THE TORRENTS OF MAY

No, this isn’t a romance novel.  It’s just spring in Greene County, New York.  That’s the Catskills but after several posts about the area over the years I felt the need for a new kind of title.

I recently revisited the area along with several photographers from the South Jersey Camera Club and the Cranbury Digital Camera Club.  We enjoyed plenty of violently rushing water and falls; hence the title but we also enjoyed lots of fresh spring greenery.

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The streams were running heavy, producing foamy cascades on their way to the Hudson River Valley, overwhelming former mountain trolls such as this one.

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A special target for us on every trip is Kaaterskill Falls which drops 260′ in two sections making it one of the largest falls in New York State.  The first drop of 167′ leads to a swimmable pool  in a large rock amphitheater which I’ve not yet visited as it’s tough to get there.  This spring, however, saw me finally at the top of the falls, accessible after a short hike to the trail head down Laurel Creek Road off of Lake Road above Tannersville.  I walked down there a few years ago but there was no trail head then.

We arrived at Spruce Creek, the top image below, which drains the eastern escarpment and feeds the falls.  A pivot to the right reveals the lip of the first fall (167′) in the image on the left.  This has been a spot for injuries and deaths of people slipping and going over.  It was scary to one whose knees quickly become jelly in such situations.  On the right below is 71′ high Bastion Falls just below Kaaterskill, and another step-down of Spruce Creek.  Spruce Creek continues on a wild ride along Route 23A and joins another creek to become Kaaterskill Creek.  We see it at bottom,  photographed in the rain as it heads for a bridge crossing on Route 32 south of Palenville, almost 4 miles from Bastion Falls.

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There had been so much rain added to the normal runoff of spring that small falls … mini-falls … burst from the rock faces along the roads.  Here was such a scene just up the road from Bastion Falls.  The scene was about 5′ in height.

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We also usually visit an old, deteriorating inn, the Cold Spring Resort, located on Spruce Street south of Tannersville.  Members of our group have researched its history and turned up an ad for the property for 1902.  It is said that it has been closed for about fifty years.  Brave colleagues entered a ground floor pantry and found dishes piled up, ready for service, and a couple jugs of muscatel.  Laundry machines had been sitting on the front porch for a couple of years but they disappeared during the weekend.  The end is in sight.  Each year we find some other part of it that has collapsed and we wonder when it will totally disappear.  This inside corner has given up since my last visit here a couple of years ago.

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Amongst and between all of the falls and old inns there is the dramatic vista here and there, the kind of thing that drew artists and vacationers to the Catskills Resorts in their heyday.

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We were a little early for spring flowers but the lilacs bloomed in profusion and filled the air with their fragrance.

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There is a gallery of these and more related images.  Click here.

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GATHERING SUMMERTIME PIXELS IN NEW YORK STATE

As I mentioned in my essay on my Photography Phunk, part of my cure was to get off the beach and on the road to practice my craft.  I decided to head up along the western side of the Hudson River and see what I could find.  My first stops were on Bear Mountain, a first visit for me and well worthwhile.  I drove to the peak (because it’s there) but diverted to this overlook on Seven Lakes Drive on the way down.   On the left of the panorama is the Bear Mountain Bridge crossing the Hudson River.

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The panorama was made from five separate images taken using my wide angle lens in a vertical or portrait position.  This had been suggested to me a couple of times over the years and I finally remembered it while at a location.  When combining images into a panorama one almost always loses some of the top and bottom of the images.  Shooting vertically gives more image to start with such that the final panorama still has a lot of the scene.  Because I was shooting downward there was distortion in the synthesized result which I corrected  in Photoshop.

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I then headed north to West Point.  To my surprise they would let me drive through but they wanted to search my car first.  It was full of vacation and camera gear and I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.  “What’s on the flash cards, sir?”  We toured it years ago when we took our boat up the Hudson.  We were allowed to tie up over night at the West Point excursion boat pier but it turned out to be a mixed blessing as the Conrail freight tracks run right past the pier and there was a lot of thundering, pier-shaking traffic all night.

Continuing, then, I drove through Storm King State Park from which the image below of the Hudson was made along Route 218, the Storm King Highway.  The road continues and rises to the flat top of the knob on the left.

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Thence to Highland, NY.  There I drove down Mile High Road and then along River Road to Mariner’s On The Hudson.  Here, the gulls and I enjoyed this view of two bridges crossing the Hudson.  The farther one is the FDR Mid-Hudson Bridge which carries traffic to Poughkeepsie.  The nearer one is the Walkway Over The Hudson.  This is an abandoned 1.28 mile railroad bridge maintained as a pedestrian park by a non-profit organization, and managed by NYS Parks.

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I continued north and arrived at Saugerties late in the day.  I had read of waterfalls along the Esopus River as it headed to the Hudson.  I found and photographed them, and a couple of samples will appear in my gallery of this trip.  The next morning I headed northwest on route 32, branching to the west on 23A.  This was familiar territory as Denise Bush has run field trips in this world for many years.  One frequent photo op was always Bastion Falls, a part of the Kaaterskill falls system which also head to the Hudson.  As much as I’ve photographed it I decided that if no one else was there, I would be.  They weren’t and I was.  It was a pleasure to move about without restraint and to try different angles.   Here’s my favorite.

