Posted by: kerryl29 | August 29, 2016

The Last Dance: Saying Goodbye to Letchworth State Park

The 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 mist this morning.  It was too warm; the overnight temperature never dipped below 60 degrees (F).  Still, the view was spectacular and I prepared to photograph sunrise, even if it meant a fog-free experience.

Genesee River Gorge at Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

Genesee River Gorge at Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York

When I wrapped up at my gorge overlook–which didn’t take long because there wasn’t all that much in the sky to interrupt the presence of direct sun–I hastened to return to the area around Middle Falls, the only one of the three main falls on the Genesee River that I hadn’t thoroughly photographed.  The forecast was for another clear day–all day–and I wanted to finish with Middle Falls before the sun hit the water directly.  I had been unable to complete that task the previous morning.

I made it to the parking area near the Glen Iris Inn and double-timed it to the gorge trail.  Again, copious mist off the falls was an issue–somewhat less so than the previous day–so I spent a lot of time getting ready  to photograph with the lens cap in place, quickly removing it to take shots, and then replacing it, in a somewhat futile attempt to keep the front lens element dry.  And I was constantly mopping the camera and tripod, which were repeatedly drenched.

I started by utilizing a foreground of wildflowers, at a spot I discovered during my first day in the park.

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Then I moved upriver a bit and photographed whenever a composition caught my eye and when the mist was forgiving

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

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

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

I found the sectional views more compelling and alternated between normal and relatively short telephoto perspectives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

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

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

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Just as I was wrapping up, the sun crested the far side of the forested gorge slope and, when the rays cutting through the trees caught the mist from the waterfall they produced an interesting sort of glow.

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

And with that, I was back to the same position I found myself facing the previous day:  what to do on a blue sky day?  (This time, I didn’t have Stony Brook State Park as an unexplored resource.)  The prior morning, after photographing at Middle Falls, I’d returned to the northern part of the park to scout a location inhabited by several tributary waterfalls.  On those scouting sessions, I’d noticed some spots along the trails with some wildflowers, so I decided to return to these areas and do some macro work.  I had my macro lens with me and I had a couple of diffusers (which I knew I’d need, given the sunny conditions).

For some reason, I simply don’t have the patience for outdoor macro work that I have for landscapes.  With macro, just about any breeze at all makes photography frustrating and there was a distinct breeze this day.  Still, since I didn’t have anything else to do, I stuck with it for awhile and produced a number of images, including the one you see below, of a pair of tiny wildflowers.  This image comes from six focus stacked frames.

Wildflowers, Letchworth State Park, New York

Wildflowers, Letchworth State Park, New York

Eventually, I grew hot–the temperature in the shade climbed into the mid-80s (F) on this very warm day–and frustrated with the wind and called it quits.  The four tributary waterfalls I’d decided I wanted to photograph were all still in objectionable mixed light and would be for several hours, so I went back to the hotel to catch up on e-mail.  During that time, I checked the weather forecast which was calling for the same conditions over the next several days–warm and clear.  I had one more day scheduled at Letchworth but I couldn’t imagine going though with it under the predicted conditions, so I decided to cut the trip short by a day.  I’d head back to the Midwest the following morning; this would be my final day.

Around 5:30 PM or so I headed back out and by the time I returned to the area with the tributary waterfalls it was roughly 6:15 and two of the cataracts were already in open shade, so I tackled them–Waterline Cascade and Waterline Falls–first.

Waterline Cascade, Letchworth State Park, New York

Waterline Cascade, Letchworth State Park, New York

The water level of these waterfalls was relatively low and I only found one composition of Waterline Cascade that I liked.

Waterline Falls was a bit different because of the huge swirl at its base.  I had to stack a neutral density filter and a polarizer to get the effect I wanted, but the long exposure (about 15 seconds) did the trick.

Waterline Falls Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

Waterline Falls Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

I then played with a different angle and a short shutter.  All of this was aided by my donning of waterproof boots, which allowed me to move around, relatively freely, near both waterfalls.

