Great Gully Photos

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The Great Gully is a creek that flows into Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. Every creek that flows into one of these lakes has some sort of waterfall. Some falls are more spectacular than others. They were all formed in the same way and at the same time as America’s most famous waterfall, Niagra Falls. At the last ice age, the ice here was over a mile thick. It carved out these narrow yet deep lakes that we now call the Finger Lakes.

The Great Gully has two sets of falls. The lower set drops around seven feet into a huge pool. The upper falls drop about eighteen feet into a deep yet smaller pool. At the upper falls, there is a hard layer of rock that covers a softer layer of rock, creating a dramatic overhang. In the cliff walls you can find fossils of small clam shells. We have even found trilobites, an ancient arthropod, which date the rocks anywhere between 526 million to 250 million years old.

These falls have always been a favorite place to take my camera. Through tons of experimentation, the best times to go up there is on dark and cloudy days. The low light allows for long camera exposures. Long exposures give the effect of smoothing the water into soft, silky ribbons.

These photos were taken with my trusty old Canon G3. It’s a digital camera about ten years old and only 4MB, but it has always taken decent photos. I like using this camera because if I drop it into the water, I can feel like I got my money’s worth!

After taking over 100 photos, I download and pick out my favorites for processing. Since I take photos like these in the RAW format, I have a huge range of effects to use without degrading the image. For this series, I choose to create black and white images. Photoshop Raw gives me many tools for complete control over the tonal quality. I select which parts of the image are bright and which are dark. Each image took at least an hour to process. Most of the time was spent experimenting and reflecting on the quality of the scene.