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.

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 Warm Tone


As discussed in my previous post I was not happy with this image in the standard flat grey of Ilford MGFB or Warmtone papers. So I ordered some selenium and performed some tests. This image has been toned at 1:6 dilution for 15 minutes. The color shift began after 4 minutes in the dark tones and was fully toned by about 12 minutes. Overall I like this image better now.

I also toned the image from the classic paper for the same time but it was too purple of a tone for my liking. 3 minutes would have been fine for archival purposes.

Below is a comparison of before and after toning (upper left corner) for the different papers.

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.

Trahlyta Falls

As a personal project I plan to photograph as many waterfalls and scenic hiking areas in North Georgia as I can in the next decade. This area is known in Indian lore as the land of a thousand waterfalls. Fortunately many are preserved in the Chattahoochee National Forest and are fairly easily accessible. Water has always been a draw for me and even a deafening waterfall some how is peaceful. The rocks and trees are also great reminders of strength and solitude.  trahlyta_falls_ii_small

Trahlyta falls is located on Hwy 19 in Vogel State Park. Its an easy walk around the lake then down the path near the spillway. The landing platform is nearly at the bottom of the falls. This image was taken on a misty day with a bit of brightness in the sky creating a great deal of contrast. I metered on the water and rocks to right and shot the average but had to add time for reciprocity.

Technical Info

Ikeda Anba 4×5 FP4+ (iso 125), Schneider 65mm, f32, 3 seconds to get the water flowing effect.

Processed with Kodak HC-110 Dilution B (1:31) for 7.5 mins in a SP445 tank. Probably could have run longer but the negative is thick enough.

Prints easily between Grade 2  and 2.5 with 20% burn at top to reduce the sky flare.

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.

Finding Your Grail

We all have that one image that sticks in our mind and would like to produce something like it. Many photographers trek to Yosemite to photograph in the same spots as Ansel Adams did. One photographers whose work I love hails from Hilton Head island South Carolina. Ben Ham finds some beautiful marsh and lowland locations and if given the chance I would place my tripod in his tripod holes and hopefully create similar magical images.

While visiting my sister in Charleston I decided to seek out some low country areas and see if I could at least create something interesting. Near her home on Daniel Island I found some beautiful old curving oaks and a scenic marsh. Of course I drove all over North Charleston and surrounding areas for three days before finding the magic spot. I arrived just after sunrise so I had some shadows and sunlit areas to deal with… I made my exposures and hurried to the next spot. By 9:00 am I was done.

It would be September before it would be cool enough in my garage darkroom to process the film. I Knew I had something on film because I took back up shots with my Leica. But when I processed the 35mm film I made a mistake in assuming my fixer was still good. I ruined the few shots I had on that roll. I doubt they can be recovered.

So before I processed the 4×5 film I made a test shot in the back yard and processed it separately. Confident in my renewed chemistry I was able to process the negatives. The next day I created some contact prints and saw some of the images were what I had hoped for. My favorite spot did not turn out quite as well as planned because of sun flare on the lens. In some ways its an interesting detail and in others its an annoying artifact. I still need to master this print so will try to post an image here once I get the images properly printed.

Smoky Mountains and a tale of woe

I took my family on a long weekend trip to the Great Smokey Mountains. We stayed in a modern cabin near Pigeon Forge and did all the usual touristy things like visit Dollywood and shop in the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We took some scenic drives and the family even allowed me to stop and photograph some of them. It was a wonderful trip except that it rained most of the time we were there so there was not much hiking or getting out into the wild.

A couple of weeks after returning home I set out to develop the images I had taken. I had a new 4×5 tank that could process up to 12 images so I put them all in the tank.  I mixed up the chemistry and began the processing. After developing and fixing I washed the negatives well before removing them from the tank. Some of the images were almost clear and the rest were very thin. On No, what have I done.  I was fairly confident I had exposed most of the film accurately so started retracing my development steps.

In mixing my HC-110 I used a syringe instead of my usual graduated tube. And what I thought was 1 ounce was only 1CC so my developer was too weak for the time that I processed. Fixer was likely ok. The images were barely visible after drying so I knew I had something on the film. So I set out to the internet to determine if there was a way to salvage the images.

This is what an under processed and reprocessed negative looks like.

It turns out there is a reprocessing method. First you bleach the image with a reducing bleach until the image is clear. Then you redevelop using a staining developer like Pyro HD. This can all be done in subdued room light in trays and repeated until density is built up. I did see some improvement in the images that were not too thin but the contrast was now too much and print time still too fast to really work with the images.

I now am much more careful in mixing chemistry to make sure I am aware of the units of measure. I have to chalk it up to a learning experience, and I still know where those spots are if I ever get up that way again. Since I only print sporadically I now also have become aware of shelf life of mixed chemistry. I liked the Pyro effect on the negatives and will try it for future projects.