Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania thumbnails only

From Behind Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park From Behind Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Anytime is a great time to visit Ricketts Glen State Park, but the fall is my favorite time. With cloudy weather promising to provide a giant softbox over this waterfall-heaven (22 named falls and perhaps hundreds of smaller falls), I packed two of the world's best wide angle lenses on 5D Mark III bodies, a telephoto zoom lens I was reviewing on the 60D, a couple of other lenses, tripod, rain gear and other essentials (including food and water) totaling about 50 lbs. into my Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW Backpack and headed to my favorite Pennsylvania state park for a long day of photography.
Not long after hitting the Ganoga Glen trail, I realized that the water flow was very low. Low flow at some waterfalls is a big problem, but the falls at Ricketts Glen simply provide different opportunities.
One such opportunity came at Oneida falls, the second falls encountered on this trail when leaving the Lake Rose trailhead parking lot. The water is typically falling over the entire width of this 13' cliff. On this day, access to the cliff was available, though precarious due to slippery rock with very narrow footholds.
Avoiding dripping water as best I could, I placed one foot on a tiny ledge just above the water and the other foot was preventing me from falling into the cliff (with my elbow assisting some of the time). Similarly, I positioned one fully-retracted tripod leg straight out to the left and fully-extended the other two legs downward to catch in small crevices in the rock face. Note that one reason to buy a strong tripod is that you sometimes need to use it for your own safety support.
This position let me shoot through the back of the falls and incorporate some fall foliage into the frame.
The camera was set to C2 mode – my standard custom landscape mode. I have this mode programmed to enable mirror lockup, the 2-second self-timer and long exposure noise reduction. My ISO defaults to 100 and exposure is set to manual.
A B+W XS-PRO circular polarizer filter was used to cut the glare, especially noticeable on the water. I manually bracketed exposures slightly and used manual HDR to darken the colorful trees slightly.
This image was captured with what I consider to be one of the world's best landscape photography lenses, the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5 L II Lens. It is phenomenally sharp and has little distortion. Another big advantage this lens has is the movements. In this example, I was able to tilt the lens slightly to the left to allow the very close foreground on the left and distant background on the right to both be in sharp focus without resorting to a more-diffraction-impacted narrower aperture.
In the end, a great lens (and camera) along with low water flow yielded my favorite image of the day.

24mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Oneida Falls Above Smaller Falls Oneida Falls Above Smaller Falls

While you will want to capture the standard, beautiful waterfalls shots, look for ways to vary your compositions. One way to do this is to place the main falls in the background of your image. This of course requires that an interesting foreground subject be found. The main falls in this example are the 13' Oneida Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park.
As with a significant percentage of my landscape images, a high quality B+W MRC CP filter was used for this picture. You also need to know that this is an HDR image. The background falls were in stronger light, so images with three different exposures were captured and overlayed in Photoshop. Parts of the brighter upper layers were erased (very soft brush setting) to allow the darker images to show through. This easy process yields a natural-appearing image.

24mm  f/16.0  .8s  ISO 100
B. Reynolds Falls in the Spring B. Reynolds Falls in the Spring

After a heavy rain, B. Reynolds Falls was flowing very strongly on this mid-May day. The water was so loud that by the end of the day, I was ready for some quiet time in the car.
At parks such as Ricketts Glen, it is easy to find the waterfalls and the images that can be made directly from the trails can be very nice. But, getting off the trails often makes new (and often better) composition possible. Always be looking for new angles.
To get this particular image, I climbed down the rocks beside a small walking bridge and precariously positioned myself and the tripod legs on strongly-sloped wet rocks just above the water. I often place the tripod into the water for such shots, but ... that only works if the water flow is not strong enough to cause vibrations in the tripod. The final composition emphasizes a balance of the features contained with most lines moving toward the center of the frame.

24mm  f/11.0  1.0s  ISO 100
Fern-Covered Rock and Hidden Falls, Rickets Glen State Park Fern-Covered Rock and Hidden Falls, Rickets Glen State Park

