Photo Location Review : New York Waterfalls
For me, traveling somewhere new is more than just a location to see, it's a story to tell. It's more about the people you get to meet and the experiences you get to share together. It's less planning and more letting whatever happens, happen. It's the adventure of traveling and everything that comes along with it. Of course, it's also a new photography challenge, but there's more to traveling than just a picture.
That being said, I spent the past couple of days meeting some amazing new friends, sleeping in my car in a Walmart parking lot, and capturing some images of new locations. I'd say that's time well spent.
I tend to leave a lot of these details out of my Photo Location Reviews, but I've been thinking lately it might be nice to share. So let me know in the comments or via my contact page if you'd like to hear the behind the scenes stuff and I'll start to include that if that's what the people want. I'm a people pleaser first, and a photographer second.
When most people think New York, they tend to think about the city first and totally ignore the rest of the state. Anyone who has really explored upstate New York probably knows that there's so much more to see and probably a billion waterfalls to explore. That's only a slight over estimation, because there are seriously a lot of waterfalls in New York. I don't even mean those little trickling ones you see in your local park either. We're talking massive waterfalls. Like some Avatar type waterfalls. You know, like epic and exotic. So, that's what drew me to go check it out. I knew I wanted to shoot some waterfalls, but since I hadn't been to the state before, I settled on some more well known places to get a feel for what it had to offer, and to dip my metaphorical (and maybe physical) toes into the water. The two locations I decided to visit were Watkins Glen and Taughannock Falls State Parks.
Taughannock Falls was the first place I visited, so I think I should start there.
So, like I said earlier, there's some massive waterfalls in NY. This is definitely one of those bad boys, because wow is it big. If you are just planning on taking a quick look and then moving on, I recommend just checking out that overlook and then grabbing a t-shirt from the gift shop saying "I hiked the falls" or whatever those shirts always say. If you're more interested in getting down and dirty, you definitely need to head down the road a little bit further and do the Gorge Trail. It's an easy hike, something like 1.5 miles in and back and you seriously won't regret it. It brings you right to the base of the falls, and it really puts it into perspective how large it is.
Note : when I was there, there was very little water at the falls, because of course there was.
Nothing against the overlook, it's definitely cool to see, but how many people do you think have that exact same image? So, I opted for a quick shot of the sun rising and hitting the rocks and moved on. I should also mention there's a good bit of trails branching off from the overlook, but I decided against them since I really wanted to make the waterfall a focal point.
So once I checked out the overlook and got my touristy t-shirt, I headed down the road, got lost about 30 times and then found the parking lot for the Gorge Trail. It normally costs 8$ to park there, but I'm not sure when they actually charge you because I parked there 3 different times on 2 different days and never saw anyone taking money. Anyways, the trail leads you to the gorge and there's normally more water but like I said, I have the luck of someone who never shares those tweets where they say "if you don't share this you'll have bad luck for years." I tried to make the best of it by getting my wide shot of the falls and I even stood in the picture. Really hoping this launches my modeling career, so if you guys know anyone my contact info is email@example.com. Obviously just kidding, but I needed someone in the picture. I think it makes it easier to imagine yourself there and give that sense of adventure.
You know I'm all about that adventure life, baby.
Unfortunately, the golden light you're seeing at the top right of the falls only lasts for a little bit before it turns into bright, contrasty sunlight. My hopes were that it would light the entire falls up orange, but that never culminated. Don't be discouraged though, you can get some awesome blue light shots here and the reflections can really work well in your favor. For you photographers, I shot the above image with a polarizer, but only about 3/4 turned so I could still catch the reflection of the morning sky and the waterfall right below me.
Side note, if you're a photographer or just getting into photography and want to delve into filters, make sure you get yourself a polarizer. I may write up a blog about why they're so important later on, because they're like, really important man.
After I spend way too much time standing alone in the dark "modeling," I decided to get some closer shots of the falls. This is where it got a little more complicated because I wanted a cool leading line, and there really aren't that many here. I walked around for a bit looking for something and settled on an old log that brings your eye to the fall and the cairns below it. Gotta work with what you have.
This shot rocks. Get it? I'm sorry.
The image above is actually focus stacked. I was so close to the log that it was super out of focus, so I just took 3 images at different focus points, and blended them together.
I spent the rest of my time there walking around, skipping stones and just taking it all in. There wasn't anyone else there the entire time I was, so I really got to enjoy the peacefulness. I recommend going to places that are more touristy like this earlier in the day. Sunrise is the ultimate tourist deterrent, and that's a fact.
I slept in a Walmart parking lot that night, and woke up early to the sounds of the crazy people who go shopping at 5am. I had to get up anyways, but I just like to take jabs at people who probably don't deserve it. So, I headed off to Watkins Glen. I had spoke to a guy about how there was a big event going on there, but I figured it wouldn't really affect my visit (shout out to Vinny for the heads up and it was awesome to meet you dude. If you're reading this, I had a great time hanging out with you!). As luck would have it though, every single person who lives in New York was at Watkins Glen on this particular Friday, and they all collectively decided to visit Watkins Glen State Park at the same time. What I'm saying is, it was crowded.
If you've never heard of Watkins Glen, you're really missing out and need to visit ASAP. It's a cool little place and it's an easy walk to see some really incredible waterfalls. If you're looking for adventure, but you also don't like to be far away from people, the highway, or civilization in general, it's seriously great. I'm not bashing it, it really is beautiful, just didn't expect it to be right next to a bustling town. Either way, if you're serious about photography, be prepared to wait a while for people to walk by if it's busy. I was there around 10am, and it took me probably an hour and a half to get an image with minimal people in it. Long exposures will help, but you'll still need to do some processing so they don't stand out.
This is the money shot that everyone gets when they're here, but I couldn't pass up that awesome morning light coming through the trees. It's seriously so breath taking here.
One more disclaimer. If you're a photographer and bring your camera and tripod, be prepared for just about everyone to ask you to take their family photo in front of the waterfalls. I think I was stopped about 15 times, which I totally don't mind, I just think it's hilarious.
I didn't do much after this. I finished the loop through Watkins, and bought my girlfriend a souvenir mug. It was pretty cool looking and she loved it if you were wondering.
I don't think this will be the last New York will see of me. I crossed 2 waterfalls off my list, and only have a couple million more to go. Maybe Letchworth next time?
So that's about it from me and this trip. Like I said in the intro, if you'd like to hear more of the story behind these photography trips I'd be happy to add that in for the next one. Oh and also, make sure you subscribe to my website. I'll be able to let you know when new blogs are out and when cool stuff is happening. I don't think you'll regret it.
Thanks so much for reading and I hope you liked it. If you did, make sure you follow me on social media because I post a lot of pictures there and I'm about to do some giveaways on instagram that you may like if you like my photography.
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