Gorgeous Gorges and Fabulous Falls of Watkins Glen & Finger Lakes Region

Photography, Hiking, Wine, Amusement and more

If you’re from the Northeast, (or anywhere for that matter), and still haven’t been to the Finger Lakes region of New York, consider adding it to your bucket list. Home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, the area is known for its lakes that sometimes plunge dozens of feet, creating a series of waterfalls and gorgeous scenery. The region boasts a range of scenes, from small cascades to hundred-foot high drops, all found within state parks or just along your drive.

Watkins Glen is a 100-acre state park, and is the most frequently visited of the parks in the region. Waterfalls and a gorge that cut through rock by a stream, which was left hanging thanks to the glaciers of the Ice Age, is guaranteed to make your jaw drop with its majestic waterfall vistas. Within just two miles, the glen's stream descends 400 feet past several 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course.

Taughannock Falls State Park flaunts a 215 foot-high waterfall which plunges into a “bowl” of shale and sandstone, making it one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies. Areas of the famous Ithaca Gorge, including Buttermilk Falls State Park, are known for its stair-like rock formations and foamy stream, which feeds into waterfalls that flow beautifully. Consider joining us on our Watkins Glen and Finger Lakes photo workshop on October 2-4, 2015.


Make the most of your photo experience

Make sure you get the most value out of your experience by bringing the right equipment. When you are photographing waterfalls during the day, it is normally too bright for long exposures as the shots will be completely overexposed. This is why photographers use neutral density filters. Also known as an “ND Filter,” this colorless (clear or grey) filter is designed to reduce or modify the wavelengths of colors, or in other words, reduce the amount of light that enters the lens. This will essentially darken the photos a certain amount of stops, depending on your specific make. This allows you to take longer exposures or use a shallow depth of field during the daytime, resulting in photos that otherwise would be impossible.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

For example, this before & after of Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, demonstrates this technique. The ND filter allows you to take longer exposures like the photo on the right. Without the filter, you are more limited in terms of shutter speed. For the same reason, ND filters are useful for street photography because they can eliminate moving subject matter. As instructors of BlueHour Photo Ventures, we always let our students practice with one during the workshops. We encourage you to make the purchase if you are interested in this type of photography (Please check the "thread size" for your lens before purchasing!)

Wine Tasting/Tours

Seneca Lake is known as being the largest in the Finger Lakes region, and the deepest lake in the state. It is known as the lake trout capital of the world, hosting the National Lake Trout Derby - a three-day event in May of each year. Surrounding the lake lay dozens of independent wineries and distilleries, which host lots of festivals and events throughout the year, making it the perfect environment for a little “R and R.” Click HERE for an interactive map of the wineries surrounding Seneca Lake.

Hiking and Camping

The entire glen trail, all attractions included, can be hiked in just an hour-and-a-half.  Views from the rim trails overlooking the glen give the impression of a miniature version of a large gorge that you might find in the Western U.S.. Enjoy the Olympic-sized pool in Watkins Glen, summer tours through the gorge, or leaf peeping in the fall. Enjoy the comfort of a cushy hotel, or stay at a tent or trailer campsite. There are picnic facilities and fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek, known for its rainbow trout.

Water Activities

The Finger Lakes are long, slender yet deep set in glacial valleys between steep, verdant hillsides. The valleys can channel strong winds, making it ideal for activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding, a sport that has risen in popularity just within the last few years. Dining cruises provide a calming and serene ambiance, making for a romantic night out on Lake Seneca.

Amusement Parks

Do you need to entertain the family? Seabreeze Amusement Park boasts tons of thrilling rides for both children and adults, or to cool off at the water park. Not into rides? You can still enjoy the breeze and spectacular views of Lake Ontario. The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is just over an hour’s drive away in Syracuse and is home to over 700 animals of all shapes and sizes. Also located in Syracuse is Wonderworks, an indoor, topsy turvy science center for all ages, where you learn, explore and have fun! Our instructor, Allie, says it's worth a trip!


The Finger Lakes region has been around for a while, so it’s fair to say there is a ton of history there. A series of museums make up the Finger Lakes Museum Trail, and there is good amount of hands-on activities through these organizations. BlueHour Photo Ventures recommends visiting the George Eastman House - the International Museum of Photography and Film - to get inspiration if you plan to photograph the region. The National Soaring Museum is located in Elmira, NY and was established to hold the first national soaring contests in 1930-1946, and today boasts over 80 years of history. You can even take a ride on a sailplane to get the full experience! Want to learn about more museums? Click HERE for the full list of museums.

More activities in the area:

Corning Museum of Glass

Painted Bar Stables

Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack

Tioga Downs Casino

Finger Lakes Skydivers

Visit Fingerlakes.org  for the complete list of activities.