A Panoramic Palette of Fall Colors

My earliest memories are of sitting at the edge of a lake, playing with stones and watching sunlight sparkle and dance on the water. The lake was Keuka, one of the long, narrow bodies of water which are the Finger Lakes of central New York. My family lived on Keuka Lake year-round, so my days were filled with swimming and water skiing all summer, and ice skating and snow skiing all winter.

Over time, it became clear to me that I had developed an enduring fascination with light and water, and the way they interact. Perhaps, in part, that’s because the Finger Lakes region is very much a place where light and water meet. They produce a distinctive character in the look of the land which residents love and which also captivates many visitors, drawing them back again and again. The stunning geography of the region may challenge our lives but it always comforts our souls.

In my work as a professional photographer, light and water are the very essence of what I do. In making a photograph, the effects of light are recorded on film ­— a liquid emulsion dried onto plastic. Liquid chemistry then draws the light-based image out of that emulsion.

For me, photography has always offered a natural vehicle to combine my personal vision with glorious events in the natural world. My work has taken me all over the United States, but I still find that the beauty of the Finger Lakes territory rivals anything I’ve seen. That’s why making this book, Finger Lakes Panoramas (pictured on page 23), was a dream come true for me, the chance to create images, with light, of the water I love.

Making these images, I worked in an area encompassed roughly by the relatively flat lands near the New York State Thruway (Route 90) in the north, to the steeper regions near Routes 13 and 17 in the south, from Route 390 in the west to Interstate 81 in the east. I have included images taken from locations around 11 lakes and have also mixed in a few favorite spots along the fringes of those boundaries. In some cases, to help orient a viewer, I have indicated in which compass direction the center of a given photo faces.

Overall, my goal has been to capture the beauty which is all around the Finger Lakes via emphasis on its waterways. I have tried not only to offer glimpses of little-known spots in this lovely region, but also to show very familiar locations in new light.

The characteristic long, slender topography of the lakes defines their individuality but is also the source of special problems for the photographer. Since traditional cameras provide an aspect ratio of 1:1 or 1:1.5, they can’t do justice to the broad landscapes of the region. That’s why most of the subjects in this book were shot using a special panoramic format of 1:3. Simply put, a panoramic photo is equivalent to placing three regular photos side by side. This format creates a seamless visual sweep of the land, perfect for the broad, open landscapes so typical in the Finger Lakes.

To get technical, I shot for 190 days over four years and traveled over 28,000 miles. The majority of the photos in this book were shot with a Fuji 617 panoramic camera. I also used a Horizon 202 (35mm panoramic), Pentax 67, Nikon f4, Nikon n90s, and a Nikon 8008. For film, I used 300 rolls of Kodak Lumiere and Fuji Velvia. I kept filters to a minimum, usually using only UV, polarizing, or graduated neutral density.

In most cases, I took the picture I wanted by returning to the same location many times. Each time, because of the variable nature of light, the results were different. Most of my photos were taken in the minutes just before and after sunrise and sunset. To my eye, this light produces the most dynamic images.