Lake Placid

by | Jan 30, 2019

Lake Placid: Not Too Close, But Not Too Far

In late-August last year, the wife and I packed our bags and headed from Montreal to the Adirondack area of New York for a week.  Neither of us are really the adventurous type and we didn’t want to spend a day on a plane nor did we want to spend a fortune.  Solution: road trip!

Small-town relaxation

We settled on a small motel in the town of Wilmington as our base of operations.  It was a nice place that I completely forgot to take photos of.  My only complaint was that it seemed to be a cell-phone dead zone.  Fortunately all I had to do was step outside and the signal roared back to life.  After settling in, we head out to do a bit of hiking and get some nice landscape photos at a nearby hiking trail.

river and mountains

Not the best weather for landscapes, but it was only the first day.

I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time around running water on this trip, so I picked up a new toy to play with: a 10-stop neutral-density filter.  For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a dark filter that allows me to have really long exposures in the middle of the day.  It gives the effect that you see below:


Since the exposure is somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds, anything moving (like the river water) will be blurred.  This adds a feeling of motion to the image, and someone once told me that it makes the water look like melting marshmallows.

That’s A Long Way Down…

On our first full day, we drove about 30 minutes to Ausable Chasm.  If you’ve never been there, think of it as a miniature Grand Canyon.  It’s quite the popular tourist destination, as the nearly hour-long wait to get tickets proved.  We were lucky enough to get there before the major rush, so the wait wasn’t as long as it could have been.

Ausable Chasm sign

Did I forget to mention that I brought my infrared camera with me? I suppose it goes without saying…

There were a few options for how to get into the chasm itself: self tour, guided tour, and even an option to float down the river on a raft.  We opted for the self tour.  There were a few trails to choose from, and being the naive tourists that we were, we decided to take the hardest one.  This trail takes you halfway down the chasm and you spend about an hour walking across ledges and bridges that can be questioningly thin at times.  If you’re acrophobic, this will get the heart pumping!

This was definitely a great place to try out the ND filter!  The melted-marshmallow effect really stood out here.  The water was moving quite quickly so it worked well… when nothing else happened to ruin the shot.

I quickly discovered a drawback to the ND filter, however.  If the camera isn’t on stable ground (like, for example, a simple metal catwalk overlooking a cliff) then the vibrations from footsteps of passers-by have plenty of time to blur the shot.

You need to check out this view!

The day after the chasm, we decided we’d had enough clinging to cliffsides for a while, so we went hiking on Whiteface mountain – one of the venues for the 1984 Lake Placid Olympics.  We took a gondola to a lookout point about halfway up the mountain and spent a few hours wandering up the mountain and grabbing landscape shots.  When you’re that high up you can see for miles, but atmospheric haze starts to make photos difficult.  Fortunately I brought my infrared camera with me, which does a great job of seeing through haze.  The two shots below demostrate this well.  The black-and-white shot was taken with my Canon 5D IV and I did what I could to add contrast.  The original was so flat it was ridiculous.  The blue-sky shot was taken with the IR camera, and it’s a lot sharper and punchier.

When you’re shooting over such big distances, atmospheric haze can make your shots look quite flat and, well, hazy.

One of the interesting characteristics of infrared light is that it’s not blocked by atmospheric haze.

Time Well Spent

All in all, this was definitely a place worth visiting.  It was only a few hours from home by car, the motel was good but wasn’t expensive, the area was calm and there were plenty of things to do.  The attractions were all quite affordable and there are more than we could see in the time we were there, so it’s definitely worth going back!

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