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The Colors of Letchworth

We had hoped to make it into the Adirondacks several weeks ago when the colors peaked. The original plan was to do an overnight at Big Moose Inn, spend the day in the Moose River plains looking for fall photo opportunities at its many trails and ponds and then exit the other side at Indian Lake. We would have continued onto Lake George for another overnight and then back home.  That didn’t work out and so we missed the Adirondack colors this year. I was bound and determined not to miss the colors around the Finger Lakes, so our next photo adventure took us to Letchworth State Park.  As most you know, Letchworth is billed as the Grand Canyon of the east.  It’s been at least 10 years since Kathy and I had last visited Letchworth.  There are so many scenic overlooks in the park that it was hard to pre-plan specific shots, with the exception of the Middle Falls, which was a planned hard stop. The old railroad bridge is scheduled to be replaced and I wanted to have the opportunity to capture the falls with the original bridge.  The colors were in full bloom, but unfortunately, we had so much rain the previous week that the river was a murky brown. Not much you can do about that, other than work around it. So as we went through the park stopping at each of the overlooks along the way. If the scene “spoke to me” I would return to the car and grab my gear and start setting up for the composition I had in mind.

The park was extremely busy and the traffic very slow going. It was amazing to see and hear the many different cultures that came to see this wonder of New York.

Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-24mm @ 15mm - 20.0 sec @ f/16 - ISO 100 Lee .6NDSF
Down Below

This image is from our first stop. Looking upstream, you can see how the river cuts to the left and there is a definitive separation in the hills that outlines the gorge. In an effort to disguise the murky water, I used a Lee 10 stop neutral density filter with a 20 second exposure at f/16. This effect smooths out the motion of the river to give it a milky effect.


Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-22mm @ 1/20 sec @ f/11 - ISO 100 Lee .6NDSF Filter
Razor Back

The view through the trees with what appears to be the backbone of some prehistoric creature jutting out of the river certainly captured my imagination!  This image was featured in the Power of Photography.

Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-22mm @ 20mm - 1/45 sec @ f/13 - ISO 100 Lee .6NDSF Filter
Around The Bend

As can be seen throughout this series, the wind moved the clouds around quite a bit. Often, I would setup the shot and just wait for the right moment when the wind moved the clouds around and opened up the blue skies.  Here I caught the sun hitting the right side of the canyon, while the rest laid in the shadows of the clouds. The rolling carpet of colors were amazing, but noticeable missing in this region were the reds.  Many say it was due to the recent extensive and hard rains.


Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-22mm @ 24mm - 1/30 sec @ f/13 - ISO 100 Lee .6NDSF Filter
Thru the Trees

The canyon walls were alive with colors that are dominated by the yellows and golds.  While the colors of the leaves are not balanced throughout, the sporadic speckles of reds gave it a nice contrast.

One of the major attractions of Letchworth are the falls.  In order to get to the lower falls, you have to descend 127 steps and then hike about 100 yards or so to get to the falls. These are not just normal stair steps, but a combination of stone steps with wide dirt landings.  Some steep, some narrow and many of the dirt areas were muddy due to the rain which made it a little tricky.  Now for a guy with a really bad knee lugging a tripod, cameras and a small bag of assorted filters and accessories, the descent was painful.  I should have put everything in my backpack and just carried it that way! By the way, Kathy played it smart and she stayed at the top and told me take my time!  After getting down to the bottom, the excitement started to build as the roar of the falls got stronger. I found what would have been the ideal spot to set up, however, the wind and the volume of  water coming over the falls created a strong misty rain.  Although my camera is weather sealed, it is not water proof.  While I have been researching and looking for the right camera rain cover, I still had not bought one.  So I tried an alternate spot in front of the falls and off the trail. While I took several shots, I was not happy with them as there was too much vegetation in the way that took away from the falls. So, sorry no shot of the middle falls!   As a side note, I have since ordered a rain cover that will cover my camera along with my longest 70-200mm lens which will also come in handy for some winter adventures I have in mind.

Now it was time to get to the prize of the day….the Upper Falls.  This was the most challenging due to the openness of the area and sheer number of people all trying to a get a shot of the falls.  I was patient and waited in front of the spot that I wanted to setup to clear out.  Throughout the day, I have to say that all the people were very friendly, polite and patient.


Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-24mm @ 24mm - 30 sec @ f/11 ISO 125, LEE .6NDSF Filter
Upper Falls

Upper Falls at Letchworth State Park, NY.  Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, the Genesee River cuts through the gorge and over three major waterfalls. In the background is the original 1875 era train bridge. It can no longer support modern train loads and current train travel is limited in weight and speed.  New bridge construction has started and will provide the Norfolk Southern Railway Southern Tier a modern bridge.

This image was taken with a Nikon 10-24 ultra-wide angle zoom at 24mm. The water effect is created using a 10 stop Lee Big Stopper neutral density filter with a 30 second exposure at f/11 and ISO 125. This filter, through the use of long exposures, impacts motion creating the smooth and milky effect on the water. In this image, it also smoothed out the fast moving clouds.  This image has been featured in Redbubble in the Power of Photography group and Exploring America group.

It was another great photo adventure that Kathy and I enjoyed and certainly made up for missing the Adirondacks!



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6 thoughts on “The Colors of Letchworth

  1. Thank you Frank. Was very enjoyable. Am sitting at table over to Raquette. Nice clear day out there today. We miss you guys. Love you.

  2. GREAT pics!

  3. Frank, your work is beautiful! So enjoyed reading and viewing the Letchworth adventure! So glad you rediscovered your talent!!

    1. Thanks Deb. I’ll be adding some more work this weekend and stayed tuned for the next adventure update.

  4. Beautiful images of Letchworth S.P. We were there in last October and enjoyed the place very much. Here was my posting: — Stephen

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