The Ups and Downs of Landscape Photography

Panther Overlook, Adirondack State Park, New York, 2002

Article & Images by Amanda Kiplinger

Side Note: This article was originally published on Nature Photographer’s website back in 2003. It was only the second article I’ve published. This article was addressed to photographers.These photographs were actually made on transparency film and scanned! 

I am sure all of you reading this article have experienced ups and downs in your photographic careers. Anything from not selling your images to just having a bad photo experience. I experienced all those ups and downs on a recent trip to the Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. I have described to you four different incidents during this photo trip. I also have told you what lessons I have learned from each one. Let start with a little background information on the trip.

My family and I decided we wanted to explore the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. We could only concentrate on one small area of the park, considering the fact that there is a total of six million acres in the park. We then decided to make our home base int he small town of Saranac Lake, ten miles north west of Lake Placid where two winter Olympics were held.

The Ups and Downs

Up

We started our trip by traveling the highways of New York just getting the feel of the scenery and trying to understand the area. I had purchased several books about the Adirondacks for my research and since one of my favorite subjects is waterfalls, I bought a book called Waterfalls of the Adirondacks and Catskills by Derek Doeffinger and Keith Boss, which was an immense help to find some hidden waterfalls around the park. But one of the falls that we discovered that was not listed in the book was located along NY 86 called Wilmington Flumes. We parked at a small dirt parking space right above the falls. The descent down as a little dangerous, especially for my husband who was carrying my twenty-month-old daughter. When we got down to the falls I had to be very careful setting up my tripod and camera because there were so many rocks and boulders in the area. If I didn’t set up the tripod just right then the whole set up would crash tot he found and there goes my camera.

I happened to get lucky with the weather that day. It was a cloudy day so when I photographed the waterfall, the water appeared white as it should be and not blue as when the sun is shining and the water reflects the blue sky. Lesson 1: I learned from this experience that you should keep your eyes open to the possibility of discovering new areas to photograph.

Down

My next experience was not as good. We had received a package from New York.com. In this package there was a pamphlet that contained a list of different trails in the park. There was one listed near Saranac Lake. The trail was called Panther Mountain Trail. It was a fairly short trail; unfortunately we did not know how steep the trail was. What made it more difficult is that not only did I have to carry my gear, but my husband also had to carry my daughter. So by the time we ascended the top of the mountain my husband and I were just about ready to collapse. I was bound and determined to create photographs on top of that mountain. The problem was that it was about 6 pm and there was still a haze across the horizon. I tried using warming filters, a circular polarizer and a neutral density filter. Unfortunately, none of them worked. I still had a blue tint to the photos. Lesson: I learned from this experience that your timing has to be perfect to create a beautiful mountain photograph, or be a little more patient and wait for the “right light.” You also cannot force a photograph that just isn’t there.

Up

One of the more surprising photo experiences happened to me when we decided to visit the Paul Smiths Interpretive Visitors Center. There are two Visitors Centers in the Adirondack State Park. The Paul Smiths Interpretive Visitors Center is located in the High Peaks region of the park in a small town called Paul Smiths. What is unique about this visitors center is not only does it have the traditional building with pieces representing the indigenous species to the area including mammals, birds, plant life and insects it also had butterfly building that houses all the various butterflies found locally (including species that migrate to the area from the north and south). But the best part about this visitors center was the fact that there were several trails found behind the buildings. The trails meander through a forest with different trees and plants labeled with the common and Latin names. Eventually the trails lead to a boardwalk that runs along a large swamp area where you can observe various species of birds including bald eagles and Great Blue Herons.

Paul Smiths Visitors Center, Adirondack State Park, New York, 2002

The visitor’s center does not open up until 9 am. We arrived around 10 am. So I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of photographing landscapes since we did not make it there until the harsh sunlight was beating down on the scene. Fortunately, I was wrong. I had noticed while we were walking along the swamp that there were some really beautiful clouds in the sky and the reflection of the water was absolutely gorgeous. So I took advantage of the clouds and reflection to photograph at the worst possible time of the day.

Paul Smiths Visitors Center, Adirondack State Park, New York

Lesson

The lesson I learned from this experience was rules are meant to be broken.

Down

Now this lesson does not really have to do with photography itself. This has to do with Mother Nature. Some of you who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as well as New York (or even if you happen to photograph these areas in June) will understand this dilemma. I was told that the black fly was very nasty. Being from Ohio the worst insects we have is the common mosquito. A friend of mine who lives in the area warned me that we better smother ourselves with insect repellent. Up until this point we really had not had to many problems with the black fly. We went ahead and did like we had been doing that entire week. We doused ourselves with insect repellent, and then we decided we would go to Buttermilk Falls. The falls itself was just a short hike from where we parked. When we got to the actual falls there wasn’t a person in sight, the clouds were thick enough so there wouldn’t be any sky reflecting in the water and the falls were breathtaking. I was so excited; it was a landscape photographers dream. I began to set up my equipment, began composing and photographing the falls. Then I heard them. The Swarm. It was like one of those terrible B movies. I thought the black flies were going to carry my daughter off. The annoying insects were trying to find any exposed skin where there wasn’t any repellent. They flew in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears and in my hair. They were flying around in front of my camera and lens. I was afraid I was going to have all my photographs featuring the black flies instead of the waterfalls. I tried to concentrate as hard as I could and I think I created some really excellent photographs but it was no thanks to those black flies.

Buttermilk Falls, Adirondack State Park, New York, 2002

Lesson

I learned that no matter how much we try there is absolutely no way we can control Mother Nature. Also try to smother yourself with as much insect repellent as you can if you know there will be any insects flying around.


Buttermilk Falls, Adirondack State Park, New York, 2002

I learned many lessons from the photo trip. I guess photography is a lot like life. It has its ups and downs. As long as you have the patience and perseverance you can ride those waves, survive and enjoy it!