Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ithaca Falls revisited

with 53 comments

On this date last year we spent some pleasant time at Ithaca Falls in Ithaca, New York. I really don’t like shooting up toward a white sky, and the one we had that morning led to me take most of my pictures as tight abstractions of the rocks and water. In this one I used a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second in an attempt to stop the water in mid-fall and mid-splash; it worked pretty well. If you’d like a closer look at some of the Hokusai action, click the excerpt below.

It wasn’t just the falls that were impressive. Adjacent to them I photographed a natural (I assume) rock formation so geometric you could be forgiven for thinking that people had had a part in creating it:

And now that geometry has entered the picture, here’s a semi-related observation for today: If a person says that the diagonals of any rectangle bisect each other (which they do), the statement remains true no matter who the person is, what background the person has, what day of the week the statement was made on, what the weather was at the time, what town or country the statement was made in, why the person made the statement, who it was said to, or what use someone else might put the statement to. Offering up those irrelevancies or any others as reasons to deny the truth of the statement is folly, or worse, malice.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2020 at 4:44 AM

53 Responses

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  1. The right angle fractures of our ancient rocks were created when the North American and African continental plates pressed together twice across eons.


    July 31, 2020 at 6:41 AM

  2. At that high shutter speed, you created what appears to be an image frozen in time. Yet, on closer examination, billions of water molecules have moved even in a millionth of a second. This thought could provide the spark for an exciting calculus lesson. Have a great weekend, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 31, 2020 at 8:17 AM

    • Ah, calculus, near and dear to me, and yet a realm I’ve never ventured into here because few readers of a nature photography blog would follow. For that reason, when I’ve done a little math here, I’ve mostly kept it to arithmetic, which offers some easily accessible delights.

      As you implied, 1/2000 of a second is fast, but compared to 0, it might as well be infinite, and a lot still happens in so short a span.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 8:29 AM

  3. Amen to that, Steve. It baffles me to see our once wonderful nation embrace conspiracies and discard science and math and fact. We are becoming a nation of nitwits.


    July 31, 2020 at 8:21 AM

    • If I could just get the sign makers in the produce sections of grocery stores to stop writing .89¢ when they mean 89¢, I’d consider my life a success.

      It occurs to me that the human propensity for creating folklore and myth may also be at work in creating conspiracy theories. At the same time, there’s a problem with the disdainful term “conspiracy theory,” because some of those turn out to be true. The history of science offers many examples of established scientists ridiculing and even hounding a lone researcher who had a non-conventional theory—until that theory was proven correct.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 8:43 AM

      • Ha! Yes, .89 cents. Interestingly, I see that this computer does not even possess a “cent” symbol. Ah those Apple people. I’d love to see them called onto the congressional carpet!
        As to conspiracy theories, I just learned yesterday on NPR that there is indeed a governmental agency on the lookout for UFO’s, they simply changed the name and reassigned them to the Navy. Now if we could just get people as interested in taking care of this beautiful planet as they are in finding little green men on Mars, I’d be a happy camper.


        August 1, 2020 at 8:33 AM

        • You mentioned Apple: if you have a Macintosh, you can get the ¢ symbol by pressing option-4 (as opposed to shift-4 for the $).

          I’ve heard about the government agency investigating unidentified flying objects—in the literal sense, i.e. unidentified. Plenty of sober pilots with many years of experience flying, often for the military, have occasionally seen things moving in the sky in ways that seem to go beyond anything American technology can account for. Could other countries have produced such advanced aircraft? Possibly. Could beings from another world be here? Possibly. People imbued with the scientific spirit would like to find out what’s going on.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 1, 2020 at 6:18 PM

          • ¢! Well hey, look at that!
            Oh, absolutely. I’m on board with that. I just fret about the attitude I hear so often that that this planet has been used up and it is time to move to Mars.


            August 3, 2020 at 9:16 AM

            • You may find Keyboard Viewer helpful. It lives over near the right edge of the menu bar and has as its icon an American flag. If you click the flag, a menu pops down and you can choose “Show Keyboard Viewer.” Once the little keyboard shows up on your screen, separately pressing the Shift key, Option key, and Option-Shift keys causes the little keyboard to change and show what you get from using those modifier keys with each character on your keyboard. For example, Option-Shift-8 produces a degree symbol.

