Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cavern Cascade

with 38 comments

One of the waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park in New York’s Finger Lakes region is Cavern Cascade. Below is a chiaroscuro portrait of it from July 30th that plays the falling water off against the rock strata in the gorge.

What makes Cavern Cascade so popular is that the trail leading to it passes behind the cascade. Naturally that’s where I wanted to stand to take a less-conventional photograph, but so many tourists kept coming along the path in both directions and stopping to have someone take their picture or to do a selfie that I despaired of ever getting half a minute completely free from people. Eventually there was a brief letup in the human caravans and I rushed in to make my abstract portrait looking out at 1/800 of a second through the waterfall toward the light beyond it.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2019 at 6:24 AM

38 Responses

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  1. The second photo reminds me of bubble glass https://vacationu.com/basement-ideas/?, specifically some green glasses we had at home in the 70s. The first portrait is exquisite. I could drink its beauty again and again.


    August 29, 2019 at 6:44 AM

  2. An outstanding way to capture the flow of a waterfall, Steve

    Peter Klopp

    August 29, 2019 at 8:06 AM

    • I’ll take outstanding, thanks. Another way to put it is that I was literally hindstanding to make the second portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2019 at 8:19 AM

  3. Oh cool~ I’ll bet it was all echo-y in there. I like the shadows on the far wall of stone in the first image. You’ve captured a sense of place in that one. And, of course, the abstract is mesmerizing. I really like the black outline of rock at the top.


    August 29, 2019 at 8:50 AM

    • I don’t remember it being echo-y in there. That may be because the gorge is open at the top, or because I didn’t notice echoes did occur, or because there were no echoes. Sorry, I haven’t been any help on that one.

      I’m always pleased when someone gets a sense of place from one of my photographs, as you did with the first one. As for the second photograph mesmerizing you, so much the better. I considered cropping off some of the black at the top but decided I like that heavy band of darkness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2019 at 12:34 PM

  4. Unique waterfall images! Were you able to use a tripod there and try some with a slower shutter speed?


    August 29, 2019 at 5:18 PM

    • Unique is what I’m after, so I was pleased.

      I did a few pictures with slow shutter speeds elsewhere in Watkins Glen but the results were so-so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 29, 2019 at 5:24 PM

  5. I’m glad you didn’t crop off the dark band in the second photo. It’s one of those fascinating images that I can see in two ways: sometimes as water spilling over the edge of the cavern, and sometimes as a moonlit rock wall rising up into the night sky.

    I especially like the interplay of horizontal and vertical in the first image. Beyond the obvious contrast between the rock and the water, the thin, vertical shadows on the rock add a little ‘verticality’ to its strongly horizontal formations, and the dark split in the middle of the falling water helps to emphasize its subtly horizontal ripples.

    Both of these are images to get lost in.


    August 30, 2019 at 5:45 AM

    • Speaking of pointing things out, I’m so glad you said you can see the second image in two ways, like those optical illusions people create for that purpose. Knowing what the photograph actually shows, I don’t think I ever would have seen it in a different way without being prompted. If the picture were presented with no explanation, or with a neutral title like “A View from Nature,” I wonder what people would see. Or if I gave a counterfactual title like “Moonlight in the Rocky Mountains,” I wonder how many viewers would be led to see the image that way.

      I also appreciate your analysis of the first photograph, with its playing off of horizontal and vertical.

      By the way, Watkins Glen proved the most rewarding of the gorges we visited in New York. The next morning at Ithaca Falls a tourist family asked me to take their picture and I told them they should go to Watkins Glen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 7:13 AM

  6. I agree that the interplay of vertical and horizontal in the first picture makes a compelling work of art far beyond a gorgeous scene. It stops time, and I’m not just talking about the fast shutter speed. The second one also makes me think of a sheet of ice. Or some twisted aurora against the black sky. Beautiful, beautiful work.

    Michael Scandling

    August 30, 2019 at 11:13 AM

    • Thanks, Michael. I’m really pleased with the way the second picture turned out, in part because of the resemblance of the water to ice.

      I kept the first picture small because, as much as I’m happy with the composition and the contrast between light and dark and between horizontal and vertical, there wasn’t enough light for me to use as fast a shutter speed as I’d have liked, and as a result the motion of the foremost water didn’t get stopped enough (as I see it).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 11:52 AM

      • I see what you mean on the second one. Try some selective sharpening just on the water. Perhaps even over-sharpen just a tiny little bit. Try the smart sharpen filter in Photoshop.

        Michael Scandling

        August 30, 2019 at 11:56 AM

        • That’s a good suggestion. I just tried a hefty dose of the Smart Sharpen filter on the water in the full-size version of the first photograph and it did help. Thanks.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 30, 2019 at 3:06 PM

  7. I love all your work, but these just shot to the top of my list! Simply beautiful, Steve.


    August 30, 2019 at 1:45 PM

    • Thanks, Lynda. Like you, I was really happy with these. Finding new ways of portraying things is rewarding, even more so after working in a field for decades.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 3:08 PM

  8. I love the second photo! The falling curtain of water is mesmerising. I also enjoy the play of light and shadow in the first photo, very nice effect.. the contrast between motion and static is also interesting. It’s really nice to have the two views.

    Ms. Liz

    August 30, 2019 at 4:14 PM

    • That curtain of water was new for me, too; you can imagine how enthusiastic I became once I saw the photographic possibilities it offered. And yes, the two pictures, a front view and a back view, do work well together. I’m so glad I visited Watkins Glen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 4:23 PM

  9. I’m glad the flow of humanity let up for a few minutes because the photo you made is quite wonderful! I think we went there as kids when I lived in Syracuse, but it’s too far back for me to remember. I know it’s a beautiful place!


    August 30, 2019 at 7:09 PM

    • Sounds like someone else is overdue for a trip back to upstate New York. Syracuse was on the list of places I compiled before setting out, but I knew there was no way to hit them all even though we’d be on the road for almost four weeks. We made Rochester but not Syracuse.

      I’m pleased that you appreciate the picture looking out at the light from behind the falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2019 at 9:11 PM

  10. I actually see the second photograph three different ways and I can’t say which thought appeals more. Like Linda, “sometimes as water spilling over the edge of the cavern, and sometimes as a moonlit rock wall rising up into the night sky.” I also see it as if viewing downward from above (in the night), looking over a rushing stream. I wonder what that means about me psychologically… ?? Ha ha!


    August 31, 2019 at 11:18 AM

    • You win the prize for the most versatile imagination when looking at the second picture. I don’t know what it says about you psychologically. Seems like you could profit from that versatility in some way—just don’t ask me how.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2019 at 11:26 AM

  11. The close up makes for a great abstract!!


    August 31, 2019 at 12:26 PM

  12. Both are well done but the abstract is very nice.

    Steve Gingold

    September 2, 2019 at 3:59 AM

  13. Beautiful light Steve …


    September 4, 2019 at 2:02 PM

  14. […] at Watkins Glen State Park in New York State’s Finger Lakes region a visitor can walk behind Cavern Cascade. Upstream at Rainbow Falls comes another (and somewhat wetter) chance to do […]

  15. Love it!!

    Dawn Renee

    January 10, 2020 at 11:46 AM

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