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.

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.

Dicks Creek Falls

My monthly excursion to the mountains took me to the south end of the Chestatee WMA area to where Waters Creek and Dicks Creek merge and create a lovely cascade of waterfalls. I had visited once before with my family so the location was on my mental checklist of places to shoot. I arrived early  but there were already fishermen extracting trout from the rushing pools. While I was there a photographer also began doing portraits of a family at the creek. The day was fairly productive with several targets and views to work with. I got 5 shots in all within a 2 hour window.

Image 1 – The upper falls drops sharply between a slit in the rocks and forms a nice pool which then cascades over a smaller wider rocky set of falls. There is also a fallen tree which arches over the top of the falls. I flubbed my first shot forgetting to stop down the shutter but did not realize until I was set up for next shot. I went back later to  retake the image  which went smoother, but I could not get back to same position due to fishermen in the space.

Image 2 – The laurel were blooming and the top of the lower falls had a nice angle across the creek with some still water pools and moving water to make for an interesting shot. The foreground laurel were also twisty and interesting.

Image 3 – The lower falls are much wider than the upper falls and are what most people like to capture. I started off with a 135MM lens but it was so wide I was capturing the fisher men on the banks of the creek on right.

Image 4 – Lower falls again but with 180mm lens and changed from horizontal to vertical view emphasizing the trees above the falls too. However another fisherman popped up at  the top of the falls so I may not have this scene without people.

Image 5- I wandered down the trail a bit and found some laurel plants growing straight up with some nice ferns at their base. Light green ferns, dark foliage, and some twisty laurel in the background should be interesting. Low contrast scene so I will need to bump it up in development and printing.

Over the next few weeks I hope to share the images from this outing. My 135MM lens at f22 was my main workhorse for this trip. I need to get some ND filters and step up rings however so I can extend the exposures for waterfall shots.

Contact Prints

AT Woody Gap

Last Sunday I went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail at Woody Gap again, except this time I hiked back the other way. I knew there was a tree that sat at the base of a sloped rock that is sometimes covered with water at about the 1/2 mile mark. The tree has a large burled area at its base where it clings to the rocks. I had visited here once before but could not get a good angle on the tree and did not have a wide enough lens. This time I came prepared with my 65mm wide angle and got the shot I was after.

I then hiked another mile to the top of the ridge. That last few hundred feet is almost straight up but the ridge has a nice granite outcrop that over looks the valley and surrounding mountains. There is a tree there as well that provided a nice frame for the top half of the image. There were no clouds in the sky so the tree’s branches help break up the expanse and let the viewers eye observe the valley below. I might have hiked a bit farther but there seemed to be lots of hikers out that day, and several young ones were making the trek from Georgia to Maine. So my 3.2 round trip pales in comparison. I only took the two images this time but there were some nice little flowers I should have shot. Its a reminder I need to carry a smaller format for the “extras” that I don’t feel warrant the big camera. I really enjoy the discovery of the trail each time I visit.


Here is the burled tree and its surroundings. The image is best printed using a split grade method. I find the image rather busy and need to determine a way to bring in the 3 dimensional qualities of the natural site. There are several cropping possibilities.

Technical: Ilford Delta 100 4×5 ISO100, 65mm, f22, 1/4second, EV 8-14, 11 on zone V. Developed Pyrocat HD 22 minutes minimal agitation, printed split-grade on Ilford MGFB Classic in LPD 1:1.

Cooper Creek Trout Stocking Point

After an early morning hike along the Appalachian Trail I decided to follow Highway 60 up past Suches, GA to find a fishing spot I had heard about. Cooper Creek is stocked with trout and is a favorite spot for campers at the Cooper Creek WMA campground. The river runs along Hwy 60 so no need to go into the campground area to see it. When I arrived the sun was bright and low in the sky still which gave very bright highlights on the water, so I waited a few minutes to see if it would lessen as the sun rose more. Fortunately some clouds formed as well and the angle of the sun gave just enough bling to the water to make it interesting. I metered in several places and saw there was only about a 4 stop difference from dark to light so picked a middle reading for my exposure. I probably should have double checked the mountain laurel over hang as it was a bit darker once processed. The negative is a little flatter then most that I am used to so I did bump the contrast a tad. I also ended up dodging a bit of the bushes at the top of the image so their detail stands out.  It is not a great composition but I think with varying conditions of light and time of day this spot holds some potential to capture some moving water images. I will certainly go back there to fish. I may even try printing on warm tone paper and let it go a bit more old looking.

