Sunday May 20 2018: Kaaterskill Falls | Bastion Falls
Why is it that, regardless of how much sleep you get, you always seem to be super friggin’ tired?
Since beginning my photographic journey back in June of 2014 – and more specifically, when I began capturing the beauty of the natural world in August of 2016 – I have been drawn to water. Naturally, waterfalls have become my favorite subjects. I suppose it is the calming, soothing sounds, paired with the apparent isolation. Calm, isolated images are what I am beginning to strive to create, four years into my photography journey. Only time will tell if I am able to accomplish this goal…
Out of the fifty-plus waterfalls that I have seen and photographed, Kaaterskill Falls is by far my favorite. Allow me, if you will, to explain why, in form of the story of this day.
Saturday night, before heading in for a shower and bed, I began scrolling through Instagram under the search results for Kaaterskill Falls. Every so often I find myself doing this as it helps me better visualize the area to which I am going. Therefore I am able to think of compositions that may work, and then test them out once in the field with my camera.
Whilst scrolling, I stumbled upon a pretty sweet image of the falls from what seemed to be a unique vantage point. Luckily for me, the photographer (www.instagram.com/del_higgins, for those interested) shared how he found this area in the comments below. Naturally, I had to find it myself and try to create my own interpretation of the scene.
When Melanie and I arrived at the park, I knew immediately it was going to be one hell of a day. Save for the annoying bugs, whirring around and biting us to pieces, everything seemed to contain some secretive sort of beauty. The trees right around the parking lot – some cut down to what looks to be an expansion of the lot – were tall, bare, and beautiful.
I was in love at first sight.
As Mel got all of her stuff together, I began working on crafting at least one portfolio-worthy image of these trees. The light felt all wrong, hitting the trees in far too harsh a manner, killing much of any potential for a great image. Yet I tried anyway, knowing that I had some time to wait for Mel and that I could always come back to try again. Which I did.
Roughly a five minute walk from the parking lot later, we were sitting against a tree, taking in the beautiful scenery. We pulled our lunch out from Melanie’s backpack, took out our sandwiches, and chowed down.
As we ate, I began thinking of what sort of composition I wanted to create. I knew I didn’t want something too similar to the inspiration from Del, but I also knew that there weren’t a whole hell of a lot of options. Feeling as though I should keep with my panorama craze – it allowed me to be able to crop in and change my composition completely in post due to the mass amounts of detail – that’s what I decided to do.
I finished half of my sandwich, put it away in the lunch bag, and began setting up my gear. Since the waterfall was a long ways away, I decided my 24mm lens would be far too wide for a good panorama. So I went ahead and attached my 85mm to my D7200 as it would get me close enough to the waterfall while also allowing for a beautifully compressed panorama.
It was not long before we were back on the trail, heading down to the base of the waterfall for some more beautiful imagery. On our way, I messed around with some adventure photographs, as I am currently – probably already have – crafted a gallery of them. Very few of these turned out, but this was definitely one of my favorites…
By the time we got down to the base of the waterfall, I was ready for a break. Luck seemed to be with me for once as I found a large rock for the both of us to sit upon to rest. A couple asked me to take their picture – a rather often occurrence – so I gladly grabbed their phone from them and took a few shots.
At that point, I felt inspired enough to get off my ass and go after the composition I had in mind. Of course, the second I began getting into position, the skies decided to open up.
Rain came plummeting down in sheets, soaking me, causing the river I was in to suddenly rise by a few centimeters. Hopefully this explains the lack of behinds-the-scenes pictures – I will get better of this, I promise.
If I am honest though, I did not come up with the composition all by myself. A sign I had seen prior to making it down to the base of the waterfall contained a painting with a similar composition. I immediately fell in love with it, feeling forced to use it as direct inspiration.
My only hopes are that my finished version inspires others as well as the painting had inspired me.
The rain continued on for a little while before stopping for the rest of the day. I mean, why wouldn’t it stop shortly after I put everything back in my bag and go to walk away?
Maybe I should have gone back and worked on the composition a bit more, tried different things, figured out exactly what the best way to photograph this waterfall was. Hell, even making sure that my focus was nailed would have been beneficial, as I was paranoid for the rest of the day that I messed something up. Luckily enough, it appears as though my instincts helped me and I got the shot.
From there, we walked to the middle section of the waterfall, the last viewpoint we desired to see of this fall. It is truly impossible for me to describe in words both the beauty and the power of Kaaterskill Falls. When walking the last section of the trail, before the final curve when the waterfall is revealed, we could already feel the immense power and mist. It felt as though the rain had started all over again, coming at a very odd angle.
Already moist from the rainfall not long ago, Melanie decided to stay behind, not wishing to get soaked even more. I, however, could not resist the temptation of capturing some abstract photos of the water. I switched my 24mm for my 85, helping to ensure the waterfall would be unrecognizable and more abstract. After over 100 photos, I walked back to the trail, drenched.
My bag packed up, clothing soaked, visually satisfied, we began our trek back to the car. Once there, I started to work on the trees once again, now that the light was a bit better. A lot better, actually. It didn’t take long for me to capture a few images I thought I could work with.
Our day was still not yet over, however.
Bastion Falls was just down the road, connected to the river that forms Kaaterskill, if I am not mistaken. For this reason alone, I had to stop in and check it out.
When we got to the packed parking lot, we were lucky enough to find a spot; the lot, was very small.
Immediately after stepping out of the car, I found a beautiful scene laid out before me.
Overlooking the tree-filled hills, paired with a silver birch and some great, dark, fluffy clouds, I was in awe. However beautiful the scene, I fail to believe I did it any justice. Once edited and “finalized” in form of print, maybe I will know for sure. Then again, that is rather unlikely.
Regardless of the images, as I was crafting my panorama a nice man with his daughters asked if I could take a picture of them and the scene with their camera. While I would have said “yes” rather gladly as I had with the couple earlier, I was rather busy. Yet I felt bad for saying no and Mel wasn’t doing anything, so I offered them her services as I finished my work.
From there, we walked down the road to Bastion Falls where we got to work once again.
In all honesty, there’s not much to be said about the rest of the day. After trying a few different compositions of the falls, I snagged some more adventure photographs of Mel wearing my new Lowepro ProTactic 450AW bag, and then we headed back to the cabin for some yummy food.
Next week, we wrap-up the trip and reflect a bit on it as a whole. Be sure to keep an eye out!