Frank Kapusta Photography

"Images for Lasting Memories"

Posts tagged ‘adventure’

Lee ND Filter: The Aqueduct Falls Adventure

I was exploring a new way back to our home from our daughter’s new house when I saw these real neat stone arches over a waterway that I suspected was part of the Erie canal.  So, I pulled into what is known as Aqueduct Falls Park between Palmyra and Macedon, NY.  The structures are characterized as hand crafted stone pillars that supported a wooden aqueduct.  The falls are approximately 15 feet and is part of the Erie Canal System.

Featured: Fine Art of Photography D7100: Nikon 10-24mm @ 24mm – 30 secs @ f/13 – ISO 200. – Lee Big Stopper Filter

Aqueduct Falls

As I just happened to discover this place, I was unsure of what I would find. At first I went to the water’s edge and took a couple of shots of the waterfalls.  It was there that I noticed a walking trail that would put me above the falls. So I packed up my gear and hiked over to the bridge. Again, I set up and framed up a couple of shots from this view.  I was not that thrilled with what I was seeing in my LCD screen.  Once home, I reviewed the images in Lightroom and ended up scrapping all of them.  I decided that the next time I would do some homework and online scouting using the Photographer’s Ephemeris and Google Earth.

For my second trip, I was better prepared and decided to go up and around Lock 29 to get to the top of the dam overlooking the waterfalls and remains of the aqueduct. This put me across the canal from my first visit. Once I got there and looked around, I knew this was the spot that I wanted to compose.  The only drawback was that there was a big log stuck on the step of the falls.  I knew that I would need to compose in a way to keep the log out of the final image.  I started to set up all my gear and prepared for the traditional landscape view, but I could not get that log out of my field of view.  After stepping back to think about it, I decided that a portrait composition would work best, but I would need to set up as close to the edge of the dam as possible without falling over. As I do not have an “L” bracket for this orientation, I used the tripod and tilted the camera on its side.  When I was taking the landscape view shots, I did so with my Lee ND Big Stopper filter in place.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Lee filter system, the 4 x 4 filters are placed in a filter holder that freely rotates on your lens.  Although not a necessary feature when using an ND filter, it is very useful when using either the hard or soft graduated filters.  With one of the tripod legs close to the edge, it still would keep the center of the tripod and me safely away from the edge. With the camera securely mounted on the tripod, I begin to rotate the camera on its side when all of sudden I heard three strange sounds. Two of them were the sounds of optical glass hitting the concrete and the third was the distinct sound of something hitting the water.  With a terrible pit in my stomach I looked over my camera to the front my lens and saw that the Lee filter is gone. As I rotated the camera with the filter half in the holder, it slid out and fell the twenty feet down into the brown, murky water.  My heart sank and knew that this shooting session was over. With no choice left, I packed up and headed home.  The next step was to get on the B&H website and order a new ND filter.  While there are cheaper alternatives, the Lee system is made from optical glass and has no color cast issues and very worth the additional cost.

Fast forward two weeks, with a new ND filter in the backpack, I headed off to the Aqueduct Falls. I walked around to the other side to position myself on top of the dam and much to my disappointment, the darn log was still stuck in the falls.  As you recall from my last attempt, I lost my Lee ND filter over the side of the dam.  In order to avoid this costly mistake again, I swapped out the column to my Induro tripod to a longer column so that it would give me plenty of room to position the camera into a portrait orientation.  Once in place, I add the filter holder and inserted the Lee ND Big Stopper filter.  After a few test shots, I sat back and waited for the sun to crest the local hills to get the right light and…success!  The image at top of this post was taken with the Nikon D7100: Nikon 10-24mm @ 24mm – 120 second exposure at f/13 with ISO set at 200 and Lee ND, Big Stopper filter.

Just as you enter the park, there is bridge below the locks that provide a great and different perspective of the falls.  This next shot was taken from the top of a bypass bridge and for this image, I used a Nikon D750: Nikon 70-200 @ 200mm – 120 second exposure @ f/13 set at ISO 200.

Aqueduct at Macedon/Palmyra


As we begin to move into winter, I am looking forward to some wilderness landscape adventures that will take me off the beating path. As I am going in for a knee replacement in a couple of weeks, I’ll have to hold off until February.  My rehab time will provide plenty of opportunity to research cross-country ski or snow shoe trails to plan out my next adventure.  Happy Holidays!

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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