Wildlife photographers can spend many days or weeks working with the same subject at the same location and, due to ever-changing behaviors of their subjects, they can continuously capture unique images. Sports photographers have unique action at every game/meet/match/race/etc. at the same field/track/event location. Street photographer are always finding new entertainment at the same locations. Wedding, event and portrait photographers have a steady stream of new subjects coming through the same locations. But you, landscape (and cityscape) photographer, usually find the same subjects in the same positions each time you go back. However, you still have reasons for going back.
Basically, you most often go back in hopes that something might be different this time.
Perhaps you didn't get it right the first time. You didn't provide adequate depth of field or didn't focus to the right distance to keep everything in the image sharp. Or, perhaps you want to use a wider aperture lens to better define the primary subject. Perhaps the focal choice was not ideal and part of the scene was cropped too tightly. Maybe you were too close or too far away and didn't get the ideal perspective. You want to move up/down, left/right or closer/farther to get it right the next time.
You now have better skills. Closely aligned with getting it right this time are your improved photography skills. You are now better at reading a scene and better able to select the composition, perhaps including a foreground element or better aligning the background within the foreground framing.
You go back to work on your creativity. The more bored you become with photographing a scene, the more likely you are going to find a creative new way to photograph it.
You go back because you have better gear. While we sometimes think that camera and lens technology is not moving forward fast enough, what is available today is far better than what was available not long ago. Taking your new camera(s) and lens(es) to a past-visited favorite location is an easy recipe for bettering your portfolio. Your higher resolution, lower noise camera and sharper lens will create results that look better, especially at high resolution. Taking a circular polarizer filter, a neutral density filter, etc. that you did not originally have can make a huge difference in your repeat visit results.
You go back in hopes for better weather conditions. You hope for better skies, a better sunrise, a better sunset, better clouds, more/less fog, less (or possibly more) wind, warmer light, etc. Everyone loves a fiery sunrise or sunset and those don't happen every day – you might need to go back repeatedly to find these. Fog? Some locations have it with some regularity, but many others have it only occasionally.
You go back because the timing is different or better. You may have better water flow, creating better waterfalls that give images a completely different look, one well worth the effort of a revisit. The seasons of the year provide a very different look to many locations. Spring brings bright green foliage and (usually) good water flow. Summer brings darker foliage and warmer weather (required for the snow to melt enough to access some areas). Late summer and fall brings amazing color to the trees in many areas. Winter brings snow, completely redecorating the landscape.
The timing of the visit also dictates the position of the celestial bodies. Go back when the sun, moon and/or stars (the milky way) are better aligned. Perhaps the sun shines between two mountain peaks at a certain time of the year. Perhaps you want to go back when the milky way is best aligned over a scene. The same applies to the moon with a specific desired phase and position.
Perhaps the scene has indeed changed and is no longer physically the same. While there are not usually macro changes occurring to landscape without a significant environmental disaster (such as a tornado, hurricane, fire, etc.), micro changes frequently happen. Trees fall, erosion occurs, sediment moves in streams during strong flows and fields have a different crop in rotation. If the scene is significantly altered, new images will be more current than those taken before the alteration. Before and after photos may be valued in this case.
Sometimes, you go back just because things can happen. Wildlife showing up can add a prize-winning element to any image.
If you are considering going back, the location is probably amazing and somewhere you love to be. That alone is a great reason to go back as just being there is awesome. There is no reason why the same location cannot be enjoyed time and time again. If you like the location that much, perhaps you want to share it with a friend or friends.
You go back because the location is a known entity. You know that it is repeatedly good for a quality image – an image worth sharing is sure to come out of the effort.
You go back for practice. If the location is relatively close to home, visiting the location to practice skills and technique prior to a big photo trip is a great idea. Unlike riding a bike, more like distance running, photography requires practice to stay in top shape. It also affords the opportunity to test the camera gear that will accompany you on the trip.
Again, a primary reason to go back is that something might be different this time and the reason that different is desirable is for, minimally, variation and, ideally, for bettering. Photographers are constantly striving to better what we have already done, to raise the bar, to take another step forward in our passion/profession.
The previous time I visited Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, was convenient, but not so well-timed for photography. It was mid-summer (not bad in itself). The sun was high and the leaves were green. The sky was forest fire-hazy. While my cameras and lenses were the best-available at the time, they were not as good as those I'm using today. I was happy with my results at the time, but they do not hold nearly as much value to me from a photographical perspective now.
Recently, I was blessed with a revisit to this very photogenic location. And, the results from my revisit were much higher grade in many accounts. Though I'm missing the moose that was in my first set of images (it was so small in the frame that I didn't know it was even there until reviewing the images back at home), but my late summer (photographer's fall in this location), early morning timing for the second visit to Oxbow Bend combined with my now-current camera gear and 9-year-upgraded skillset turned in much better results this time around. I'm sharing one of my favorites with you today.

16mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

The 13-foot Oneida Falls is easily one of my favorite Ricketts Glen State Park waterfalls. I typically time my RGSP daytrips to coincide with cloudy weather to prevent contrast issues with bright sunlight reaching the forest floor. Add a little rain and it chases the other visitors away (they are sometimes hard to clone stamp out of images). Well, this day I was a little over-optimistic on the "little" part of the rain. A storm came up and dumped perhaps 2 inches of water on me. I was prepared, but could not shoot during the deluge.
When the rain slowed, I shared the entire Falls Trail with practically no one. And, many of the falls had a streak of color in them due to the heavy runoff. I'm always looking for something different, so ... perhaps the rain was not too heavy after all.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

35mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Small Ricketts Glen Waterfall Small Ricketts Glen Waterfall

Water flows over a rounded flat rock in Ricketts Glen State Park.

18mm  f/16.0  2s  ISO 100
On the Ledge at R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park On the Ledge at R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park

The timing was perfect for a visit to Ricketts Glen State Park. The new beech tree leaves were coming out with their light spring green color looking great. It had rained a significant amount the prior day and the forecast was for rain all of this day.

