Spring 2020, the covid-19 pandemic just ended in China, yet we were still all stuck in our own city without any ways to travel. That’s when I got the chance to try my first large format camera, something that I have always seen as my ultimate goal in photography, using this beautiful wooden camera, playing with movements and making the bellows taking some nice shapes, working on the ground glass with the image upside down, that was a personal dream finally turning into a reality.
I ended up buying my own field camera, a Chamonix 45 H1, and after few months practicing in the streets of Shanghai, seeing that travels became possible again, I decided it was time to take it on a first trip, one where I could fully appreciate the huge amount of details on these large negatives. Equipped with a Schneider 150mm and a Nikkor 90mm, I packed my bag with some sheets of Ilford FP4+ and Portra160/400, to finally land in Zhangjiajie, the amazing “Avatar Mountains”.
My first stop was at Tianmen mountain. After taking the cable car from the city, I arrived at the top, where a long pathway has been built on the cliffside, perfect to shoot the amazing landscapes around, but a real nightmare for my fear of heights. The sceneries around however offered a good opportunity to try a half dark-slide I’ve got, allowing me to shoot 2 panoramas on one 4×5 sheet.
I ended this first day at the heaven’s gate, giving its name to the mountain with its 999 steps, using an ND filter to blurry out most of the crowd trying to climb the stairs.
The second part of my trip took me for several days to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, where the unique landscape inspired the Hallelujah mountains of the Avatar movie. Before going there for the first time, I had the idea of treating it as a portrait series, trying to isolate the different peaks rather than focusing on large landscapes The reality of the place happened to be a bit different from what I expected, but still offering some breathtaking sceneries that have been a pure joy and good learning to shoot on 4×5.
Chamonix 45 H1
Schneider Kreuzchnar APO Symmar 150mm f5.6
Nikkor SW 90mm f8
Kodak Portra 160 and 400