Posted by: kerryl29 | August 22, 2016

The Midday Pivot: Stony Brook State Park

Having had a full day in the park to scout had been a big help in planning for the succeeding day:  I knew where I wanted to go for sunrise–or thought I did, in any event.  Great Bend Overlook provides the opportunity to view a point in the Genesee River canyon where the river takes a, well, great bend.  I scouted the location the previous day, and decided it might make a good location to catch the moonset that would accompany the sunrise.

When I arrived, it was still dark, but as the light came up on this somewhat cool morning revealed patches of fog in the canyon.

Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

It had been cool enough overnight for river fog to develop, and from where I was, I could see the clouds drift upstream.

Great Bend Overlook Moonset, Letchworth State Park, New York

Great Bend Overlook Moonset, Letchworth State Park, New York

Indeed, as the sun was beginning to come up in the east, the moon was setting in the west.

Great Bend Overlook Moonset, Letchworth State Park, New York

Great Bend Overlook Moonset, Letchworth State Park, New York

The spotty fog continued as the sun rose.

Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

Eventually the sun’s rays began to touch the trees on the far side of the canyon.

Gorge Trees, Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

Gorge Trees, Great Bend Overlook, Letchworth State Park, New York

At this point, I moved along, with the intention of heading to Middle Falls.  I hoped to photograph the falls, with no one around, before the sun began to glisten off the water.

But as I made my way the several miles along the park road to the area near Middle Falls, I was stopped in my tracks by something I saw along the way.  I reached a point where the road bent–on the far side of Great Bend–looking to the southeast.  It was a view that looked straight upriver and the sight was spectacular.  I jumped out of the car and grabbed my gear, and quickly set up, hoping that the conditions would remain in place long enough for me to get a shot or two.

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

From this spot–looking more or less directly into the rising sun–there was a lot more fog visible than when looking upriver from Great Bend.  I resolved to return to this spot first thing the following morning.

In the meantime, I continued along my way to Middle Falls.  The sun was up now, but deep within the canyon, the falls figured to remain in open shade for some time.  As expected, there was no one around at this hour, so I had the place–which had been teeming with people when I was there the previous day–to myself.

One thing hadn’t changed–there was still a tremendous amount of mist coming up from Middle Falls and it was falling like mad along the walkway that paralleled the river.  As you can see, the observation point in the image below is absolutely drenched.

Middle Falls Viewing Platform, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Viewing Platform, Letchworth State Park, New York

I walked up the path and was fairly regularly being doused with mist.  When I got close enough to the falls, most of the mist drifted downriver, and I was able to stay dry.  So at this point, I began to make images.

Middle Falls Abstract, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Abstract, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Abstract Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Abstract Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Abstract Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls Abstract Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

By now, the sun was directly hitting the water on the near side of the river.  The situation was only going to get worse.  Given the weather forecast–sunny, all day long–Middle Falls wouldn’t be in open shade again until an hour or so before sunset–about 13 hours away.  Most of the interesting subjects in the park would be essentially unshootable, it appeared, until then.

I had a firsthand view of this fact, as I spent the next couple of hours scouting a number of locations that I hadn’t gotten around to the previous day.  It was time well spent, but there was no photography involved.  By roughly 10:30 AM I was out of places to scout.  It would be many, many hours before there would be any more photography at Letchworth.  What to do?

Then, I remembered, I had passed the entrance to Stony Brook State Park, no more than about 15 minutes down the Interstate, on my way in.  So, I made my way there, in the hope I’d find something of interest.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Stony Brook State Park is a small unit, just south of the small town of Danville, New York.  There was some construction going on on the road leading into the park and one of the parking lots, but I eventually found my way in.  It was still a sunny day, so I didn’t figure I’d have much of an opportunity to photograph, but I brought my gear with me on the trail anyway.  What I found was reminiscent of Buttermilk Falls State Park, which I visited a few days earlier when I was in the Finger Lakes.  A water source–in this case, the appropriately named Stony Brook–flows through a canyon in a series of waterfalls and cascades.  As was the case with Buttermilk Falls, the trail through the gorge is about a mile in length and runs right alongside the creek.

