Posted by: kerryl29 | December 7, 2020

The Story Behind the Image: Gorge Sunrise

In western New York State, the Genesee River runs through a deep gorge, occasionally referred to as “The Grand Canyon of the East.”  This is Letchworth State Park, headlined by three prominent, powerful waterfalls.  But there’s more to the park than the three big falls on the Genesee River.  The gorge itself can make for a pretty attractive subject, particularly when the conditions are just right.

In the spring, when the nights are sufficiently chilly, the air above the river reaches the dew point, producing tremendous amounts of fog and at the right time of the year–mid-May, in the spring–the sun rises at a spot that will backlight that fog at daybreak, as seen from a prominent point along the rim of the gorge on the west side of the river–a location very easily reached, if you know where to go.  I went in search of such a location while in the park one afternoon, the day before morning temperatures were forecast to drop into the mid-30s (F) under clear skies.  Knowing the approximate spot where the sun would rise at that time of the year, finding the appropriate shooting location wasn’t all that difficult.

I returned in the pitch dark the next morning; it was plenty chilly, but there was no wind to speak of, so it wasn’t too bad.  I relocated my spot and waited.  As the dawn light increased, I could see the fog filling the gorge below me.  Everything was coming together nicely; I simply had to wait for the sun to crest the ridges to the east.  Eventually that happened.  The sunlight began to tickle the leaves of the trees on the canyon’s ridges and, before long, started to light up the fog as well.  I had to be careful not to overexpose the scene; where the beams of light were hitting the fog directly it was very bright, but the shadow areas were extremely dark, making for a classic dynamic range problem.  Fortunately, my camera‘s sensor could handle it and a postprocessing technique that I’ve refined over the years provided significant downstream assistance.

Photographing into the sun can be a bit intimidating and, sometimes, the extreme contrast it often produces can be difficult to work with, but when everything comes together the end result can be spectacular.

I didn’t think about it when I was producing the image, but I think this one might work well in black and white so I’ll have to take a look at a monochrome conversion at some point.  Depending on the results, I may reveal it here in a future post.

Gorge Sunrise, Letchworth State Park, New York



  1. Wow !! This is an absolutely stunning shot …

    Thank you so much for sharing the story behind and it really adds to the flavour 🙂

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Very nice…knowledge of place, timing, and photographic technique all come together to achieve the desired result.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  3. That is amazing, like walking into a boiling caldron to disappear into the mist.

    • Thanks, Jane.!

      Yes, this was quite a site. The only thing I’ve seen reminiscent of the scale of this…come to think of it, I think I’ll hold on to that story for a future “Story Behind the Image” post. 🙂

      • I’m looking forward to that future story.

        • I’ll try to pass that along in the next few weeks…

  4. Wow! What an incredible shot!

  5. […] few weeks ago I posted a “Story Behind the Image” entry centering around a photograph made at Letchworth State Park in western New York.  In response to […]

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