Posted by: kerryl29 | July 27, 2016

The Finger Lakes: Blue Sky Scouting

After I returned to my motel at  the end of my second day in the Finger Lakes region, I met up with my friend Ward.  We’d photographed in West Virginia on a couple of occasions several years earlier and Ward, who lives in western Pennsylvania, asked me to let him know if I was ever back in his neck of the woods.  When I’d finalized plans for this trip a couple of months prior I told him where I’d be and when, not knowing if he’d be able to take the time off to join me.  He was able to clear a few days and planned to meet me in the Finger Lakes area, arriving some time late that day.  The plan was to photograph together for the following two days.

I’d had time to scout all of the places of interest in Schuyler County and about half of the spots in Tompkins County that I’d wanted to check out.  Given the forecast for the next day–clear, all day long–I suggested that we plan to shoot at Hector Falls first thing in the morning.  I’d scouted Hector Falls on my first day in the area and felt it was well worth photographing.  It was clearly a “work the site” kind of spot.  Hector Falls is located on the east side of Seneca Lake, just a few miles northeast of the village of Watkins Glen, where the appropriately named Hector Falls Creek drains into the lake.  The waterfall is west-facing, so I knew it would remain in shade for some time after the sun came up.

A busy state highway (SR 414) crosses over the falls via a bridge, but despite the “roadside” nature of Hector Falls, it’s possible to photograph the waterfall from numerous different perspectives.  It can be photographed (with care) from the bridge itself, but it’s also possible to climb down to the base of the falls from both the north and south sides of the eastern edge of the bridge.

We arrived at the bridge at first light and, because the water in the creek is quite shallow, I donned my rubber boots and walked right into the creek bed on the south side of the waterway and, after examining the waterfall for a few moments, sauntered all the way over to the northern edge, below the bridge, and set up very close to the bottom tier of the 135-foot section of Hector Falls.

Hector Falls Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls is quite impressive.  It’s wide and it has numerous different tiers and cascades associated with it.  Given my footwear, I had virtually unfettered access to the waterfall.

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

I simply wandered around the creek and set up whenever I found a composition that I found pleasing.

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

When I finished with one tier I climbed up (or down) to another and resumed the search.

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

In all, we spent the better part of two hours at Hector Falls because there were so many different perspectives to explore.

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Ultimately I climbed out of the creek bed and retreated to the bridge, where I pulled out my telephoto lens and checked out a series of entirely different views.

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

Hector Falls Intimate Black & White, Schuyler County, New York

When we wrapped at Hector Falls we made a quick run over to the (relatively) nearby Excelsior Glen.  I’d scouted the hard-to-find glen on the first day I’d been in the region  We hoped to get a bit of shooting in there before the spot was ruined by sunlit hot spots.  We just barely reached the location before the sun made it unshootable, but we only had time to photograph the nearest of the three waterfalls in the glen.

Excelsior Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Excelsior Glen, Schuyler County, New York

While we were still trying to photograph in Excelsior, the sun crept in.  The forecast had been correct; this was to be an unrelentingly blue sky day, so we spent most of the next eight hours or so scouting.  I showed Ward some of the other nearby spots I’d found in and around Watkins Glen and Montour Falls over the previous couple of days and then we made the drive over to Ithaca, in Tompkins County, so we could scout Cascadilla Gorge, Ithaca Gorge and several spots north of Ithaca, including Taughannock Falls State Park.

Cascadilla Gorge and Ithaca Gorge cut right through the Cornell University campus, separated on the north-south axis by about a mile.  Cascadilla was the one I thought had the most promise and our scouting session–which had us walk the length of the gorge trail, a one-mile long paved sidewalk–verified this.  We agreed that this was a must do location and planned to return there first thing the following morning (the forecast was for overcast the next day).  Ithaca Gorge was less appealing to us, though we walked that as well.  It’s not possible to get into the gorge–the waterfalls must be viewed (and theoretically photographed) from above, but there are all sorts of constraints and impediments.  While the subject matter was compelling, access was not so we deemed Ithaca Gorge to be significantly lower than Cascadilla on the priority list.

Taughannock Falls State Park is located on the west side of Cayuga Lake, about 10 miles north of Ithaca, where Taughannock Creek flows into the lake.  The highlight of the park is the 215-foot high Taughannock Falls.  The falls can be photographed, broadly speaking, from two spots:  from creek level, by following an easily traversed trail of about 1.2 miles up the creek, and from an overlook.  We checked out the overlook and from that position we could see the creek level trail and observation point.  While the clear skies and the accompanying harsh light made the scene not desirable to photograph at that time (we knew that this would be the case), it was evident that we’d want to return under more suitable lighting conditions–the waterfall was that impressive.  We then spent some time scouting other waterfall locations in Tompkins County.

It was mid-afternoon when we put a wrap on the Tompkins County scouting session and we had to determine what to do next.  The two locations we most wanted to photograph were Watkins Glen State Park and Cascadilla Gorge.  We’d originally planned to hit Watkins Glen at first light the following day, but after we’d scouted Cascadilla Gorge in Ithaca, we had second thoughts.  The gorge had been really impressive and we figured it would take a full morning to thoroughly photograph it.  As I noted earlier, the next day was supposed to be cloudy, so that would be perfect.  We decided to head back to Watkins Glen immediately and see if we could get some photography in there this evening.  I’d already photographed part of the park the previous morning, and I figured if we went back now we could do a walk through, so Ward could see the place, and then head back in with our cameras about three hours before sunset, when the gorge would gradually fall into full shadow and the crowds would diminish.

So, that’s what we did.  After stopping so Ward could pick up some rubber boots–he’d seen how helpful they’d been for me that morning at both Hector Falls and Excelsior Gorge and he knew they’d come in handy the next morning at Cascadilla Gorge–we arrived at the Watkins Glen State Park lower parking area at around 3:30 PM.  It was quite crowded and the light was still pretty poor, but we hiked the length of the gorge trail and back, without our gear.  I think it was helpful for Ward to see the place before trying to photograph it, as he was able to prioritize some of the better shooting areas.  We returned to the parking area between 4:30 and 5 PM and then waited for about 45 minutes to let the sun sink lower and the crowds to thin out a bit.  Then, we grabbed our equipment and headed back into the gorge.

It was still fairly crowded when we hit the trail for real, and eventually we just pushed on.  While we were in the gorge the crowds grew thinner and thinner and the light got better and better and we simply started shooting.  I concentrated, naturally, on the areas I hadn’t already photographed the previous day.

Minnehaha Falls and Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Minnehaha Falls and Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen Creek Gorge Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen Creek Gorge Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Minnehaha Falls and Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Minnehaha Falls and Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Central Cascade and the Cathedral, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Central Cascade and the Cathedral, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Central Cascade and the Cathedral Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Central Cascade and the Cathedral Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

It started to get dark as we pushed toward the back end of the gorge trail.  I’d already photographed at the Spiral Gorge and Glen of Pools areas the day before, but I wanted to photograph Rainbow Falls with the stone bridge in the background.  I hadn’t been able to shoot that perspective the day before because the bridge–and the area behind it–were exposed to the sun.  By the time I reached this part of the trail on this day, the entire area was in shadow.  Shutter speeds were long and there was just enough of a breeze to cause some of the foliage in the trees visible in the background from this spot to blow.  I spent a lot of time waiting for a lull so that I could render everything (except the flowing water) sharp.

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

There was a glowing quality, produced by some reflected light, to this scene that’s difficult to describe, because it’s quite dark in the gorge when it’s as late in the day as it was by the time this pair of photographs was made.

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

We did make it up near the end of the trail–to an area I’d already photographed–but it was so dark by that time, shutter speeds were being measured in seconds, even when the ISO was raised significantly.  We walked back to the parking area in the gloom.

There had been more scouting than photographing, by a long shot, on this day, but the next day–my last in the Finger Lakes region–would be much more conducive to shooting and we’d try to make the most of it.

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 18, 2016

The Finger Lakes: Schuyler & Tompkins Counties

As I mentioned in my entry on my first day in the Finger  Lakes region, my plan was to arrive at Watkins Glen State Park at first light on this, my second full day in the area. The main attraction at Watkins Glen is the gorge trail, which snakes for roughly a mile in a deep crevasse cut by Glen Creek.  There are numerous waterfalls and cascades along the way.

