The Destination

Watkins Glen State Park

When you travel to Watkins Glen on the weekend, especially on a holiday weekend, you best be at the park early if you plan to do any photography. I arrived at 7:30am and the parking lot had a handful of vehicles so I figured my chances were pretty good I would be able to get the images wanted with minimal time waiting. I was helped by the new “rules” for exploring the gorge trail. The gorge is supposed to be walked in one direction and to return to the trailhead you use one of the rim trails. For the most part, people observed this rule.

The water level in the creek was a little low and it did hinder the impact of a few of the views within the gorge. I’ve said this before, timing is everything when you set out to photograph waterfalls. The low water didn’t necessarily reduce the impact of the iconic Watkins Glen view, Rainbow Falls. Although I was in the park before the sun would produce the reason for the name, it is still a beautiful sight. There were a few groups right behind me on the trail so I did need to wait about ten minutes but once they had passed this location I had another ten minutes to explore before the next group arrived.

I should not have been surprised when I eventually returned to the entrance of the park… there were a lot of people! The empty parking lot was completely full. As I returned along the northern rim trail, “Indian Trail”, I stopped at a few of the overlook locations and the amount of people walking in the gorge was the most I have ever seen. Granted I had never been in the park on a holiday weekend, but holy cow, it was definitely time to go.


MLCreations Photography: Watkins Glen &emdash; The Destination

The Destination
Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 8s, 22mm, f/11, ISO 100


Chittenango Falls State Park

After a morning of weekend chores, laundry and groceries, along with a few hours of reading I needed to get out for a walk. The temperature was hovering around seventy degrees which was perfect to me. I checked the state park website and found the gorge trail at Chittenango Falls was open again, so off I headed for a little midday exploring.

The waterfalls at this state park can be tricky to photograph. The sun generally is casting shadows into the gorge as it makes its way across the sky because the creek is running south to north and the face of the waterfall is facing north. I checked the Photographer’s Ephemeris and thought my best shot was around 12:30pm. As you can see there is already a shadow dropping into the gorge. I should have been in the park about an hour earlier but I was still able to capture a good image. There was a storm approaching which provided some excellent clouds in the sky and helped to soften the midday sun.


MLCreations Photography: Chittenango Falls &emdash; Impetus

Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 1/4s, 27mm, f/11, ISO 200

Starting Early

Buttermilk Falls State Park

As much as I love autumn, I was surprised to see leaves in the gorge in August. I don’t want to rush summer out the door. I still have more parks to visit before the changing leaves season…


MLCreations Photography: Buttermilk Falls &emdash; Starting Early

Starting early
Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 8s, 17mm, f/11, ISO 100

Summer Cascade

Buttermilk Falls State Park

The last stop on my Ithaca tour was going to be Cascadilla Gorge. This is typically a difficult location for me to get to. If the parking isn’t difficult, there is always a chance put the wrong location into the GPS and end up in the middle of Cornell University. Being so close to the start of the semester, if it hadn’t already started, I didn’t want to chance trying to drive through the university. I got the right directions to the start of the gorge trail but parking is a challenge. After trying to find a spot to park, I gave up and headed to Buttermilk Falls. It is my favorite location.

Going later in the morning to Buttermilk Falls was an exercise in patience, which I don’t always have. The gorge trail was more crowded than I typically want to see, especially with me trying for five to ten second exposures. Don’t get me wrong, most people are great and I don’t have any issues, but Friday seemed to be a gathering of the opposite kind. As I entered the gorge trail and came upon my first location I found a couple swimming, I assume they were swimming, he did seem to be taking a lot of pictures of her… OK, will get that spot on the way back out.

The next obstacle was the two couples who were right behind me. They had a knack for hovering in locations and apparently were oblivious to my tripod and camera. In general, most people see me setup and pause on the trail. I wave them through or pick up and let them enjoy the scene, but these couples didn’t not have that willingness to share the trails. I kept walking ahead as fast as I could before I lost any sense of patience. To be honest, it put a huge damper on my visit to the park. Eventually I started back on the trail and once we passed I felt the weight of frustration lift allowing me to enjoy my remaining time in the gorge.

As with Taughannock creek, Buttermilk creek was a rich chocolate color when the water was deep and collecting in pools. I decided to process this one as a monochrome image to remove the distracting color of the water. The rains definitely provided the creek with plenty of water and this cascade section of the gorge had exactly the look I hope for in my waterfall images.


MLCreations Photography: Buttermilk Falls &emdash; Summer Cascade

Summer Cascade
Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 5s, 24mm, f/11, ISO 100


Wells Falls, Ithaca, NY

The second stop on my Friday excursion in Ithaca was Wells Falls, or Businessman’s Lunch Falls, depending on which website you find. When I was in Ithaca in June the parking area at Mulholland Wildflower Preserve was full, returning during a normal workday almost guaranteed I would find a spot. A quick walk across the bridge spanning Six Mile Creek brings you to a fairly easy trail down into the gorge. Although there was plenty of water for the waterfall, the volume was not so great as to prevent me from getting into the middle of the creek for a direct view of the falls.

The abandoned building on the left of the waterfall is the Van Natta’s Pumping station. The pumping station was built on the site of the Van Natta & Jones mill by the Ithaca Light & Water Company in 1893 to provide water to the developing city. The building was abandoned in the 1940’s but it does provide a unique backdrop for the waterfall.

Although the day was quite overcast, the gorge itself has a lot of dark areas and I had to utilize four exposures to capture this scene. Blending the exposures with Skylum’s Aurora HDR is trivial and produced a perfect starting point for post-processing. It is important when working with HDR images to remember to keep the shadows. Your goal should not be to create an image without tonal range, it is to enhance the range, as a flat image is not interesting. After creating the combined image I applied my normal workflow to produce the image below…


MLCreations Photography: Landscapes &emdash; Remnant

Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, {10, 3.2, 0.8 & 1/3s bracket}, 14mm, f/11, ISO 100

Mighty Taughannock

Taughannock Falls State Park

I had a me day on Friday. Well, I suppose they are all me days, maybe it would be better to say I didn’t go to work on Friday. When I scheduled the day off earlier in the week I didn’t have any grand plan, I only knew I wanted to have an extra day for the weekend. By the time Thursday rolled around and friends at work asked if I was doing anything special, I was giving my standard answer; “Going out and finding some pictures.”

The forecast for Friday was overcast or mostly cloudy which could only make it a waterfall day! With the recent rains I figured the creeks would be running high and provide plenty of water for my images. The last time I went to Ithaca I didn’t go to a few of my favorite locations. Friday was the day to correct that. I started at Taughannock Falls State Park.

The rain definitely filled the creek with water, although it was a rich chocolate color, the volume was exactly what I was hoping for to give me the images I like to capture. The clouds in the sky did not obscure the sun totally, acting more like a softbox for a flash. Generally, when I’m walking the gorge trail I have to work at controlling the hot spots created by the sun. Yesterday, my only concern was getting the composition I wanted. The first image from my exploration is the featured waterfall itself… the Mighty Taughannock!


MLCreations Photography: Taughannock Falls &emdash; Mighty Taughannock Falls

Mighty Taughannock Falls
Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 9s, 24mm, f/11, ISO 100

Years in Layers

Gorge Trail, Buttermilk Falls State Park


MLCreations Photography: Buttermilk Falls &emdash; Years in Layers

Years in Layers
Olympus E-M1 Mark III, M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8, 5s, 18mm, f/11, ISO 200