Photo by Frank Forte – A late afternoon shot of the tugboat Erie docked at the Little Falls Harbor.

by Dave Warner

Frank Forte, a local photographer from Little Falls has had two of his images selected to appear in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor 2020 calendar, which will be released in December.

Forte’s images were selected from more than 250 submissions in the contest, and depict the Little Falls Canal Harbor at Rotary Park. He’s semi-retired and able to take the time to expand his photography horizons and has chosen the Canalway as his primary project.

According to Forte, “I had a small collection of really pretty canal pictures, but I’ve always liked the canal and Rotary Park and I’ve gotten some nice shots over the years of the Little Falls, Herkimer, Minden corridor.”

On one occasion, Forte was visiting Rotary Park and talking with the harbormaster and he asked if he could donate some images to hang on the wall. “He liked what he saw, so I donated a few prints for the visitor center at Rotary Park.”

During that conversation, Forte was told about the contest. “I don’t necessarily like to jump into stuff like that, but the more I got to learn about the work of the Erie Canalway people based out of Waterford, the more I felt that these folks are really trying to do a good thing to promote the Canalway, so I went ahead and filled the application out.”

Forte picked out three images that he thought were worth submitting but had problems with one of them because it was of the tug Urger going through Lock 17. “Being that that boat has been taken out of service, disqualified me from being able to submit that photo.”

Photo by Frank Forte – Early morning fog swirls around the Max Jakob as it sits tied up at the Little Falls Harbor.

Forte found out through a Facebook friend that he had had his images selected for the calendar. “When he messaged me, I thought what are you talking about? And sure enough, the next day I got an email from them saying hey, you made first place in two categories,” said Forte.

He has gotten so enthused about the Canalway, that he’s made a presentation to Jean Mackay, who is the director of communications and outreach for the Erie Canalway. “I put together some of my canal pictures and they gave me some resources where I could find all the canals, locks, a map set that is detailed like roadmaps but just of the canal corridor,” he said.

With these maps, he was able to find locations and ways to get to the Locks that are typically not public and spent the month of September exploring all these new vantage points and photographing from them.

“I photographed the tug boat roundup for a couple of days just to build up a body of work and then did the entire Waterford flight,” said Forte.

He ended up going all the way to Lock 33 and spent a couple of days in that area photographing it. “I kind of have a mission to get to know the canal and use my way of viewing things – the architectural structures, and the beauty of the canal in a certain light, to highlight it,” he stated.

“It fired me up to know what we have here in history and natural beauty, the structural beauty and the way they care for these Locks. Many of them are so manicured and beautiful and you get a feeling of tranquility when you visit them, even some of the out-of-the-way Locks,” said Forte. “In the right light, they are stunningly beautiful.”

Photo by Frank Forte - The Richmond Aqueduct over the Seneca River in Montezuma, NY, along the Canalway.

Photo by Frank Forte – The Richmond Aqueduct over the Seneca River in Montezuma, NY, along the Canalway.

He has not explored the area from Rochester to Buffalo but has that on his spring to-do list. “It’s not just a ditch of water that has kind of been there, but there is some beauty to be admired, as well as the communities that are starting to perk up along the Canalway because of it. We’ve got about a thousand miles of waterfront if you count both sides of the Canalway,” Forte stated.

Recently there has been talk about shutting down portions of the canal and lowering the water level. “There’s nothing else like this on the planet. Maybe my initiative will help public awareness when they see the beauty of what we have.”

Thousands of calendars will be delivered to selected libraries and travel centers throughout the corridor during the month of December, just in time for the new year.