The Explorographer
A close-up image of a waterfall in long exposure photography. Vintage style processing.

Watkins Glen, New York

Watkins Glen, New York or Watkins in a Water Wonderland as I like to say.   Okay, bad puns aside, Watkins Glen is essentially my second home.  Make no mistake Watkins Glen is a tourist town for sure. With Seneca Lake, Seneca Wine Trail, Watkins Glen International Raceway, and the very popular Watkins Glen State Park and Gorge with all of its amazing waterfalls in addition to several other waterfalls in the area.  There is a LOT to love in the Watkins Glen area.  And though I have been known to partake in all of the aforementioned sins here and there, it’s the waterfalls that I truly love.

One advantage you have when you live in an area is that you learn all of the nuances and secret spot that most tourist never know about.   As a photographer, you learn the best times, best spots, best light, etc.  So today, I wanted to share some of my favorite shots from the area and open the mic for questions, tips, etc.  Feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll be more than happy to lend my knowledge of the area so you can grab some special shots of your own if you ever visit.

Probably my favorite shot from Watkins Glen State Park Gorge is this one of Cascade falls.  These falls are notoriously hard to photograph simply due to the attraction.  The stone walkway here goes behind this waterfall and when the flowrate is high, it is pretty spectacular.

A stone walkway curves from left to right underneath a high flowing waterfall. The stone walls are green with algae and the stone walkway is shades of orange and brown.
The trick of the trade here is several fold.  You have to go super early in the morning when few people are on the trail.  Use an ND filter for a long exposure time in case a misguided tourist enters the frame. It needs to be overcast and right after a rainstorm.   That final part takes quite a bit of practice. The waterfall takes a bit to get to and it has to be in the rainy season. Most times during the summer it is barely but a trickle.   And for the final trick, if you look just beyond the waterfall, you see that the trail leads into a cave.  In that cave there is artificial light.  Tungsten light!!

For years I always shot this waterfall from the front side.  I mean, that is kind of how we think to shoot most waterfalls.  On one of my many trips through the gorge, I tripped inside that cave in quite an unfashionable way.  As I picked my undignified A** up of the muddy floor of the first landing of the cave, it became immediately apparent that to me that I had been shooting this waterfall at Watkins Glen all wrong for all these years.  If you get a chance to go there, THIS is the shot you want!
A photograph looking out of a cave with stairs leading down from left to right and then back left again behind a waterfall just outside of the cave. The cave is colored burnt umbers and yellows while the walls outside around the waterfall are green with algae. The contrast is dramatic.In reality, you want to shoot them both…or something different still.  If you have a location near you, start going often and shooting it over and over.  It will come to you and you will create something wonderful from it.  You have that advantage, take it!  If you enjoyed these shots, check out the rest of my photos from the Gorge here:  Watkins Glen Gallery


Explore. Photograph. Write. Repeat.

A multi-award winning travel photographer and mentor. Most known for his "abandonscape" images. Creator and curator of and

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