Waterline Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Waterline Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

When I was done with the first two waterfalls, I headed back up the short trail, crossed the park road, and descended a steep slope into the creek that feeds Sawmill Chute.  I had to wait a few minutes to eliminate all direct sunlight on this series of cascades, and during that wait I took the time to scout out several interesting compositions.   There was a lot more water coming through Sawmill than had been the case with Waterline Cascades and Waterline Falls, and–while I had relatively free reign in the creek bed, I had to watch my step, both because there were some very slick rocks and because there were several hidden potholes that were several feet deep.

Sawmill Chute, Letchworth State Park, New York

Sawmill Chute, Letchworth State Park, New York

 

Sawmill Chute Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

Sawmill Chute Black & White, Letchworth State Park, New York

My last stop was Paper Mill Falls.  Accessing this waterfall involved about a mile (round trip) hike, which I had already made a couple of times to scout the location.  While it was possible, with care, to descend to creek level at the base of this waterfall, I had done so on one of my scouting sessions and determined it pointless for photography.  The only viable way to shoot the waterfall, at this time, was from up on the bluff, so–knowing that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting my feet wet–I ditched the waterproof footwear and donned my hiking boots.

It was only about 15 minutes until sunset by the time I arrived at Paper Mill Falls.

Paper Mill Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Paper Mill Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Paper Mill Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

Paper Mill Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York

This is a lonely part of Letchworth State Park; there was no one around when I was photographing any of these waterfalls.

By the time I returned to the car, the sun was down.  I declared the photography for the day–and the trip as a whole–over.  I started driving back toward the north park entrance, but as I did I could see that the sky to the west was something special this evening.  There really are no great spots to photograph sunset at Letchworth, but I couldn’t pass this up.  I pulled off to the side of the road and found a tiny roadside meadow, of sorts, with some wildflowers down in a ravine, fronting a thick forested area.  I declared this less than ideal, but good enough, particularly given my options.  I grabbed my things and made another series of photographs as the clouds lit up and ultimately faded.  One of those shots is below.

Sunset, Letchworth State Park, New York

Sunset, Letchworth State Park, New York

And with that, the trip’s photography really was complete.  It had been an interesting experience.  I had photographed exclusively at locations I’d never seen prior to this trip, which was both exciting and challenging, and it was a singular shoot because of how focused the itinerary had been on a single type of subject matter (waterfalls).  One thought had coursed through my head repeatedly during my time in the field, particularly while at Letchworth and in the Finger Lakes region:  what must this area look like during peak fall color?  I hope, one day, to answer that question for myself.

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Responses

  1. Lovely stuff, Kerry, and I especially like how you captured the 15-sec swirl!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Nice ending to a productive trip in a beautiful area.

    • Thanks very much, Ellen.

  3. The mere sight of these is so refreshing already 🙂

  4. Ditto on the 15-second swirl and liked the beginning and ending of day with the colours of the sky with all those shots of the falls. Since it is New York i imagine the autumn colours would be spectacular..

    • Thanks, Jane. I may get a brief opportunity to see what Letchworth looks like in the fall this October.

  5. I’m especially fond of the first photo of Middle Falls, with the wildflowers in the foreground, and the colored version of Sawmill Chute. And I enjoyed your off-handed mention of the difficulties associated with the combination of macro and breeze. More than once, I’ve thought to myself, “Good grief! Should it be this hard?” Sometimes, maybe it should.

    • Thanks very much.

      Re macro, oh, it can be absolutely maddening, and the greater the magnification employed, the more frustrating it is. Seriously, try 1:1 outdoors some time. The mere thought of wind seems to make flower petals dance.

      Indoors, where conditions can be more or less fully controlled, is another story entirely. I’ve occasionally had fun playing with bouquets of flowers or leaves on houseplants.

  6. Kerry you caught the textures of the water! Beautiful photos!

    • Thanks very much, Roland!


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