Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lucifer Falls

with 45 comments

I can’t remember if I’d ever heard of Robert H. Treman State Park in the southern part of New York State’s Finger Lakes region before I did research for our summer trip. When we visited on the morning of August 1st I concentrated on the upper (western) end of the park and skipped the lower part, given that we were expected down near New York City later in the day. At Treman we encountered other hikers, but nothing like the crowds we’d run into at Letchworth State Park and Watkins Glen State Park.

The main attraction in the upper section of Treman State Park is the 115-feet-tall Lucifer Falls, shown above as I photographed it at 1/2500 of a second and a focal length of 85mm. Then I switched to my telephoto and zoomed to the maximum 400mm to record details in the falling and splashing water, again at 1/2500 of a second. Notice how sunlight refracting through the spray created pleasing pastel colors. You can use the slightly curved light-colored “bar” in the lower right corner of the second picture to match up to the same feature about a fifth of the way up from the center of the bottom in the first picture.

I also used the maximum 400mm reach of my telephoto to portray a closed lily (perhaps a Canada lily, Lilium canadense) that I noticed leaning out into the gorge. I chose a position that let me line up the lily with the waterfall; apparently the flower reflected a lot more light than the farther-away falls, given the way that the water turned into what looks like a faint cloud floating in darkness.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2019 at 4:41 AM

45 Responses

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  1. I think you may convert me to fast shutter-speed waterfall photography. At least some of the time.

    Michael Scandling

    August 26, 2019 at 5:24 AM

    • Just as I go for silky water at least some of the time.
      I don’t think a slow shutter speed in the second photo would have caught the pastel colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 5:51 AM

      • I agree. On both counts.

        Michael Scandling

        August 26, 2019 at 6:03 AM

        • One difficulty in using a very high shutter speed when zooming in on a subject is not being able to stop down more for greater depth of field.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2019 at 6:20 AM

          • On the other hand your get to isolate certain aspects of it for a possibly more abstract look. If that’s what you want.

            Michael Scandling

            August 26, 2019 at 6:27 AM

            • I definitely wanted an abstract look in the second picture, and the 400mm focal length was fine for that. I just wish the upper left corner had come out sharper. Maybe I’m being too picky.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 26, 2019 at 6:47 AM

  2. nice


    August 26, 2019 at 6:38 AM

  3. Nice! It’s a terrific park, and you can swim down at the lower end. Water was 58 degrees this weekend.

    Robert Parker

    August 26, 2019 at 8:18 AM

    • One reason I chose to spend our time at the upper end was that when I looked at pictures online of the lower end I saw lots of people swimming in the pool at the base of the lower falls. I figured it would be hard or impossible to get a picture there without people in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 8:30 AM

      • Yep, popular swimmin’ hole. And a million steps in between the upper and lower ends, although there’s a parking lot there, too. My parents & sister were just there this weekend, that’s how I knew the water temperature.

        Robert Parker

        August 26, 2019 at 8:33 AM

        • I thought maybe you’d looked up the water temperature online.

          I know (kinesthetically) what you mean about all those steps. Because we parked near the old mill at the upper end, first we went down, down, down to get to Lucifer Falls. Then we went down one level further, which turned out not to offer any better chance for pictures and added to the already many steps we had to climb back up to return to the parking lot.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2019 at 9:01 AM

  4. Looking at your zoomed-in picture of the Lucifer waterfall, I begin to understand and appreciate the significance of extremely high shutter speed when shooting water in motion. Great job, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    August 26, 2019 at 9:14 AM

    • Thanks. Where the silky look smoothes out all the details in flowing water, the high-speed approach reveals tiny details in the dynamics of falling and splashing that we can’t otherwise detect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 9:31 AM

  5. There are so many beautiful places to visit back there! I do love the prismatic effect of the water spray. I saw Niagara Falls with my family when I was about 5 years old. The “rainbow” created by the falls stuck in my mind.

    Lavinia Ross

    August 26, 2019 at 10:22 AM

    • It’s clear that that childhood rainbow is still with you. Maybe you’ll take a trip back to upstate New York, as much for Niagara Falls as for these other waterfalls.