There were two very good reasons to enter the park as early as possible.  The first?  The gorge trail can become very, very crowded during “prime business hours.”  And, given how narrow the gorge trail is in many spots, photography can be a quite a trying and frustrating experience.  The second reason to hit the park first thing in the morning?  The forecast for the day was sun, sun and more sun.  On the theory that the gorge would be in shade early in the morning, I determined that this was the best time to visit.

Everything went according to plan, for about 10 seconds.  I arrived at Watkins Glen at dawn.  There wasn’t another car in the parking lot.  As the light came up, I strolled up to Entrance Cascade, which lies at the base of the gorge, just prior to the beginning of the trail proper.

Entrance Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Entrance Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Shortly after photographing the waterfall, the sun crested the eastern horizon…and shined directly on Entrance Cascade.  That was a problem.  But I wasn’t inside the gorge yet.  Surely that would be in shade, at least for an hour or two.

Well, not exactly.  As it turns out, a significant portion of the gorge runs east-west in direction.  As a result, a sizable percentage of the gorge lies in direct sun as soon as it comes up.  Portions of the gorge run more north-south in direction and are indeed shaded first thing in the morning.  Reluctantly, I scouted the portions of the park that were in sun and photographed the areas in shade.  I’d have to come back another time over the next couple of days to photograph the areas that were currently marred by sunlight.  At least I had the park to myself for the next couple of hours.

What I learned is that, to have the best opportunity to photograph Watkins Glen State Park, you want to:

  1. arrive first thing in the morning;
  2. choose a weekday rather than a weekend;
  3. pick a cloudy day.

The gorge trail is only open from (roughly) May 15 through the end of October.  Perhaps in autumn, more of the gorge would be in shade first thing in the morning, given the location of the rising sun, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  Overcast is definitely preferable.

Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Cavern Cascade, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

I did find one benefit to being at the park on a sunny morning.  The area around Cavern Cascade was illuminated by reflected light, giving it a kind of glow that wouldn’t have been present on a cloudy day.

The Watkins Glen gorge is exquisite, and reminded me, at least a bit, of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park in Alberta.  I took mental notes regarding the parts of the gorge that were in the sun.  But when I found shaded spots, I basically went to town.

Quiet Pool, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Quiet Pool, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

The gorge was a generous mix of roaring waterfalls and rapids and tranquil pools and potholes.  A surprisingly large number of trees have found root amid the rocky walls and floors at Watkins Glen.

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

The gorge trail itself was built by the Civil Conservation Corps in the 1930s.  The stone works blend in nicely with the surroundings, but the masonry of this impressive example of engineering often skirts the edge of Glen Creek.  Shortly after arriving I realized that, frequently, it was difficult bordering on impossible to exclude the hand of man from my compositions.  Once I arrived at that conclusion, I started trying to incorporate the walls and staircase elements of the trail into the frame.

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

The Glen of Pools section of the gorge was the next shaded area along the trail and I photographed it both with wide angle and telephoto lenses.

Glen of Pools, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen of Pools, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen of Pools, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen of Pools, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Glen of Pools Intimate Black & White, Watkins Glen State ParkA, New York

Glen of Pools Intimate Black & White, Watkins Glen State ParkA, New York

Perhaps the most iconic scene at Watkins Glen incorporates Rainbow Falls, a thin cascade of water sourced by a tributary of Glen Creek, that runs down the canyon wall, overlaying the gorge trail.  I was able to photograph Rainbow Falls from along the trail, but I couldn’t shoot straight down the trail in the direction of Rainbow Falls, because the background was in open sun.  That perspective would have to wait for the follow-up visit.

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls from the Gorge Trail, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

After having to skip over several interesting locations, all of which were in sun, I arrived at Spiral Gorge, a series of narrow, flowing cascades running through a narrow slot cut by Glen Creek, including Pluto Falls.

Pluto Falls and Spiral Gorge Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Pluto Falls and Spiral Gorge Black & White, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Spiral Gorge, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Spiral Gorge, Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Shortly after Spiral Gorge, I reached the Mile Bridge, marking the end of the most photogenic part of the gorge.  I walked another quarter mile or so on the now-flat trail, but the area was bathed in full sunlight and I eventually turned around and hiked out.  By this time, there was some foot traffic moving along the trail, but still not too much.  It was still relatively early in the morning but the light was only getting worse (and the crowds were getting larger), so I wrapped up and headed out.

It was mid-morning when I finished at Watkins Glen, and I was staring up at mostly sunny skies.  I decided to head back toward Ithaca, in Tompkins County, to scout at least some of the places I hadn’t had time to visit the previous day.  Since, on the day before, I’d only had time for a relatively brief visit to Robert H. Treman State Park, I had no shortage of places to explore.

On the drive from Schuyler County to Tompkins County I passed a very interesting abandoned barn.  I stopped by the side of the road and checked it out.  It was a highly photogenic structure.  There was a brief period where clouds covered the eastern sky, and after circling the property, found what I felt was a compelling perspective.  Crouched just off a state highway, I waited for a lull in the wind, and snapped the image you see below.

1883 Barn, Tompkins County, New York

1883 Barn, Tompkins County, New York

My first stop in Tompkins, late in the morning, was at Buttermilk Falls State Park, just a mile or so down the road from the entrance to Treman.  It was bald blue sky when I was there, but it gave me the opportunity to scout the location for a future visit.  At the time, I didn’t realize just how soon that future visit would be.

Buttermilk Falls is a small park, with a trail following Buttermilk Creek upstream, from Buttermilk Falls itself at the base, a short walk from the parking area, through a wooded gorge filled with waterfalls and rapids.  (Sound familiar?)  The gorge trail at Buttermilk Falls runs about a mile and a quarter and I walked it up and back–without my gear, given the light.  I could see immediately that it would be worth a return trip.

After strolling the trail, it was early afternoon.  I decided to scout Sweedler Preserve, a nature preserve on land owned by Cornell University.  It was less than two miles from Buttermilk Falls.  I had a bit of trouble finding the parking area, but finally did.  By the time I got there, I saw that some cloud banks had begun to flow into the area from the northwest, so before I hit the trail I pulled my gear from the trunk of the car.  I figured that there was a chance that I’d get some even light while I was at this location.

I had learned, from a guidebook, that there were a couple of waterfalls at Sweedler, as well as the potential to find some wildflowers.  It was an easy mile hike to the base of the first waterfall.  It was still sunny when I got there, but I sized it up and figured it was worth a shot or two in even light.  I then headed up an incredibly steep trail, which climbed almost straight up a hillside, to an overlook for the second waterfall.  That turned out to be a total waste of time and (considerable) effort.  The waterfall, visible only across a broad chasm, was barely photographable, and–given a paucity of water–wasn’t very interesting in any event.  I rather sullenly descended the trail without having removed the camera from my backpack.

By the time I reached the bottom of the trail the cloud banks I’d seen had completely covered the sun, so I returned to the glen containing the first waterfall I’d seen.  I produced photographs from several spots, including the image you see below.

Sweedler Preserve, Tompkins County, New York

Sweedler Preserve, Tompkins County, New York

Then I turned to the flower-strewn forest floor I’d passed on the way in to the preserve.  There was purple phlox seemingly everywhere.

Wildflower Forest, Sweedler Preserve, Tompkins County, New York

Wildflower Forest, Sweedler Preserve, Tompkins County, New York

While I was setting up to take the above image, it started to rain, which shocked me (there had been absolutely no rain in the forecast).  It only lasted for 30 seconds or so, but the wind did kick up for a couple of minutes and I had to wait that out so that I could produce an image with the flowers rendered sharp.

Even after the rain stopped, the sky was still mostly cloudy.  I decided that, as long as the opportunity for even light was in front of me, I’d head right back to Buttermilk Falls, which was only a few minutes away.  I returned to the now familiar parking lot and headed to the trailhead, this time with my gear in tow.