Waterfalls, of course, thrive on rain, rain saturates the landscape, rain requires clouds and clouds ensure even lighting, and also helpful is that rain keeps the (smarter?) potential park visitors at home and out of images. On this day, I had the Falls Trails completely to myself until I was hiking out near dark.

Rain also makes photography a bit more challenging. I was wearing Gore-Tex clothing (boots, pants, and jacket) that kept me completely dry. At least dry until I overheated a bit while hiking up out of the canyon at a fast pace with quick-drying clothing resolving that problem quickly after I was back in the car. I carried a large umbrella to work under (awkward but very helpful) and had a microfiber cloth readily available to wipe water drops from the front of the lens. When shooting waterfalls, a microfiber cloth is often needed regardless of the rain situation. Note that nano-coated filters are easy to keep clean and easily worth their additional cost on days like these. The camera and lens were in an inexpensive rain cover that I was evaluating and that is now on the to-replace list as it was not "waterproof", leaving the camera and lens wet enough that a towel was needed (get a LensCoat RainCoat). This is an example of when weather sealing can save the day.

The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens were the only camera and lens that came out of my BackLight 26L on this day. It was the perfect combination for this image and all of the others I wanted. Also in the backpack was an EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The BackLight's rear access meant that cameras could be swapped without setting the backpack down on the very wet ground and without taking the rain cover off.

I've mentioned that I rely on my tripod for personal support at times and this was one of those. Working up onto this ledge over wet rocks was not easy and a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Carbon Fiber Tripod saved me from a serious fall when my footing broke loose. The ledge position meant that the lower tripod legs were planted rather far below me, making every inch of the "Long" length of this tripod very useful. Saving my images by cutting reflections and increasing saturation was a Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter. Had I forgotten this filter, I would probably have just turned around and gone home.

Overall, it was a great day in Ricketts Glenn SP. I'll likely be sharing more of the images captured on this day at some point.

With 24 named waterfalls, including some of the most photogenic falls around, Ricketts Glen State Park is waterfall photography heaven. I spent over 45 minutes capturing a variety of compositions of this falls alone and finally forced myself to move on, leaving some options for another day. If you are interested in photographing with me here, I need to know. This will likely be the destination for an upcoming waterfall photography workshop!

16mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
R. B. Ricketts Falls R. B. Ricketts Falls

After a heavy rain, R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park flows strongly along with another small stream falling into the frame. The rain runoff also added a bit of color to the water. I recall this picture being taken during a light rain with some fog being visible here.
While this lens' wide aperture gains it a lot of attention, the image quality it delivers makes it an excellent choice for landscape photography.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

24mm  f/8.0  1.6s  ISO 100
Fire Over Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glenn State Park Fire Over Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glenn State Park

Beach trees in their fall colors appear to blaze over the dark, rain-soaked rocks around Shawnee Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, near Benton, PA. This was a perfect situation for the B+W 82mm XS-Pro MRC Nano Kaeseman CP Filter I was reviewing.

24mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Harrison Wright Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

There is a lot of advice to be found regarding photography during the autumn season, but the primary visual difference of fall is the color of the foliage and to capture that color, one must go outside.
While that tip might sound simple, it is easy to sit in front of a computer or TV instead of making the effort to go out. You can DVR the football game to be watched later. Darkness comes earlier in the fall, so you have some time to catch up on the game or what is going on in the photography world after the light is gone. You can catch up on your post-processing backlog in the winter (what I'm telling myself).
A great fall location is Ricketts Glen State Park, near Benton, PA. With 22 named waterfalls in this park, along with many other photogenic woods and stream scenes, it is not hard to find wall-grade compositions. Located just below Waters Meet on the Falls Trails, Harrison Wright Falls, shown here, is one of my favorites.
Don't let the weather keep you inside. My favorite weather condition for shooting in RGSP is a light rain or immediately after any rain. The rain provides more flow in the stream, but it serves a couple of other important purposes. It keeps the other hikers and less-serious photographers out of the image (they stay home). It also makes everything in the scene wet, giving the surroundings a deep, rich color when photographed through a circular polarizer filters.
You will not capture images like this one indoors. Get out and find the colorful fall foliage. Get some exercise and breathe in the crisp air while doing so. Your body and mind will be rewarded along with your portfolio.

24mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Ricketts Glen Falls Ricketts Glen Falls

Ricketts Glen State Park, near Benton, PA, has 28 named falls including the namesake Ricketts Glen Falls. If you don't mind climbing down from the trail and don't mind placing your tripod in the water, Ricketts Glen Falls is an easy location to get a keeper. Pick a cloudy day and use a circular polarizer filter.
What is the ideal exposure duration for motion-blurred water? That answer is both situational and personal preference. In this location, my personal preference is around half a second. Experiment to learn what works well and what doesn't. Watch the details in the water (typically air bubbles) go from sharp to smeared to an indistinguishably smooth color as exposure times increase. When the right amount of blur is obtained, that is the right shutter speed.

