Keuka Outlet Trail and Waterfalls Shoot

A few weeks ago, fellow photog A.D. Wheeler and myself set out for an adventure to a location on the Western side of Seneca Lake following a previous morning shoot earlier that day at a secret location on the Eastern side of the lake. I had met up at Andy’s place at about 6 a.m. and we headed North to Watkins Glen, NY and Seneca Lake then took the Eastern side up until we reached our first destination. Andy had previously mentioned a cool waterfall nestled back in a glen that flowed through a ravine down into Seneca Lake. After arriving at our destination we noticed it was posted but there was definately a clear path leading up through the ravine next to the stream. We were uncertain as to enter when we came across two gentleman landscaping the area and they proceded to give us the thumbs up while sharing “sure you can go up there to take photos, heck people go up in there all the time” and they warned us to “just be careful”. After thanking the men, we grabbed our packs, loaded up and headed into the ravine. After about 100 yards or so we could hear the roar of what sounded like a decent size waterfall. Just then we turned a corner and saw a small swimming hole with at least a dozen to fifteen rainbow and brook trout that had to have been 2o or more inches in length each swimming around that crystal clear hole. After what seemed like an hour staring at awe at those giant trout and imaging what kind of fly fishermans heaven that would be, we spied what was ahead. Granted it was not massive or towering but the little falls preceding the larger cascade and the way the stone and creek bed were carved were simply amazing. We had to stop and grab a few shots of the entry to the larger cascade and although I wore my nice Columbia hiking boots, I wasn’t prepared to wade shin deep in the frigid water to get the shots. It was worth it.

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Peach Orchard Cascade

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Peach Orchard Cascade

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 After spending some time at these beautiful smaller falls, getting are feet wet and getting used to the cool flowing water around our ankles and shins, we headed further up the creek towards the larger falls. Although the larger falls were kind of cool, I was more impressed by the smaller cascades and the pool of amazingly large brookies and rainbows only a few feet below us. Besides that, the sunlight was starting to creep out and make for some ugly shots. We both attempted to grab some sunrays in the photographs of the larger falls, however this was, at best, challenging. We spent a few more minutes there shooting the bigger falls.

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Peach Orchard Falls

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After we had enough of shooting this cool little trout filled stream and waterfalls we decided to head back to the truck to dry our shoes and feet off hopefully just a little before we headed out to our second location, the abandoned, and supposedly haunted chemical plant and Cascade Falls at the Eastern end of the Keuka Outlet Trail. However, before we high tailed it out of there with our cold and wet feet, we decided to add our “rock” to “wall of rocks” that was just to the left of the large falls. Apparantly the grounds keeper was correct in stating “everybody goes there” as there were hundreds of rocks scribed with peoples names carefully and neatly placed on the stone wall. We chose to add a little of our own marketing on our “personalized rocks’ with our web address etched in some flat stones in hopes a future photographer, swimmer, hiker, fisherman or all around general trespasser would see our sign.

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Wall of Rock Fans

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After bidding farewell to the fine fish in their secret hole, scratching our mark on a stone and placing it on the “wall of rock”, we took off our boots, placed the floor heater on high and headed to the abandoned Cascade Falls chemical plant. It is always fun and adventurous hanging out with Andy. I enjoy our talks on shooting techniques, the latest gear, reminiscing about the music and band days and trying to make sense of what he means when he talks IT technical and code jargon related to web design, workflow or the latest editing tools. We kick on the tunes, bullshit, laugh and plan our adventure and finally we arrive. We find the parking lot at the end of a trail that leads to “banjo-land” I swear. To the right and left of us are run down back woods trailers, a hog farm, overgrown everything, an old railroad bed with concrete signposts still firmly embedded in the ground. the half mile hike into the site was just creepy. We started calling it the “Walking Dead Walker” shoot as we felt a walker could have jumped out at any time and scared or bit the pants off us. As we cautiously walked further down the trail we could see the opening where a rarely if ever used recreational facility sat along with tipped over out houses and the remains a Kelly Tire outlet, the old chemical plant, locks and foundations.

