Saturday, February 13

PrintCrafting 2:

Katelynn's Six! Christmas 2015 - The print
Okay, all sorts of challenges are wift-ing out of the PrintCraft project process. And most of them are looking back at you in Katelynn's Six! up there. It perfectly matched every nuance of what I saw on my monitor... AFTERWARD! Uh-huh seems I used Adobe 1998 as my primary color work space as I worked on this image in Photoshop. And I was pretty happy with the result...

Catelynn's 6!: The Original

And since I worked on this on my carefully calibrated iMac monitor. And I tested this image on my iPhone, iPod, and a couple of Mac Pros. They all showed me that image immediately above.The colors are subtly but DISTINCTLY different from the "The Print" at the start of this essay (BlogEssay?). 

So, where'd the ethereal light come from in the print? Unintentionally it seems. Because in converting the image for print on my new Epson P-800, I used the profile for the printer and Epson's Premium High Gloss paper. And POOF! the colors shifted. When I did the hard proofs, the images both at 4X6" and 8X11.5 were exactly matched to the print version at the top. 

Now... It's important that WYSIWYG happens. Important? No - critical. So, now that I can match the monitor to the paper, I need to match the monitored image to the printer, not a capricious gamma shift. As you can see I've not even bought 13X19" or 19X24" sheets. In fact, I'm still holding onto the Epson super premium paper sampler I got with the printer. In the interim I've been popping out 4X6" tests with a final 8X11.5" of each on that premium high gloss double weight. Best way to test the sparkle, right?

Last post handled the color space differently and the colors of that row-block in Lancaster were almost spot on the monitor. Almost. That's why I redid all of the color management settings and, well, I opened with the result. Once again, even though the gamma shift was unexpectedly dramatic, it did give me an image that was completely transferrable to the paper. 

So, I think this tells me that I need to start my images in the final color space. But that looks to mean that I have to understand in advance... at the very inception of pulling an image from the FlashCard.... have to understand the paper upon which I shall finally print it.

That cannot be correct. Do you think about that when you capture images? The paper upon which you might finally print the image? 

So, while a lot's getting better, this looks like a project that will fill productive hours yet. But that's what a hobby's about, right? And in this case I'm learning from the books, essays, and videos of world class experts (who apparently also have editors who know all about  communicating. 

BTW--- GEEK STUFF:I handheld my Canon 7D with an EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens cranked all the way out. And the fill lights were table lamps, the primary light was from the TV monitor Katelynn was watching. Which meant cranking the ISO to 16,000. That, of course either cursed the final image, or flattered it through a gentle shower of noise. I grew up with Kodak's Tri-X as the goto film It shot at 300ASA, but everybody cranked it up 4 or 5 stops. Which meant that grain gave images their authenticity. It was a wonderful texture. 

Friday, February 5

Thinkin' About This Stuff. 1

Okay... There's this thing called "Color Management". And it's all about sliding what you see on the screen into a different-sized envelope.  Only the dimensions of the original are defined in color numbers, and a unique set of metrics Like pushing a hot dog into a cube.

Gamma is a term that defines the dimensions of different spaces. So gamma defines different work spaces like sRGB, or RGB, CMYK, or my favorite RGB (Adobe). There are others. My Canon 7D is set to create RGB images. But net images are usually contained inside of an sRGB box. And each printer/paper combination has its own unique envelope that shapes colors that will be reproduced.

So... Color Management has to do with a series of moves from Camera envelope to monitor envelope to printer/paper envelope. I think of each of those envelopes as gammas. And they just don't overlap. No matter what, it's almost impossible to match a monitor image to final print. 

The cheaper the monitor, the less likely that the process will be predictable. And even with the best monitors, if their screens aren't identically calibrated, both with themselves and standards for other gammas, then what you see you really won't get into a printer and onto its paper.

Three are so many variables here. It's terrifically complex and discouraging if you're printing test prints while changing values of the transmitting gamma. 

Oh... and then there's viewing light. I replaced all of the lights in my studio so that they'd mimic daylight. Tungsten lights darken the dynamic range while shifting the perceived printed image toward red/magenta. I can now hold my print next to my monitor and actually compare the range of colors.  

