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.

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Responses

  1. Wow! There are some beautiful waterfalls. I may need to make this a destination at some point.Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Thanks! If you like waterfalls, Ricketts Glen is right up your alley. There are a couple of dozen named falls in the park, 21 of them accessible on a single trail circuit. And there are countless creek perspectives available as well.

  2. Stunning gallery.

  3. Reblogged this on Wyrdwend and commented:
    Superb!

    • Thanks very much!

  4. Very impressive work. Beautiful scenery and foilage – not to mention the falls, of course.

  5. Kerry, I’m enjoying working backwards through this series, as all of the images are so compelling. I must admit that I am partial to the first one in this post, less for the water and more for the fresh green foliage and incredibly delicate detail in the woodland. How many images are you stacking to get this effect? Just beautiful!

    • Thanks, Lynn.

      The shot you referenced was just a two-image stack. Whenever I’m dealing with subject matter that can move–not moving water in creeks and waterfalls, which tends to flow in repeatable patterns, but just about anything else (e.g. blowing foliage, flowers, clouds, waves on oceans and lakes, etc.)–I try to keep the number of images in the stack to as few as possible. In this instance, I focused on the near-ground leaves and then about 1/3 of the way into the rest of the scene. That’s all that was needed. But on the very next image in this post–the second one overall–I needed three distinct focal points to get everything sharp.

      I started using focus stacking about 10 years ago, like most people I guess, for close-up work. (I still do use it for that.) But not long after I asked myself “why can’t I adapt this approach for landscape photography?” Couldn’t think of any good reason not to try. I recall, to this day, the first such attempt. I was at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and I was staring out at a distant set of layered sand dunes. I wanted to focus on a very tight segment, using a telephoto lens, but I couldn’t get the necessary depth of field to get each layer sharp in a single image. So I took something like four or five focus point-adjusted images and combined them in a single stack. I could use as many images as necessary because of the absence of moving objects. (The image is here.) The approach worked and I’ve used it, as needed, ever since.

  6. […] my final full day in the Finger Lakes region, the forecast called for the first cloudy day since my second complete day at Ricketts Glen.  More accurately put, the forecast called for clouds in the morning and early afternoon, followed […]


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