New York does a lot of things right – bagels, pizza, and of course, the Yankees. But would you believe they also do a pretty good job at waterfalls? Yeah, yeah, there is the Niagra Falls which is considered one of the best in the world, but I’m NOT talking about that one. There are hundreds of others to be explored all around upstate New York. One such place is the Finger Lakes region where we just finished a quick trip, and a one-day photo shoot. Luckily, despite a dry summer, the water was flowing enough to allow us to get some decent shots which tamed our itchy trigger fingers.

Waterfalls can be fun to shoot, but they can also be a bit tricky.

First, to have a waterfall, there must be moving water and a change in elevation. There is no way of getting around it. Where there is falling water, there is  also spraying and blowing water which  often results in  the front of the lens becoming covered in water droplets – not so good for getting a sharp photo. We try to solve that by always bringing a lens cloth to wipe off the front of the lens after each shot. If you forget to wipe, well, the result is a very blurry image.

Second, waterfalls can be in locations that require creative positioning, such as leaning precariously over river bank or standing in the water, to get the optimal viewing angle. The waterfalls we visited were imbedded in a gorge leaving very little room to maneuver. Sometimes we have to stand in the middle of very cold water with a tripod lodged between rocks in the running water.  But it was worth it, even Kas was willing to get cold feet to get the shot.

Third, the sun can be a hindrance providing bright reflective spots on the water or on the wet rock face. Thus, it is best to shoot waterfalls on a cloudy day. But you cannot plan the weather and unfortunately, our day was sunny. Here the solution is to use a polarizer to help cut down the glare, and then also pray for clouds.

And finally, there are people. People are drawn to water and especially to waterfalls. Hence, they are likely to be exactly where  you want to shoot. Patience is the only answer and as a New Yorker, this is something I have very little of. You’d think these New Yorkers would move quickly. But no, these are the upstate varietal and not the NYC varietal. You just have to wait for them to move. Or shoot at times when there are limited number of people – such as early morning. This was our strategy for the day.

With an early start we reached the Watkins Glen Park before the crowds. As luck would have it, there were only a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived. (We timed it just right as by the time we left a few hours later, the gorge was teeming with people and the parking lot was packed!) With all our gear set we headed into the gorge to shoot the waterfalls, large and small.

So how’d we do?

This is one of the first shots of the morning. I incorporated the bridge which provides a nice compositional element. I’m starting to sound like a professional, eh? Or maybe a photo boor. Your choice…

The bridge and stairs frame the waterfall.

The bridge and stairs frame the waterfall.

On the photo below, the diagonal from upper right to lower left should lead you through the photograph.

The three-tiered waterfall.

The three-tiered waterfall at Watkins Glen.

This waterfall has an s-shape which makes me think go a snake.

This waterfall has an S-shape which makes me think of a snake.

In the photo below, I think the smaller falls in the foreground look nicer than the simple large falls in the background. Regardless, the foreground and background falls provide a sense of balance in the photo (yep, boor again).

Havana Falls

Havana Falls

Havana Falls. The light makes this small falls look like it is on fire.

At Havana Falls. The light makes this small falls look like it is on fire.

What do you think about the New York Falls (sans Niagra)? Remember, it’s all about the light!