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Photographing 40-foot Falls in Archbald, PA just after Hurricane Ida

40-foot falls is a waterfall I had no idea existed until just this year despite living in this area of Northeastern Pennsylvania for the majority of my life. I heard about it from a YouTube video by Dale Keklock, a local historian of sorts that is painstakingly documenting the now moribund coal industry in our area – everything from the abandoned town of Edgerton to the manmade reservoirs and waterways created during that time period.

Once I had heard about 40-foot falls I knew I wanted to photograph them. Little did I know that Hurricane Ida would be dumping an enormous amount of water on our area just a few days later.

But first, a scouting mission with my Dad.

My father Robert

After just a short hike we found the falls relatively easily – thanks to Keklock’s video on YouTube. I had brought a few cameras along but knew that I wouldn’t photograph the falls unless they were really showing well. Spoiler: they weren’t.

Beautiful? Yes. But not worth exposing on film just yet. Have you seen film prices? But I made a mental note that the next time we had a good, decent rain (which, during the summer of 2021 was almost weekly) I would return with my drone and film cameras to capture a few images.

Just 11 days later, this happened.

Image credit: John Hickey, WNEP Meteorologist on Twitter

The remnants of Hurricane Ida spilled inches of rain per hour across the US including our corner of Pennsylvania. I told Eliza we needed to get up early and hike to 40-foot falls to get some photos.

Me, setting up a shot. Photo credit: Eliza Devroe

Well, this time the falls were putting on a good show.

Both sets
Upper set

It was time to expose some film.

40-foot falls
40-foot falls
Nearby White Oak Dam, just downstream from the falls

I’ve added these photos to my portfolio as well. I shot mostly with the Mamiya 645 Pro TL but also a bit with the Canon AE-1 Program. It was my first time using brand-new Kodak Tri-X. I have to say I’m really liking this film stock.

I’m glad Eliza and I returned so soon after Ida. The images were well worth the effort to get the timing right. I plan on making some prints of these images – and others captured on that day – this winter in the darkroom.

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