Buttermilk Falls lies at the base of the trail; it’s a long, mostly slide-style, waterfall.  As is the case with Enfield Glen at Treman, the splash pool below the falls is turned into a swimming pool in the summer.  I didn’t like any of the perspectives I saw of the falls from the bottom so I moved up the hillside a bit and found some more pleasing spots partway up the trail.

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Above Buttermilk Falls, Buttermilk Creek slides through a gorge in a series of steps, waterfalls and cascades.  I slowly made my way to to the top, photographing at every turn, buttressed by the scouting session I’d conducted just a few hours earlier.  That previous trip served me well, as I’d taken the time to investigate several spots in the gorge to see if they were worth a trip with the camera.  Some were and some weren’t.  I now had my rubber boots on because I’d learned that it was worth descending into the creek bed at a number of locations along the way.

Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Falls State Park is a terrific shooting location.  While the park is fairly small, there are so many different spots worth exploring in the gorge it seems much larger than it actually is.  It serves as a “work the scene” kind of location–something I always appreciate.

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

There are several fairly large waterfalls in the park–above Buttermilk Falls itself–and they all can be explored from a wide variety of different perspectives…especially if you’re wearing waterproof footing that rises above the ankle.

Waterfall, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Waterfall, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Watefall Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Watefall Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

During my time in the park, the sun popped out, briefly, on a few occasions, but there were enough clouds in the sky that it was never a long wait for the scenes I was photographing to be accessible in even light.

Waterfall, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Waterfall, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Watefall Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Watefall Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

As you approach the head of the gorge, it narrows, and the hiker/photographer is treated to an intimate series of cascades and deep, deep potholes.  While I was photographing in this area, I was occasionally interrupted by some–very polite–high school and college aged kids who were using some of these spots as swimming/diving holes.  This is against park policy (there was a sign near the base of the gorge stating that there was no swimming, other than in the swimming pool area at the base of Buttermilk Falls, during designated seasons and hours), but no one seemed to care very much.  These kids were jumping off the cliff sides into some of the deep potholes (some of which appeared to be well over 10 feet deep).  I got the impression that this sort of thing goes on all the time on warm days (like this one).  Anyway, when they were out of sight, I set up to photograph.

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

Buttermilk Creek Black & White, Buttermilk Falls State Park, New York

When I finished at Buttermilk Falls, it was early evening.  I decided to spend the last couple of hours of daylight photographing the areas of at Robert H. Treman State Park that I hadn’t been able to get to the previous evening.  It was less than a ten-minute drive to the upper parking area at Treman and, upon arriving there (it was nearly deserted), I gathered my things and headed up to the rim trail to photograph the one (very) large waterfall I’d been unable to reach the day before:  115-foot Lucifer Falls.

Lucifer Falls is the main attraction at Treman and it can be viewed, essentially, from two places:  an overlook on the rim trail and by descending a several hundred step staircase from the rim to river level below the falls.  (When the gorge trail is open it can also be viewed from a staircase that makes up part of that pathway, but as I had learned the previous day, the gorge trail had yet to open for the season.)

It’s about a mile on the rim trail from the parking lot to the overlook and I was there in no time.  There were a few people milling about the overlook when I got there, so I sized it up.  By standing on a bench I could almost incorporate the entire impressive drop, deep in the gorge below, though some foliage in the foreground made doing so problematic.  I decided, after a moment’s consideration, to descend into the gorge first, photograph Lucifer Falls from there, and then reascend to the rim and photograph the falls from the overlook before calling it a day.  I figured I had enough time to do that and still get back to the parking lot before it was completely dark.

Since it was all “downhill,” I was at creek level in no time; I was pleased to see that there was no one else down there.

It’s impossible to get too close to Lucifer Falls from the creek; you’re never closer than a few hundred feet away.  It’s probably just as well because the spray from the huge waterfall must be pretty overpowering.  Regardless, I spent some time poking along the water’s edge and ultimately switched back and forth between wide angle and telephoto lenses to capture Lucifer Falls from water level.

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls Intimate, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

It was considerably more taxing to climb back up the stone staircase to the rim, but I managed it in fairly short order.  When I returned to the overlook, it was completely deserted–not surprising, since it was only about 20 minutes until sunset.  I climbed back up on the bench I’d used to scout the scene a bit earlier and produced the day’s final image.

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lucifer Falls, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

I was back at the parking lot just as the sun was setting in what was, again, a cloudless blue sky.  The clouds that had allowed me to shoot (mostly) uninterrupted at Buttermilk Falls had drifted off as I, for the second consecutive day, made my way back to the motel at dusk.  There was, to my chagrin, to be more blue sky weather the next day…

 “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”  —  Ansel Adams

On a couple of photo forums that I check with some degree of regularity, there are discussions currently taking place about particular gear upgrades (specifically whether action–sports, wildlife, etc.–photographers should upgrade to the new Nikon D500 or stick with the less expensive D7200).  I’m not an action photographer, so the discussion really doesn’t apply to me, but the prevalence of the should-I-upgrade question reminded me of a general principle that applies to many–though not all–styles of photography regardless of specifics:  gear is grossly overrated in terms of its role in producing satisfying photographs.

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

South Beach Sunset, Curry County, Oregon

*                   *                     *

Any baseball fans here?  (Besides me, I mean.)  For years and years, I told anyone who would listen that Derek Jeter was one of the most overrated baseball players of my lifetime.  This statement annoyed a lot of people, particularly fans of the New York Yankees, the team for which Jeter played for his entire long career.

“How can you say that Derek Jeter isn’t (wasn’t) a good player?” these folks would insist.

My response would be something along the lines of:  “I didn’t say he wasn’t a good player.  He was a very good player.  If I had a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’d select Jeter on the first ballot.”

This would ordinarily be met by several seconds of silence and a confused look.  And then I would say “Jeter is a good player.  He’s just not nearly as good as many people credit him with being.”

It’s true, at least in my opinion.  There are a lot of Yankees fans who think Jeter is one of the five best players of all-time.  A few have told me, with a straight face, that he’s clearly the best player ever to play the game.  Both claims are, in my view, utterly absurd.  And that’s why I say he’s overrated:  he’s not as good as a lot of people seem to think.

*                   *                     *

What am I talking about?  What does any of this have to do with photography?  I’m coming to that.

Just as Jeter was a very good–but overrated–baseball player, photo gear is a very important–but overrated–part of photography.  The broad lesson is, “overrated” doesn’t necessarily mean bad or irrelevant.  It simply means that something isn’t as good (or important) as it’s often viewed.

Lufty Baptist Church, Smokemont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

Lufty Baptist Church, Smokemont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

When it comes to landscape photography, I’ve never run across a camera that has made me a better photographer.  Never.  I’ve upgraded cameras because they’ve enabled me to make better (and larger) prints (due to better resolution, better dynamic range and so forth), but that’s hardly the same thing.

When it comes to lenses, I have to admit that, at one point, adding a lens that allowed me to do something I couldn’t do before–a wider angle, for instance, or a longer telephoto–might arguably have made my photography better…but I’m still not sure that this is really the same thing as making me an inherently better photographer.  The vision and the technical knowledge and experience needed to produce the photograph are effectively independent of the equipment used.

Pre-Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahla National Forest, West Virginia

Pre-Sunrise, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahla National Forest, West Virginia

Gear is important.  We need it to make photographs.  Occasionally a camera feature (auto bracketing, for instance), can make it easier to accomplish a specific task needed to produce images than would be the case otherwise.  But it’s not nearly as important as many people seem to think.  Particularly when it comes to landscape photography, a new, “better” camera isn’t going to make you a better photographer.  It may–may–allow you to produce images of a higher technical quality.  But aesthetic quality?

Lone Pine, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Lone Pine, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

The question people pondering a gear upgrade should be asking themselves is why am I considering buying this camera (or lens or accessory)?  If the answer, at least for landscape photographers, is “because it’s going to allow me to make more compelling images,” it’s time to rethink that potential purchase.

You need gear to execute your vision.  But first and foremost you need a vision to execute, and all the latest and greatest expensive gear in the world isn’t going to help with that.

