dennis can be reached at (208) 883-4632 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org