Blame it on Watkins Glen

April 29, 2010:  the day I decided I needed a new camera.

We were giving visiting west coast relatives a tour of our area, with an obligatory stop at Watkins Glen State Park to see the gorge and waterfalls that are iconic features of the Finger Lakes.  My camera at the time was a Nikon Coolpix P5700, a glorified digital point-and-shoot with some DSLR-like features.  As I tried to take pictures of the water flowing through the Glen I became increasingly frustrated -- I could envision the image, but I could not make the camera capture it.

I had been researching cameras, intending to upgrade to a DSLR before a planned trip to Glacier National Park later in the year, but my frustration in Watkins Glen was the last straw -- I ordered a new Nikon D90 the next week.

Of course, a new camera by itself was not the whole answer.  The images I wanted to capture were long exposures of moving water, which required a few additional items:  tripod, ball head, remote release, and various neutral density filters (think sunglasses for the camera lens, reducing the amount of light that reaches the sensor).  By the time we went to Glacier I was sufficiently equipped to try my hand at "slowing down the water."

Avalanche Creek, Glacier NP

The image at the left, from the Glacier trip, was literally my very first effort to put the new equipment to work.  Although there are things that I would do differently now, I still like this one a lot.  However, this image must have been beginner's luck.  I obviously underestimated the height and steepness of this particular learning curve, and it was a long time before I was able to make the camera output approach my vision with any consistency.  I have collected some of my favorite waterfall pictures in this gallery -- judge for yourself if I'm making progress.

I did not return to Watkins Glen again until last October, when I spent a couple of hours early one morning walking the Glen in relative solitude and looking at it, for the first time, through photographer's eyes.  Although my primary objective was to scout for future photography trips, I stopped to shoot in three locations.  I didn't think I had captured much of value, but I kept returning to one image (below).  After some post-processing work it has become one of my top 5 favorite images of 2013.