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My reverie was broken by the voice of a highway department man advising me to move or have my car tarred in place.  Well, what would you have done?  Off then on 23A west to turn south on 42 under the cloud cover which was being caught on the Catskill peaks.  At the turn onto 42 is the village of Lexington where I found an interesting old inn.

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Our group has photographed the old Cold Spring House in the Catskills many times.  This inn is not nearly as large but it’s architecturally charming.  Note the tiny non-functional balconies, the fretwork topping the porch roof posts, the balustrade supported by the posts, and the brackets and dentil molding supporting the roof.  Considering its age and condition I chose to use Silver Efex’s  Antique Plate to tone the image.

I continued along 42 and turned on to another small village called West Kill which looked interesting.  The sign at the Baptist Church asked where I wanted to be in eternity:  Smoking or non-smoking?  As I continued on this road I passed what I recognized as Smokey’s barn (insider reference)  and realized I was on  Spruceton Road along which the groups had traveled on past field trips.  (More images in the gallery.)   As Spruceton Road dead ends at a one mile trail to Diamond Notch Falls I opted to turn around.  I continued northeast through 1770 Rensaleerville (images in the gallery) with its blue stone slab sidewalks, old mill, and a beautiful 1786 Federal style home in pristine condition.  I settled in for the night at a 40’s style cabin near my morning destination, Ausable Chasm.

Ausable Chasm was formed over thousands of years beginning as the last ice age retreated.  It’s a two mile path thru which the Ausable River moves to Lake Champlain.  The privately owned and maintained facilities (excellent, by the way) are located on Route 9 near Keeseville, NY.   My family went through it sometime in the 60’s.  I had gone back a few years ago but decided I wasn’t up to the physical challenge.  This time I decided to give it a go, and I’m glad I did.

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The first mile is a trail cut into the side of the chasm with the occasional bridge to cross over a gap.   Next, one may opt for a bus back to the entrance or elect to take one of the rafts down the rapids.  So, what the hell.  My estate is in order so down I went for a one mile ride.  I’ve been in much worse rapids, and, though I was the old dude in the raft, it was fun.  Small world: one of my co-riders had been a waitress at Braddock’s Tavern in Medford.

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Early the next morning, after a cholesterol-filled local  breakfast of creamed chipped beef over scrambled eggs I headed for Lake Placid.  This is a favorite destination which I’ve visited four times.  I just wish it were closer.  The past three times I’ve stayed at a motel on Paradox Bay which opens to Lake Placid.  Interestingly, the village of Lake Placid is on Mirror Lake which doesn’t open to Lake Placid.  That’ll win you a beer in some trivia contest.  My principal capture here was another panorama from the 4867′ high  top of Whiteface Mountain.  The parking area is at 4600′ and the rest is via a tunnel to an internal elevator.  On the right below is Lake Placid.

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Twilight from the lawn in front of the motel and on Paradox Bay can be lovely.  That’s Whiteface in the background.

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Another day was spent in driving around the Lake Placid area.  This included a visit to the Wild Center, an excellent natural history museum in nearby Tupper Lake.  The day brought showers but that resulted in this gentle image of a pond adjacent to the Wild Center.

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There are a few more images from this tour in a gallery.  Please click here to see them.

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BACK IN THE CATSKILLS AGAIN

A panoramic view of the lake along South Road by Glen Brook Farm at Roundtop, NY,  a favorite shooting location for our three-season visits to the Catskills.  If you click on the above image you can see it full size.

I recently spent a fun weekend with fellow photographers in the vicinity of Round Top, NY, staying at the Glen Falls House as a base, and venturing into surrounding areas, chasing the light.  The group included shooters from the South Jersey Camera Club, the Cranbury Digital Camera Club, and the Ocean County Camera Club.  As in the past the locations were pre-scouted and the group led by SJCC photographer Denise Bush.  Having been up there in several previous seasons I tried to find new scenes or perspectives as did others.   Looking at some of their creative-eye results I am frequently left wondering “Why didn’t I see that?”  But, that’s part of what makes it interesting.  Click here for some additional images in one of my galleries.

The Glen Brook Farm lake (the pano above) has frequently been a first stop.  It’s a beautiful spot with birches and willows and — viola — the Catskill mountains.  Here are two scenes on which my mind’s eye focused. 

Another place we visit is the All Souls Church.  Because of a blah sky and too much contrast between the church and the sky this image will be useful as a Gothic novel cover.

 Another favorite spot is the mountain-top mansion of Frederick Church, a principal figure in the Hudson River school of landscape painters.  The mansion, called Olana, is named for a fortress-treasure house in ancient Greater Persia (modern-day Armenia), and incorporates Persian, Moorish, and Victorian architecture themes.  The different view this visit: the Coreopsis in the meadow below the house. 

Off then to other pretty scenes.  Below is Bastion Falls which I had only previously photographed from Route 23 which passes it between Palenville and Haines Falls.  This time we climbed down into the path of the water under a Route 23 bridge.  There wasn’t much water flowing so we could do this and it provided a great perspective.

In another field which beckons us every trip I walked out and into a grove of birch trees.  The scene below was captured by moving my camera vertically with a  1/3 second shutter speed.  I then converted it to black and white.

 At Bastion Falls I found the sight and sound of the falls so restful that I recorded a minute of it.  It helps me recapture the feel of the moment.  Please enjoy some of it.