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…

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Responses

  1. I love the different views of Eagle Cliff Falls, and want to sit on that bench at the lower falls at Enfield Glen-that is my favourite exposure along with the black and white rapids. The angle of the old mill falls with the log is perfect. Your blogs keep reminding me to work a scene, try to be there at the best portion of the day and try those longer exposures, in the right light my polarizer might work fine. Thanks for these lovely photos and explanations.

    • Thanks very much, Jane. For long exposures, a polarizer is a good starting point. If you need something more than that, a neutral density filter–either on its own or in combination with a polarizer–is the ticket.

  2. I’ve surprised myself. My favorite photos of this set are the sycamores, and the Enfield Creek Rapids Intimate Black & White. I could look at that one for hours.

    For someone just starting out, your posts are filled with little off-handed remarks of the helpful sort. Some suggest things I ought to think about doing, while others remind me that I’m on the way to understanding how to go about photographing in nature. Not everything revolves around camera bodies and lenses. There are those rubber boots, for example — which I’ve already found quite useful for gentle wading and fending off fireants.

    The brief exchange about the filters interested me. I’m not doing long exposures at this point, but I do find myself contending quite often with the kind of humidity, haze, and pollution that can hang around the Texas skies.
    I’m doing better, but I still often get whitish skies, and a generally hazy appearance. Is there a filter that would help with that, or is it a matter of waiting for a front to blow all the muck away?

    • Thanks very much for chiming in; I greatly appreciate it.

      “Not everything revolves around camera bodies and lenses.”

      No, indeed. In fact, my next post will probably be about just how overrated those things are. Not unimportant (hardly), but nowhere near as important as they’re frequently made out to be.

      Regarding your question about hazy skies…a polarizing filter can often help, with the impact dependent (intuitively) on how much of the offending light is polarized. In essence, the filter will be most effective the closer your shooting direction is to a 90-degree angle from the sun. Take a look at the first two images in this post: https://lightscapesphotography.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/days-1-scouting-the-southern-oregon-coast-part-i/

      There was a tremendous amount of haze that day (caused by an extremely strong wind that was whipping the salt water into the lower atmosphere, but as the sun was off to my side, I was able to reduce the impact of the haze (i.e. polarized light) with the use the of a polarizing filter.

      There are also some tricks you can use in post-processing to lessen the impact of haze after the fact. But–I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn–the best solution is photographing under less hazy conditions in the first place, to the extent that’s possible.

  3. My neck of the woods. You have found some of the best sites, for sure. Also in the area is Buttermilk Falls and farther west is Letchworth State Park which has many great views, but more panoramic. The Finger Lakes Trail also runs through this area with many opportunities if you like woods.

    • Thanks. I spent time at both Buttermilk Falls SP and Letchworth SP on this trip; I’ll have images from both places included in future posts in this series.

  4. Fantastic study of the falls, Kerry.

  5. Beautiful shots. McCulure Creeks looks especially lovely.

    • Thanks very much!

  6. Kerry, your photos are always gorgeous but I was especially taken with the Enfield Creek Rapids photos. The compositions were so dynamic, with the complex angles and multiple mini-falls – you certainly did work that subject! Stunning work.

    • Thanks very much, Lynn.

      Yeah, the Enfield Creek location in Robert H. Treman SP was right up my alley. There were, broadly speaking, at least four different perspectives from which it could be examined. (I didn’t photograph from one of them because, upon examination, there were some issues with the background that I couldn’t overcome.) I really like locations that can be worked, hard. This was certainly one of those. Another could example was Hector Falls, just northeast of Watkins Glen in Schuyler County, New York. I scouted that location on Day 4 and photographed it on Day 6, so those images are yet to come.

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. […] Havana Glen, in the village of Montour Falls, weather permitting.  I had shot at Havana Glen on my first day in the region and had shown Ward the site the day before, during our extensive scouting session, my […]

  9. Good water shots here.


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