walk·er ˈwȯ-kər [waw-ker] noun
1 : one that walks: as
a : a competitor in a walking race
b : a peddler going on foot
c : a temporary male escort of socially prominent women attending usually public events
d : a person or group (walkers) that intentionally moves into a photographers frame while he/she is shooting.
2 : something used in walking: as
a : a framework designed to support a baby learning to walk or an infirm or disabled person
b : a walking shoe
see also; pinhead, dolt, blind
It would start like any other day, up early in search of the things we need to keep us going and most importantly, to avoid the walkers. With the weather getting warmer, its getting harder to avoid them. My shooting partner Lou thinks that the warmer weather limbers them up so they are more mobile, and I tend to agree. We all have run into them while out there shooting. Sometimes they wander aimlessly, other times they come right at you.
We don’t want to shoot them but usually have to. They are everywhere and seem to be attracted to landscape photographers and sometimes portrait photographers as well. Although, I have heard that the portrait photographers flash usually scares them off. There would be no flashes this day so we would be unprotected at best. We were headed for two less populated areas so maybe, just maybe, we would be lucky this day.
Our first stop was an area I had visited before to get what I needed. Last time there were no walkers in site. This time we would search a wooded area to the north of my original location and a very good sign appeared just as we started to enter the woods.
We spot a couple of locals near the area and being cautious as not to stumble into any walker traps we approach carefully, making sure they were not walkers themselves. We’re in luck, they are not and tell us that it is safe to enter the area. We travel a well beaten path through the dense woods for about 350 yards and then make our way down to the creek bed. The water is ice cold but the flow is fairly low. We hike another 150 yards or so on the slick shale and bedrock until we are confronted with a small waterfall that we cannot navigate without crossing the creek. We have to be extra careful on the moss covered rocks, a broken leg will surely bring a horde of walkers. Time to get wet, and still, no signs of walkers anywhere. Here we are at the crossover and climb with Lou doing his best “walker” impression.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I intentionally framed him for the shot. While we could have stopped here for what we need, we keep our eyes on the prize which lies ahead. Just a short, but tricky climb up this small cascade and we are there.
This is what we came for, a beautiful secluded waterfall with no walkers in sight.
It’s early in the morning, around 9am and the fog is still lingering with the sun rising up. We are blessed with an absolutely gorgeous vision. This is a small area but full of great angles and light. The falls here are known as Peach Orchard Falls and are located in the town of Hector just along Seneca Lake. The cascade is small, maybe a 25ft fall at best. There is another cascade above but we would not be able to make that climb today. Here is the main cascade, walker free.
Being completely enamored with the morning light and scenery we are completely surprised to turn around and see this:
An entire rock wall stacked with signed stones. There HAVE been walkers here…many it seems. We are hopeful that many of these markers were from normal people, we can only hope though. With our guards back up, we head back down the creek, this time we will capture the lower cascade. Lou goes on ahead but we keep within earshot of each other knowing that one bite could turn either of us into a walker in a heart beat. Some photographers can look 100% normal and be walkers themselves. You never know, they can strike at any time. While Lou shoots below, I see a small flat rock jutting out from a small waterfall. The fall is clogged with leaves and branches and is not flowing well. I decide to hop in and clear the cascade. I no time the flow is restored and I set up for my shot. Not the biggest or best waterfall of the day, but I think this was my favorite.
Time to get some shots of the lower cascade before heading out. This fall is so smooth, the rocks warn over time to the point that the water flows like glass.
The rock to the left of this next shot may look like it was part of an ancient seabed. The “waves” in the rocks surface were created by a modern world though. Acid rain and sand have eroded the surface of the rock and left the “wave” surface in its wake.
I make my way down the small cascade. I looks like a fairly short climb but the rocks here are very slick and tricky to navigate. I decide since my feet are already cold and wet, I might as well just jump in. After making my way down I set up in the middle of the creek for a head on, down-low shot.
The sun was rising higher now and the fog was nearly gone. The clouds parted briefly to let through a blast of sun. I quickly set up for two final shots before heading to our next destination.
Peach Orchard Falls was well worth the early morning rise. Another reason to get up early to get the shots that pop, and to avoid any lurking walkers as well.
Upon arriving at our next destination we were positive that this area was crawling with walkers. This area is along a creek known as the Keuka outlet. Keuka lake is roughly 273ft higher in elevation than Seneca lake. In the late 1800′s this altitude change kept the water flow rate high and helped power many paper, grist, and lumber mills along the passage to Seneca. The trail to the ruins and falls that we were visiting was very reminiscent of a post apocalyptic world. Across the creek is a desolate area of destroyed trailers and some farmland. The creek itself is deep and swift yet loaded with algae. After a 1/2 mile walk in we are greeted with a ghost town of sorts. There are several abandoned buildings here including an old Cooper Tire business and several mill buildings. One of the buildings looks as though it has been converted into a restroom and there where a couple picnic tables chained up there. Other than that, the post-apocalyptic feel to this area is immense and truth be told, the inspiration for this story/parody. You can see one of the mills on the left here. Notice the wall looks as though a bomb hit the side of it.
I took the above shot from a large 15ft high concrete platform. At some point there was another building here for sure. Later I would discover that this “platform” is actually hollow, I wonder what is under it. To our right is a large 20ft waterfall but there is no clear vantage to photograph it. To our left, another blown out abandoned mill. Even though this place is completely empty, you get the feeling walkers are behind every doorway here. Very eerie indeed.
We decide to checkout the inside of this building. Upon entering, it is clear, there were walkers here, and lots of them. Their footprints are everywhere!
We make our way past another old mill (the one with the bombed wall) and climb out on a pile of concrete and rocks in the middle of the creek. Once out there we realize that the whole pile is infested with large black spiders. I have several bites on my legs as proof. Unfortunately, this is the only vantage point to shoot the main falls. Spiders or no spiders, gotta get the shot.
After struggling with spiders and not falling in the creek, I realize the only way I am going to get a good shot of the falls is with my 70-200mm APO lens, which my luck, is back in my backpack at the top of the hill. I navigate the spider infested pile to grab my lens and then turn around and re-navigate them to get back to my spot. It’s making me itch just thinking about it. The shot, was worth it I think. (thank you trusty Sigma lens)
Having faced the spiders of death, outwitted the walkers, Lou and I decide to explore the mill. Here is a peek in the door to what lies beyond.
We make our way inside to inspect a large furnace that Lou is convinced houses a zombie ghost gnome. (I think there was something in the salad he ate earlier)
For as old as these mills are, there is an amazing amount of fixtures left in them. Here is another ladder cage strewn on the floor. The graffiti here is quite good. Less tagging, more graffiti.
Luck is with us this day, still no walkers. And that’s a good thing because in this mill, if one or two got in while we were there we couldn’t have gotten a shot in without them in the way. Lou and I pack up and get out of there while the getting is good. Along the way I stop to take a couple more shots of the first mill at the cascade.
We finish up the exterior of the old mill and head back to the platform to pack up. Then, without warning, two very large walkers approach. Lou and I duck down and remain very quiet. The two walkers stop for a minute and then continue down the trail. PHEW, a near disaster averted. I take one more opportunity to shoot the partially collapsed man-made dam above the main cascade. This really shows off how much algae is in this creek.
All in all, a very successful day. No major injuries, some amazingly atmospheric shots, and best of all, NO WALKERS! There was a lot more to shoot in this area and we plan to go back soon. Hopefully the return will be walker-free as well. May all your shoots be walker free. It’s a zombie apocalypse out there, be careful!