Earthshadow, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Earthshadow, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 6, 2016

The Finger Lakes Region: A First Glance

Since I’d done everything I wanted to do–and then some–at Ricketts Glen over the previous couple of days, I was able to get a bit of extra sleep on the morning of the third full day of the trip before moving on to my second destination.  The drive from Dushore, Pennsylvania to the area around Elmira, near the western end of the Finger Lakes Region of New York only takes about an hour and by mid-morning I found myself heading in the direction of Watkins Glen State Park.  Though I didn’t plan to enter the park that day, I wanted to see exactly where the entrance was located because I anticipated a visit first thing the following morning.  I didn’t want to be groping around in the dark.

Before I reached Watkins Glen, I stopped in the village of Montour Falls–about five miles south of Watkins Glen–to scout a number of waterfalls that I thought might be worth photographing.  It was a mostly sunny morning, so I didn’t figure I’d do much, if any shooting.  My first destination was Havana Glen, a small privately owned–but open to the public–plot containing a waterfall tucked a way in a smallish box canyon.  When I got there, I realized that if I’d arrived perhaps an hour earlier it wouldn’t have mattered that it was sunny–the entire glen would have been in shade.  By now, unfortunately, parts of the canyon were bathed in harsh sunlight and it was only going to get worse before it got better; the glen wouldn’t be in full shade again until early evening.  Still, I could immediately see that the spot was well worth photographing.  And, as I was meandering around, I noticed a cloud bank that appeared to be moving in.  There might be an opportunity to shoot Havana Glen after all!

So I ran back to the car and grabbed my gear and, sure enough, shortly after I returned to the canyon, the sun disappeared behind the clouds.  While the sun did peak out occasionally over the next hour or so, it was mostly obscured and I tried to make the most of the unexpected soft light.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

McClure Creek is the waterway that runs through Havana Glen, creating the drop known as Eagle Cliff Falls.  The creek then flows, in zig-zag fashion, through the small canyon and drops in a series of cascades into a relatively open, park-like setting that contains a picnic area.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Only the first few small cascades can be used as a foreground with the waterfall in the background because the canyon walls take a 45-degree turn, right at the first sizable drop in the creek, and Eagle Creek Falls is blocked from view from this point down creek.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

As a result, I shot my way forward, toward the waterfall, always looking for different possible foregrounds and perspectives.

Eagle Cliff Falls Black & White, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls Black & White, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

I had my rubber boots on so I was able to walk just about anywhere in the area since the water–at least the portions of the creek above the cascades–was quite shallow.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

When I finished in the canyon and returned to the parking area, I focused on the part of McClure Creek that flows below the insular part of Havana Glen.  There were some photographs to be had, I thought.

McClure Creek, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

McClure Creek, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

McClure Creek, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

McClure Creek, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

I gave some serious thought to climbing down into the creek bed in this area, but the wind had started to pick up and I had many other spots to scout, so I decided to leave that for a possible return visit, as I would be in the area for a total of four days.

My next stop was just a mile or two away, at Deckertown Falls, in a small reserve located at the end of a dead end residential street.  There was still some cloud cover, but it was fading, so I tried to work quickly before it became completely sunny again.

Catlin Mill Creek & Deckertown Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Catlin Mill Creek & Deckertown Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Deckertown Falls has several tiers, but it’s difficult to get close to them.  It’s possible to descend between the second and third tiers by scrambling down a very steep hillside, which I started to do, but it was muddy and very slick, and I was carrying that anchor of a backpack I take everywhere, so I backed off.  I probably could have made it in drier conditions, but between the iffy footing and the prospect that I was going to have full on sunlight in short order (not to mention the wind) I decided that discretion was the better part of valor; I settled for shots from the creek bed below the third tier and lived to fight another day.

Deckertown Falls, Schuyler County, New York

Deckertown Falls, Schuyler County, New York

The possible descent point lies above the lower cascade you see in the above picture.  This was as close as it was possible to get to this lower cascade as the splash pool you see in the foreground was at least 10 feet deep.

Even before I’d finished working the creek bed, the sun was out and the clouds were gone for good.  The rest of the day was sunny, so I spent my time scouting.  I checked out two more waterfalls in Montour Falls, then moved on to Watkins Glen and found the entrance to the park.  The light was completely unsuited for photography in this deep gorge…not to mention that the place was crowded.  So, having found the entrance, I moved on to scout several other locations north and west of town.  Then I decided to check out Hector Falls, located just above Seneca Lake on the east side.  The falls lie just above a bridge on a high speed road, but there is parking available on the side of the road near the bridge.  Th0ugh utterly unphotographable in the harsh light of mid-day, I could immediately see that this location would be well worth a return trip in better conditions.  Finally, I stopped at the lightly visited, hard to find Excelsior Glen, back in the direction of Watkins Glen.  The trail head is right off a busy state highway and wiggling into a decent parking spot on the roadside is tough, but I managed to do it and spent a good hour checking out the glen’s three waterfalls–none of which are particularly easy to reach.

By the time I finished my Excelsior Glen scout–again, deeming it worth a return under better conditions–it was mid-afternoon.  I headed back in the direction of Elmira and checked into my motel.  Then, I decided to head in the direction of Ithaca–to the northeast (Watkins Glen was to the northwest) for the remainder of the day to do some more scouting and, when the light finally was cooperative, some more shooting.

The area around Ithaca, in Tompkins County, is rich with waterfall opportunities, with three state parks–all of them containing multiple waterfalls–and several gorges in the town, near the Cornell University campus.  It was after 5 PM when I approached the town.  The first spot I reached was Robert H. Treman State Park and I pulled in.  There are two entrances to Treman, a lower entrance and an upper entrance.  I found the lower entrance first and, after parking the car, wandered down a short path to what was–at that point–a deserted Enfield Glen.  What an idyllic spot this was, with no one else around.  It was already almost completely in open shade and after five minutes of looking around I returned to the car for my gear.

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Readers of this blog know that I love sites than can be worked.  A workable site is one were a subject–or series of subjects–can be relatively easily accessed from different spots and/or with different complementary elements, all of which beg the photographer to examine the scene from a plethora of perspectives.  Enfield Glen is one such place.

The main subject of interest is Lower Falls, where Enfield Creek drops into the glen.  The area below the falls is turned into a proto-natural swimming pool in the summer (which must be quite something), but that conversion was still some weeks off when I was there around May 20.

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

The main waterfall isn’t the only subject of interest.  There’s also a concave set of rapids downstream from the falls and I spent a fair amount of time, utilizing every lens in my bag, working that subject, from cascade level and, ultimately, above.

Enfield Creek, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate Black & White, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

When I wrapped up in the glen, it was pushing 8 PM.  It was only about 30 minutes until sundown, but I figured, as long as I was in the area, I might as well have a quick look at the area in the park around the upper entrance.

10 minutes later I was standing in a nearly deserted parking lot, adjacent to a building known as the Old Mill.  This old grist mill dates to 1839, but I couldn’t find a pleasing perspective from which to photograph it.  Instead, I took a few minutes to shoot the waterfall behind the mill.

Falls By the Old Mill, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Falls By the Old Mill, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

I then wandered to the trailhead, at the other end of the parking lot, and discovered that the gorge trail in the park was closed–it hadn’t yet been opened for the season.  It was too late to race off on the rim trail to get a look at the 139-foot Lucifer Falls, so I made a mental note to return later in the week.  It was getting dark and I was just about to call it a day when I noticed a stand of sycamore trees, still merely in the budding stage (sycamores leaf out quite late relative to most deciduous trees), at the edge of the forest just behind a small, open meadow.  With the whitish bark offset by the greenery of the other trees and shrubs on the periphery of the forest forming a kind of reverse silhouette, it was just the kind of telephoto patterned intimate that’s right up my alley, so–for about the millionth time that day–I went back to the car for the gear I had deposited in the trunk after shooting the falls.  In the dwindling light, I produced the final image of the day.

Sycamore Stand, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Sycamore Stand, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

It was about a 40-minute drive back to the motel, and I made it in the fading light of a cloudless dusk.

My plan was to be at Watkins Glen first thing the next morning as it was supposed to be a cloudless AM and I figured that the gorge would remain in shadow for several hours after sun up.  That turned out to be not entirely an accurate assumption…

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 28, 2016

Ricketts Glen State Park: The Luxury of an Extra Day

On my first full day at Ricketts Glen State Park, I photographed more than 90% of the named waterfalls on the Falls Trail.  All but two of the named waterfalls–Mohawk and Oneida Falls, located near the very top of the Ganoga Glen section of Kitchen Creek–had been covered.  Presumably this meant a brief, quick outing at the park the following day.