      “Prismatic” is a good word to describe the effect of the light hitting the spray. As a photographer, I was pleased with it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2019 at 12:39 PM

  6. Great shots Steve! Enjoyed seeing them!

    Reed Andariese

    August 26, 2019 at 6:04 PM

  7. In the second photo, the parallel wavy lines of the falling water somehow add to the effect of the color. I couldn’t find a waterfall image on the Atmospheric Optics site, but I did find this sea spray bow. Often, I find these amorphous patches of color more appealing than a regular rainbow.

    The lily reminded me of a lily I found on the Crystal Springs trail at Crystal Bridges. It was leaning out over the water in the darkness of late afternoon. My photos were terrible, but the memory’s fresh.


    August 27, 2019 at 7:36 AM

    • I’m with you in enjoying the amorphous spread of faint colors because it is amorphous and therefore less commonly seen than a conventional rainbow. I wonder if it’s actually less common or only less commonly noticed. Either way, the picture pleased me and I felt rewarded by the abstraction.

      Given how much you’ve improved your photography, it will be interesting to see the pictures you take the next time you visit Crystal Bridges.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2019 at 8:20 AM

  8. The waterfall photos are both wonderful but it’s that daredevil lily leaning into the gorge which steals my heart with its intense colour.


    August 28, 2019 at 5:43 AM

  9. I imagine that would be a devilish barrel ride. Great abstract quality with those nice colors in the last waterfall shot.

    Steve Gingold

    August 30, 2019 at 4:31 AM

    • I’m very happy with the second photograph because it’s different from any waterfall picture I remember taking. You know how hard it is to find a new approach to something familiar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 6:34 AM

      • Yes, difficult but possible as you’ve shown.

        Steve Gingold

        September 2, 2019 at 4:08 AM

        • In fact I added two unique waterfall pictures on this trip. I’d be looking for more back home now except it hasn’t rained here in ages and our few waterfalls have diminished or dried up altogether.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 2, 2019 at 6:34 AM

          • Ours have too. I went by my favorite little waterfall yesterday and it’s just a rock pile at the moment.

            Steve Gingold

            September 3, 2019 at 4:10 AM

            • I’m used to it down here in August. I wouldn’t have expected it up by you, where there are more waterfalls and on average more rain.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 3, 2019 at 5:27 AM

              • They tend to dry up in the summer if we don’t get much rain. There is usually a trickle which might offer some intimate possibilities but even that isn’t happening right now. A deluge forecast for tonight and possible hurricane remnants Friday might produce some gushers.

                Steve Gingold

                September 4, 2019 at 3:00 PM

                • Then for photographic purposes, happy deluge to you. We haven’t had a drop here in the three-and-a-half weeks since we came back from our trip, and I think there was hardly any in Austin during the four weeks we were away, either.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 4, 2019 at 3:14 PM

                • Yesterday’s “deluge” was short-lived. Most of the rain fell to our north or south. We live next to an east-west oriented mountain range..the Holyoke Range which I have previously posted about…and that seems to shunt the weather around us, over and/or under but rarely on top of.

                  Steve Gingold

                  September 5, 2019 at 3:50 AM

                • Too bad you didn’t get more rain. If it’s not too far, you can still drive to the places that did get more rain and take advantage of the better conditions there.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 5, 2019 at 5:56 AM

  10. The second photo is really amazing, Steve – I’ve seen rainbows in waterfalls but this just looks different – well done!


    August 30, 2019 at 7:12 PM

    • What’s different is that it isn’t really a rainbow. Or maybe it’s a rainbow that has overflowed its normal arc and spread out somewhat amorphously.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 9:16 PM

  11. Love the subtlety of the pastel colours.. really gorgeous shot Steve!

    Ms. Liz

    August 30, 2019 at 7:42 PM

  12. and the Devil’s Kitchen just around the corner


    August 31, 2019 at 6:50 AM

  13. […] Lucifer Falls is the best known waterfall in the upper part of Treman State Park, others there also deserve […]

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