I'm using the image above as my first level test. The palette is vivid but they fall within a narrow color range. I'm tweaking my computer/monitor combo and working to get the monitor's gamma as close to the Epson P-800/chosen paper gamma. I'm about 90% there.

Tuesday, January 26

Candle Lit Craft

I'm printing again. 

For years I owned an HP 1680 printer Until HP disabled the thing. Uh-huh, under the guise of an update they first altered the driver so that it would no longer allow the use of profiles for any papers other than HP's. Then they ceased to produce (or made very scarce) at least one of the inks. Then, as they sold fewer of those inks, they announced that the fall off in demand indicated that the should discontinue all of them. So the 1680 became a very heavy paperweight. I will never buy another HP device. Pity, the 1680 was a terrific 13X17" appliance but it "only" needed three ink cartridges (with two others interchangeable for B&W printing). So it was not only good, it was inexpensive to feed.

That was over two years ago, and since then I've outsourced prints with frustratingly mixed results. 

Fine art photographic printing is high craft. Worse, it's a fragile skill that, like shooting a pistol, demands regular practice to stay fresh. So, irregularly for the past couple of years, I read printer reviews, and saved my money. There are only three companies which make reasonably competitive machines for the prosumer. And since HP is out, that meant Canon and Epson. A reason I'd originally chosen HP was that they built printing nozzles into their ink cartridges. So if one irreparably jammed, the only cost was the ink that remained in that discarded container. 

Canon also builds nozzles into cartridges, Epson OTH feeds ink through a dedicated nozzle in its machine. Should that jam (and there's a lot of history of that happening - it's a common complaint), a big piece of the printer unit needs to be professionally replaced. Big Expense!

But Epson is the printer with the longest experience with pigment-based inks. Over the years I've asked artists whose prints I'd admired about pigment versus dye-abased ink. They convinced me that my own work could be considerably more subtle if I shifted to pigments. Side by side comparisons of my own prints done in dye (on my original HP) compared to pigment (done by friends), convinced me that I could see their extended gamut.

And yet, these printers took nourishment from 8, 10, 12 and more cartridges of ink - an expensive proposition. Moreover, the seductive song of prints larger than 13X19" also nuzzled my imagination. And then out came Epson's SureColor P800! 

This thing could produce 17X22" prints - or much longer with an inexpensive paper-roll accessory. It's mouth was wide enough to accept thick media and even non paper-materials through various openings. And, reviewers predicted that with its newer machines, that Epson has largely overcome the clogged nozzle problem assuming that the machine produced at least one print a week and, of course, used only Epson Ultra Chrome HD pigments - in its 8 cartridges. 

Moreover, one of those cartridges was an alternative hue that the machine would substitute for another cartridge when I printed B&W. That eliminated the necessity of manually replacing a cartridge and loss of ink as the machine went through a complete cleaning procedure*. 

Last Black Friday, Adorama in New York offered the P800 at a discount price AND offered TWO mail-in rebates. Making it not only the lowest price I've seen on the P800, but since I can also get a tax deduction on the machine (I am a magazine editor and we use many of my prints both in the pubs and  we print out POS copy for posters and POS cards) all of that combined to make my trigger finger twitch and BANG! The heavy new black device arrived in early December. 

BUT... I told you that printing is a fragile craft. It'd been years since I'd done any. Moreover this machine's very sophistication would magnify any of my faults. 

Soo.... Look, in spite of my prints going toward my day-job, much of my interest in things photographic is also fueled by an excitement over  process. I'll bet that I've spent thousands of hours studying posted images, watching how-to videos, and reading books on everything from art criticism through color theory, lighting, and craft. 

So before firing up the P800 I took the last seven or so weeks to read and study fine art photographic printing. I also bit-the-bullet and subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud, which added to the learning curve since I was jumping from Photoshop 4! Without  LightRoom!! Heck, I can do what I imagine right now in PS4 along with the took-kit of filters I've accumulated. And Adobe Bridge has been a perfectly competent device for storing and filing my images. 