Right?

Wrong.

The worst way, in my opinion, to approach landscape photography is to create a literal or figurative check list of subjects that need to be ticked off.  While there’s nothing wrong with having a set of priorities–I did, in fact, want to photograph all of the falls on the trail–a check list mentality is a virtually certain creativity stifler.  So, while there were a few subjects I definitely wanted to photograph on this day, I was in no hurry.  I wanted to give myself time to look over many of the same subjects and locations that I had seen the previous day.  By giving myself another look, I felt certain that I would see–and, thus, photograph–some spots I’d overlooked the previous day.  I also presumed that I would feel inspired to rephotograph at least a few new subjects.

Ricketts Glen State Park, Falls Trail System Map

Ricketts Glen State Park, Falls Trail System Map

I had worked in a clockwise fashion on the first full day–starting at the Lake Rose parking area, then taking the Highland Trail to Glen Leigh, working down that section of Kitchen Creek and ultimately working up Ganoga Glen.  This time, I started by working counter clockwise.  From Lake Rose, I went down Ganoga Glen and then up Glen Leigh.  This gave me the opportunity to approach all of the subjects from both directions on the trail.  (Since I’d already done this with the three waterfalls below Water Meet on the previous day, I didn’t feel the need to repeat the process on this day.)

The forecast for the day called for light winds and overcast skies–in other words, perfect conditions for waterfall/creek photography.  I arrived at an empty Lake Rose parking area about 15 minutes after the sun rose (though no sunrise was visible).

Before I even got to Mohawk Falls–the first named waterfall as one descends Canoga Glen–I found a spot on Kitchen Creek that intrigued me.  Since it was still pretty dark in the glen, shutter speeds were long but since it was dead calm, that didn’t present any major problems.  I was able to shoot multiple images for focus stacking purposes to overcome depth of field issues without having to worry about foliage movement between frames.

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Less than 100 feet down the trail from the above location was the crest of Mohawk Falls.  I spent a fair amount of time searching for spots to photograph this waterfall.  Compelling foreground options were limited, clutter was ubiquitous and footing was precarious.  Ultimately, I went wide and moved close to the water, alongside both the first and second tiers of the waterfall.

Mohawk Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohawk Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohawk Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohawk Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

My next stop was Oneida Falls.  As limited as Mohawk was regarding compositional options, Oneida was that rich.

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

There were numerous compelling spots at creek level, accessible via creative means, that could be mined for foreground interest but wider environmental shots were also possible.

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Once I moved below Oneida Falls I entered a section of the park that I’d covered the previous day, but I knew that I’d missed a couple of spots so, from this point on, I acted as I was encountering entirely new subject matter.  And, sure enough, I found a perspective of Cayuga Falls that I’d overlooked.

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

When I reached Ganoga Falls I also took the opportunity to examine the subject differently than on my first encounter.  The day before I’d climbed down to stream level to photograph the tallest waterfall at Ricketts Glen.  But this time, I focused on a view of Ganoga from the trail.  For one of the very few times while at Ricketts I broke out the telephoto lens to capture Ganoga Falls in its environment.

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Similarly, I investigated different perspectives of both Delaware and Mohican Falls.

Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohican Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohican Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

A section of Ganoga Glen, above Conestoga Falls, was another subject that had escaped my attention the previous day.

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I had missed Conestoga Falls entirely the previous day, as it was hidden off the trail by a rocky outcropping.  This time I went looking for it, and managed a couple of shots from a precarious spot.  The shooting location was problematic because it was located on some very slick rocks just above a 25-foot drop.  But I was careful and came away with a couple of images I’m happy with.

Conestoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Conestoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Conestoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Conestoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

When I made it to Water Meet–the area of confluence of the two branches of Kitchen Creek–I took advantage of the comparatively windless, even light conditions that had been missing the previous day.  There were many possibilities here, the first from up on the bank below the confluence, looking in the direction of Glen Leigh.

Water Meet, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Water Meet, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The area immediately below the lowest cascade in the above image was plainly a good spot to capture swirls, so I climbed down into the creek bed and began experimenting with my neutral density filters and captured a series of long exposures (from roughly 10 seconds to 30).

Water Meet, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Water Meet, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Water Meet Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Water Meet Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

From here, I slowly made my way up Glen Leigh.  Once again, I found a perspective of a waterfall (in this case, B. Reynolds Falls) that I had overlooked the day before.

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I also found almost countless shooting opportunities of Kitchen Creek as it ran through Glen Leigh.  Many of these were spots in the area where I had been dodging other park visitors the day before.   Interestingly, attendance in the park on this day–a Tuesday–was no more than 1/4 that of Monday.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

After working in one more perspective of RB Ricketts Falls, I again turned my attention to the creek as it ran through Glen Leigh as I worked my way up and out of the gorge.

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

It was after 5 PM when I got back to the Lake Rose parking area.  I then drove to the area near Adams Falls, where I’d photographed, briefly, amidst the sleet that had greeted me on my drive in on the very first day.  There were no such problems with inclement weather on this occasion, so I broke out the ultra wide angle lens and made a couple of images that I’d hoped to make on my first visit to the waterfall.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

While I was wandering around the trail below the falls, I spotted several painted trilliums–flowers I’d only seen previously in one spot in the Smokies.  They were in excellent condition, so I produced a set of images for focus stacking.

Paiinted Trillium, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Paiinted Trillium, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I had one more spot to visit before calling it a day.  I was in search of a waterfall that lies in Pennsylvania State Game Area 13, west of Ricketts Glen, several miles down an unpaved road.  I found Big Run Falls, with only about 30 minutes of daylight left.  As it was completely overcast, it was already quite dark–and getting darker by the minute–when I reached the waterfall, so maintaining enough shutter speed to freeze the foliage, some of which was blown by the draft of the falls, was a tricky business.  I saw no safe way to descent to creek level so I settled for searching for creative ways to photograph the waterfall from the bluff.

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

Big Run Falls, State Game Area 13, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania

And with that my time in the Ricketts Glen area came to an end.  I had photographed everything I’d hoped to, and then some.  The following morning I’d make my way about an hour to the south, to the western part of the Finger Lakes region of New York to begin exploring the waterfalls of Schuyler and Tompkins Counties.

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 20, 2016

Thematic Interruption: Good Light

Before I wrap up my experience at Ricketts Glen State Park (the first two installments covering my time there can be found at the following links:  Part I and Part II), I want to take a moment to discuss the notion of “good light” and how it applies, at least most of the time, to waterfall and stream photography.

If you’ve spent much time reading or talking about photography you’ve almost certainly run across the idea that photography is “all about the light.”  While I think that statement is a bit of an exaggeration (there’s more to effective photography than just the light), it’s fair to say that light is critically important to photography and almost certainly more important than any other individual factor.

But what is good light, exactly?

For most people, most of the time, “good light” automatically conjures up images of “golden hour” conditions, the warm light so commonly seen within an hour or so of sunrise and sunset.  And for many subjects, this light is remarkably flattering.  Open areas of various types, as represented by the images below, really shine during the golden hour.

Morning Light, Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim, Arizona

Morning Light, Point Imperial, Grand Canyon National Park – North Rim, Arizona

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Otter Cliffs Sunrise, Acadia National Park, Maine

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Sunrise, Foothills Parkway, Tennessee

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

But there’s far more to the notion of good light than the golden hour.  Many scenes, in fact, benefit from other kinds of light.  For example, open places rendered in black and white often look their best when revealed in contrasty light–the kind of light that is often eschewed completely for color photography.

