Waterfalls, in and around Ithaca, NY
Saturday was my Ithaca exploration day. Not the city itself but the hundreds of waterfalls and state parks that are in and around Ithaca, New York. Whenever I go for one of these little excursions it is always a little tricky. You do not want a bright sunny day when you are trying to capture waterfall images. The sun will create hot spots in the water and on the landscape that makes it very difficult to process. Ideally, I want an overcast day but I’ll settle for a cloudy day where I play hide -n- seek with the sun behind the clouds.
Saturday was a great day. Plenty of clouds in the sky but not enough to give me a dull, boring sky. The other condition that can make or break a waterfall image is the volume of water in the creek or river. Too much water and there is no interest in the creek. No areas of white, frothy turbulence as the whole dang thing is turbulent. Too little water and there is no definition to the water falling over the falls. I timed it pretty darn good on Saturday. There was the right amount of water in all the creeks.
For this post I tried to grab a different look at the creek or gorge I was hiking through. I will save the iconic images for later. All in all, I spent over five hours playing in the water around Ithaca. It was a great day!
My first stop was Taughannock Falls State Park. This is a great place to start as the gorge trail is fairly flat. It is a nice warm up for the hiking muscles. Plus, there are plenty of places along the trail for me to capture images. This first image though was from the very start of the trail. I initially startled, what I think is a Great Blue Heron, but he relocated to the base of a small cascade waterfall. I was careful not to scare him again and he was nice enough to pose for me.
Next on my list was Butternut Falls State Park. I always park at the top of the gorge trail and work my way back toward the namesake falls. This year I decided to stop shy of the descent to the base of the gorge trail as I wanted to try and hit a few more waterfalls. It also saved my calf muscles as that part of the trail is steep and the trip up and down always kills my legs. I guess I need to walk more… 🙂
The gorge trail at this park is one you have to be careful on as it is always covered in water. It can be slippery in spots and this old man does not need to hurt himself. The beauty of this is it forces me to slow down and I end up seeing a lot more image opportunities. Like this one near the stone bridge toward the Rim Trail.
Normally, at this point in my trip I head over to Robert H. Treman State Park but I thought it would be good to try a few different places. It has been quite a few years since I had visited Wells Falls (Businessman’s Lunch Falls) and rather than punish myself on the challenging trails in Robert Treman I plugged Wells Falls into the GPS and headed over.
I also think I am a little better at HDR processing and I know at Wells Falls I am going to need to capture multiple exposures in order to get all the details. After seeing the water flow in both Taughannock and Buttermilk Creeks I could not believe how much water was flowing over Wells Falls. Definitely more than I would have liked but I was there and I was going to get my image.
Once I got to the bottom of the falls I was able to utilize quite a few large rocks in the creek bed to get into a good position for an image. In order to capture the high range of light in this image I needed four separate exposures. The last being strictly for the sky. The new Aurora HDR program from Skylum made combining the exposures a breeze. If I was really adventurous I would mask out the sky and use the last exposure… maybe for the next view of this waterfall.
It had also been a while since I walked the Cascadilla Gorge Trail and I decided to stay with my “find new places” philosophy for the day. This one is a little trickier as it is in the middle of Ithaca. You end up parking on the street and walking to the start of the trail via the city sidewalks. Very surreal for me.
The last time I tried this trail it was under renovation. I could only hike, what I now know, was the bottom third of the trail. This one is now on my must do list when I visit Ithaca. Although, because it is more accessible, there are way more people on the trail, it has some great image opportunities. The Cascadilla Creek was running a little fast with a more volume than I would have liked but I still managed to capture some interesting images. This one is near the head of the trail at College Ave.