However, the books made it clear that the print engines built into PS-CC and LightRoom CC are powerfully more complex than PS4's. So I've gone through a library of study.

Here's where I've come so far... 

1.     √ Epson: The SureColor P800 Series Manual
2.     √ Lisa Snyder: The Challenge of WYSIWYG Printing, PhotoShop Magazine: January 2016, P. 54
3.     √ Rob Shepard:  New Epson Complete Guide to Digital Printing revised & updated 2011: Pixiq
4.     √ Martin Evening: Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers 2016, Focal Press  pp. 671-694.
5.     √ Scott Kelby: The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers, New Riders
6.     √ Jeff Schewe:  The Digital Print: Preparing Images in Lightroom & Photoshop for Printing
7.     √ Uwe Steinmuller: Fine Art Printing for Photographers: Exhibition Quality Prints with Ink-Jet Printers
9.     √ Scott Kelby: 2015 ,  the Adobe Photoshop book for digital photographers, New Riders, Chapter 13 Pp 438-482

Epson, Adorama, and B&H all have a number of YouTube seminars led by impressive printers.  So I hunkered down weeknights and weekends (and two snow days) working toward my first P800 prints. Last week I made one. Onto Epson Premium 4X6" Glossy photo paper. It was murky, muddy, and didn't come close to my monitors' images. So... I calibrated all of my 5 monitors with a newly purchased DataColor Spyder5. 

Trying again, the color gamut was much wider, but the printed images were still considerably darker than the monitor images. Which brought me back to the books with special attention to color gamuts. AHAH! The images began to sparkle, and I moved up to 8X10" Epson Ultra Premium Glossy photo paper. Which is where I am now. In a few minutes I'm going to take that image atop this post (which I photographed at Christmas, but processed last  night**), to see if I can replicate in print the subtlety of its RGB color range. Then... 

Well, I purchased a sample pack of Epson's legendary Signature Worthy Archival Ink Jet Paper. It's worthwhile to goto and look at the videos they've posted on a number of these surfaces/weights/media papers, each featuring a different fine art photographer's work and thoughts on their favorite paper. 

How will this work out? Hmmmm... I'll letcha' know. K?
*Note, there is still a partial cleaning routine that the P800 does, which is an encouragement to segment printing so that first  all color work THEN all monotone printing is done separately to economize on ink. 

** That image up there was grabbed, hand-held at 300mm, with my Canon 7D with fill-light from a Christmas tree  across the room, with the main light flickering from a candle near to the girl's face.

Friday, January 1

Sometimes my mind changes. Yours?

I like alleyways. They're where time leaves the most dust. Y'know?

Friday, November 20

Cicero @ Trinity

Cicero by Scheemaker  c. 1750 • Trinity College Library, Dublin

It was around 1750 when Cicero was imagined in a marble block under Peter Scheemakers' chisel. And since then Cicero's sat among what eventually grew to just over 50 busts of many of the dead white men whose writings surround them in the library of Trinity college, Dublin. Or at least they do for the moment. Whether they will remain among the 100s of thousands of similar writings of DWMs in this ancient collection is dependent upon the passions of a cultural revolution raging upon western campuses. 

We're at an inflection point. It's factual that these works form a base  that defined Western Civilization. Notice that I've used the past tense there? Which gets me back to that word... inflection. It's sort of paradoxical that this debate is now spread to the campus of Ireland's most distinguished University. Why? This was the island where monks tediously repaired and transcribed the West's oldest thoughts. Footsteps away from this great library hall sits the Book Of Kells, the oldest illuminated Bible in existence: Which is also rumored to be the work of a handful of DWM. Well, there's controversy over the W, so maybe that will save it from the pyre? 

How much longer will Cicero overlook the library's students? Maybe this image of mine is a pre-rubble record? Wouldn't it have been great to have at images like this from say the great library of Alexandria before savages intent upon pillaging and debasing ancient thought put it to the torch? Imagine images from the library or Ephesus, or even from the great libraries of 20th century China that were ravished and looted during their Cultural Revolution? 


