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!

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Responses

  1. While all of these are lovely, I think the ones of Erie Falls are my favorites.

    • Thanks, Ellen. Erie is a pretty waterfall with a lot of compositional options available.

  2. Looking at the contours must have been spectacular scenery

  3. What a treat you have given us – I am quite a fan of slow shutter speeds and I enjoyed the black and white versions. Must have been a wonderful experience.

    • Thanks very much. I really enjoyed the time I spent photographing at Ricketts Glen. The subject matter isn’t as spectacular as that from, say, the Canadian Rockies, but I found it quite inspiring nonetheless.

  4. Kerry, the Harrison falls shots look more like 19th century landscape paintings than photographs – the light glowing through the green forest behind the falls positively glows. Gorgeous shots, all.

    • Thanks, Lynn. The trees were still leafing out when I was Ricketts Glen (fortunate timing) and the sun was playing an extended game of footsie with passing clouds when I was photographing below the Kitchen Creek confluence. There were times–as you can see in at least one of the Harrison Wright images–where there was some diffused sunlight still lighting up the background trees while the falls and creek were in bright overcast conditions. The contrast was minimal enough as to be (not only not displeasing but) genuinely pleasing in effect. It’s really impossible to draw something like that up; you just have to be lucky.

  5. What a fantastic place to visit. Your photographs are stunning 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  6. […] 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 […]

  7. […] 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 […]


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