              Also available from the menu with the American flag is “Show Emoji and Symbols,” which brings up a palette with many signs, symbols, and emojis you can use. Double-clicking on one inserts it where the cursor is in any text you’re typing. Here are some samples:


              Steve Schwartzman

              August 3, 2020 at 11:39 AM

              • Wow! I wish the guy who sold me this computer had showed me this. Thank you so much!


                August 4, 2020 at 2:08 AM

                • Now you can let your inner typographer run wild.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 4, 2020 at 6:30 AM

                • 🙂


                  August 7, 2020 at 8:36 AM

                • And here’s a long article detailing fifty nifty things you can do on a Macintosh:


                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 4, 2020 at 6:54 AM

                • Cool! I’ll set aside some time and look into this. Maybe I’ll start liking the darned thing more although probably not. My first Mac was wonderful; every generation thereafter has been less so and this last one is terribly disappointing. Half of the letters don’t work, etc. I see that they have changed the keyboard for the newest model, as well they should.


                  August 7, 2020 at 8:36 AM

                • If half the letters don’t work, it sounds like you have a faulty keyboard.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 7, 2020 at 8:41 AM

                • Yes, I certainly do. I took it back right away and they sneered at me (!) and told me I could trade it for the newer model that had just been released. For another $3,000!!! Turns out the keyboard for this generation Mac is known to be poor quality. They don’t offer any apology, any solution. This will be my last Apple product, for sure.


                  August 9, 2020 at 8:57 AM

                • Where did you buy your Macintosh? Was it new or used?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 9, 2020 at 9:09 AM

                • It was new, and I bought it at the Apple store.


                  August 11, 2020 at 8:51 AM

                • Then you could’ve returned it right away if the keyboard didn’t work right. If the keyboard failed after the warranty ran out, you can get a new keyboard, either made by Apple or various third parties.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 11, 2020 at 9:49 AM

                • I did take it back right away, but they were very rude, seeming to take it personally that I would find fault with their product, and flat refused to replace it.
                  I did buy a new keyboard that works well. However I haven’t found a good way to utilize it. What would feel the best would be to place it over the existing keyboard but of course this causes the existing keyboard to act up. Trying to set the computer to one side and have only the keyboard on my lap doesn’t seem to work well.


                  August 13, 2020 at 7:18 AM

                • I’m sorry you had that bad experience. I’ve always had the opposite with Apple. I don’t know what was wrong with the people in that store.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 13, 2020 at 7:24 AM

                • Nor do I but I won’t be back.


                  August 13, 2020 at 7:25 AM

                • I hope you won’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I much prefer using a Macintosh to a Windows PC (I’ve had various models of Macintosh since 1985). You could go to a different Apple store or order online and skip having to go to a store at all.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 13, 2020 at 7:30 AM

                • That is so, and generally I would say I agree with you regarding Apple vs. Windows. I have heard that they got so much flak about this keyboard that the newer model is improved, although still not as good as the one years ago. I should consider a desktop, I suppose, but I’m more of a laptop kind of girl.


                  August 14, 2020 at 10:17 AM

  4. Stunning photograph. And your geometrical observation is a fractal of rejection of objective truth in a large part of our society. It is intellectually lazy to generalize, but in my observation the vast majority of conspiracy theories are complete dreck. It would seem that the vast majority of them are made up by individuals who have agendas which involve putting as much of the populace as possible into a state of fear and apathy. Apparently a large number of people in our society can’t think critically. But what bothers me even more is the whole concept of “thinking critically“ and similar intellectual skills that come from being well educated or even somewhat well educated are being demeaned as “elitist.” The sad truth is that people tend to mock what they don’t understand. Certain examples of mockery go viral on social media and that becomes a new alternate reality. We have just entered the twilight zone.

    Michael Scandling

    July 31, 2020 at 10:32 AM

    • We can understand historically why most people rejected some scientific truths. It sure looks like the sun moves in an arc across the sky each day above a generally flat earth. Eventually a very clever Greek by the name of Eratosthenes proved that the earth is really a globe, and later, after the invention of the telescope, Galileo’s observations of other planets and their satellites confirmed that the earth and those planets go around the sun and not vice versa. Religious authorities in Italy didn’t take kindly to Galileo’s revelations. In our own lifetime, the medical establishment resisted the claim that ulcers are caused by a bacterium. The article at https://www.nature.com/articles/437801a summarizes the story. At least the resisters eventually came around.

