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    Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfalls

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Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Photography

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DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go here without your Neutral Density Filters and Circular Polarizing Filter.

We highly suggest buying Promaster Circular Polarizing Filters and Neutral Density Filters. It’s what we use on all of our images here in the magazine.  The link to purchase is under construction.  Check out lessons and workshops by Extra Eyes Photo Tours.

Read all about Neutral Density Filters, which one to chose and why you need them.

Park Information:

Waterfall Route is on Falls Trail: 7.2 miles, most difficult hiking
Lake Rose Parking Lot is the closest access to Falls Trail.  The full loop of this trail is 7.2 miles if hiking both the upper and lower sections. To see most of the waterfalls, a 3.2-mile loop can be taken by going on Highland Trail and the Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen sides of the trail. I took the 3.2-mile loop, and it took me 9 hours to photograph properly.  If you are more about hiking than shooting and doing it just right from multiple angles, you can do the full route.

Precautions to take:

To do this waterfall day, you must be in good physical condition. There are several precautions you must take.

  • Always wear proper hiking boots. If you want to bring along water shoes to stand in the water to do your shots be prepared to take them back off and put your hiking boots back on. Sandals and water shoes will cause a fall on these slippery rocks you will encounter.
  • Bring water or a survival water pump and food. You will be out all day. Eat right before you go.
  • Check the weather before you go and make sure you plan to get out before dark.
  • Let someone know where you are hiking and when you should return. I asked the Park Ranger. They are not allowed to leave at the end of the day if there is a car in the parking lot and a person unaccounted for. I pointed out my truck to the Ranger since I hike alone. I said, “If you see my truck after dusk can you come in and get me?” That’s when he told me their rule.

Maps:

Be sure to stop by the office and get a map or print one to bring with you. We needed it. We actually at one point went the wrong way. Good thing I had my map.

Ricketts Glen State Park Map
Glens Natural Area Enlargement Map

http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_003166.pdf

Winter Photography at Ricketts Glen State Park

Photography Information:

The gear for this hike is more than just camera gear. It would be an all-day event if you chose to do it this way so be prepared.

Gear:  Bring your widest angle lens. The most important thing to bring is your set of Neutral Density Filters. If you don’t have them don’t go. Buy them first.  Here is the link to purchase our favorite filters and the ones we used with our pictures above.  A good tripod that is sturdy but light enough to carry all day is a must. We recommend a VANGUARD Alta+ 203AP tripod.  Bring extra batteries. We recommend that you have three camera batteries in total if you are doing the 3.2-mile loop or the full loop.  You will be shooting in live view mode all day, and nothing drains the battery as fast as live view. Do not run out of memory cards. Shoot this raw so you can remove blaring white highlights if the sun pops out.  Raw takes up way more room to bring extra cards. Bring them in a waterproof carrying case just in case.

Bring water and food. A light backpack is good to have on. Thank you to my new friend for saving the day. We were out of snacks and starving when we met fellow photographer Brian Kerr and voila. He offered us power bars which got us through to 4:45.  The moral of the story – Don’t forget your power bars!! A super cool guy who saved the day! My assistant is now fired. She was in charge of the snacks.

When to go:  This is the most important thing to remember. Bright sunshine is not our friend when doing waterfall photography, but even the slightest drizzle will make the rocks slippery as can be hereTiming. I got it just right — cloudy skies with only an occasional pop of sunshine and zero precipitation. I watched the weather and left the night before I saw perfect conditions. The park is closed for the winter except to those who have the proper ice shoes. Be sure to check exact details with the park on that. Do not do this on a holiday weekend if you can do it in the middle of the week, that is the best time. I think Brian and I were the only ones there at 7 a.m. There was one other car in the parking lot when I arrived.

Setting up your Shot:

Step 1: You will need to put your camera on a tripod. You will also want to use a remote shutter release to expose the image. If you don’t have one, you can also use the camera’s 2-second self-timer. This will not work unless you are using a tripod so if you are new to this please know, a tripod an absolute must.

Step 2: Set your camera to mirror lock-up to reduce the risk of vibrations from mirror movement during the long exposures. You can also use live view mode, which is what we suggest for this location. When using this mode, the mirror automatically locks up, and you don’t need to set it manually.  I keep my camera lower to the ground when shooting so, we can’t always bend to see the image, so live view works best for me. Shooting from a lower angle does make more dynamic images.

Step 3: Put your neutral density filter on your camera. Even on a cloudy day, you will want to use a Neutral Density Filter. It’s like sunglasses for your camera. You can do a longer exposure, which is what makes the milky effect of the water movement. The darker the ND Filter, the longer you can expose. See how to use a neutral density filter and which ones we suggest. 

Step 4:  Camera Settings – Set your camera to Manual mode, and then set the aperture to the smallest one (most will be f/22, some f/29). Set your ISO to 100 or the lowest it will go on your camera. Now. looking through the camera roll the shutter speed, so the exposure level indicator goes to ‘0’ on the exposure scale. Without a filter, on a sunny day, you may not get lower than 1/15th sec. or even that low.   This is why a neutral density filter is so important. We have a 3.0 filter. We can do a 30-second exposure at noon in bright sunshine with that bad boy.

Step 5: Set your Camera on a 2-second timer or use your shutter release to expose the image.  Evaluate the image. If your image has hot spots (areas of overexposed white spots) slow your shutter speed down a stop and test again until it is just right. Remember, the darker the filter, the longer the exposure.

Rickets Glenn Waterfall Photography Magazine Extra

Ricketts Glenn State Park in Winter.  Be sure to check with the park to verify that the trails are open before going. The massive ice formations are exquisite but also dangerous. The park suggests that you do not hike the trails after November unless they are experienced ice climbers or equipped with crampons and nylon rope.

Some dynamic photography awaits you but be extremely cautious. If you can avoid it, don’t go alone in the icy winter months. Be sure to register with the park before heading off on the trails.  If you are not an experienced high hiker go with someone who has experience or get some of your own experience before going here. Read up on this kind of hike, the proper gear to have and dangers before you go.

Photo Contribution – Brian Kerr – Taken at RGSP 7/19/14 2:00 pm, Canon 6D, Raw capture processed in Lightroom 5
17-40 f/4 @f/9 and 17mm
ISO 100
1/80 sec
polarizing filter
handheld

Where to Eat and Stay

Ricketts Glen Waterfall

Camping:

Ricketts Glen State Park –  Visit website here.

Red Rock Mountain Campground Just down the street from the State Park

Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Photography Magazine Extra
Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Photography Magazine Extra

Waterfall Photography Map

New Freinds at Ricketts State Park

Here are our new friends we made on the trail, Chris & Melissa McGonigle. We had them hold their breath since they mentioned getting the water to blur in the background and we did a two-second exposure.  The sun was not our friend here but I didn’t want to make them wait for a cloud. Thanks for letting us take your picture, Chris and Melissa. We hope you had a great hike too!

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