Saturday, November 14

Eye - Lash Nostalgia

Samantha At 3

I remember TriX. You? I remember pushing it in a custom hot developer brew to 1,200 ASA and beyond to grab three, four, even five stops along with contrast baggage in a grainy snowstorm. Then hunting for the softest paper or the lowest Polycontrast Filter... Pushing the print through a Bessler diffusion enlarger. Burning in its highlights, holding back shadows... Lots of hand action - Waving like a magician between the lens and paper frame. Every image was a one-off - irreproducible. If a client wanted multiple copies, well, that was a challenge.

Paper was cheap. So was my time. I'd spend an orange-lamp night to leave one 11X14" matte print hanging to air-dry till morning. Now? 

Oh well, look at Sami's eyelashes up there, huh? She was three years old last Christmas (2014) evening, glowing from single-bulb lamplight across the room with a TV monitor doing the fill. Now I scalpel away the color, and crop it. Maybe diddle with the dynamic range some in Photoshop... A half hour job to make a hugely reproducible image. 

I'm writing a December article for our magazines. It's about something that will happen in 2025. One at a time, I'm discussing economic, social, and cultural possibilities with a bunch of experts. Everyone has a different take. And it occurs to me that we've enjoyed a wonderful photographic party over my life. My biggest regret just now is that there can be... will be... Unimaginable parties that I'm going to miss. 

Somehow it makes me nostalgic... For the Sami-future that will happen almost in the blink of her mile long eyelash... Sigh... 

Friday, November 6

Masks Edit Reality

Image & Likeness?

Just outside of New York's Whitney Museum sat a table. You know, a street merchant parked a van and on this cold January day back in 2011 he'd unfolded an aluminum surface filled with African wood carvings. They weren't cheap.

Not In The Whitney
Perhaps it was the color, but this yellow guy grabbed my lens. You know how you collect images that whisper to you, but you can't quite hear their words? For years now, like a tune that worms through my brain but won't go away, I've wondered about this one. We live three houses down from The Lancaster Museum of Art and I wander through each new exhibit, frequently several times. This month the show is Masks Of Mexico. So, the other day in the shower it occurred to me that masks edit reality! Wow, an epiphany. But that's what those Mexican masks specifically did. The wearers assumed new identities and entered obscure feelings. They became a cast in stories, some ancient, others spontaneous.
Most Mexican and African mask-stories are deeply spiritual linked to legends of gods.  So I said to myself, "Self... If as the Western Holy Book claims that we are made in His image and likeness, then studying what we do must be a tipoff about what He does... Y'think?"

And since He rested on the seventh day... Well we sure know a lot about the night before Sunday, huh? And maybe why He really needed the rest. 

Monday, September 28

The Water's Colored: Sunrise Near Osterville, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Just before the sun rose over Cape Cod colors almost became neon. The Cape's about water, and the palette seemed washed onto the frame with soft brushes. Alone on that bridge I felt as if I ought to have a tripod, canvas, and a large tin of watercolor pigment. 

Watercolors have a cellophane transparency as they wash across one another and sink into paper. The thing about this medium that really resonates with me is the lack of detail when colors are well diluted. I stood there and watched an abstract come to life along this back-lit tidal channel. About a quarter mile down the road to my right there's a tiny port where a fishing boat motor dieseled to life and the scent of sizzling bacon mixed with salty air. 

I hand-held five shots with my Canon 7D through an EF-S 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5) at 10mm. then merged the them into a pano in PS4. Then I sucked out the color in a layer processed in Topaz B&W Effects 2. Then I worked the color range back in from a layer I processed in Alien Skin's Exposure X starting with Kodachrome II then shifting it warmer. Each region of the merged layers was carefully processed in PS4 to bring the dynamic range into a dreamy mood. Then I worked the merged frame in AlienSkin's Snap Art4: Water Color, carefully laying in the brush strokes. Sometimes people ask how much time I expend in a final image like this. This one took about 11 hours to replicate how I felt standing on this narrow Osterville bridge at sunrise on a cool September Tuesday morning. 