35mm  f/11.0  .5s  ISO 100
B. Reynolds Falls Background B. Reynolds Falls Background

The 40' B. Reynolds Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park is an extraordinary landscape photography subject, offering many great compositions. In this composition, I used the swift-flowing water well below the falls as a foreground with the major falls falling into the background. A circular polarizer filter was used to cut reflections and increase saturation on this very cloudy and wet day.
The Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L II USM Lens is an incredible landscape lens. I used this lens exclusively during the second half of this trip to Ricketts Glenn. All of my photos from this lens were exceptionally sharp.

24mm  f/11.0  .5s  ISO 100
Fern-Covered Rock and Waterfalls Fern-Covered Rock and Waterfalls

Going off of the falls trails in The Glens Natural Area in Ricketts Glen State Park should only be done cautiously due to the steep and slippery terrain, but sometimes different-than-usual images can be made by doing just that - getting off of the trail.

24mm  f/16.0  2s  ISO 100
Don't Forget to Look Down! Don't Forget to Look Down!

My day trip to Ricketts Glen was carefully planned. A pair of calls to the park office gave me redundant information. Both individuals indicated that the leaves in the falls ravines were going to be peak and one said that the water flow was good (that was necessary for waterfalls of course). This information aligned perfectly with the weather forecast calling for very light wind (enabling flora to remain still for long exposures), heavy cloud cover (keeps lighting low and free of harsh shadows) and light rain likely throughout the day (keeps the crowds at home, out of the frame and provides saturated colors).
After driving 1.5 hours in the fog, I arrived to find ... no wind. The leaves were indeed peak, but they were peak at the top of the mountain – not down in the deep falls ravines. The fog cleared to a mostly sunny sky and my opinion of a good water flow differs greatly from the person I talked to.
Fortunately, there are always great photo opportunities in this park. And, after photographing in the early morning shade for over an hour, the clouds eventually came and were present for a number of hours, creating good light.
Especially high up in the falls trails, there were some good leaves, but ... many of them were on the ground. However, the ground can be a great place to photograph leaves, especially when they are wet from a stream they have fallen into or nearby. During the fall, especially late in the local fall foliage season, look for colorful leaves on the ground that can be worked into an image.
Don't forget to use a circular polarizer filter to reduce glare and increase saturation of these leaves. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens was the only lens I used this day. I didn't need a focal length that it didn't contain and the image quality coming from this lens is very impressive.

35mm  f/11.0  6s  ISO 100
Shawnee Falls without the Log Shawnee Falls without the Log

There is a very large log leaning against the 30-foot Shawnee Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park. Most captures of this falls include this signature log. And the log looks good in some images. But I'm always looking for a variations.
Access to this falls is limited by the steep rock, but using a slightly longer focal length allows the falls to be framed tight enough that the log, while visible, remains essentially unrecognizable.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

31mm  f/8.0  .6s  ISO 100
Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen Shawnee Falls, Ricketts Glen

Shawnee Falls is another of my favorite Ricketts Glen State Park water falls (I have many favorites). This falls offers a variety of compositions. I'm out on a rock ledge for this shot.
Those planning a trip to Ricketts Glen State Park need to be aware that the terrain in the falls area is not like a walk in the park. Though the trails are well maintained, there are many opportunities for fatal falls from slippery rock throughout the rather steep Ganoga Glen and Glen Leigh Trails. If hiking these two trails by the falls (highly recommended) as well as below the Waters Meet area, be prepared for 3-7 miles of hiking with lots of elevation change. A flashlight (and perhaps a spare) are required if coming out after sunset. And the sun sets very quickly in these deep ravines.

18mm  f/16.0  1s  ISO 100
Ricketts Glenn Falls in the Fall Ricketts Glenn Falls in the Fall

It is amazing how fast a day disappears when photographing in Ricketts Glen State Park. I have been making a fall trip to this amazing park an annual tradition. Overcast days are best – and mid-week is the best time to go for low competition. The B+W 82mm XS-Pro MRC Nano Kaeseman CP Filter made a big difference in my shots on this day - cutting glare and reflections for rich, deeply-saturated results.

24mm  f/11.0  2s  ISO 100
Cayuga Falls Sans Log Cayuga Falls Sans Log

Great locations warrant revisiting. Seasons change, weather changes even faster. Clouds are rarely the same. And sometimes the scene itself changes.
In this case, a log that has been in Cayuga falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, for what seems like forever is now gone. Apparently the extraordinarily harsh/cold/icy winter forced the log from its prominent long-time resting place. I had some pictures from this falls that included the log, and, while I thought they were nice, I like the sans-log pictures I now have even better. That I visited immediately after a very heavy rain gave me an additional benefit of a more than usual amount of water to work with along with some color in the water.
The 15mm full frame angle of view is able to give the viewer a nice sense of presence in the scene, but being this close means that water drops splashing onto the lens becomes an issue. I was holding a microfiber cloth over the lens as much as possible when the shutter was closed and was using that cloth to wipe water drops from the CPOL filter between shots. Water drops on the filter are very noticeable in narrow-aperture 15mm images.
This is an HDR image. I used a slightly darker exposure for the water, better retaining the highlight and detail in the water.