Within a few minutes I could tell that I wanted to photograph the park.  The only issue was when would the opportunity come up?  I walked all the way to the tall waterfall–Upper Falls–at the end of  the trail.  I saw plenty of great potential images, but the light was awful, so I never took the camera out of the bag.  I was hiking back to the parking area, still checking out possible shots, when I noticed a bank of clouds moving in.  It was the first time all day I’d seen any sign of clouds.  Before I knew it, the clouds had covered the sun.  I scrambled to get a shot in.

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

For the next hour or so, the sun and clouds played peek-a-boo and I got some unexpected photography in.

Stony Brook Bridge, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Bridge, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascade Intimate Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascade Intimate Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Chute Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Chute Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Chute, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Chute, Stony Brook State Park, New York

It was kind of frustrating, because I occasionally had to wait five or ten minutes after setting up a shot for the sun to disappear, but I reminded myself that I didn’t have anything else to do.

Eventually, the clouds moved off and the sky was almost completely clear again.   By now it was mid-afternoon. Now that I’d had a taste of Stony Brook, I wanted to photograph it thoroughly.  I decided to return around 6 PM; that would give me several hours to photograph and the light would get nothing but better.  So that’s what I did.

When I returned, most of the canyon was already in shade, so I began photographing immediately.

Lower Falls Intimate, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls Intimate, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls Intimate Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls Intimate Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

I had the benefit of having scouted the entire gorge earlier in the day, of course.  And this time I had my boots on and had full access to just about any spot, in the creek bed or out.

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Of course I skipped over the locations I’d photographed earlier that afternoon, but there was plenty left to keep me busy.

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Lower Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

I slowly worked my way up the gorge.  At no point did I have to defer a shot because of the light; the entire canyon was now in shade.

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Stony Brook Cascades, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Eventually I reached the final part of the canyon.  To view the Upper Falls, it’s necessary to descend into the creek bed from the gorge trail at a specific spot–which is difficult, but doable.  Then you have to walk through the water and around a bend in the gorge.  At that point, you’re face-to-face with the Upper Falls.

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls Black & White, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

Upper Falls, Stony Brook State Park, New York

By the time I finished at Upper Falls it was getting dark and when I reached the parking lot the sun was down.  I ended up photographing everything I wanted to shoot at Stony Brook.  Considering that I hadn’t even planned to go to Stony Brook State Park when I planned the trip, this had worked out very well.

I still had two more days scheduled at Letchworth and I planned to be back out at the gorge overlook before sunrise the following morning.

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Responses

  1. Great description of how a photographer works a location and the light. The shots are inspiring.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. The photos of the valley fog are great…can’t wait to see it the conditions were similar the next morning. And Stony Brook looks like a lovely park. The final photo with the the fallen log is very beautiful.

    • Thanks, Ellen. Stony Brook SP was a fortuitous find. I quite literally drove past the entrance on the way from the Finger Lakes to Letchworth the day before and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend some time there.

  3. How fortunate you are to be able to scope out an area in advance ot a photo session. And, again, how fortunate to have foggy clouds entering the arena even before the sun rises. Further, wonderful work with the water in motion. Inspiring, indeed.

    • Thanks very much. You’re right, the opportunity to conduct an advanced scouting session at a location is invariably worth its weight in gold. And you’re also right about the unexpected fog; it was a wonderful atmospheric bonus that morning.

  4. I got some really wonderful tips from your post, loved the whole photo series.

    • Thanks! I’m thrilled to hear that you found something useful in my ramblings.

  5. […] excitement of discovering morning fog the previous day had me return to the same spot on the canyon rim looking downriver at dawn but there was to be no […]


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