Can you feel the breeze in your face?

Friday, September 25

Once You've seen one elephant...

Queen Elizabeth Park, Uganda

I guess I'm not a wildlife photographer.

See this guy (or gal, I didn't really ask)? He was meandering toward our bus that idled on a road. Why does the elephant cross the road? He didn't seem interested in the question and I wondered if he get annoyed to have to walk around us. This was not a baby. He shoulders were maybe ten or more feet high. You ever seen one of these in the wild? It's different from a zoo. In this park we're in the locked box. Actually the park is a great big locked box. Most of the world knows the story of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion shot by a Minnesota dentist,right? That kill was legal since it happened just outside of a wild game park. Meaning that these animals can free-range as long as they stay behind the reservation's fences. And that differs from a zoo, how?

It's said that Dr. Teeth had ordered up an elephant for the next day, but the guides couldn't deliver. My guides said that animals who leave this park will get killed. Seems they annoy farmers who routinely poison them. In fact, farmers who live inside the park are killing lions and have killed off the hyenas for the same reason.

Uganda is in the equatorial heart of Africa where I imagined beasts like this roaming through dense jungles. Even though my business took us over a lot of the country, I never saw a jungle. And outside of the parks the animal life was about the same as here in Lancaster County. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There ain't many buffalo, moose, or bear free-ranging around our farmland or cities. Can't recall the last time anyone got bit by a poisonous snake, or even by a cranky 'coon. People are kind of anti-social animals.

But anyway, now I have hundreds of pictures of big game - so, what do I do with them? I didn't need to fly for twenty hours to see pictures like this one. They're everywhere. So I've got an idle inventory in a world without a demand. Okay, so here's an elephant ambling toward a road.

Big Deal!                                

Tuesday, September 22

Ordinary Late Summer Afternoon

8 Blocks From City Center • Lancaster, PA • September 2015

There are still dirt streets in Lancaster. This scene's unchanged since these small carriage houses were mildly converted for autos in the early 1920s, Here's where middle class working people keep vehicles. That's what this is. What it isn't is any sort of formal garden or the rigorous creation of inspired architects. But isn't it beautiful?

Once again, it's the ordinary detritus of humans. There's no graffiti here, nor is there any garbage or trash strewn about. The buildings are coated in protective paint. the vegetation's manicured by use. Yet isn't it beautiful? 

This is a public alleyway where I bike occasionally. Anyone can abuse it. They don't. Why? Because neighbors won't allow it. Users won't allow it. Is it policed? Uh-huh, but not by the police. Is it secure? Uh-huh, but not by security forces. Conscience is an endoskeleton. Police are an exoskeleton, along with schools, courts, legislators, and churches. The more a society shares one internal culture the less any of the institutions police from outside.  Political "freedom" is checked internally or externally. Freedom - in every useful way- is what culture allows. 

Culture trumps everything. 

The charm of this summer moment is the result of what conscience won't allow. It's what the stone looks like when the ugly stuff gets sculpted away. Isn't it beautiful? 

Wednesday, September 16

Don't Drink And Thrive

Wall • W. Chestnut & N. Queen St. • Lancaster, Pa
This board is gone now. I don't mean the ad, I mean the board, the installation... The whatever-you-call-it that holds the message. Which doesn't surprise me since this is like an alley and the traffic on the street to the left up there is one way... Toward the camera! Meaning that city traffic would see it only in rear view mirrors... So... Backward. And there are no lights on the thing. 

Why would anyone have spent the money to erect it? Why would anyone purchase its space? What goes through the minds of people who make decisions to spend money? Since this is a marketing decision, perhaps they advertisers were merely told that they were getting space on a board in the very heart of Lancaster's downtown? Maybe that's the way the owners promoted this thing? 

But if you'd rented its space, then later tried to find it from your car, well, do 'de expression, PizzedOff spring to mind? A friend of mine recently bought that building and he's turning it into a posh series of down-town condos. I wonder if he has plans to paint this wall? But then again, like that billboard, I'm not sure anyone will care. You?

Saturday, September 12

What's the Magic?