15mm  f/11.0  .5s  ISO 100
Sheldon Reynolds Falls Sheldon Reynolds Falls

This Pennsylvania waterfall is located near Benton in Ricketts Glen State Park.

67mm  f/8  1/10s  ISO 200
Kitchen Creek, Ricketts Glen Kitchen Creek, Ricketts Glen

While the named Ricketts Glen falls get the most attention, Kitchen Creek offers many opportunities for photographers.
If you want fall-colored foliage in your images, mid-late October is typically the time to go to Ricketts Glen State Park. If I had to pick a date in advance, the Oct 18-20 timeframe has been reliable. Note that the beech tree leaves in the deep ravines typically change later than the higher altitude trees in this park.
I was shooting in the rain at times on this day. The rain offers a couple of advantages. The first is that other hikers tend to stay home. The second is that there is no harsh sunlight to deal with. And yet another is that the wet leaves and rocks become very saturated when a circular polarizer filter is used.
If it rains hard enough, the steams and falls flow more strongly.

17mm  f/16.0  6s  ISO 100
Behind B. Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Behind B. Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

B. Reynolds Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park is a falls that you can get behind. Be ready to get some water on you and your gear if you attempt this shot location. And watch your step. It bears mention that Ricketts Glen SP considers the Falls Trails "Most Difficult". You definitely have to watch your footing - people are injured here every year.

24mm  f/11.0  1.6s  ISO 100
Unnamed Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Unnamed Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

The falls may be too small to have a name, but that fern-covered boulder beside it should have one.
And I've spent enough time beside it to know it well. In the fall, colorful beech tree leaves collect on the ridged rock in the foreground. Move in close with a wide angle lens, use a narrow aperture for lots of depth of field and use a circular polarizer filter to knock down the reflections and you have a nice picture.

16mm  f/11.0  2.5s  ISO 100
Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall

Shooting in the deep Ricketts Glen State Park ravines is best without direct sunlight. Early or late in the day work well or - to maximize your shooting time - select a cloudy day.

18mm  f/13.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Delaware Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

For this Delaware Falls (in Ricketts Glen State Park) picture, I used a large fern-covered rock to provide foreground interest. A CP filter was used for increased saturation/decreased reflections.
I've been taking the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens with me a lot - it is so small that I barely know it is there - and I've never been disappointed when I chose to use it.

40mm  f/16.0  1s  ISO 100
B. Reynolds Falls in the Fall B. Reynolds Falls in the Fall

Sometimes the leaves on the ground are more important than the leaves still on the trees. Such is the case in this mostly rock landscape. The 40' B. Reynolds Falls is located deep in the Glen Leigh side of the falls trails in Ricketts Glen State Park near Benton, PA. A B+W MRC Circular Polarizer Filter was used to cut the glare in this image - increasing color saturation.

24mm  f/8.0  1s  ISO 100
Kitchen Creek, The Glens Natural Area Kitchen Creek, The Glens Natural Area

Kitchen Creek in The Glens Natural Area of Ricketts Glen State Park holds a seemingly endless number of compositions. In the fall, beach leaves cover the rocks and ground around the creek. As is the case with many of my landscape photos, a circular polarizer filter was used to assist the capture this image.

24mm  f/16.0  1.6s  ISO 100
Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Adams Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Being only a short walk from a small parking lot makes Adams Falls the easiest of the named Ricketts Glen State Park falls to access. Because this falls is not close to the other falls, special effort must be made to capture it on a day with multiple falls on the to-do list. On this rainy day, I spent some time at this falls before heading deep into the park on the falls trails.
The beauty of Adams Falls is very apparent on first arrival, but some composition challenge needs to be addressed before capturing your trophy shot here. A composition that works for me is to use an ultra-wide focal length positioned close to the foreground rocks. I oriented the camera so that the upper flow of water was contained within the frame and horizontally positioned approximately 1/3 of the way into the frame. At about 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the frame, the vertical water flow widens and transitions to a horizontal flow that leaves the right side of the frame narrowly visible. This composition leaves the water nearly completely framed within rock, though still consuming a large percentage of the frame.
A cloudy day combined with a circular polarizer filter (consider it a requirement for waterfall photography) meant that a long, water-motion-blurring 1.3 second shutter speed could be used at an ideal-for-depth-of-field (and sharpness) f/11 aperture.

16mm  f/11.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Revisiting a Great Location, Oneida Falls, Rickets Glen State Park Revisiting a Great Location, Oneida Falls, Rickets Glen State Park

Oneida Falls is one of my Rickets Glen favorites and I always stop to photograph it when in this state park. Yes, I have numerous images from this location. But, different days bring differing water flows, foliage and lighting. And, I frequently bring differing gear and creativity.

On this day, the excellent little Sony a7 III was what I was using and a compact Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens was the lens option I selected from several I had along with me.

