Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Putting My Camera Where the Sun Don’t Shine

Stony Brook SP, NY

On Wednesday I drove about 100 miles south,  intending to hike and photograph in Robert Treman State Park (just south of Ithaca, NY).  It’s a decent spot if you happen to like  hiking  in deep gorges and you like to photograph waterfalls.  Guilty and guilty.  I was especially looking forward to getting up close and personal with Lucifer Falls, a 115 foot twisting waterfall in the middle of the park.  I mean, you have to love anything named “Lucifer”, right?

It wasn’t to be.  Two miles into the hike, I could hear the big falls (there’s a number of smaller ones along the way).  Then, as I rounded a slight bend in the trail, I saw the sign:  “TRAIL CLOSED due to Dangerous Conditions.  Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.

Well, WTF (and I don’t mean “Win the Future”).  As far as I could see, there were no water problems.  It wasn’t as if Enfield Creek was running over its banks.  And the trail was dry.  But, being a law-abiding kind of guy, I turned back.  Bummer.  Well, I didn’t exactly turn back.  I crossed the stream and headed into another “restricted” area.  The sign there wasn’t as big and didn’t threaten “prosecution”.  But that’s another story.

Actually, there was another problem.  Too much damn sun.  I was hoping for some clouds.  Normally in the spring, clouds will form to the south of Lake Ontario on days like Wednesday.  You know, air passes over the cool lake waters and then hits warmer air rising from the ground to the south and you get clouds.  Happens all the time.  And I just wanted a few of them.  All I needed was a little shade, a little bit of the time.  Nope.  Wall to wall clear, blue sky.  Ain’t much worse than bright sun on white water for photography.  Especially in a deep gorge with harsh shadows in places.  My camera’s pretty good, but it doesn’t have that kind of range.  I had my tripod with me so I could have done the bracketing thing and gone with HDR, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I’d rather just walk out and try another day.  So I did.  

Long story short,  I didn’t get much for my efforts (or my gas expenditure).  Got plenty of exercise, though. 

This image is more like what I was after, even though this one was taken a couple of years ago in a different place.  It’s one of the few times I’ve actually caught a whirlpool in “action”. 

And I have to say, the light was just perfect.


6 Responses to “Putting My Camera Where the Sun Don’t Shine”

  1. ken bello

    This is really a beautiful photo, Paul. I’ve never been to RTSP but I think I’ll put it on my list of things to do before school lets out or after it begins in the fall. I am surprised you didn’t do the bracketed series as an experiment, though. But you can “make a bracketed series” from one shot in Lightroom and combine in PS. I’ve had some success with this method (only with ACR instead of Lightroom). Never stop learning.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Ken. Yes, Robert Treman is well worth the trip (assuming the trails are open!). And if you get there early enough, there’s also Taughannock Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and some lesser known gorges all within a few miles of one another.

      Actually, I have done the multiple processing thing in ACR. Doesn’t really matter where you do it – ACR in Lightroom is virtually identical to ACR in PS, given equivalent versions. Same engine. I’m just never happy with the “look”.

      What I’d really love to be able to do (“afford” is probably a better word)is buy one of the more recent Medium Format digital cameras. I was just reading about one that Michael Reichmann tested in Utah. He claims it has a DR of 12 stops. He said he couldn’t take a picture that produced blown highlights. If true, that’s amazing. Maybe I should buy some Lotto tickets this weekend……

  2. Earl

    So much for the best laid plans and all — an example of why perseverance is such a critical and valued trait for a photographer. On my own ventures such as this things will sometimes be worst and sometimes better then I planned, but they seldom are exactly what I planned. Still, I’m happy the venture brought out this wonderful image for us all to enjoy. Have a good weekend, Paul.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. You’re absolutely right – things never go exactly as we thought they would (or should). But then, what fun would life be if it was totally predictable?

  3. Don

    Gas prices are keeping me closer to home here in Florida (hope to be back in NY) this summer, but I try to get some shots in no matter what.

    • Paul Maxim

      Is Florida your permanent residence now? I hope you can make it back to your corner of NY. Florida must be starting to get a little warm. If you’re like me, your range of temperature tolerance must be narrowing. I don’t tolerate winter very well anymore, but neither would I tolerate long periods of temperatures in the 90’s.


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