Mountain Trip – June 2014

June 18, 2014 – Another trip through Linville Gorge. Got to the campsite at the bend just before a huge thunderstorm rolled past.  You could see the thunderstorms building as I headed up the ridge from I-40. Now I’m just waiting for the charcoal to get going so I can put the pork chops on.  I decided to grill each night that I’m Jeep camping – we’ll see how it goes.

I plan on driving up to a spot before Wiseman View on the right where the trees are cleared and see if the sunset will shot.  Tomorrow the plan is to hike to the bottom of Linville Falls.

June 19, 2014 – Tried to shoot the sunrise at Wiseman View.  I took a couple of shots, but no clouds or good color.  I went back to the campsite to see the sun rise over Hawksbill Mtn, but the sun comes up farther to the north this time of year.  I should have checked the Photographers Ephemeris before I came.

I hiked to the bottom of Linville Falls.  It’s not too bad of a hike.  15-20 minutes to the bottom.  A lot of rocky spots to scramble through though.  I met a hippy yoga instructor with a dulcimer.  Her name was Ann Marie.  She said that the good light is ~8am this time of year.  She also said to order the trout BLT at Little Switzerland.

I took a few shots of the falls from the shore on the right side of the falls.  I also climbed up to on a large boulder in the middle of the river and checked the angle from there.  I plan to go back down with the Hassy 1st thing in the morning.  I also “hiked” to a small falls on a creek near the visitor center.

I drove up the road to Roan Mountain State Park – it took about an hour or so from Linville Falls area.  I hiked the trail to Roan High Knob.  The trail head is at the back and it’s only a 1/2 mile to the lookout point.  It was too hazy for photos, but I got some good cloud shots if they turn out.  I was using the circular polarizer to get some dramatic skies.  I also tried some shots of a pretty fern.  Then I hiked through the Rhododendron Gardens & found placed to shoot tomorrow. Continue reading

Night Swimming

Night SwimmingThis is a photograph that I have named “Night Swimming”.  This is from the first roll of slide film (Velvia) that I had ever shot, and I have been hooked ever since.  I still remember pulling the slide out of the box and trying to figure out when I had taken any night pictures.  Then I realized that I was holding the slide upside down.

This was taken somewhere near the Chinnabee Silent Trail in Cheaha State Park.  It looks great in a ~8X10 print and you can hang it either way.

Scanned Film Sharpness

I finally had one of my images from Yosemite printed in a larger format (9″ x 16″) and found that the print was nowhere near as sharp as I thought it would be. I started going through the reasons that an image would lack sharpness:

  1. Focus – I was assuming that this was the issue, but then I realized that I had focused at infinity for the shot (across Yosemite Valley).
  2. Camera Shake – I was using a tripod and mirror lockup. I’m pretty sure that this isn’t what happened. I also checked the other shots in the same series and they have similar sharpness problems.
  3. Lens – I have read that no lens is sharp throughout the entire aperture range.

I assumed that the problem must be with lens sharpness, so I set up my camera and took the same shot of my house at each different aperture. I was using a stable tripod, mirror lockup, a cable release, and there was no wind. I scanned the developed film and found something interesting.

All of the images were equally sharp, or more accurately, each image was equally UN-sharp. Here is a sample of the shots at 100% zoom:

80mm lens at F2.8:

80mm lens at F8:

80mm lens at F22:

After further research, I found that all scanners (especially running at 4800 dpi) have issues with sharpness. I could see where it could be an issue when trying to approximate an analog film process using digital. Back in the day, there would have been several parameters in play even after the film was developed:

  1. Sharpness of the image
  2. Grain of the film
  3. Aperture used on the enlarger
  4. Type of paper used for printing
  5. Developer used for the paper

Now with this information, I know that I need to really sharpen the image before printing. I was hoping to find a setting for sharpening that would work in all cases, but that never panned out. I guess I’ll just have to work with each image on its own. Here’s a side by side with the sharpened version:

Kallitype Printing

I had ordered a kit for Kallitype printing from the Photographer’s Formulary and received it a while back. It came with seven pages of instructions that still seem a bit short. Next time I will order from Bostick and Sullivan even though the price is higher.

It took some work to get all of the containers and measuring cups, which I had assumed would be included with the kit. I found most of the containers that I needed at various places around town, and I finally found some amber dropper bottles (50mL) at Propst Pharmacy that were not actually for sale. The next time I will order containers with the kit! I also got a red bulb and a black light from Walmart. I am still a bit confused on why the instructions require a red light since this is not supposed to be a darkroom process.

I mixed all of the chemicals in the upstairs bathroom and put them in marked containers. I sensitized some Arches Coldpress paper and let it dry. My first exposure was of a B&W 120 negative of dogwood flowers. I think I overexposed it though in the sun for 75 minutes.

Continue reading

Yellowstone

In July 2009, we flew from Huntsville to Denver to Jackson Hole and drove from there. The airport in Jackson Hole is spectacular – it’s in a field directly in front of the Tetons! We stopped off for a little while to walk around in Jackson Hole. We ate at some cool burger place called Billy’s Hamburgers that we definitely recommend if you happen to be in the area.

Here is a link to the Yellowstone Map that you can use to follow along.

Our first night was at a campsite between Tetons and Yellowstone called Lizard Creek. We set up our tent and drove up to the Yellowstone entrance to take the required Langley photographs. We didn’t really do anything else that night other than cook in the rain.

The next morning we broke camp and drove into Yellowstone.  We stopped off at Lake Yellowstone for breakfast and some pictures.  We didn’t eat at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel (the big yellow one) but ate at the lodge instead. It was nice to be able to look out at the lake while we ate breakfast.

The sky was clear and there was a definite blue cast to everything, partially due to the Velvia film. I converted some of the shots to a monotone, since the blue dominated them anyway.

There is a large meadow in front of the lodge, and I was able to catch this guy having breakfast as well:

B&W Printing by George DeWolfe

B&W Printing Book Cover
 

B&W Printing – “Creating the Digital Master Print”by George DeWolfe. A Lark Photography book in their Digital Masters series. $29.95 at Barnes & Nobles

I purchased this book after having problems creating a print (particularly in black & white) from a photograph that I had scanned from film. Here are my thoughts on it:

The book starts with a definition of terms in a glossary. This bothers me to some extent because we already have plenty of terms that are commonly used in photography that cover any idea mentioned in this book.

The first section of the book is quite interesting and should have expanded with additional information. DeWolfe discusses the things that make a master B&W print different from a normal B&W print. He covers edge definition, using shading to bring out form, and tone separation. Each of these items are treated to a type of before & after discussion to show the affect that they have on an image.

This section also introduces the PercepTool, written and sold by DeWolfe. The current price listed on DeWolfe’s website is $89.95. I was pretty angry that I bought a $30 book only to have the author use it to try and sell me a $90 software tool. I would estimate that 1/4 of the book is useless without the PercepTool. DeWolfe could have at least explained how the tool works instead of just how to set the parameters of the tool and use it.

The book also includes small sections on featured artists. These features provide a before & after image of the artists work. The featured artists were all helpful and inspiring.

The second section discusses the image workflow used by DeWolfe. While the first two chapters of this section are wasted on setup and customization of Lightroom (DeWolfe was on the development team for Lightroom), the majority of the material was very helpful. I have taken the suggestions and incorporated them into my own workflow.

There are several other concepts covered that help describe the differences between a mediocre print and a master print. The reader is forced to read between the lines a bit to discover the concepts.

As for actually printing the digital master print, there is a single short chapter that mentions printing. Of course, it only covers printing with Lightroom.

Conclusion:
This book would have been much more helpful if it had been reduced to its essential elements. It should cover workflow and the attributes of a master print. The inclusion of the PercepTool and Lightroom customization seem to be a poorly disguised attempt at salesmanship. Useful information on B&W printing would have been nice, especially in a book titled “B&W Prining”

This book is useless as far as actually printing an image goes. I’m still looking for a good manual for printing a B&W image with an inkjet printer. If you are looking for information on how to use a consistent workflow, there are articles available online that are very informative.

Pinhoti Trail 2006

April and I took a hiking trip on Section 6 of the Pinhoti trail during spring break in March. This is a photo journal of our trip. All photos were taken with a Nikon N80 using a Nikon 28-200mm lens on Velvia 100 film.

The drive from Albany GA up to Cheaha wasn’t too bad. We picked up US 431 in Phenix City and stayed on it until it crossed Hwy 281. This is the dead-end scenic highway from our trip to Chinnabee. The first photo is a panoramic from the first scenic stop we found on this highway.

We found a guy named Justin from another post who will provide a shuttle service to nearby trailheads. If you need his phone #, drop me a line. He gave us a ride up to the place where the Pinhoti crosses 431. The Pinhoti is blazed with a blue stripe and some kind of turkey foot marking (Pinhoti is an Indian word meaning “Turkey Home”). Occasionally there are blazes using the Pinhoti placard:

We hit the Pinhoti some time around 4:00pm and hiked for about an hour and a half before we heard the sound of water. On the way, we found crossed this bridge – the only bridge over the smallest stream!

The reason we picked this section of the Pinhoti was for the waterfalls. I think they rivaled the falls that we saw in the Deep Creek area of the GSMNP. The first waterfall (there are two) has an upper and a lower section. The upper section is almost vertical with the water flowing down a rock face.
I had read about a campsite at this first waterfall, but we had to look pretty hard before we found it. It looks like the trail used to run right by it but has been re-routed. It’s downstream a bit from the first waterfall.

I don’t have any pictures of this campsite, but is has a stone fire ring with some other flat stones propped up for back rests. It was a nice night – didn’t even need the rain fly on the tent. The next morning, we got up and took some photos of the waterfall.

We had breakfast, coffee, & hot chocolate and packed up camp. There was a cold front coming through, and the plan was to make it to county road 24 before lunch.

There were a good many ups and downs between the waterfalls & CR 24. I still haven’t figured out why the trail didn’t run along a ridge line like the AT does most of the time. It would run about 15 ft below the ridge – we never could get much of a view.

As I mentioned earlier, there were no more bridges on this section of the Pinhoti:

After the ups & downs, we made it to CR 24 around 10:30am. There was another small waterfall here that I had not read about. I wish that I had a trash bag to pick up some of the bottles & other trash that was all over the place. Apparently it is close enough to CR 24 to be a popular place to picnic.

We ate the rest of our trail mix (I really wish we had taken some more) and headed across CR 24. We passed another semi-established campsite near a stream. There were some chairs left here (near enough to CR 24 I guess) so we took advantage and filled up on water. Here’s a picture of me & my new hat:

After passing the campsite, the trail followed an old forest road for about a mile. After that, it was all up & down again. I wish I had an elevation profile of the section between CR 24 and Hubbard Creek – I don’t think there is a flat piece of land between the two.

In the mid-afternoon the clouds started rolling in so we decided to camp at Hubbard creek if we could find a good place. We knew that a cold front was coming through with a good bit of rain. We finally made it to Hubbard Creek about 4:00pm. Luckily there was a campsite on the other side of the creek so we wouldn’t have to cross it in the morning. This creek was knee deep at the crossing with moss-covered rocks on the bottom.

After playing in the creek for a while, we set up camp, filtered water, and got ready for the storm. The clouds were really starting to roll in by this time. For dinner we had angel hair pasta with herbs and lemon-pepper tuna from a foil pouch – not too bad.

Soon after we finished eating and cleaned up it started to sprinkle a little. We were pretty sheltered from most of the wind, but we could still hear the thunder as the front passed over.

The next morning when we woke up it was about 40 degrees. I’m really, really glad that we crossed the creek the day before! We made breakfast, packed up, and hit the trail.

 

Not too far after leaving the campsite, we crossed a power line. The trail is pretty hard to follow through here because of all of the tree tops laying around. After we found our way across, there were several more ups & downs along with more stream crossings.

We had a few spots along a ridge line where we could see a bit across the valley. I think I could make out Anniston in the distance. We came across this bus near an old road through the mountains.

After a few miles of not knowing exactly how far we had been, we made it to the CCC road. According to our map, it was only 2.5 miles to Blue Mountain shelter. The problem was that the marker at the CCC Road crossing said there were 3 miles left! A half mile makes a big difference when you’re climbing 500 feet!