This is a subtle HDR image and I captured enough bracketed exposures to significantly brighten the darker areas. However, I liked the natural brightness accentuating the near and distant falls (especially in higher resolution versions).

21mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Ozone Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Ozone Falls is somewhat more challenging to capture than some other Ricketts Glen falls. Here I used wet, leaf-covered foreground rocks to lead the viewer's eye into the bright water framed by dark rocks. Brightly-colored fall foliage is always a bonus.

24mm  f/11.0  4s  ISO 100
Mowhawk Falls, Ricketts Glen Mowhawk Falls, Ricketts Glen

The first named waterfall encountered after parking at the Lake Rose Trailhead parking lot in Ricketts Glen State Park and hiking the Ganoga Glen trail is Mowhawk Falls. There are many photographic opportunities here, but the very-exposed tree root always captures my attention.

24mm  f/16.0  1.0s  ISO 100
The Log in Shawnee Falls The Log in Shawnee Falls

I don't know how long this log has been lodged here, but it is a trademark of Shawnee Falls (Ricketts Glen SP). A long exposure provides a soft background to the hard log.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

22mm  f/8.0  .6s  ISO 100
Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Ganoga Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Of the 22 named waterfalls in Ricketts Glen State Park, Ganoga, at 94', is the tallest. And, it is one that I find challenging to create a good composition of. The colorful fall foliage was definitely helpful on this trip. A CP filter was used to cut reflections and increase saturation.

40mm  f/16.0  .6s  ISO 100
Fern-Covered Rock, Ricketts Glen State Park Fern-Covered Rock, Ricketts Glen State Park

I've spent hours at this particular fern-covered rock in Ricketts Glen State Park. It is located below "Falls Meet" and features interesting rock shapes and lines. A CP filter was used for this capture. So was an umbrella as it was raining.

24mm  f/8.0  5s  ISO 100
F.L. Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park F.L. Ricketts Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

The F.L. Ricketts Falls (Ricketts Glen State Park) is the second named falls discovered while descending the Glen Leigh Trail.

18mm  f/16.0  1.0s  ISO 100
Base of Harrison Wright Falls Base of Harrison Wright Falls

Telephoto lenses are able to isolate many compositions from a single waterfall. For this image, I zoomed into the base of the falls using a portion of the pool of water for the base of the image.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

200mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
Mohawk Falls Close-up Mohawk Falls Close-up

The base of Mohawk Falls in Ricketts Glen SP is reasonably accessible. Standing in front of a wall of water cascading toward you presents a huge range of compositions. Selecting which one to show later becomes and even bigger challenge.
A B+W XS-Pro circular polarizer filter was used for this picture.

35mm  f/8.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Tuscarora Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

The 47' Tuscarora Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park is notable for the large split in the path the water takes in the lower section of the falls. For this perspective, I postitioned the camera just above the splashing water of a small falls just below the main falls - with a rock with lines pointing toward the main falls creating some additional interest. A CP filter was used for this shot.

24mm  f/11.0  .8s  ISO 100
Layered Rock Behind Harrison Wright Falls Layered Rock Behind Harrison Wright Falls

In this image, I wanted to capture the layered rock structure behind Harrison Wright Falls along with the moss growing on it. I allowed the motion-blurred falls to consume about 1/3 of the frame and the rock to take over the remainder.

109mm  f/8.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen SP Cayuga Falls, Ricketts Glen SP

More accurately, this is half of Cayuga Falls. Since I'm usually shooting waterfalls under cloud cover or after the sun sets, I typically get a slightly cool white balance from the camera (slightly favoring blue). I can often get a good custom white balance by using the water itself. After selecting the custom white balance tool, I click on a near-blown white area in the image. I usually try to find a point that has one channel (R, G or B - usually B) that is just below 255 with the other channels having lower values. A CP filter was used for this shot.

24mm  f/16.0  .6s  ISO 100
Above Mohawk Falls Above Mohawk Falls

Mid-May is a great time of the year to visit Ricketts Glen State Park. The water is generally flowing strongly. The foliage is bright green and some flowering flora can be found.
In this image, I was trying to use the lines in the foreground rock to lead the viewer's eye into the frame and directly into the interesting exposed roots. The sharp contrast between the bright water and the roots and rocks also serves the same purpose with perhaps even stronger emphasis. I find the curved path of the water through the frame to be pleasing and the bright green foliage adds color. The white flowers do not have a strong presence in the frame, but they are a positive subtle addition nonetheless.
It is rare to find me photographing a waterfall scene without a circular polarizer filter in use. This filter cuts reflections and makes a huge difference in the color saturation in such photos. Unlike many other filters from the film era, the effects of this filter cannot be duplicated in Photoshop (except perhaps by a handful of the top experts). This filter also reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor, requiring a longer shutter speed to adequately expose the image at the same aperture setting. The resulting .5 second exposure creates a nice motion blur to the water, conveying its movement.

24mm  f/11.0  .5s  ISO 100
Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen SP Wyandot Falls, Ricketts Glen SP

Water drops 15' over Wyandot Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, framed by a large tree and the rocky foreground. This is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image composited from two exposures. A CP filter was also used.

24mm  f/11.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Cascade in Ricketts Glen State Park Cascade in Ricketts Glen State Park

It was just another typical rainy weekday in Ricketts Glen State Park. It was the perfect time to take my favorite ultra-wide-angle zoom lens and landscape camera body, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens and Canon EOS 5Ds R, for a hike.

I am not aware of this cascade having a name, but I always find it photo-worthy. It is hard to go wrong with a series of lines leading into the bottom of the frame and the leading lines in the rock are the big draw to this location.

Camera height is something a photographer usually has some control over, at least within their physical reach ability or the height of their tripod if such is being used. When photographing flat water (pond, lake, ocean, slow-moving river, etc.), a higher camera position will often provide a higher percentage of the frame being filled with water than a lower camera position IF a similar overall scene framing is used. For example, photographing an ocean from a standing position with a level camera will result in far more water percentage in the frame than doing the same while lying down at the edge of the water due to the angle of view across a flat surface. Often, supporting that big IF requires that the camera angle be changed and camera angle also plays a role in determining how much of the frame is filled with water. A downward-tilted camera can include more water than a level camera.

The key is to find the right balance for the scene you are photographing and there may be multiple right answers. Work with a scene until you can find no more camera positions that work well. Then move on.

The small waterfalls seen here do not qualify as flat water, but there is still a lot of near-flat water in this scene. The right balance for this image was using an ultra-wide-angle focal length positioned with enough downward angle to show a significant amount of water and low enough to gain the right perspective to emphasize the foreground rock lines.

I don't always take the time to photograph this cascade, but especially with the wet rock bringing out strong color (saturation aided by a circular polarizer filter), I couldn't resist stopping on this day.

16mm  f/11.0  1.3s  ISO 100
Little Piles of Rocks Beside Kitchen Creek Little Piles of Rocks Beside Kitchen Creek

Beech tree leaves fill in around the little stone piles built along Kitchen Creek. With a circular polarizer in use and clouds filling the sky, I was able to get a 2.5 second exposure at f/11, plenty long enough to blur the water flowing in the creek.

17mm  f/11.0  2.5s  ISO 100
The Beautiful Oneida Falls The Beautiful Oneida Falls

I have seen a huge number of waterfalls. And while all are great to see, not all are what I consider to be photogenic.
Oneida Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park has ended up in my galleries more than most, reflecting my opinion of its beauty. With a low water level and a precarious setup, I was able to shoot from behind the falls this day. The result is one of the less-normal falls shots I have captured.
Aiding the unusual look of this image is the ultra-wide focal length lens used to capture it. What you don't see is the photographer that walked into my frame and setup for his own shooting. I 'shopped him out.
When shooting waterfalls, the sky is often not wanted in the frame. When shooting with angles of view this wide, it is hard to keep the sky out of the frame. By shooting at a downward angle, I was able to reduce the amount of over-bright sky remaining in the frame.

15mm  f/11.0  5s  ISO 100
Color Over Kitchen Creek Color Over Kitchen Creek

In mid-late October, the beech trees provide the color for Ricketts Glen photographers. If possible, visit this park on a cloudy day (ideally, just after a rain). Then use a circular polarizer filter to knock down the reflections.

17mm  f/11.0  1.6s  ISO 100
Log in Cayuga Falls Log in Cayuga Falls

Logs are frequently encountered in the deep valleys of Ricketts Glen SP. This one in Cayuga Falls has been there a long time.
Notice how your eye is drawn to the area of strongest contrast in the photo.

35mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
Highland Trail, Ricketts Glen State Park Highland Trail, Ricketts Glen State Park

Highland Trail connects the two falls trails in Ricketts Glen State Park. I've hiked it many times, but have seldom seen it in the daylight. I usually spend all of the daylight hours with the falls and navigate out of the park with a flashlight. However, this trail is very scenic and offers photo opportunities to daylight hikers. Granted, I needed a 15 second exposure for this image, but the light is still natural.
The 15mm focal length gives the viewer a sense of presence in the scene.

15mm  f/13.0  15s  ISO 100
One of My Favorite Rocks One of My Favorite Rocks

I like this round table-like rock found in Glen Leigh (Ricketts Glen State Park) because of how it distributes water. Depending on the flow of water, the spread of the falls fans out to make a nice subject.

24mm  f/11.0  2.5s  ISO 100
B Reynolds Falls, Side View B Reynolds Falls, Side View

B Reynolds falls is one of the more versatile photo subjects in Ricketts Glen State Park. This falls looks great when shot from the walking bridge just downstream, from the rocks near the bridge, from the path beside the falls (as illustrated here) and even from behind the falls (for the more intrepid). For sure, the beauty is there for capturing. A circular polarizer filter was used for this image.