China Creek Beach from North Island Viewpoint Black & White, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

China Creek Beach from North Island Viewpoint Black & White, Samuel H. Boardman State Park, Oregon

The Beach at Grand Marais black & white, Alger County, Michigan

The Beach at Grand Marais black & white, Alger County, Michigan

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Heart of the Dunes black & white, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Light and Shadow black & white, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Light and Shadow black & white, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

 

When it comes to photographing streams and waterfalls–particularly streams and waterfalls located in wooded settings–I firmly believe that the best light is soft light (with few exceptions).   Soft light might mean overcast conditions and it might mean open shade but either way, contrast is minimized and hot spots–due to sunlight penetrating parts of a forest canopy–are eliminated.  Hot spots are unwanted bright areas, essentially randomly distributed throughout a scene, which make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep a viewer’s eye from wandering away from the the photographer’s intended subject.

Anderson Falls, Bartholomew County, Indiana

Anderson Falls, Bartholomew County, Indiana

Middle Prong of the Pigeon River, Greenbrier, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Middle Prong of the Pigeon River, Greenbrier, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Middle Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

In fact, the vast majority of forested scenes–whether they include water in them or not–benefit from soft, even lighting conditions.

Along the Road to Halfmoon Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan Image Made 2008

Along the Road to Halfmoon Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

A Celebration of Color, Morton Arboretum, Du Page Country, Illinois

A Celebration of Color, Morton Arboretum, Du Page Country, Illinois

Spring Wildflowers, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Spring Wildflowers, Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Images that feature reflection abstracts almost always benefit from the creative use of sunlit subjects–a clear exception to the no-sun/water “rule.”

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Reflections, Maligne River, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Water Abstract, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Water Abstract, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

The point is, the practical definition of “good light” depends…on the subject matter and on the emotion you’re trying to project.  Good light is the product of a set of circumstances, not an inherently objective thing.  To the extent possible, try to utilize light rather than being used by light.  If the light isn’t good for your subject, search for a subject that you feel favors the light (and return to the first spot when the light flatters that subject).

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 13, 2016

Ricketts Glen State Park: The Longest Day (Part II)

In the last entry, I related the experience of hiking, and photographing, the Glen Leigh side of the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park on the first full day of my trip to Pennsylvania and New York last month.  It was early afternoon before I reached Water Meet–the area where the two branches of Kitchen Creek (Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen) reach a confluence.  There are a number of interesting spots near the confluence, but the sun was out brightly when I reached this spot that day, so I looked around quite a bit but didn’t produce any images, deciding to leave that until later.  I decided to explore the waterfalls below the confluence.

There are three named waterfalls on Kitchen Creek downstream from the Glen Leigh/Ganoga Glen confluence.  The hike down Kitchen Creek isn’t bad at all; it’s relatively flat (except right around the waterfalls themselves) and the first fall is less than a half-mile from Water Meet.

As a reminder, I’ve included a map of the Ricketts Glen Falls Trail area below.  I had parked my car that morning at the Rose Lake Trailhead Parking area, near the upper left-hand corner of the map inset.  From there, I hiked about 1.5 miles on the Highland Trail to Glen Leigh–in the upper right-hand quadrant of the map, and slowly worked my way down the Glen Leigh Trail to Water Meet–you can see where the right-hand and left-hand segments of the “Y” shaped creek system join.  All of that was related, in detail, in the previous entry.

Ricketts Glen State Park, Falls Trail System Map

Ricketts Glen State Park, Falls Trail System Map

The first waterfall that you reach when moving downstream from the confluence is 27-foot high Harrison Wright Falls.  It’s a fairly impressive waterfall, but I didn’t photograph it on the way down because there were some people hanging around the crest of the waterfall who appeared in no hurry to go anywhere.  So, I scouted some shooting positions and moved on downstream, figuring that I’d photograph Harrison Wright on the way back.

Next is Sheldon Reynolds Falls, just a few hundred feet further down the trail.  At 36 feet, Sheldon Reynolds is the tallest waterfall below the confluence.  This time, I did set up.  The sun was playing footsie with the clouds again so I set up and waited for my opportunity when the light would be even.

Sheldon Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Sheldon Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Sheldon Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Sheldon Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The third, and final downstream waterfall is also the smallest of the three:  16-foot high Murray Reynolds Falls.  In some ways, despite being relatively diminutive, Murray Reynolds is the most interesting of the three downstream Kitchen Creek waterfalls, because you have to work pretty hard to establish a compelling composition.  Sheldon Reynolds and Harrison Wright both provide fairly easy access to the creek bed, but not so Murray Reynolds.  Below Murray Reynolds, there’s a dearth of well-positioned rocks allowing access to the creek and a plethora of obscuring clutter.  It’s pretty easy to get a simple, head-on/no foreground view of Murray Reynolds with a medium telephoto focal length, but as longtime readers of this blog know, I’m not a big fan of simple, head-on waterfall shots.

So, I poked around, and tried to see if I could incorporate what seemed like distracting, obscuring elements as possible compositional aids.

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I wandered downstream along Kitchen Creek a bit farther, just to see what was there, but there were no more waterfalls (as the map shows) and the rapids were of only passing interest, so I turned around and headed back upstream, with the intention of photographing Harrison Wright Falls and then heading up Ganoga Glen.  On the way to Harrison Wright, I stopped a couple of times to photograph interesting spots along the creek itself, as I’d done that morning while hiking Glen Leigh.

Kitchen Creek Intimate Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek Intimate Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

When I got to Harrison Wright the second time, there was no one around, so I took the opportunity to photograph it from a couple of different spots.

Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

On the return trip to Water Meet, I again stopped to photograph a scene along the vibrant Kitchen Creek.

Kitchen Creek, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I made it back to the confluence and began working the Ganoga Glen side of Ricketts, deciding to leave the Water Meet area for the following day.  It was late afternoon by now and I doubted whether I’d have time to do everything I wanted along Ganoga Glen before the sun set.  Good thing I had another full day (and, if needed, part of another) budgeted for Ricketts Glen!

Erie Falls was my first stop on the way up Ganoga Glen.  At 47 feet high, it was the second tallest waterfall I’d seen thus far that day.  (Only 60-foot high Ozone, in Glen Leigh and photographed that morning, was taller).  Erie is impressive, and provides some nice compositional options.

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Erie Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

As was the case with Glen Leigh, the creek on the Ganoga Glen side proved to be highly photogenic as well.

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Tuscarora Falls, also 47-feet high, is only a short distance above Erie, and just as impressive.

Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Next on the trail is Conestoga Falls, but I walked right past it without realizing it at the time.  It’s a bit of a slide and is partially hidden from the trail.  It wasn’t until that evening that I recognized that I’d missed an opportunity to photograph it.  I would rectify that the following day.

Mohican Falls comes next, and lies at a point where Ganoga Glen takes a bit of a turn, very close to the point where a tributary flows into the creek.  I found Mohican difficult to compose, but I ultimately settled on a spot where I used a spill in the tributary to serve as a foreground, with Mohican, at 39 feet, in the background.

Mohican Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Mohican Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The tributary itself was interesting to me, partially a function of a flowering tree right at the spot where a bridge crosses this small brook.  I had to spend a lot of time waiting for a complete lull in the breeze–to freeze the blossoms and foliage–because shutter speeds were growing longer and longer as the amount of ambient light grew less and less.

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Glen, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Delaware Falls and Seneca Falls lie very close to one another, just above Mohican.  I spent a lot of time looking at Delaware in an attempt to gain a pleasing perspective–probably too much time, in fact, as it was beginning to get dark at this point.  I ultimately settled on an aerial shot from the trail as I couldn’t tease out an accessible creekside vantage point that I liked.  I would, however, take some time the following day to examine Delaware again.

Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Seneca Falls is only 12 feet high but I found it enchanting.

Seneca Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Seneca Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

There’s simply something about the shape of Seneca, coupled with its accessibility, that made it one of my favorite spots at Ricketts.

Seneca Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Seneca Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The tallest waterfall in Ricketts Glen–94-foot Ganoga Falls–was next.  The trail bypasses the waterfall on the left, far above creek level, but I found a way to scramble down the hillside to get a look at the waterfall from the creek bed.  From there, several obvious shooting spots presented themselves, including one location that required me to do some rock hopping out in the creek.  This was a bit more precarious than it might otherwise have been because the rocks were wet and slippery…and, on occasion, not well secured.  I didn’t have my rubber boots with me on this day, due to the copious amount of hiking and the premium on good footing, but I was able to overcome that shortcoming.

