From RB Winter, it’s a half-hour drive to Ravensburg State Park, which sits only nine miles away, as the crow flies. By road it’s a less direct route, eventually taking you under I-80, along a series of valleys between steep hillsides until you come down past a small dam pond, following the creek downstream a short ways to the park entrance.
Pulling into Ravensburg, you’d be forgiven for wondering where, exactly, the park is. You’re in it, but there doesn’t seem to be much there; the entry drive quickly becomes a fork, where left takes you to the campground and right takes you along a narrow gravel road to a couple of parking lots by a playfield.
In truth, Ravensburg isn’t very large – a narrow gash of a park along the banks of Rauchtown Run. But it’s the run – what they often call creeks in Pennsylvania – that makes it all worthwhile. Rauchtown Run tumbles down the dam spillway and flows among rounded boulders and smoothed stones, running cold and clear through a mixed forest that tends towards hemlocks.
And all of it is green. Every shade of green you can imagine, and maybe even some you can’t. From the moss, to the trees, to the low growth, to the very light it self – green is dominant. Approaching it from the parking lot is kind of magical; I walked out across the playfield, past a baseball diamond, wondering if this stop would be disappointing. But as I reached the creekside, it was like stepping into some mad fantasy world, where you truly expect to spy fairies and gnomes flitting among the moss.
Midday sun isn’t the ideal recipe for photographing moving water, or so the pundits tell us. But I didn’t have any problem with it. Still working from the tripod with the polarizer & strong ND filter combo, I ranged up and down the creek for maybe a quarter-mile, although it was often only a few footsteps between tripod placements.
Dynamic light is one of my favorite things about sites like this. I’ll accept the huge dynamic range – spots of hot sunlight right next to pools of dense shade – but it’s the dance of light as it moves in and out of passing clouds that pulls it all together.
One moment I’m shooting with bright sun filtering into the shade, and the next a cloud passes in front of the sun and the scene changes, now flattened and balanced. I just keep shooting, keep the multi-second exposures running, lengthened or shortened as necessary. The result can be a pair pair of photos made within a minute of each other, but looking like they came from entirely different days.
I suppose some photographers may find that frustrating, but I see it as a good thing. Dynamic is interesting!
Looking back, I made more photos in Ravensburg than I did at any of the other parks. Such is the magic of a forest stream – it’s like crack to a photographer, and we can’t get enough of it.
I suspect that Ravensburg would be a good stop during any season. I don’t know that I could spend an entire day there, and it doesn’t quite fit my vision for camping. But if I’m in the area, I’ll definitely stop back, even if it’s just to spend a few minutes sitting in the woods by the run.