A couple of weeks ago, I shared the first part of my exploration of the waterfalls of New England here on Photography Life and promised that there will be a part two. This write up fulfills the promise and continues the story further. My focus this time were the forests of Western Massachusetts, especially those around Route 2 West from Boston. This freeway is also known as the Mohawk Scenic Byway and is a very beautiful drive once you get little beyond the Greater Boston area.
Just like last time we relied upon New England Waterfalls website (and their book in print), as our main resource. I again carried a Nikon F100 loaded with Fuji Velvia 50 and three lenses: 18-35mm, 24-120mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4. Circular polarizers and a sturdy tripod once more were the most valuable accessory to ensure rich colors (cut reflections) and no camera shake (long exposures).
We started with Doane’s falls in the town of Royalston. The prominent (most well-known) waterfall here in just a short walk from the road. In addition, there are beautiful cascades further downstream and one can easily spend few hours photographing here. It was a cloudy morning with calm winds- ideal conditions for photographing the green foliage with flowing water. I made several images and two of my favorites are presented below.
Our next destination was the 80 feet high Royalston Falls, which is rather close to Doane’s Falls area. After 15 minutes of drive to the trailhead, it was a one mile hike to this waterfall. On the way we walked through a dense beautiful forest next to Falls Brook. Since May was really dry in New England this year, the water was relatively low. We found some interesting reflections upstream from the waterfalls, but the waterfall itself was not much of a spectacle (a local hiker informed us that mid-April is usually a better time to visit as the creek is roaring with snowmelt). Here, I decided to cut out the dark pool and gorge at the bottom and include more of the foliage beside/behind the waterfall. I also chose a focal length of around 50-55mm to allow for a little telephoto compression.
Our next destination was Bear’s Den Falls formed by the middle branch of Swift River, in the town of New Salem. Located further west on route 2 from our first stop, this appeared to be a local favorite as we found several cars in the parking lot. It is a short 0.2 mile hike to the main waterfalls and even though the plunge is not very high, the overall setting is quite picturesque. I first chose to use a very wide perspective and photographed the main cascade from up close. Then with little scrambling, I managed to find a high enough albeit a bit precarious vista to make a photo showing a bird’s eye view of the area. The latter image has a painterly feel to it and captures the sense of the place quite well.
After Bear’s Den Falls, we drove further west on Route 2 towards the town of North Adams. The drive is quite scenic with Deerfield River meandering beside the road. Our plan was to camp overnight alongside Cold River in Mohawk State Forest and explore the waterfalls and forests in the region namely Tannery Falls, Twin Cascades, Parker Brook Falls and Wahconah Falls.
Since Tannery Falls was close to our campground, we thought of visiting it before dark only to find that the spur road which connected Route 2 to Savoy Mountain State Forest (abode of Tannery Falls) is unpassable. The longer route needed 45 minutes of drive, so instead we drove to the Twin Cascades trailhead, which was about 15 minutes by car from our campsite. It turned out to be a good decision.
The Twin Cascades area is really cool. The trail is easily found (starts just beside a private railroad tunnel so please avoid trespassing) and though it is steep and really narrow in certain places, those sections are easily passed. The air here has a very fresh feel to it and the pristine Cascade Brook has cut a narrow gorge with some sections so clean that it just feels a perfect place to soak your feet and let water flow over timelessly. The hike ends at a point where one can see two waterfalls merging (like a Y) to make one stream. It is also a good place to see petrified wood, a treat for geology lovers.
Next morning, we took the long route to Tannery Falls. Since, we were plotting the way using maps (as many roads are dirt and impassable in the area), it took us quite a while to reach there. Moreover, a foggy dawn stopped us in our tracks soon after we had started and we spent about half an hour photographing various morning moods. Velvia 50 really works well for such scenes and has rendered the soft, surreal atmosphere very nicely.
By the time, we could find our way to Tannery Falls, it was well past sunrise. Moreover, since the 80 feet high Tannery Falls directly faces the morning sun (no clouds today), the light was already less than ideal. The Parker Brook Falls, which is a little walk from Tannery Falls was in shade and I could make few compositions here. Overall, this area of Savoy Mountain State Forest is a waterfall country. There are several if not dozens little picturesque cascades around and a day with soft even lighting can keep a photographer busy for several hours. I intend to re-visit this area and fulfill the photography potential it has on offer.
After Tannery Falls, we drove back to the campground, broke camp and decided to stop at Wahconah Falls located in Wahconah Falls State Forest, before heading back to Boston. The base of the waterfalls is a short, easy walk from the parking lot and luckily by the time we had reached, there were some puffy clouds in the sky. In such conditions, I followed my usual practice: set up a composition, spot meter the deep shadows (I am interested in) to 1.5 stops below mid tone, wait for a floating cloud to cover the sun and then trip the shutter.
In the end, I must admit that it has been lot of fun exploring and making photos of waterfalls and cascades hidden in forests of New England. After spending quite some time exploring a variety of waterfalls of Massachusetts and Connecticut, I now intend to turn my attention to waterfalls in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. With the summer just beginning to set in the northern New England, it should be fun. Stay tuned!