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Chemical Death

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As we meander around the grounds, we both get an eerie feeling of somthing strange or of being watched yet we carry on. We grab a few shots of the waterfall surrounded by an inaccessible wall on the far side with the water being to deep to cross and the remains of the crumbling chemical plant on the other side which we are careful to navigate. We decide to grab some outside shots of the falls and the buildings before attempting to venture into the structures themselves. We carefully climb down a structure to the rocks below at the base of the Cascade falls and with our cameras mounted on tripods and our ND filters firmly affixed, we set up the shots.

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Cascade Falls Ruins 

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Cascade Falls

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As we make our way past several abandoned buldings we stop and explore the creekside exteriors noting the erosion and decay as if they had succomed to a nuclear or some sort of chemical apocalypse that now house fearful things. Our minds drift back to the “walkers” that we continually joke about yet thinking also about the rumours of this old factory being haunted. Andy and I are never more than twenty yards away from each other, well withing shouting range. Even though the need to yell for each other out of necessity never arises, we still give a hollar from time to time just to check out locations and make sure each other is ok.

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Creekside Apocalypse

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It was obvious to us with signs all around that this once thriving plant harnessed the power of the water and the falls for its strength and power. There were underground pipes, channels, locks, and old aqueduct type of system and hundreds of feet of rusted and rotting metal pipes above and below, inside and out. I remembered getting my tetnus shot just a few months earlier and how thankful I was now to have this small piece of protection and comfort in a place like this. Of course my little pinprick of a tetnus shot would do little to protect me now in the case of a collapse or even worse a “walker” attack.

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Rusted Veins 

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Live Rust

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Finally it was go time. Time to venture into at least a few of the buildings that were accessible, open and at least half way structurally sound. The first building I entered was a huge open room, a sort of giant warehouse type of structure that was barren except for a few pieces of rusted metal, parts of the collapsed ceiling and an old stone kiln or oven. The most interesting thing about this building was the way the light played through the old green window panels at the top of the building. It was dark, however the green light made for some very cool effects and shooting opportunities. The first shot I took was a wide angle.

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Green Darkness 

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While inside this large building, I thought it would be cool to grab a close up shot of the old stone oven or kiln. Whatever it was, it was cool, old and grungy. Just what I love to shoot. It wasn’t until a few days later during some post processing work that I noticed a strange  gnomely apparition type figure on the inside right of the oven. At first it looked like a chalk drawing but I seriously do not recall seeing it there while I was shooting live. People have talked about an old bearded man being seen standing on the crumbling foundation and on the rocks near the creek. This odd fellow that showed up in my photograph is definately sporting an old stokers hat and apron, he has a noticeable beard and mustache and appears to be holding an old stokers iron. Could this be camera trickery, an illusion or a play on the soot and decaying oven? I do not know, however I know it definately was not purposely placed or photoshopped there. You be the judge. Andy and I will return to this area along with many other abandoned mills, structures and waterfalls along the Keuka Outlet Trail and will make a point to return to this “oven room” so I can check on this “gnome thing” in person. Stay tuned for upcoming adventures and stay posted for print sales and specials.

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Oven Gnome

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At last it was time to start packing it up and heading back. We had spent a few hours shooting between both locations. We could have stayed for days as there was so much more to capture at this location. We both agreed rather quickly that we would return soon for further exploration here at the chemical plant, but also the other abandoned gems along the Keuka Outlet Trail. I had put away most of my gear into my trusty pack, however left one camera out attached to my tripod as I figured I’d like to get one more shot or two in as we left. I thought the old rusty Kelly Tire sign with vintage outdoor lights looked pretty amazing and archaic. I set up the camera for a couple last shots of the old Kelly Tire building and sign. This must have been one of the last operating businesses in this complex of ruins, recreation grounds and fishing holes. I think it went out in the 1980’s

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Kelly Tires

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Kelly Tires Building

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