24mm  f/11.0  4s  ISO 100
Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen SP Murray Reynolds Falls, Ricketts Glen SP

Murray Reynolds Falls is the lowest elevation waterfall on the Ricketts Glen SP's Falls Trail north of Rt 118. It is also the most distant RG falls to hike to. But the hike is worth the effort.
This is a good location to use a telephoto lens to more-fill the frame with the falls, but in this case, I used a large, mossy rock as my foreground subject. As usual for my waterfall landscape photos, a circular polarizer was used for this photo.

16mm  f/16.0  3.2s  ISO 100
Ozone Falls Ozone Falls

Ozone falls can be a challenging shoot. With bright water flowing over wet, black rock under a bright background yields a dynamic range issue for both the camera and for an appealing image. An HDR technique is the answer. This image is the result of two pictures blended together. The water and trees are from a shorter exposure than the dark rock.
A challenge also arises when shooting water with exposures long enough to create a motion blur. Any breeze present will create a similar blur in your leaves.

79mm  f/11.0  2.0s  ISO 100
Ganoga Falls Ganoga Falls

At Ricketts Glen State Park, the waterfalls are generally falling over rock faces that have no trees on them (for good reason of course). This means that getting colorful fall foliage in your images requires some effort. That colorful foliage is often found above the falls, which means shooting with, at least some, upward angle included in the shot. Upward angles that do not include the bright sky become more challenging.
In this image, I zoomed in to frame just the top of the highest waterfall in the park, the 94' Ganoga Falls.

163mm  f/8.0  1/5s  ISO 100
Harrison Wright Falls Close-Up Harrison Wright Falls Close-Up

There are seemingly endless telephoto compositions possible at Harrison Wright Falls. Simply stand back and compose a portion of the falls into the frame with or without background inclusion. Then revisit at a different waterflow level and all new possibilities show up.

183mm  f/8.0  .5s  ISO 100
Little Falls with Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park Little Falls with Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park

Oneida Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls in Rickett's Glen State Park (or anywhere) and it is easy to get nice images prominently featuring it. But, this falls also makes a great background.
Wide angle lenses are ideal for making a foreground subject appear large relative to a distant background subject and that is what is going on here. The very small foreground waterfalls are close to the lens and Oneida Falls is in the distant background. The final wide angle result is that they all share a similar size in the frame.
Getting the camera in close to a waterfall presents another issue – water splashing onto the lens. When using wide angle lenses and narrow apertures, water drops become very obvious in the image and their results can be very difficult to remove during post processing. As usual for photographing waterfalls, I was using a circular polarizer filter and this is one scenario where a nano-coated CPL filter earns any additional cost required for that feature. The low adhesion properties of the nano coating meant that the water drops were easily removed with a simple squeeze of a Rocket Blower. I simply blew away the water drops before each photo capture and captured enough photos to ensure that I had the shot well-covered.
Another reason to take multiple pictures of especially small or medium-sized waterfalls is because the waterflow is typically varying slightly. The change is usually only slight, but slight is enough to change the splashing characteristic of the water and sometimes one frame will be preferred to the others. Especially for perfectionists, the multiple images may create a selection challenge for later. It is always better to have too many good photos than to miss the one you really wanted.
The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is a superb option for landscape photography. This day was a little late in the season for ideal fall foliage, but I was quite pleased with my take home from this daytrip to RGSP.

25mm  f/8.0  1/5s  ISO 100
Onondaga Falls Onondaga Falls

Armed with an ultra-wide angle lens, I positioned myself high enough to avoid bright sky in the frame. And then moved in close to the layered rock to have strong lines leading to the main subject, the falls.

15mm  f/13.0  8s  ISO 100
Shawnee Falls Shawnee Falls

I can count on the beech trees above Shawnee Falls in Ricketts Glen to provide great color in mid-late October. With a low water flow, I had access to a side of the falls I typically do not shoot from.
What to do with the big log is always a challenge this location yields.
HDR capture and processing provided the evenly lit image.

15mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
The Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens, A Good Excuse to Visit Ricketts Glen SP The Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens, A Good Excuse to Visit Ricketts Glen SP

The Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens is an ideal lens choice when compact, light, and wide angles are on the requirements list, and such a lens is a perfect choice for hiking the canyons at Ricketts Glen State Park. The 14-35mm range proved perfect for the photo opportunities available on this hike.

This image was captured below Oneida falls, one of my favorite locations in this park.

At this specific location (and many others), the entire 14-35mm range of focal lengths can create nice images. At 14mm, the foreground falls become prominent, with the background falls appearing diminished in size. At 35mm, the background falls are emphasized, appearing significantly larger in relation to the foreground falls.

In the end, I chose an image captured at 23mm as my favorite.

The usual recipe for waterfall photography was utilized for this image. On a cloudy day, use a Breakthrough circular polarizer filter with a tripod-mounted camera to capture an exposure-bracketed set of f/11 images, including some extras to capture the constantly changing water flow. Additionally, options captured at higher ISO settings provided different amounts of water flow blur to select from.

As usual, the MindShift Gear BackLight 26L was the perfect option for carrying the gear, food, water, layers of clothes, etc. for this day hike.

23mm  f/11.0  1s  ISO 100
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