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

There were still three more waterfalls to go, plus any creek shots I found appealing, but I now knew for certain that I wouldn’t have enough light to photograph all of them.  Shutter speeds were now being measured in seconds, not fractions of them, and getting longer by the minute.  The sun, which was unimpeded by clouds, was low enough that it hadn’t been a factor for some time.  I moved up the trail to Cayuga Falls and decided that this would be the end of my shooting day.  I’d pass–and examine–both Oneida Falls and Mohawk Falls, a bit further up the trail, but there would be no more photography after Cayuga.  I still had to climb out of the gorge and get back to the car–still at least 3/4 of a mile away up a steep trail with iffy footing in many places–before darkness fell completely.

Cayuga is the shortest of the named waterfalls at Ricketts (only 11 feet high), but presents itself in multiple sections.  While I took the time to examine the accessible creek bed for shooting spots, there were none that I found particularly appealing, so I climbed back up to the trail and photographed the waterfall from there.

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

And then I returned to the creek bed, to a spot I thought was a bit dicey, but since it was to be the last shot of the day, I tried hard to make it work.  Standing on a not-entirely-stable log to interact with the camera, I managed to use a small cascade and the surrounding rocks as a foreground.  Part of The left-hand side of Cayuga was obscured, but that was unavoidable.

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

And then I hastened up the trail.  I did take a few moments to check out some perspectives for both Oneida and Mohawk–the former appeared to have more obvious options than the latter–and then quickly hiked  the rest of the way up to the parking area in the gloom.  My car was the only one in the lot; it was approximately five minutes after sunset.

I had been in the park, non-stop, for nearly 15 hours and it was time to bring this longest of days to a conclusion.  I’d photographed, at some length, roughly 90% of the Falls Trail and and I had another full day to cover the ground I’d missed, as well as take another look at the spots I’d already examined.  And the next day, the forecast was for full overcast, with no rain, all day long.  Perfect!

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 7, 2016

Ricketts Glen: The Longest Day (Part I)

I drove the 600-0dd miles from Indianapolis to the small town of Dushore, Pennsylvania–where I would be based during my time at Ricketts Glen State Park–on Sunday, May 15.  The weather was, to say the least, inclement.  There was nothing problematic as I traversed the eastern half of Indiana and the entire width of Ohio, but just about the time I hit the Pennsylvania state line on I-80, I was met with a sleet storm.  (Did I mention that it was May 15?)  I then saw intermittent sleet and snow for the rest of the trip across Pennsylvania.

After dropping my belongings at my lodgings, I took my gear and, again dodging occasional squalls of sleet, that were alternated with brief bursts of sunshine, I made the 25-odd minute drive to Ricketts Glen.  It was late afternoon and I simply wanted to get my bearings to help me utilize my time the following day.  I stopped at the Evergreen Trail parking area, off state highway 118, in the southern reaches of the park.  Adams Falls is only a few hundred feet from the parking area and I wandered down to see it.  Since there was no precipitation falling at that moment, I returned to the car for my gear, with the thought that I’d make some images.  If nothing else, this would, at least theoretically, be one less place I’d have to visit in the remaining time I’d be in the area.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls is on Kitchen Creek, the waterway that lies below the confluence of streams that form the Falls Trail–where all but three of the 24 named waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park can be found.  After photographing Adams Falls from a rocky perch above the waterfall, I descended a few hundred feet on the Evergreen Trail, crossed a bridge and photographed the falls from creek level, below Adams’ final descent.

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I then picked out a creek intimate that caught my eye.

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Kitchen Creek Intimate, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

My plan had been to change to my ultrawide lens and photograph the top tier of the falls with that, but as I was wrapping up with the creek, it started to sleet again, and very, very heavily.  This time, it stuck on the ground, and I was pretty thoroughly drenched.  I retreated to the car and, as the sleet tapered off, drove off to find the jumping off point for the Falls Trail, as it was less than an hour before sunset and I wanted to have a plan in place for the next day.  I vowed to complete photographing Adams Falls before leaving the area on Wednesday.

I found the main entrance to the park, off state route 487, and slowly made my way to the Rose Lake parking area.  This would be the quickest route to the Falls Trail.  I got out of the car and sized things up.  The sun was out again, though it was now quite low in the sky.  It was perhaps 45 minutes until sunset, but I decided to quickly survey the trail system.  Without any gear–which made it very easy for me to move speedily–I made my way down the trail and headed east on the Highland Trail in the direction of Glen Leigh–the eastern part of the two-creek upper tier of the park–1.2 miles away.  I made it to the cut off to the Falls Trail at Glen Leigh in less than 15 minutes and found myself face to face with Onondaga Falls, the northernmost of the eight named waterfalls on the Glen Leigh side.  I sized it up, then walked upstream from there and found a couple of interesting spots along the creek that I thought would be worth photographing.  Then I walked back down the trail, past Onondaga to FL Ricketts Falls.  As I was scouting that waterfall, it started to sleet…again!  I’d had enough.  It was nearly sunset anyway, so I made my way back to the Highland Trail and double-timed it back to the parking area.  The sleet stopped as I hiked back and as I reached the car I saw the sun setting.

The following day was my first full day at Ricketts Glen.  The forecast was for freezing temperatures in the morning, rising into the 50s later in the day, and a mix of clouds and sun–with no precipitation forecast.  I was up long before dawn and made the drive to the Rose Lake Parking area.  It was just beginning to become light as I parked the car in the deserted lot and made the trek on the Highland Trail–as I had the previous evening–this time with gear in tow.

I’m going to divide my accounting of this day into two parts.  I was in the park that day for more than 14 hours and photographed, at least briefly, all but two of the 21 named waterfalls in Glen Leigh, Ganoga Glen and along Kitchen Creek, below the confluence.  There’s simply too much material for a single post.

I also want to try to give you a sense of what the hike that day was like, by leading you from the top of Glen Leigh, down Kitchen Creek below the confluence, and then back up the steep trail alongside Ganoga Glen.  Today’s accounting will over the day’s experience at Glen Leigh, where I started photographing.  The next entry will cover the area at and and below the creek confluence and back up Ganoga Glen.

First, some brief background to the Ricketts Glen layout.  The Falls Trail forms a kind of Y-shape, with Ganoga Glen forming the left-hand arm of that Y, Glen Leigh forming the right-hand arm and the area below the confluence of the two glens serving as the base of the Y.  If there were a line between the two upper points of the Y, that would be the Highland Trail.  The map at this link shows the layout of the falls trail quite clearly.

Because of my scouting of the first two Glen Leigh waterfalls the previous evening, I knew I wanted to photograph at a couple of spots above Onondaga Falls, but I shot Onondaga itself first.

Onondaga Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The trail runs upstream past Onondaga Falls to the right of the waterfall.  There are a number of very photogenic spots along the creek, which is spanned by a footbridge, above Onondaga.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

I then made my way back downstream, past Onondaga .  I was very careful with my footing as everything was soaking wet and there were still remnants of the previous day’s sleet storm visible on the ground.  I descended to waterfall number two–the 38-foot tall FL Ricketts Falls (Onandaga, by comparison, is 15 feet high).  There was a great deal of debris in the stream below FL Ricketts, but I tried to put it in context when composing.

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

From a spot below and to the right of FL Ricketts, as you face it, I found a number of fallen blossoms from a nearby tree on a rock in the stream, and used that as a foreground.

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

FL Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Below FL Ricketts in Glen Leigh, there’s a fairly lengthy stretch of very photogenic creek before coming to the next waterfall and I stopped several times during my descent downstream to photograph stretches of it.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Note that the leaf-out process was still underway in mid-May in this part of Pennsylvania.

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

30-foot high Shawnee Falls is next on the waterfall parade, followed very shortly by 41-foot-tall Huron Falls.

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

It was right about this point in my hike that I began to face two complications.  The first was that the sun was now high enough in the sky that, coupled with the relative lack of clouds at this point of the day, sunlight began, in points, to directly fall on the scenes I was trying to photograph.  As I mentioned in the introductory post to this series, I generally disdain photographing waterfalls and creeks in direct sun, so my choices were to either wait for a cloud to act as a giant diffuser or simply move on.  (I will cover this matter of “best light” in greater depth in a later, thematic post in this series.)  Given that there were signs of clouds pretty much all day, I generally opted for the former.  This made for quite a bit of standing around.

