Autumn Road Trip

Autumn at Erie Falls

Captured in Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

This year, I've made a concerted effort to get out and photograph more, not just around my adopted home state of Maine, but also across the country. In the spring I visited the Palouse in Washington (you can read about here and here, if you missed it) and Glacier National Park. After that I hit Letchworth State Park in upstate New York to teach a workshop before spending the summer exploring Maine some more. When autumn hit, it was time to really get out there. I did some photographing in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine, them spent several days exploring Autumn in Vermont.

Autumn is, in my mind, the most fleeting of seasons. As photographers, we wait eagerly for the leaves to change, knowing that there will likely only be a week or two of really good color. If there's a good storm, that could get cut way down as the leaves will all come down with heavy rains and wind. It can be a bit stressful trying to find where the best color is at a given time, and hoping it's still there when you arrive. With that in mind, I tried to plan things so I could maximize my time with the best color, moving further south as the month passed.

I try to travel with other photographers when possible to save on travel costs, so once again, I teamed up with K. Wilkinson Photography to share the travel expenses and we headed south. Our first stop was Ricketts Glen in Pennsylvania. Ricketts Glen is home to over 20 named waterfalls and numerous unnamed cascades, so while West Virginia was the ultimate destination, Ricketts Glen was a perfect spot to break for a day and photograph some great waterfalls. We hiked the Ganoga Glen side of the park first, and were able to capture several of the falls on that side. After several hours, we arrived at the Glen Leigh side of the park and found them to be in full, harsh sunlight. Direct sunlight looks awful for photography, so we hiked the trail looking for sections that were in shade, but unfortunately found none. Chalking it up to experience, we decided to finish the loop back to the car and filed away the info on sun angles for Glen Leigh for the next time we passed this way.

Elakala Falls

Captured in Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

The next day, we headed to West Virginia. The first stop was Blackwater Falls State Park. Blackwater Falls is beautiful 62 foot tall waterfall, but it's not the most photogenic in the park. That title goes to Elakala Falls, pictured above. Elakala Falls is a series of waterfalls on Shays Run, and the first in the series is a 35-foot cascade, with a wooden footbridge crossing at the crest of the falls. We spent a few hours here, playing with the various compositions available. As you can see, the fall color hadn't quite hit this spot yet, but that didn't make it any less beautiful.

Appalachian Autumn

The next morning, we headed out to Babcock State Park, in Fayette County, West Virginia. Babcock is home to the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a replica mill completed in 1976 by combining parts of three West Virginia mills.

The first morning we visited the mill, it was a dreary, rainy October day, making it difficult to make images. We did make some , but we both agreed we wanted to see if we could get better light. The next morning we returned and found the mill enveloped in orange and yellow foliage, and sunlight filtering through the trees. Overall it made for better compositions and more interesting light.

Autumn at Dunloup Creek

Dunloup Creek near Thurmond, West Virginia

After we finished at Babcock State Park, we headed towards Thurmond, an abandoned railroad town that is now part of the National Park System and New River Gorge National River. Dunloup Creek Falls are a nice cascade about 20 feet tall. There was good foliage here, and the waterfall was one of the most photogenic I've visited. The creek here is only inches deep, creating interesting bubbling areas that turn white during a long exposure. The challenge here was the slick rocks just beneath the surface of the water. Getting into the creek without slipping and falling was difficult, but thankfully we managed without getting wet, or damaging the cameras. These are some of my favorite images from the trip.

Twilight at Sandstone Falls

Captured at New River Gorge National River, West Virginia

Sandstone Falls was an unexpected find on this trip. We'd planned several locations, but somehow this one got passed over when we laid out the itinerary. Fortunately, we always leave a certain amount of flexibility so we can "chase the light" and move to locations that we either weren't aware of or had overlooked. So when when a park ranger suggested we visit here, we immediately made room in the itinerary.  Sandstone Falls required a short, relatively easy hike to get to the frontlook of the falls. There's a boardwalk that takes you most of the way, but when that ends, you need to bushwhack a bit to get to the main falls. We also had to rock hop a bit across three streams, which, while not treacherous, can be a little nerve-wracking while trying to balance on the rocks and not get wet. We photographed here at sunset two evenings, and while we didn't get spectacular orange and red skies, the falls were so spectacular that we had plenty to work with.

Autumn In The Glen of Pools

Captured in Watkins Glen, New York

After three days in West Virginia, it was time to start heading north again. With such a long drive, we planned a stop at Watkins Glen State Park in upstate New York to break up the drive and give us a chance to photograph this incredibly beautiful area one more time. We weren't expecting much in the way of autumn color remaining on the the trees, but since the highlight of this park is the deep gorge with its many waterfalls, we figured it wouldn't matter.

We were thrilled to see so many red and orange leaves lining the gorge walls. The leaves added just the right amount of color and interest to the scene. We took a taxi to the top of the gorge and walked the two mile gorge trail back to the bottom of the gorge, stopping to photograph as we went. We would have hiked to the top, but after 5 days of hiking and photographing, neither one of us had any energy to do a two mile uphill hike!

Autumn at Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls, one of the most popular spots in Watkins Glen

Capturing Watkins Glen in autumn was the perfect way to complete this road trip. I love autumn for a lot of reasons, and being able to photograph so much of it was a dream for me. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I enjoyed making them.


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