AT Byron Reese Trail Revisited

I re-visited the Byron Reese trail again today with the intent to re-shoot the tunnel and creek near the parking lot. We have had several days of rain so I knew the creek would be flowing well. It was flowing so well that I had to work my way around the far side over the tunnel to get to the location I wanted and even that was in water. I then decided to walk the trail a bit and look for some shots I missed previously. When I arrived at the AT intersection I went a bit further toward Blood Mountain. I made it about 1.75 miles but my legs were already burning and I was moving slow up the never ending ascending stairs. I also was running out of time since a storm appeared to be moving in. The temperature on the mountain was a comfortable mid 60’s with a breeze, but humidity was high. At one point I was even in the clouds.

Coming back down the mountain I stopped and photographed a series of rock steps between two trees. I think this was about the steepest point I had climbed. I had also made mental notes on the way up about a twisted tree with roots exposed that I knew I would capture on the way back. And finally there is a stream that crosses the pathway near the starting point. It was over flowing the rock steps by a good inch so its upstream was broader than usual, so I stopped and captured it. The rhododendrons were blooming too but I did not really find a good composition. Overall it was a worthwhile hike, but I need to build up my climbing legs a bit more to make it to the summit. I will return again in the fall.

Pictures to follow soon.

First shot on the Chamonix 4×5

Details of the Appalachian Trail – Mushrooms in fallen tree.

In a previous post I mentioned shooting with a fellow LF’er at the Byron Reese trail on the AT. This was also my first outing with the Chamonix 4×5 04N2 camera. We had barely begun to walk the trail from the parking lot when I noticed this mushroom growing in a fallen tree. Bryan went to photograph a tiny stream and I walked back to try to capture this log and mushroom. I moved a piece of the broken tree that was blockng the left mushrooms but left it in the image.

It took me a few minutes to setup the camera and compose the image, as I was not used to a fresnel ground glass. I was only a couple of feet away from the tree and very low to the ground. I knew I wanted to to blur the background a bit so I only stopped down to f8 hoping I had enough depth of field in the foreground as the texture in the shadows and log was as important as the mushrooms. The area around the mushroom metered 3.7EV to 6.7EV so I placed an area that metered EV 5 on zone 5 and let the rest of the tones fall naturally. The meter called for 2 seconds at f8 so I had to add 1 second for reciprocity.  I also chose to expand the contrast a bit in development. This is a contact print at grade 2 with no dodging or burning or computer manipulation. The scan is a bit darker than the actual image in the shadows. I am pleased with the results except that I may crop it square to reduce the upper area.

Update: I revisited this site a few weeks later. The left mushrooms had fallen off and the mushroom on the right had grown so large it no longer created a good composition.

Technical: Chamonix 04N2, 135mm Schneider lens, Ilford FP4 4×5, f8 @ 3 seconds. Developed in Pyrocat HD 3:2:500 for 32.5 minutes using minimal agitation. Contact print on Ilford MGFB classic using grade 2 filter.

Ikeda Anba vs Chamonix 04N2 4×5

When I began my adventure into large format photography  I started with a big heavy Calumet metal C400 4×5 and learned quickly I did not want to travel very far with it. For a brief time I was able to use a Shen Hao 4×5 wood field camera which I really liked. My first wooden field camera purchase was an Ikeda Anba which is very small and light for hiking. I really like this camera but it has some shortcomings. Recently I purchased the Chamonix 04N2 4×5 wood field camera for some of the features missing in the Ikeda Anba. Below is a comparison of my two woodies and one may be up for sale soon.

The Anba folds up into a tiny block while the Chamonix is a good bit thicker.  When opened the difference in height between the Anba and Chamonix is noticeable. the area below the rear standard has more space due to the focus mechanism. Notice the Chamonix comes standard with a Fresnel ground glass, the Anba has an after market satin snow. The Fresnel is brighter but harder for me to focus on. The Anba has traditional spring clamp which are tight, while the Chamonix is much less springy. Both rotate.

The next notable difference is the knobs.  The Anba’s front knobs are tiny and difficult to work with in gloved hands. The Chamonix knobs are much larger and knurled for easier grip. The Anba has separate knobs for front rise/fall, front tilt, and for forward or backward extension plus a knob to lock it all down. The guides on the Anba’s standards have positive stops for vertical. The Chamonix has fewer knobs and some control multiple functions like Rise/fall and tilt or Swing and Shift. The rear standard does not have a positive stop which slides out for vertical under the base and one can use the built in levels.

The front standards both require use of the Technica style lens boards. The Anba has a sliding bar to lock the board in vs the Chamonix uses two teeth which rotate in to hold the board. The front standard of the Chamonix has more movements than the Anba. You can also see the base is made of wood on the Anba vs carbon fiber for the Chamonix.

