FAYETTEVILLE- Thousands of spectators converge on the New River Gorge Bridge every year for one of the largest extreme sports events in the world - Bridge Day.
BASE jumpers leap from the 876-foot-tall bridge in Fayette County armed with rapid-release parachutes while thousands of people watch their descent into the New River Gorge in southern West Virginia.
Many professional photographers could only dream about the chance to photograph wild jumps from hundreds of feet in the air against a backdrop of fall foliage. During this year's 30th annual Bridge Day on Oct. 17, two photographers from Wood County will be in the center of all the action, as they photograph BASE jumpers and rappellers from all angles.
Washington Bottom native Ed Goody and Jody Purkey of Parkersburg have been chosen as the official photographers for the event.
"It's going to be a new adventure for me. I've never attended Bridge Day before, let alone had the chance to photograph it," said Goody, a self-taught photographer. "I'm not a huge fan of heights, but this is such an amazing event to cover. I couldn't pass it up."
Goody, who graduated from Parkersburg South High School, recently opened his own photography business, Poorman's Photography, in Bedford, Ky.
He will be driving to the gorge in Fayette County this weekend for the festival.
"It's really just a privilege to come back to the state and be able to cover this. It's going to be my first big project," he said.
Goody and Purkey will take turns photographing the action from three unique locations: a helicopter flying above the jumping-off point, a cage suspended from the structure and a 700-foot zipline anchored to the bridge.
Parkersburg native Pat Strader, owner of Matterhorn Marketing Solutions in Fayette County, said his company will be in charge of digital marketing for Bridge Day. Strader knew both photographers from childhood and hired them for the job.
"I played Little League baseball with Ed, and Jody was actually the photographer at my wedding," said Strader. "This is definitely a unique opportunity for these guys. They'll be doing just about everything except parachuting."
As part of the social media coverage from Matterhorn Marketing Solutions, Bridge Day will be captured in photographs, live streaming video, blog posts and twitter updates on the official Bridge Day Web site, Strader said.
Purkey, who owns Progressive Photography in Parkersburg, said he was thrilled when Strader hired him to be an official photographer for Bridge Day.
"I love a challenge. I've done a little rock climbing and rappelling before, so this will be a great opportunity to test my skills," said Purkey, who has been in the photography business for 20 years. "I'll be shooting from a platform suspended under the bridge and from a helicopter. It will be the perfect opportunity to take some fabulous photographs."
Purkey is no stranger to photographing extreme sports. He has shot skiers, motorcross events and mountain biking races, but he has never worked at a location so high above the ground.
"With the foliage at its peak and the beauty of the gorge, it would be any photographer's dream."