Photography Tips

Tree Branch Framing Buttermilk Falls - Nikon D300, Nikkor 28-70mm f2/8 with polarizer, f/22 at 2.5 seconds.

As a landscape photographer, waterfalls and streams have long been a favorite subject of mine. Nowhere has this passion been realized more than in the gorges of the Finger Lakes. The many streams and rivers that flow into the lakes have gouged out the scenic gorges and waterfalls for which the area is known, offering easy accessibility to some of the most beautiful and highly concentrated waterfalls in the Northeast.

While the gorges of the Finger Lakes offer innumerable opportunities for the nature photographer, photographing the waterfalls comes with its share of complexities. The combination of the right equipment and the right knowledge is key to capturing the best possible images. As with all photography lighting is paramount. Overcast conditions or shade are optimal for photographing the waterfalls in order to avoid the harsh lighting that comes with sunshine in the gorges. A polarizing filter is necessary for reducing glare off the foliage and the surface of the water, even in overcast conditions.

A full complement of lenses from wide-angle (less than 27mm) to at least 300mm is also important. Many of the falls in the gorges are very high, and a wide-angle lens is the only way to get the entire waterfall in the shot without having to physically move back too far. A 300mm lens is useful for capturing falls from a distance where accessibility may be limited. A tripod is also important for obtaining the sharpest images possible, especially when shooting at longer exposure times to give the water that “silken” look.

Although every season offers the opportunity for capturing beautiful images, the gorges are never more vibrant and breathtaking than in the spring. The brilliant, emerald-green hues of new foliage contrast spectacularly with the white, flowing water of the falls and streams. The waterfalls are also at their most dramatic, swollen with the spring runoff. But regardless of the time of year, the waterfalls of the Finger Lakes offer an unparalleled photographic experience.

Chris Murray resides in Syracuse and has been a practicing landscape photographer for over 15 years. He also holds a Ph.D. in geology. You can see other pictures from Chris online at

by Chris Murray

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *