Smith Gilbert Gardens, Kennesaw GA by Chris Dahl

I have driven past the road that leads to Smith Gilbert Gardens for the past 15 years while living in Acworth and each time I have told myself I should visit this local city garden and see what they have to offer. One day in early July my wife mentioned that she saw where the Butterfly House was open there. So I found a day to drive over and see what it was all about.

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Photo Composites by Chris Dahl

For many years I worked in a Photo Lab where we produced photo composites. These images were used mainly for advertising at trade shows, malls and airports. We would create layered artwork showing the image and type placement. Then large copy cameras were used to shoot 8x10” film of each element. Enlargers, pin registered frames, Ortho film (Black and Clear after processing) and Rubylith (For cutting shapes aka selections) just to name a few of the other tools we had. Many hours were spent at a drafting table, in the camera room ordering type setting to the correct size. The type was delivered scaled to the size of our layout printed black on white paper. We used a hot wax to paste everything in position. Here is a link to my home darkroom, at the lab they were much more equipped.

Just like Photoshop all of the elements need to be in layers and arranged in a specific sequence. Each layer generally required a Ortho film for final assembly. Then we would make multiple exposures using the Ortho films in the sequence order on 8x10 inch color film.

For images (see below) the photo was sized with duplicating film and the mask was hand cut to fit the image. The color type was created by projecting colored light from the enlarger to the film. We kept reference material with color values to use as starting points.

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1969 by Chris Dahl

I was brought back to this year a few weeks ago at a SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) meeting at the Techwood Campus of Turner Broadcasting. I sat next to a gentleman that is producing a documentary about the old abandoned launch pads NASA has used over the years.

He was excited about the new Apollo 11 documentary. For a back story on this movie Read this article in Vanity Fair Magazine.

The movie trailer is here.

I was 12 years old in 1969 when Apollo 11 carried a crew to the moon. There was no Internet and there were only 3 or 4 TV channels. Believe it or not, 24 hour news stations did not exist.  So for a 12 year old boy interested in space travel there were limited resources. Events like this were discussed around the family dinner table and watched on TV (If Dad wanted to watch).

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Frame on a Budget by Chris Dahl

After attending a presentation at the Booth Photography Guild on Mating and Framing I decided to try out the idea by matching it up with the requirements that the Shows/Galleries hold us to. There are two approaches below. The first one is like fitting a square peg in a round hole. It is labor intensive. So if you are not technical skip to the end (Ordering a Custom Sized Frame and Mat), where I show you how to used a “Custom Mat” wizard to have the Mat and Frame ordered cut to fit my print.

The reality is you only pay a few dollars more for the custom Mat and Frame. The online tools make it bery easy to do.

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Printing Digital Images - Remember all the settings by Chris Dahl

I have talked about my background working in photo labs in the past. When I spent my day in a darkroom making prints, I would make test prints for several clients at a time. To keep all of the images and settings organized the lab had pre-printed envelopes with all the needed information organized in a “form”. I would mark the settings on the envelope and keep the negatives and test print for each customer together. The QC person marked on the test prints any changes that were needed. The test print would also have symbols marked on the surface indicating the dodging and burning. I would transfer their changes to the form on the envelope and make another test. This process kept going until the QC put a check mark on the test print.

As we work in Photoshop or Lightroom the settings are all stored in the software. You can see these changes in the History of the Develop Module. You can even create a virtual copy of an image based on the paper and profile you are using in the print module. These settings are stored to reuse for a later print. This makes our lives so much easier than what I had years ago in the photo lab.

However, I am a task oriented person and I like to keep records. Also, the printer setup page is not as forgiving as Lightroom and needs to be changed as you use different paper types and sizes. I developed a print setup sheet a year ago to help me keep better records and force me to check all settings before I hit the print button. I keep these forms with a copy of my test print in a notebook for future reference. This sheet allows me to go back and review and double check all the print settings.

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Forgotten Images by Chris Dahl

A number of years ago I attended a program given by Rob Knight on Lightroom, he outlined his system of organization in Lightroom. I watched, took notes and was inspired by the level of organization he was achieving. I quickly adopted his methods and modified them for my use. I will not go through the details here, but I have documented them in the form of a handout that I gave to attendees of a presentation I made for one of the groups I am a member of. You can find that document here, please feel free to download this file.

So the question has become what to do I with all the images cataloged in my system before this procedure change. I have been taking photos for many years. So there are a number of stray folders and files floating around. I also have boxes full of unscanned film.

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My Path to B&W Infrared Photography by Chris Dahl

Many years ago I shot a fair amount of Kodak B&W Infrared film in my cameras. I used two cameras. A Brooks Veriwide 100 which shot 120 film and a Widelux 35mm. Both of these cameras were “Panorama” cameras shooting wide angle with extended field of view. There were lots of limitations to the Infrared film process. The film needed to remain sealed in the original film cans until you were ready to load the camera. The camera needed to be loaded in a dark room or a black-out changing bag. The film is overly sentive to daylight and would easily fog.

You needed a filter to go over the lens to block out light spectrums other than Infrared.

BrooksVeriwide 100.jpg

I also had a darkroom in my home and would process the film and make the prints myself. That is a whole other process worth discussing another day. Darkroom work is very fulfilliing.

Below are a few images that were shot on film, printed and then in later years scanned. I still have the negatives and a few film processing tanks but I have sold the other equipment.

Sadly, I sold the cameras as well.

Film is making a comeback, and you can still get Infrared film but the choices are much more limited. Kodak is completely out of the Infrared film business today.

If you are interested in the film process a good site to visit is Freestyle Photograpic Supplies, they have a good selection of film, chemicals and equipment. They also have a nice database of articles in a section called Photo Know-How.

Click on the images above for the full view.

About two years ago, I decided to research B&W infrared photography and figure out if I wanted to revisit this format. I quickly ruled out film. I did not want to get back into the wet process at this time because I did not have the space to dedicate to it.

After some research I found several companies that would convert your existing camera to Infrared. However, this is a big commitment. Once converted you cannot take what you consider normal photos with that camera. I wanted to find an easier way to test the process, so I settled on buying a filter to go over the lens of my existing camera. Then I used digital processing to finish the image.

I purchased a Hoya R-72 filter and started reading blogs and testing the concept. This is an inexpensive and low commitment way to get involved. I am including some links to the various products I used if you are interested. I appreciate you using my links when you decide to make a purchase.

There are many resources and varied opinions on how to make and process the images. You can spend hours with google and find some really good tutorials.

The image below was shot on a Nikon D800 using the Hoya filter and processed in Lightroom with a pre-made white balance applied to the image. I also, processed it dark and with lots of contrast to create a mood in the image. It paid off as it placed in the Landscape Category at the event it was created.

Here are a few good links:

Introduction to Infrared Photography

How-To from Digital Photography School

LifePixel Blogs


After a year of experimenting with this process, I decided to take the plunge and get one of my cameras converted. I chose LifePixel as a vendor and boxed up my older D800 and sent it off for conversion. I chose to use their Standard IR conversion on this camera. I truly like the look of the Deep IR, but I wanted the chance to have some color options. They also give you an hour of one-on-one video training with some Photoshop Actions to aid in image processing. I would recommend LifePixel if you choose to go this route.

The above images were all taken with the Infrared converted Nikon D800. You can click on the images to get a larger uncropped view.

I use many of the processing steps suggested by LifePixel, but I have added a few steps of my own. The white balance is done in Nikon Capture NIX-D, the Tiff image it produces is imported into my Lightroom library. I use Lightroom to do some basic contrast and levels adjustments.

Then I export and edit the file in Photoshop. I use one of the actions provided by LifePixel to set the tones in the image. I usually have foliage, so I am working toward white leaves and grass.

I then use Luminosity mask to create additional tone changes and maybe add an Orton Effect to the image.

Please leave me comments and questions. If there is interest, I will go into more details of my processes.

GNPA Smokies Photography Weekend by Chris Dahl

Once again The Georgia Nature Photographers Association visited the The Great Smoky Mountain National Park for their annual fall trip! This annual event is home based in Townsend, TN with excursions throughout the Smokies. 

Weather and locatin are keys to getting good photographs. Dramatic weather contributes to dramatic photos. In the past we have had a mix of clear to poor weather. Clear days are good for wildlife and big scenes. But the sky becomes boring on a cloudless day. So a good mix of clouds and some rain is even better.

You know you are in the Smokies when you see fog in the valley. If you wake up in the morning and open the window and see fog simplay do not get back into bed! Go out and see what is in store for you. The photo below is a good example of a cloudy sky with fog in the valley. At 5:30 AM when I woke up and looked out at the parking lot, the fog looked so bad I thought to myself why go. But as you can see the reward was this lovely scenes of backlit clouds and a blanket of fog in the valley.

Sunrise, pullout 15 on Foothills Parkway.

Sunrise, pullout 15 on Foothills Parkway.

I arrived on Wednesday night and went out at first light on Thursday morning to Cades Cove to start my photography journey. We had rain all accross the south the entire week and Thursday was no exception. I pulled into Cades Cove in a steady rain. It rained most of the day on Thursday, but I managed to find some locations to make some photos. Maybe not the best ones I have produced but some unique ones.

John Whitehead Cabin, Cades Cove GSMNP.

John Whitehead Cabin, Cades Cove GSMNP.

There are a few spots that I visit every time I go to Cades Cove. It seems odd to folks that I go back to the same locations every time I go, but with the changing conditions you really do get a different perspective each visit. Bill Lea spoke at the closing session this year and talked about the quality of light. This was exactly his point as well. Weather plays a huge role in the quality of light.

Off of Sparks Lane, B&W Infrared.

Off of Sparks Lane, B&W Infrared.

Kayaker on the Middle Prong of Little River.

Kayaker on the Middle Prong of Little River.

Lots of rain will lead to lots of water in the rivers and streams. The Middle Prong of Little River was way up in Tremont, so not the best conditions for water photography. This is one of my favorite places to photography water, so I scouted it Thursday to see how high it was. As I made the drive up to the end of the road I saw small contributing streams that are usually just trickles turn into full water falls. But I also saw some guys Kayaking down the river, so I pulled out the long lens and started shooting them, Then I would race to the next curve to catch them again. Click on the image to see more.

“I see you” A cautious deer keeps an eye on me. (First Place in the Wildlife Competition)

“I see you” A cautious deer keeps an eye on me. (First Place in the Wildlife Competition)


This year we also had more color than usual in the trees in the higher elevations. I love finding the colors reflecting in the slower waters. On Saturday it had been dry for two days and the waters went down a good bit. The photo to the left was made on the Middle Prong of Little River.

To see more images of this trip please follow this link. GNPA Smokies Weekend.

Sunrise off Foothills Parkway GSMNP.

Here is a short video from this trip.

Back in the day by Chris Dahl

I have been interested in photography since I was a very young boy, my first camera was an old Kodak folding camera that took 620 film. My parents gave it to me when I was 9 or 10 years old. They would give me film and take it to the Drug Store for processing.

The image above is my Grandfathers house in Mableton Georgia, one of the early images I captured.

The image above is my Grandfathers house in Mableton Georgia, one of the early images I captured.

It was a few years later that my folks gave me a darkroom kit for Christmas. All it included was a Yankee Film developing tank, developing trays, chemicals and a contact printer. Dad hung blackout curtians in the bathroom and I was good to go. Over the next few years I got more involved in photography and by High School was ready to dive into it.

The school had a company that did all of the photography for the yearbook and they would mentor students. There were loaner cameras (Yashika Mat 124G) and access to a darkroom. By this time I had saved my money and purchased an enlarger and other supplies from a local camera store. My Dad built me a darkroom in the corner of his storage shed. It had lights and running water!

This darkroom is one I built in our home and worked out of during the early 90‘s. Dad built the custom cabinets.

Throughout college I worked for a photography studio in town (Photos By Sebo). I did most of their B&W darkroom work and assisted with weddings and other events. I also had the chance to shoot at various sporting events around town through their relationship with the Associated Press.

Yes it is difficult being the photographers assistant at the Miss National Teenager Pagent. Above are a few relics from my past, press pass to a NASCAR race and a few photos. And yes one of my first Air Shows.

My love for B&W Infrared goes back to the film days. I shot Kodak Infrared film, you needed a black out changing bag to load the camera and a filter that was almost black. The cameras all had a focus offset mark on the lens to adjust for the focus.

BPG Shootout by Chris Dahl

The Booth Photography Guild sponsers a number of outings each year. For this years shootout we were graced to have it on the same weekend as the Booth Western Art Museums Cowboy Festival.

Folks from all over come to town and bring their Chuck Wagons, Crafts and Cowboy attire to join in the fun


What a great time walking around and discovering the stories and passion these people have for their western heritage.

There were thousands of hour invested in the restoration of some of these wagons. No detail is to small to omit.


Barber Shop

There was an effort to repersent the life of a cowboy at every exhibit, they even kept the Yeti coolers under tarps and out of sight.


Many thanks to all the folks that made the day a success.

June 2018 - Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park by Chris Dahl

As you know I love to go out and shoot photographs. When I find events like the one this weekend at Kennesaw Mountain I always try to attend. This weekend there were  demonstrations of Infantry and Artillery on the main field in from of the visitor center. There was a short talk on the solders life in the field and the weapons and tactics they used.

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