Visiting Kinzua Bridge State Park? Take a photography tour.
The Kinzua Experience in the Pennsylvania Wilds is quite remarkable for visitors and residents alike. The views, the history, the trails and the state-of-the-art visitor center each add to the overall majestic quality of Kinzua Bridge State Park.
There are also special opportunities to capture the sights on camera, preserving the time spent there into keepsakes. From the towering skywalk, to the valley floor below — surrounded by the remnants of the fallen train bridge — there are unique and awe-inspiring views almost made to be immortalized on camera.
Just imagine if you could go on a designated photo tour, led by a local photographer who could both show you the best places to take pictures and also demonstrate best practices for landscape photography.
The good news is you can!
Kathleen Prosperi-McClard is a photographer who, in addition to being a juried artisan member of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, is able to take individuals and groups out on educational photography tours. She received a commercial use license from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources — which manages the state park — to provide these opportunities.
“Every tour is custom,” the self-taught photographer and entrepreneur said. “I get a lot of people who bought a DSLR camera and don’t know how to use it yet.”
Kathleen helps those individuals learn how to use their cameras as they journey through the beauty at Kinzua Bridge as well as other photographers and travelers visiting the area and looking for a way to add to the overall trip. Nonetheless, she even has a camera that she rents out to individuals who don’t have their own cameras yet, but who are looking to experience the tour.
“For people coming to the park, this is another way to add something special onto their trip,” she said.
Her own passion for taking photos on her own travels and seeing all the specialty travel tours available while on vacation is essentially what led Kathleen into helping others to do the same when they are visiting her own stomping grounds in McKean County.
“I love to travel. I love to take pictures of the scenes and landscapes, capturing what I can see and find in the world. I know the bridge so well, so it’s cool to see people experience that like I do other places,” she said.
Kathleen, whose father was an amateur photographer, said she began getting serious about her own photography about five years ago.
“I started off by taking photos of the area,” she said. “I had offered classed in my gallery before. I wanted to find somewhere that people could learn on location, where they could walk around to take photos. The lighting will change and there are a lot of different and cool things to take pictures of.”
Kathleen originally thought that offering such classes would be a great fit for helping locals, but soon she realized that the opportunity was larger, that it could be a win-win for her and for anyone visiting the area looking for a special outing.
“I realized this is something that could really appeal to anyone … people love photography, but they don’t necessarily know how to use their camera,” she said. “Most of the individuals I work with are beginners, but I work with anyone who is interested!”
The goal is simple: help people learn about their cameras while also adding a fun component to their visit, which can be kept forever.
“With the availability of cameras these days, people have been desensitized to what they’re doing when they have a camera. Most people buy a DSLR camera and put it on the auto setting, but they might as well be on an iPhone. I’m trying to show them other settings and techniques based on different situations happening in the field,” Kathleen said.
The tour covers the basics on lighting, camera settings, and the functions of the aperture, shutter speed and ISO (which measures sensitivity to light).
“These are concepts that can be very hard to grasp unless you’re walking around and practicing,” she said.
It was just last year when Kathleen approached DCNR about the potential to offer these special outings at the state park. Soon thereafter, her tours were approved and she was signing a commercial use license.
“It’s funny how well known Kinzua Bridge is. People know about it. It’s been on TV. People are making long journeys to get here. A lot of people will arrive and go out to the end of the skywalk, and that’s it. They sometimes don’t realize they can go down to the wreckage on the valley floor,” the Kane native said. “I’ve been there hundreds of times. Now, I’m on the other end, and I’m showing travelers what I’ve come to appreciate about it, having lived here for so long. I’ve learned to know what direction to look for the really cool angles, where in the wreckage to find a really good spot… I’m leading them, and I think that helps people explore.”
The opportunities are available year-round, but reservations kick up between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“I try to accommodate last-minute outings,” she noted.
The photography tours start at $125/person for a 2.5 hour tour, Kathleen said, but she noted there are cost breaks for groups of more than two.
“People really enjoy it,” she added. “It’s nice to know you’ll come away with really nice images of your journey.”
More information about the photo tours offered by Kathleen can be found at www.kpmcclardphotography.com/kinzuabridgephototours, or find Kathleen on Instagram @kinzuabridgephototours.
Photo credits: All photos used in this article were provided by Kathleen Prosperi-McClard.
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