As I was standing at the base of Shawnee Falls, waiting for a cloud, I encountered my first group of Mennonites.  There are quite a few Mennonites in this part of Pennsylvania and, for some reason, every last one of them decided to visit Ricketts Glen State Park that day.  At least it seemed like every last Mennonite in the state came through.  In all, I counted more than 100 before I stopped tallying, in dribs and drabs–groups of four to eight, mostly, but in at least one case they came through in a cluster of about 15 people.  They were friendly enough (even if some of the kids felt the need to toss large rocks around here and there), but many wanted to hang around the waterfalls for awhile.  That’s their right, of course, but such a large series of groups of people coming one after another–and it became clear pretty quickly that there were a lot of groups, and they were all coming down Glen Leigh, in the same direction I was hiking–made it difficult for me to photograph.  At first I tried to move on and stay ahead of them, but they kept catching up to me so eventually, at RB Ricketts Falls–two waterfalls below Huron–I waited them out.  In fact, I moved back upstream, so that I’d be moving in the opposite direction, in the hope of clearing things out more quickly.  That proved to be the right move and, before long, I was back up at Shawnee Falls as the last of the Mennonite groups passed me heading downstream.  I descended the short distance to Huron Falls as the Mennonites moved on and waited for yet another cloud.

Huron Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Huron Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The distance between Huron Falls and the fifth waterfall in Glen Leigh–RB Ricketts is fairly long so, again, my attention turned to the creek itself.

Glen Leigh Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Glen Leigh, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

And then I reached that fifth waterfall–Ozone Falls.  This set of falls proved to have numerous compositional options and given the frequent need to wait for clouds, it took me awhile to shoot out this location.

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, located in a little glen of its own, was next in line.

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Below RB Ricketts, there are only two more named waterfalls in Glen Leigh:  Wyandot and B Reynolds.  RB Ricketts is first as you move downstream, but–because of the sun–I actually descended to Wyandot first.  While I was at Wyandot, surveying the scene, a large cloud bank moved in, allowing me to shoot Wyandot Falls.  The clouds were so extensive that I had time to ascend to B Reynolds and photograph that waterfall as well.

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The trail runs past the left-hand side of Wyandot but crosses a footbridge above the waterfall and passes by B Reynolds Falls on the right-hand side.

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

There are a number of different spots from which B Reynolds can be photographed–it’s even possible to get on the left-hand side of the creek without too much difficulty (as I would do the next day).

B Reynolds Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls Black & White, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

RB Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

B Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Just a few hundred feet below Wyandot Falls is the Watersmeet area, where the Glen Leigh branch of Kitchen Creek meets the Ganoga Glen branch.  It was early afternoon by the time I reached this area and paused, before descending Kitchen Creek to photograph the three waterfalls below the confluence (to be covered in the next installment).

The Glen Leigh section of Ricketts Glen had proven to be quite beautiful.  The trail down Glen Leigh was steep in places, but not too bad (particularly on a descent, unsurprisingly).  Access to the waterfalls and creek ranged from good to excellent.  I wouldn’t have minded having my knee-high rubber boots in several spots, but given the length of the hike (I conservatively estimate that I did 10 miles of hiking this day, given the sheer length of the trail and the considerable amount of doubling back I did on a number of occasions) and the steepness of the trail in many places, there was simply no practical way that I could have donned them.  In any case, access was so good that I scarcely missed having them.

By the time I reached the confluence, I had been in the park for nearly eight hours.  It would be roughly seven more before I left.  I’ll tell the rest of this first full day’s story in my next post.

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 2, 2016

A Waterfall Appetizer

I returned from my waterfall photo excursion on Wednesday, May 25 (a day earlier than planned) and just began to go through the routine of postprocessing the images the night before last (May 31).  It will take me some time to work though all of the photographs, but I thought I’d provide a small taste of what I saw and worked with during my time in northeast Pennsylvania and western New York.

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Onondaga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

The weather I experienced was a bit of a mixed bag.  I had only two completely overcast days, unfortunately–my second full day at Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania and my final full day in the western Finger Lakes region of New York (and the last few hours of the latter day was overtaken by rain).  But more than half of the remaining days were a mix of clouds and sun, which allowed me to photograph, off and on, throughout the day.  The last two days of the trip–which were spent in or near Letchworth State Park in New York–were completely clear, all day long, and since the forecast called for more of the same going forward, I bugged out a day early.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York

Clear skies are pretty much death to waterfall photography.  On my last day at Letchworth, I was able to photograph from dawn until about 7 AM, after which time my subject matter was effectively unshootable.  I had to essentially suspend photography activities until nearly 7 PM that day and, since I’d experienced the same phenomenon the day before and had completely scouted the entire park by then (as well as another nearby state park), I spun my wheels for hours.  I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with that frustration again the next day, so I saved myself a few dollars and headed home the following morning.

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Enfield Glen, Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Lest I leave the impression that the trip wasn’t successful, I ended up photographing everything I originally had on my agenda, and then some.  The areas I photographed in both states were beautiful–and I suspect that they’d be even more impressive at peak color in the fall (though the water flow likely wouldn’t be quite as strong).

Taughannock Creek, Taughannock Falls State Park, New York

Taughannock Creek, Taughannock Falls State Park, New York

While the vast majority of the subject matter falls under the category of waterfalls and/or streams, there were some exceptions, as I’ll demonstrate when I begin to post the daily chronology of the trip.  That will have to wait until I’ve been able to complete at least one full day’s worth of image postprocessing, and I expect to have that done by some time early next week.

Cascadilla Gorge, Tompkins County, New York

Cascadilla Gorge, Tompkins County, New York

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the figurative appetite stimulant that is represented by this entry and will stick around for the main course, beginning with my next post from Ricketts Glen.

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Posted by: kerryl29 | May 18, 2016

Chasing Waterfalls

By the time this post airs, I’ll be in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The original plan this spring was to make a photo trip to Yosemite National Park and the eastern Sierra-Nevada Mountains in California–with a return trip to the coastal redwoods tossed in for good measure.  For a number of reasons, that was mothballed back in late February (the hope is to revive it for next spring), and I had to scramble to put together a Plan B.  As it was rather late to seriously consider scheduling anything elaborate, I remembered that I’d long had an interest in visiting Ricketts Glen State Park.  I first heard about Ricketts Glen nearly 15 years ago and it’s been on my “to do” list ever since, but it had always been eclipsed by some other destination.  With the California trip postponed, it seemed like a good time to put that to rest, once and for all.

Ludlow Falls, Miami County, Ohio

Ludlow Falls, Miami County, Ohio

I was interested in coming up with some other, relatively nearby, locations to supplement the trip (Ricketts Glen is roughly a 600-mile one-way drive from my base) and ultimately settled on the western Finger Lakes region of western New York state.  The original pull was Letchworth State Park–which is actually about an hour northwest of the Finger Lakes–but I subsequently stumbled across Watkins Glen State Park and, from there, numerous spots in Schuyler and Tompkins Counties.  Eventually I put together a workable itinerary, and I’ll be in the field beginning with the outgoing drive on May 15, with a return planned for May 26.

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

The common thread to all of these locations is the presence of waterfalls–dozens of them.  It’s the first time I’ve taken a photo trip where the principal subject of interest is waterfalls.  I’ve certainly undertaken plenty of waterfall photography on previous excursions–at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon last spring, for instance–but that was a tack on to the main subjects of the trip (beaches on the Oregon Coast and the redwood forests of northern California).

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

North Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

But this time, waterfalls represent more than an addendum; they are the center of interest.  This means I hope for mostly cloudy weather (without too much rain–during daylight hours, at least).  Sunny days are generally undesirable for photographing waterfalls and streams, but ultimately you get what you get,  and I’m sure I’ll spend my time constructively, even if the sun is out.

St. Louis Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

St. Louis Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

After a much-needed respite after my return (history has proven that this is always required),  I plan to start posting images from the trip at some point in June.  I hope to update the blog before then, but if I don’t, you’ll know why.  See you soon!

Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Elakala Falls, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

 

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