Images from the Film Archives — 2001
Tri-State Rock was something I learned about from one of the hiking books I had that mentioned it held far ranging views of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The description of the hike was pretty sketchy, and not much in the way of maps, but I figured it could be found just reaching the cliffs above the Delaware Valley on the Pennsy side. The first thought was to go there in winter with snow on the ground and shoot down onto the Delaware River in the valley below. It was a good concept, except that the snow was knee deep, and trudging through it was an enormous, physically challenging process. Plus the fact that I had no idea of how to get to the spot!! At one point, I almost gave up the attempt, but gave it one last surge by going off trail into the woods toward where I thought the cliff might be, and found the cliff edge with a view looking south down into the valley that was great, and as a previously unknown added bonus, a wonderfully sculpted tree clinging to the cliff edge. But it had become overcast, so there were no shadows from the trees on the meandering meadows and farms below as I had hoped, and getting near the very edge of the sheer drop was not a risk worth taking because of all the snow and underlying ice. A fall would be certain doom! But I did decide it was worth a return again during the following autumn for a sunrise on a clear day since there should be some good sidelighting on the tree and forest along the Delaware River.
Fast forward to the following October; it was a perfectly clear, cool fall night as I drove several hours, and was filled with anticipation for the hike and photo opportunity. As I approached the bridge to cross into Pennsylvania, I drove into fog! Hope turned into dismay as the thoughts of distant views seemed to disappear into the mist. Continuing the drive, optimism had completely drained, and during the hike any hopes of the fog dissipating vanished as well. When I arrived at the tree that I had seen in the winter, it was engulfed with nothing to see other than the immediate surroundings. So I set up to take some bland photos of the tree in fog, and while doing so, the fog seemed to lower just enough to see the sky above and the beginnings of a sunrise just above it (photo below).
I snapped a few bracketed frames just before the fog rose again, totally enveloping the spot. I waited quite a while in hopes it would lower again, but the fog remained, gave up the quest, and deeply disappointed, headed back having not gotten the shot I’d hoped for. I did return another time during the following spring, though not for photography, but brought along the family for the hike and a picnic by that beautiful tree while taking in the majestic views on a joyful sunny day.
I vowed to make another attempt the following fall, and made the same drive under the same cool, clear conditions, hoping for a different outcome than the prior attempt. And as previously, when I got to the bridge into Pennsylvania, there was fog!! But I kept going and made the hike again hoping for a better result. As it turned out, the fog was not as thick as the previous year, and didn’t reach the height of the cliff. It turned out to be one of the most spectacular long distance scenes I’ve ever photographed in the NJ area.
A few years later, I visited the spot again in autumn, but this time I brought along a photographer friend of mine for another great morning shoot. Perfect conditions again, with fog in the valley and wonderful side lighting. But I was dismayed that he refused to use the tree in any of his photos, as I sensed he felt I had some kind of claim on that composition. I felt bad having dragged him up there in the wee hours, but not utilizing that wonderful tree. Afterwards, it was nice to have some company to talk about photography while having breakfast at a nearby diner. That was my usual procedure after a morning shoot, getting to know quite a few diners throughout New Jersey, and which ones had the best home fries!! Here in North Carolina, diners are a rarity, and home fries? Fogettabboutit!!