Technical Notes: Jan 15 2017 4×5 FP4+ EI80, 180MM, f22, 1/8 sec, EV 9.2-13.3 avg 11.8.  Developed in Pyrocat HD 1.5:1:157 for 20mins minimal agitation.

UPDATE: Click to see this image in warm tones.

Fallen Tree at Preacher Rock

I had visited Preacher Rock on a previous excursion and tried to make some interesting images but yet failed due to haze and glare so common in the Blue Ridge moutains. So I returned early one morning to try again. It was a bit cold at sunrise but the morning unfolded to a nice 50-ish degrees and inspired me to hike a little further than I had planned and explore the area more.

This tree was the only image I made that day as nothing caught my eye and the same haze had formed in the valley.  I had shot this tree on the trip before but the holder I used apparently had no film in it. The fallen tree marks the turn in the trail for the last quarter mile steep up hill trail to the granite out crop on the ridge which overlooks the Blood Mountain area. I like the trees bent shape and the angle of the landscape that shows how steep the terrain really is. The rocks behind the tree sit like sentinels overlooking the valley below. You can even see another tree that has been bent by the boulders as it grew around them. Photographically I was concerned about the shadows on the tree since the sun was to my back. However it really gives a greater feeling of depth to the whole image.

Beyond Preacher Rock the trail meanders slightly downhill along the ridge line. I walked about 2 miles out so knew I had to climb back up the ridge trail to get back. The trail is narrow but has a couple of interesting camping areas and rock out crops to explore. Park at Woody Gap on Highway 60 East of Suches, GA. Take the Norther trail into the Blood Mountain area. Its an easy hike except for that short push to the ridge.

Technical Notes: Jan 15, 2017, 4×5 FP4+ EI 80, 135mm, f22, 1/4 second, EV 8-13 avg 10.7 on Zone 5. Pyrocat HD 1.5:1:157 for 20 minutes with minimal agitation.

Raven Cliff IV

Up near Helen Georgia is a great twisty road known as the Richard Russel Scenic Parkway. There are some scenic valley views and it is a heck of a fun drive in a sports car. There are at least two major waterfall destinations. Dukes creek falls, which is a relatively easy hike with wide pathways and a singular water fall that is spectacular to view.  The second area known as Raven Cliff is about the mid point on the parkway and is more of a hikers trail. The narrow path meanders along a small creek which has at least 3 small scenic falls over the 2.5 mile journey to “the Wall”.  At the end of the path one is confronted with a large exposed granite wall with a narrow slit cut in it by a sliver of water over time. During dry seasons there is almost no water flowing into the slot, but after a rain the water shoots and dances off the sides of the slot wall. During the winter months you can get up to the top of the wall and travel further up stream.

I was there during August on a comfortable 75 degree day after it had rained some. About 10:00 a.m. there was some light from the top left side of the wall that lit up the slot slightly. The textures in the wall were beginning to stand out. I began setting up my camera and was taking my meter readings when a couple decided they needed to stand where my camera was to take their I-Phone photos. Shortly afterward a large group of unruly teenagers showed up hollering and standing in front of my camera. Somehow I managed to find a window to take the shot between groups. An older woman nearby expressed interest in the camera and engaged me in conversation for a few minutes, but then asked if I could email her the image I just took. When I explained it was a film camera (as if the bellows did not give  her a clue) she looked confused. I was tempted to take a shot with my I-phone and email it to her. I packed up and started the hike back to the car, but did stop and photograph some of the smaller falls on the way back. The five mile round trip was exhausting yet exhilarating knowing I had captured some interesting sites.

The image sat in the film holder for a few weeks before processing and printing. After developing the negative I could tell I had captured what I wanted. The negative had a nice glow about it and was well placed within the 5 stops of brightness in the scene. Printing the image is effortless and has the right look at grade 2. I finally felt like all the years of study and practice had come together for this one image, and it would be what would drive me forward and cemented my love of the 4×5 film format. Not everyone is able to identify this as a waterfall which is also why it holds interest for me. The textures on the granite cliff form a sort of abstract that can be explored in addition to hunting for the water.

Technical – Ilford FP4+ (rated iso 80), Ikeda Anba 4×5, 90mm Schneider SA, F32, 3sec, Developed in HC-110 1:31 @72 degrees for 5.5 minutes.