The Catskill Mountains are located roughly 100 miles north of New York City and 50 miles southwest of the state capital, Albany. Some consider the Catskills an extension of the Appalachian Mountains but, in fact, they’re not. Geologically, the Catskills are a dissected plateau, an uplifted region eroded by glaciers thousands of years ago into a sharp relief. This historic mountain range is deep with an ever-changing light that reflects on streams, forests, fields and rock formations. Each season brings different extremes, and each day brings a unique weather pattern that can change from one week to the next.
Mid-19th-century Hudson River School landscape painters like Thomas Cole famously depicted the adjacent Hudson River Valley. These paintings are characterized by their realistic, detailed and sometimes idealized portrayal of nature that the artists used as their inspiration. I believe this rich history of geology and art lends itself to a photographer, offering a limitless source for material.
This glacially carved range consists of 98 peaks at over 3,000-foot elevations, with dramatic views that change each season. Throughout this beautiful country, there are many unique regions. I’ve shot in many different mountain ranges, including the Rockies, the Appalachians and the Smokies, but there’s a uniqueness to the Catskills due to its proximity to the Hudson River Valley. The abrupt transition between river valley and mountains seems to transmit a special light that makes the Catskills a truly magnificent jewel in the Northeast deserving of its share of photographic exploration.
What I Use In The Catskills
I use Canon EOS-1D Mark II or Mark III D-SLRs. Digital can be unforgiving when you get blown-out highlights, and the window of light in the mountains is limited. This necessitates being in the right place at the right time and the ability to move quickly. Knowing your equipment, knowing the weather, having a planned route and a general idea of subject matter helps.
A well-organized, heavy-duty photo backpack is another key for me. In my backpack, I have extra charged batteries, memory cards, lenses and maintenance items. I almost always shoot in aperture priority, and stay at larger ƒ-stops for increased depth of field. Of course, higher apertures and low light mean longer exposures.
I use a tripod with legs that retract without levers, enabling me to move faster. I utilize a heavy-duty grip ballhead that allows quick movements. The grip ballhead also is crucial in colder weather when I have gloves on. To minimize movement with longer exposures, I use the EOS-1D mirror lockup function and its two-second timer. The weather sealing of the camera and the sealed “L” series lenses allow me to go out in unforgiving conditions.
Canon EOS-1D Mark III
Michael Tischler is a photographer and dentist living in Woodstock, N.Y. To see more of his photography, visit his website at www.tischlerphotos.com.