Waterfall Wonderland: Upstate New York delivers again

Split Rock Falls

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Adirondacks give up new waterfall photos

Waterfalls call me. I can't explain it, but whenever I'm in waterfall country I find myself searching for new cascades to visit and photograph. And my August trip to Upstate New York provided the perfect opportunity to create new work for my online gallery.

Even though I was in the region for back-to-back Bassmaster tournament assignments.

My favorite new waterfall print came on my way to Plattsburg, N.Y., which sits between the Adirondack Mountains and beautiful Lake Champlain. I had made a stop already (more on that later), but I didn't have any reason to rush. So as the sun raced toward the horizon I pulled over and looked at Google Maps, my favorite tool for finding new waterfalls wherever I find myself.

"Split Rock Falls" popped up along my route to the hotel, so I hightailed it there.

This amazing cascade (seen above) is part of the Bouquet River, and it's just gorgeous. Funny thing is that I first visited Split Rock Falls back in the early 2000s when I was a writer for Bassmaster. When I returned to the area five or six years ago, I actually searched for the waterfall but couldn't remember the name of it.

So I smiled when I walked up to the overlook last month. Soon I was clambering down to the banks of the river to figure out how to get an unobstructed view of Split Rock.

The rocks were wet and dangerously slick, necessitating a set of spikes I slip over my boots. I couldn't find a way across the river, so I had to find a good angle on my side.

I loved the ridge of rocks shown in the bottom left of the photo above, but the left side of the waterfall was shielded from view from the bottom of the waterfall.

That meant I needed to get some height. The view from the overlook was nice, but there was no way to create a compelling image because of the trees on that ledge.

The only place I could see that might possibly work was a very small shelf about halfway up the sheer cliff of rocks. So I carefully worked my way there to check it out. When I say this area was small, I mean it was really small. Essentially just large enough for me to stand and set up my tripod without extending the legs. Even then, I had to carefully position the tripod.

Honestly, it was nerve wracking to lock my brand new Nikon Z9 into place and let go. The perch was just that precarious, Thank goodness My Trusty Assistant wasn't with me; she would not have been happy.

However, the angle was perfect. The left side of the waterfall's initial drop was now visible and that cool ridge of rocks was positioned perfectly in the bottom lefthand corner of the frame, acting as a leading line pointing right to the waterfall.

I did need to add a 3-stop neutral density filter to slow the shutter speed down. This proved a bit nerve-jangling in and of itself: I have moved to using very small Kase filters that clip into my camera body between the lens and the sensor, so I had to remove the lens to install the filter — all while perching on that small ledge.

The final image was well worth the effort.

Hulls Falls

Bridge Over Hull Falls

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The next morning I awoke to a steady drizzle. Nothing was on my agenda until the afternoon, and I tried to just stay at the hotel and relax.

However, after eating breakfast, my mind turned to waterfalls. Shocking, right?

I pulled up Google Maps and saw Hulls Falls was less than an hour away. I climbed into the truck hoping the rain would break by the time I arrived.

No such luck.

Hulls Fall, however, is stunning. There are actually two cascades to this waterfall, and the bridge on Hulls Falls Road spans the Ausable River above decked out in red paint. It was glorious.

Of course, the water falling from the sky was a consideration. It wasn't a reason not to get to work, however. I carry a large golfing umbrella for just such instances.

Pulling the spikes over my boots again, I walked through the forest and out onto the slick rocks. The dark waters of the Ausable River were beautiful, with a slight yellowish tint as it tumbled over the waterfall.

I flattened my tripod to get a low angle, using the rocks on which I stood as a foreground frame for the river rushing past. The yellowish-white waters exiting the largest part of the waterfall and sweeping around the bend added a nice leading line to the cascade.

Again, I used a Kase 3-stop ND filter to slow down my shutter speed and provide a sense of motion to the the final image, titled "Bridge Over Hull Falls."

The result was a beautiful photo of a grand Adirondack waterfall.

Waterfall fun not over yet

I would have been satisfied if my waterfall sessions ended at that point, but the Adirondacks had more in store for me. A few days later I had a whole day to drive from Plattsburgh to wonderful Alexandria Bay, New York, and I decided to take a route directly through the Adirondacks.

My plan was to look at whatever waterfalls I came across and drive through beautiful little towns like Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper.Lake.

Honestly, I wasn't even certain I would pull my camera out. I planned to eat breakfast at the hotel and leave a little later, when the sun would be up and lighting wouldn't be best.

Of course, I woke up early and was in the truck before sunrise. After a quick sunrise stop at a cool old barn I happened across, I continued on — and found myself at wonderful Flume Falls before direct sun entered the chasm through which the West fork of the Ausable River roars.

Below Flume Falls

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I began below the series of waterfalls, where the river exits the narrow chasm that forms the series of cascades known collective as Flume Falls. The dark, tannic waters provided a beautiful contrast to the white water of the lower waterfall and the surrounding rocks. 

It took a few minutes to really take in the scene and decide how to present it. The temptation was to get as close as possible to the waterfall to highlight its beauty. However, on my side of the river a close approach actually hid the falls behind a rocky point.

So I began working my way backward, aware that the time before the sun popped above trees to flood the river with harsh, dappled light was fleeting. But I was willing to just sit and enjoy the beauty of the river if that happened: I wanted to get the composition right.

Soon I found a large rock separated from its brethren by the dark waters of the river. The composition for "Below Flume Falls" fell into place, with that boulder acting as a foreground anchor to the entire scene.

I inserted a 3-stop Kase filter over my sensor and framed up the scene. The slow shutter speed allowed the frothy water passing by to create beautiful lines of interest.

It was such a beautiful scene, and I'm happy to have created an image that illustrates the expanse of the area below Flume Falls.

Next time, however, I'll make the hike around to set up on the opposite shore.

Above the Flume

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I moved on to investigate the rest of the Flume series of waterfalls. The series of cascades begins just upriver from the lower pool when the Ausable River enters a triple waterfall (above). It's a wonderful beginning to the Flume, with so much texture from the rocks creating and surrounding the waterfall.

Getting into position was a bit of a scrabble down a steep embankment, but my crampons provided plenty of traction to prevent any spills.

I love the sense of motion "Above the Flume," with the river rushing past past on the left side of the frame on its way into the gorge.

Next, I moved to the trail that allows access to the Flume itself. The roar of the river rushing through the narrow cleft was overpowering and exhilarating.

Capturing a view of the surge of water was challenging, especially with the sun steadily climbing and beginning to cast dappled light into the canyon.

I finally found a rocky perch looking back toward the top of the Flume toward an stretch of river that was still in the soft shadows. It was perfect for a nice vertical image that captured the power of the Flume.

My vision was to have a waterfall in the background, with the river rushing out of the frame at the bottom, with the beautiful rocks providing the sense of the tightness of this gorge. The rapids in the image below were perfect.

I definitely want to return when I have more time. There are myriad compositions available in this beautiful part of the Adirondack Mountains. However, I'm happy to have created three new prints for my online gallery.

In the Flume

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