When extending the camera the Anba will max out around 295MM, while Chamonix has a max bellows of 395MM and more if using an extension board. The Anba is more suited to wide angle, however the Chamonix does allow for a wider lens if you move the rear standard forward. The abba standard can also be moved forward using the middle knob and pressure. Min bellows on Anba is 65MM racked all the way in, 52mm on the Chamonix. I recommend a 72mm or 75mm wide angle for the Anba if you want movements.


Focusing the Anba requires using either the front base knob or rear base knob and they do lock down once focused. The Chamonix has a geared screw which does not lock down but is tight enough it stays in place (so far).

Folding the cameras requires a bit of work on both. The Abba front standard must be loosed so it drops behind the metal arms. The Chamonix front standard must be removed from the focusing rail then pushed into the back. The back then folds down over the front standard. On the Abba the lens board holder must be in the down position too.

I like both of these cameras for different reasons. The Abba is perfectly capable for 95% of the shots I want to take. Its small form factor makes it easy to pack and leaves room in the bag for extra holders. Its knobs do tighten down well and make the camera sturdy. The Anba’s design flaws are tiny knobs, short bellows, and minimal movements.

The Chamonix has the larger knobs but the multi-functionality makes setting up the camera a bit fidgety. Lacking the positive stops also leads to some potential errors as the front and rear may not be aligned. But I do like the longer universal bellows on the Chamonix and will get used to moving the rear standard forward for wider angle lenses since I tend to shoot a lot with my 65mm.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section below. You can find more information about Chamonix cameras on their website. For Anba search the Large Format Forums or other websites. A similar camera to the Anba is the Nagaoka field camera and its instructions and specs are very similar.

AT Byron Reese Trail

Another visit to the Appalachian Trail (AT) in North Georgia. This time I met up with fellow photographer Bryan Garris at the Byron Reese trail near the Wasil-yi store on Hwy 19. The first .7 miles of this trail is a steep switchback wide path with lots of steps. At the point where the Byron Reese trail meets the AT, instead of continuing on to Blood Mountain, we then turned East toward Neel’s Gap and walked about another mile gently down hill. We stopped often to capture some interesting trees and rocks. The hike back was less difficult but still very tiring. At the parking lot there is a nice small waterfall and tunnel that goes under the road.

Shooting with someone was very different for me. We were carrying similar cameras and lenses, we often saw the same subject matter, and  at times both of us shot the same subject but not from the same tripod holes. Bryan’s approach is to take lots of photos from different angles or using different lenses, while I rarely shoot more than one image of a subject (something I need to improve on). We talked about photography, developers, style, toners, films, formats, interesting locations, and other general topics as we hiked. This was a tough slog for me and had to rest plenty while Bryan was much younger and fit than I but was patient. I was also trying out my new (to me) Chamonix 04N2 4×5 camera so was having to learn its idiosyncrasies and taking longer than usual to set up.

Shot 1 – Mushroom in a Fallen tree’s roots. We passed by this mushroom and said we might stop back later. Bryan found  a small creek up ahead a short distance so I went back and captured it. The lighting was dim and the difference in tone between the mushroom and detailed shadow areas was about 3 stops. I took two shots, one overexposed by 2 stops, dark shadows on zone 5+  and one placing the dark shadows near Zone 3+. We shall see which I like better. See image here

Shot 2 – We found an interesting root embedded in a rock wall. We both took this image with different points of view. Bryan used an extreme wide angle and got in very close. I used my 65mm lens from a bit further back. Tonalities in this shot were only  2 stops apart and required a long shutter of 22 seconds at f8. I do have bits of sky in the image but may still expand the negative to increase the contrast of the main parts.

Shot 3 – While Bryan was focused on an interesting fallen tree I saw a Ferns and Trees composition that captured my attention. With fairly even lighting this scene was also low contrast with only 2 stops difference. f32 for 1.4(ish) seconds on my 135 lens. The shutter 1 second timer is a bit slow so closer to 1.4 seconds so changed from f22.5 to f32. It will be interesting to see how Pyrocat HD  will expand the negative for N+3 tonality.

Shot 4 –  The waterfall and bridge tunnel – I shot this with a normal 180mm from a distance, while Bryan worked the scene from different views and lenses. I was worn out but noted the location for future visits. Bryan commented there is potential for an 8×20 format composition. Another long exposure due to sun going in and out of clouds at f22 for 14 seconds. When the sun was out the small waterfall was lit up a bit. So I took two shots with the sun shining and one while in more subdued light. The overall brightness of foreground did not change much. I need to reshoot this one.