A Guide to the Delaware Water Gap for Photographers
A landscape photographer’s dream is travel the world, shooting the iconic and exotic locations that seem too good to be true. But for many of us, like myself, things like other jobs and hobbies, families, and other commitments, keep that from happening. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing! For those of you out there, like myself who call the Delaware Water Gap our home, this guide will help you find the spots and get the shots that people from Iceland and New Zealand might call exotic. It will give you the tools necessary to let you practice your craft and get great portfolio-level shots in the Delaware Water Gap and surrounding areas.
Photography in the DWG differs from photographing the huge touristy spots like Zion National Park in one major way – you need to work harder for your images. There’s a plethora of shots of the Watchman from the Bridge, or the Towers of the Virgin (some taken by me) and countless other local icons to the area, where the only real iconic view of the Gap comes from the summit of Mount Tammany. But this isn’t a bad thing! This just means that exploring for yourself and using local knowledge is that much more important (in addition to working for your compositions, an article for a different time).
Okay, enough preaching, let’s get on with the guide! Okay one last thing… this Guide is by no means an end all, be all to photographing the area. It’s simply my two cents on some of the shots and locations that I love!
Time of Day: Anytime, but for best results sunrise or sunset
One of the best short hikes in the area without a doubt and great for sunrise and sunset photography. If you’re hiking for sunrise, one of the best views is a vista about halfway up that you can see below. I love this view for a few reasons. Route 80 is a beautiful leading line through the whole frame, the trees in the foreground provide great separation between the rest of the frame, and the image leaves plenty of room for a spectacular sky to shoot wide angle, or pull in a little tighter and shoot a short telephoto. To make this shot even more unique, look for cool weather patterns like fog or this cloud inversion, or even shoot at night!
Now here’s the view of the Delaware River from the summit (at sunset) and one of my personal favorite shots. The golden light from the sunset is gorgeous and the river snakes through the scene like it was made for a photographer. There is plenty of unique compositions up there and plenty of options for foregrounds, focal lengths, and subject matter. Just remember you’ll be hiking back in the dark! Here’s the shot!
Crater Lake and Blue Mountain Lake
Time of Day: Crater Lake (sunset), Blue Mountain Lake (sunset or sunrise)
Crater Lake: This place is a helluva lot of fun for kayaking, hiking, picnics, and well of course for photography. I’ve been here for sunset more times than I can count and here are a few of my favorite shots! As you can see, the different types of shots you can get are limitless. Framing up different rocks and trees can allow you to get unique shots you can call your own! If the sky is more impressive and everything else that evening detracts, then pull in on the tree line at the back of the lake and show off the sky. This place really is unreal and a great hidden gem for photographers.
Blue Mountain Lake: BML is just a short drive from here is also a great hidden gem for photography. Head up in the morning for some gorgeous golden light, later in the day for a sunset, or during a dramatic cloudy day for a drama filled image. This drive is much easier on the car than Crater Lake is, although the hike is a bit longer. Once again, this place is great for some unique photography.
Dingman's and Raymondskill Falls
Time of Day: Anytime, when cloudy for smooth water effects
Dingman’s Falls: I lived in the Delaware Water Gap for 22 years and it took me 21 years to learn about this spot. I’m not sure why, it’s seriously one of the nicest places I’ve been in the area. Parking is easy, and the path is a gorgeous boardwalk passing another local hotspot, Silverthread Falls. Getting to the bottom of the falls, isn’t the end, though! Of course there's the huge, wide shots at the bottom, but there’s also plenty of unique compositions of the falls from the top of the falls of fast, flowing water. To someone that likes waterfalls as much as I do (which I think is everyone), this spot is a must!
Raymondskill Falls: Raymondskill falls is about a 10-minute drive from Dingman’s Falls and if the weather is cooperating, the hikes are plenty short to do on the same morning or afternoon. There’s two main areas to make sure you check out here. The first is the main viewing area. The trial leads right here and there’s a few benches on a wooden platform – really nice for relaxing underneath the sounds of crashing water. When I went here, I didn’t love any of my compositions but they’re nice Instagrammable shots. The second area is where the magic happens. There is a very faint dirt trail off the main hike and that will bring you down to the bottom of the whole series of falls. This hike can be a little more treacherous than the main hike but unless things are really wet, slippery, or frozen, it’s not too bad at all. I’ll just drop a couple pictures of this area right here and you can see how good it is for yourself. So much opportunity for different types of shots.
Buttermilk Falls and Van Campens Glen
Time of Day: Any time, any weather.
Buttermilk Falls: I’ve only ever taken one photo that I personally have loved at Buttermilk Falls but it is such a natural beauty that there is definitely room and opportunity to pick out unique compositions and images that are truly spectacular. I’ve also seen some really great detail, wide, fish-eye, and panoramic works here so really, the possibilities are endless, and this is definitely an area a photographer should check out. In addition to the Bottom-Up view at the base of the falls, there is also a very steep hike to a Top-Down viewing platform that is really out of this world.
Van Campens Glen: One of the areas that really got me my start in photography. I haven’t been back recently to try to this place some more justice, but definitely thought it should be included in this guide. This spot is a bit of a local landmark not only for its well-balanced hike, beauty, and no shortage of waterfalls/rivers, but also for the swimming hole in the middle of the trail. This place s a beauty year-round and it’s been a nice spot to through the years (starting well before my photography.
Viaducts and Overpass
Time of Day: Sunset for all below
Portland-Columbia Walking Bridge: My favorite place to photograph time and time again in the entire Water Gap and it’s not really that close of a contest. This shot is 100% a classic must shoot sunset shot. You can shoot this area from moderately wide (24, 35, or 50 mm) all the way up to a telephoto at 200mm or even more if you have the glass. Additionally, you can shoot this spot in all weather conditions, from sunny, to slight wispy clouds, to deep storm clouds, this location has a shot and composistion to be made.
I-80 Overpass: Not a little known structure, but efinitely a little known location for photographers. I’ve actually never seen another shot from this location and have no idea why! The Bridge is a perfect leading line through the Delaware River into trees and the sky. There’s not really parking, but this spot is just off of Old Mine Road, down the embankment. See for yourself! Better yet, go shoot it for yourself!
Time of Day: Seriously? Night… More specifically and helpfully on a clear, crisp night, preferably on a New Moon, but otherwise make sure the moon isn’t out yet. I’ve just decided to write an article about astrophotography, too many specifics to go over here.
Surprisingly, even though there are towns nearby and New York City is relatively close, most of the DWG is dark enough for astrophotography and even the milky way. Anywhere where there is a clear view of the sky is a good spot to try this fun and difficult genre of photography out. I’ve done some astro work in my backyard, as well as at White Lake and Crater Lake. The shots are below. Next time the weather works out, make a coffee and get your butt out of the house!
This is the first in a series of photography guides, some local to the Delaware Water Gap, some generic and informative for photography techniques, and some on a few different National Parks. These are a work in progress and I’ll continue to improve on providing useful information for aspiring photographers to make the most out of a variety of areas in the United States.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you want any more information or want to suggest or recommend anything! Now get out there and shoot!