Posted by: kerryl29 | June 15, 2020

The Story Behind the Image: Fastidiousness

During what became Waterfall Spring of 2016–a photo trip of about 10 days that May–I split my time between Ricketts Glen State Park in northeast Pennsylvania and a variety of locations in western New York.  As part of the latter piece of that trip, I visited a location known as Havana Glen.  A municipal park that includes a campground in the small town of Montour Falls in the Finger Lakes region of New York, the site is home to a remarkably rich number of photo opportunities given its circumscribed area.  The center of interest is Eagle Cliff Falls, a waterfall of about 50 feet in height located at the head of a box canyon.

When I visited this location I had it to myself for part of the time…a few people came and went while I was there, but no one else hung around for very long.  That was fortunate for me because it was a partly cloudy day and the sun kept going in and out.  I wanted to photograph the natural amphitheater in even light; that meant being patient during those times when direct sunlight fell on the scene and being ready to photograph when clouds acted as a diffuser.  You can imagine how frustrating it can be to, say, wait for 10 or 15 minutes for the light and then have someone walk into the scene once it’s shootable.  While this sort of thing has been a seemingly constant problem during my photo shoots, fortunately, it wasn’t a major problem on this day.

When I arrived the scene was in even light so I hastened to make a few images.  When the sun hit the setting–and I could see that it would be a little while before clouds might block the sun again–I did what I should have done in the first place: take a good look around and try to really examine all the elements that were present and think about how best to approach the scene.

As I mentioned, the waterfall was at the rear of the canyon, pouring over a sizable cliff.  From there, the water zigged and zagged fairly chaotically, until it approached the mouth of the canyon where the creek tumbled over a series of cascades before pouring through a narrow slot.  Once on the waterfall side of the slot, only some of the cascades were accessible and, even then, only a few tiers of them could be used as a foreground, due both to outright accessibility issues and visual limitations caused by the contours of the slot itself.  if you were too far down the line of cascades, Eagle Cliff Falls simply disappeared from view.

I examined my options carefully.  Given the issues noted above, where should I set up?  I’d donned waterproof footwear, as is my custom when photographing around water, so I had a few more choices at my disposal than would otherwise have been the case.  After looking through the viewfinder at a number of possibilities, the scene came together for me.  I wandered out into the creek, taking great care with my steps as the wet rocks were quite slippery, and set up near the left-hand edge of the top cascade tier.  The tripod was set up fairly low–roughly at knee-height–to produce a bit of an in-your-face perspective with the foreground.  I let the waterfall ease to the right-hand side of the upper half of the frame; the canyon wall on the left side was better aligned with the slant of the cascade, and better enhanced the overall lower-left to upper-right flow of the composition.  The upper right-hand corner was nicely filled by an overhanging tree branch, lush with fresh spring greenery.

It took me awhile to find it, but I kept looking and eventually it came together rather nicely.

Eagle Cliff Falls, Havana Glen, Schuyler County, New York


  1. I value reading about your thought processes as you get set up for a shot. Far too often I (and probably way too many photographers) don’t take the time to consider the conditions, the composition choices, the way the light on the subject will change, etc. Slowing down and being more fastidious, as you say, is something worth remembering. The resulting image in this post is definitely worthy of that approach.

    • Thanks, Ellen. There isn’t always as much of an opportunity to be so thorough. For instance, there are times when the light is changing, or some other dynamic aspect of a setting is key and speed is a requirement.

      I must say, though, that the situations that I find the most–at least in the field–are the ones like that described here, when there’s ample opportunity to be contemplative. Perhaps there’s a blog entry to be had on this very subject…

  2. liked watching

  3. […] The Story Behind the Image: Fastidiousness […]

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