After it is all said and done, I believe that the map is correct. It still adds confusion during the hike though. We had gone a bit past the CCC road and found this little guy sitting across the trail – it was pretty cold and he didn’t move much.

Besides two deer on a ridge across the valley, it was the only wildlife that we had seen on the trail (named after Turkeys at that!) We started the final climb up Cheaha mountain. This was the best piece of trail so far in my opinion. Every so often, we could catch a glimpse over the mountain tops. We came to a rocky ridge between Cheaha mountain and Blue mountain and rested for a while. It was quite nice to lay out in the sun on a mountain top. If anyone happens across that spot, please look for my clip on sunglasses!

After this, we passed another sign that said 1 mile to Blue Mountain shelter – We thought we’d already been 2 1/2 miles since the CCC road! Again, it was only a half mile (if that) to the shelter. They really need to take down those signs. The shelter is in very good shape, but I didn’t see any water too close to it. Now that I think about it, there wasn’t much water since we crossed the CCC road. We found a lot of small waterfalls and streams flowing down the mountain from the shelter to the park though. We also came across some views like this one:

All in all, I think it was a good trip – my wife may disagree. Though the trail sucked in most places, there were good waterfalls and streams to camp beside. We didn’t pass a single person on the trail.

Photography Equipment and Workflow

Since I’ve been accumulating a bit of photography equipment, I thought it would be a good idea to post a page dedicated to the equipment and process that I use. Here’s my basic workflow:

  1. Get some film: This is not as easy as it should be anymore. I shoot mostly Fuji Velvia slide film, and it’s getting harder to come by. I usually buy the Velvia from some place online like Adorama or B&H Photo. When I’m not shooting Velvia, my camera is loaded with some type of B&W film. I have found Kodak Tri-X to work the best for my purposes, but I am still working through a few other brands to find the B&W that works best for me.
  2. Pick a camera: The camera that I use the most right now is the Nikon N80 (because of the spot meter). I also have an N60 (my first SLR), two Yashica Electro35 cameras and a Mamiya 645 medium format camera system with several lenses
  3. Pick a lens: The workhorse for most of my photos is a Nikkor 28-200mm lens. I also use a wide angle 24mm for some landscape shots. The Mamiya has a telephoto, normal, and wide angle lens – I have found the normal lens work the best for me so far.
  4. Take some pictures – I’ll have to add a few steps on filters later.
  5. Get the film developed – I was using Colonial Photo & Hobby to develop and scan my film, but it was too expensive. Also, the scans were a bit dusty – I expected more for $14/roll to develop, scan, and mount. Now I use Fuji mailers to get my film processed – Still under $6 with stamps included. I get back a box of slides in 1-2 weeks.
  6. For B&W film, I’m using Southerlands Photo here in Huntsville. I have been satisfied with their service and their prices.
  7. Check out the slides – I use a lightbox to go through the slides and toss the bad ones. Half of the fun for me is the things I get to do after I get the film developed.
  8. Scan the good ones – I am currently using an Epson V700 scanner

    for all of my film. It will scan up to a 8×10 transparency, so it works well for my medium format film as well as 35mm. I use a 4800dpi resolution for shots that I intend to print and a lower resolution for others.I was using a Minolta Dimage Scan Dual IV – that’s a long name for a film scanner – that I got for Christmas in 2006
  9. Post/Print – You can see how the posting goes. I also have a Canon PIXMA printer that can print as good as anything I’ve seen from a lab. Comes in handy for Christmas cards too.

Sunset at Clark Lake

Here is a collection of shots taken at sunset over Clark Lake in the Delta National Forest. I only had one hand to work with, so I couldn’t use my gradient filter that I usually hand hold. I tried to take multiple exposures of each shot, but for some reason I forgot to overexpose to get detail in the shadows. Oh well, I still came out with some worth printing. I’ll have to add these one at a time until they’re all pieced together.

I like the sunbeams in this one. I usually try to keep the horizon away from the middle of the image, but I like the way the silouette, the treeline, and the sunbeams give some depth to the photo. I just wish the colors weren’t so boring.