Nauset Light (1877) • Cape Cod, MA
Nauset Light (1877), Barnstable, Mass, Cape Cod - United States

Once upon a time, - boys and girls - Nauset Light was a key part of the Global Positioning System. And from 1877 on,  if you were near Barnstable on the North Atlantic at night... it was a part of the Cape Cod 8-lighthouse Positioning System.

Today's GPS is a disruptive tech. It made this cone at daybreak only pretty. It's been decommissioned and the keeper's house was given, along with the light, to a preservation society.

It's one of the East Coast's least photographed lights, and hard to find sitting smack in the middle of a neighborhood of cottages that grew around it.

Now, here's the question... Why the hell do we feel driven to make images of these things? They were public utilities. So are dumpsters and fire hydrants. Have you got many dumpster/hydrant pix? Okay, maybe it's a supply/demand thing? Not as many lighthouses around... Does that explain it? If that's the reason, well then why don't we picture every old bridge? Or municipal hall? Or ... you get the, um, picture, right?

And yet... yet... I don't care what sort of art you're into, you gotta' admit that the itch to do something with a lighthouse tingles-right? What's the magic?

Here's what late summer looks like in Nauset through my Canon 7D's  EFS 70-300mm lens after I poke and sculpt it in PS4. And here's why people buy homes on Cape Cod and others travel so far to vacation here, or on the nearby islands. For a quarter of a century we lived in New England... And even thirty years later, as I sit here in Lancaster County tonight... I feel its tug.

BTW... How's this look on your monitor? Too dark?

Friday, September 11

The Prospect of Fall

Daily Specials 6-Noon

Here's the incredibly shrinking Prospect Diner. A once-once-upon-a-time stop for railroad workers before and after each shift. Ditto millworkwers, and before the interstate... truckers and intra-city commuters. This street was once the Conestoga Trail where covered wagons picked up in Conestoga began their way to the Rockies. Until the 1950s, this street was the Lincoln Highway... America's first transcontinental  path between the seas.

Now? The mills and railroad yards have closed. Back behind those cornfields PA Route 30's a divided east-west expressway. Standing here you can hear the song of its tires - a melody of growth. And each decade the Prospect Diner's shrunk its menu and hours. 

Fall's come to the Prospect Diner framing a poignant detritus of change. It's a cooling ember of a dead fire.

Sunday, September 6

Escape: Pepto To Quench Peptic

The Lone Tree
Pebble Beach, California
Six weeks ago my wife Rita had her knee replaced. A bit before  I moved my office from the Business2Business Magazines HQ, here to our home. Four, or so weeks ago, my buddy Rocco-The-Dog died. Last week we bought a new pup. During this, Rita's sister and brother-in-law came for a five day visit.

And, of course, the monthly magazines I edit came out on schedule on the first of this month. Life went peptic...

Photography's my baking soda: Pepto to quench life's peptic waves. It can be smoothed into the slower moments, massaging at angst and melancholy. This art stuff's is angst processor, dialing it down, or sometimes blotting it out.

Anxiety's tentacles can't hold onto feelings focused on say, the Lone Tree that clings to its Pebble Beach rock cropping into the Pacific. For at least the hour, or so, that I visited this place my mind-muscles floated free of the churning world so I could return to it with stress cranked way down.

I'm not whining. Rita's recovering wonderfully. This knee now matches the other she received a decade ago and its already improved her mobility and comfort exquisitely. I still ache for Rocco's company, but little Musser's fun and filling the void.

Here's Musser yesterday... All 9 weeks of him.
Okay, I found time in moments when the winds were quieter over the past five or so weeks to escape into my images, but didn't open minutes to think about the comments visitors left here below, nor have I responded to mail. That all wanted me to think, and while thinking's totally exciting, the swirl of these weeks demanded time to turn off thought and excitement and to wallow in the Pepto of places like Pebble Beach, y'know?

But... I'm baaaaaack! There's more time to refocus and to have the energy to think as well as feel. Still, it's a blessing isn't it to have this art narcotic ready when we need to mellow away for a bit, and crank down life's peptic volume?