      What I find discouraging, and often downright scary these days, is that some presumably intelligent people put ideology above demonstrable facts. While geneticists have made great advances over the past few decades in figuring out how genes influence physical and emotional human characteristics, another segment of academia is on a crusade to deny those very connections.

      It has gotten very contentious out there, so I generally stick to nature photography here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 11:17 AM

  5. hey, we’ve been to Ithaca Falls. Woods around were where I saw my first Jack-in-the-pulpit!

    jane tims

    July 31, 2020 at 1:09 PM

    • Well, if your timing had been right you might have seen a Steve-in-the-pulpit, or more likely a Steve-in-a-Subaru.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 1:17 PM

      • yes, funny how many people we know through social media and may never meet … but perhaps we’ve at least been in a place at the same time. The world is not so large as we think….

        jane tims

        July 31, 2020 at 1:23 PM

        • The farthest away from home that I met someone who was originally a blog acquaintance was New Zealand.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2020 at 1:56 PM

  6. What a beautiful, cooling image that first one is. It looks as icy as some of the winter images that will be posted in a few months, and yet it doesn’t seem at all harsh.

    The second photo’s even more of a delight. The contrast between the gray rock and the green of the recessed portion is eye-catching and pleasing. I used to paint gravel from the driveway with water colors, then give the rocks to my mother as gifts. Here, nature’s done the painting, and it’s equally a gift.


    July 31, 2020 at 2:51 PM

    • Your comment about the cooling first image makes me wonder whether people are allowed to get in the water at the base of the falls. As for the recess in the rocks, I imagine the possibilities for portraits of a person who posed in that natural frame—and once again I have to wonder whether anybody’s done that. Such portraits would also make nice gifts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2020 at 2:58 PM

  7. The waterfall is a great one, but I’m fascinated by the geological cutout. Approximately how wide was the gap?


    August 1, 2020 at 5:12 AM

    • We were there a year and a day ago, so I’m sorry to say I don’t recall how wide the cutout is. You could say my memory has cut out. Our cameras already record what lens and focal length were used for each picture. Maybe future cameras will measure the distance to the subject and put that in the metadata, too, so that the sizes of objects could be calculated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 1, 2020 at 7:38 AM

  8. That is some rock formation. It almost looks manmade.

    Lavinia Ross

    August 1, 2020 at 11:55 AM

  9. I see rock very often that has fractured into layers or vertical columns that do appear as though heavy equipment has been at work. How rock can move over the years and eons is a great subject for study. We can call it Geology. Pangaia/Tectonics is a wonderful explanation for how the planet got the way we know it now but also how it was before we showed up on Earth. One can only imagine what it will look like when we are gone which seems more imminent every day.
    You really “froze” that waterfall.

    Steve Gingold

    August 2, 2020 at 2:37 AM

    • You’re funny in proposing the new subject of geology. I’m impressed that scientists have been able to figure out so much. When we were young, plate tectonics wasn’t the accepted theory it later became. I remember back in the late 1950s the father of one of my close school friends pointing out how the northeast part of South America fits pretty well if you move it over against the west side of Africa.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2020 at 7:55 AM

      • It’s an amazing jigsaw puzzle that fits together rather well.

        Steve Gingold

        August 2, 2020 at 8:08 AM

        • A few years ago we bought and worked our way through one of The Great Courses about the history of the earth. At one time it was frozen into a great big iceball (much more so than in the recent Ice Age); luckily for us, it thawed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 2, 2020 at 8:30 AM

  10. I used to visit Ithaca frequently but the only time I saw the falls was during a drought – they were bone dry, very disconcerting. Good to see the water flowing here!


    August 2, 2020 at 2:29 PM

    • It’s hard to imagine Ithaca Falls completely dried up: I didn’t know that ever happens. Fortunately, rain had been good in upstate New York in the spring of 2019, so all the waterfalls that we visited there last summer were flowing well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2020 at 6:44 PM

  11. In addition to your photos, I love your timely observation of the day. I’m reminded of a great quote I read in a book by Thich Nhat Hanh a few years ago. I believe this was said by the Buddha: “The truth is still the truth even if no one believes it.“


    August 2, 2020 at 8:02 PM

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