Friday, August 26

Medium Tech

Musser Park, July 4th 2016 • The Red Rose Honor Guard presents as the Malta Concert Band plays the anthem.
Technology is how we... humans... extend ourselves. Take media for example. I'm sitting in a media room looking at 60 inch flat screen immersed in surround sound while typing into this blog as it appears on my 27" iMac. Both the cable system powering the TV and the mega-speed internet hookup that I'm feeding are portals. The let me peer into places scattered around the globe and then push back at them. Last night I Face-Timed some friends in Texas. Soon I'll interact with my home desktop from Spain.

Symphonic orchestras and classical musicians are experiencing huge difficulties attracting younger audiences who find that sitting in a concert hall only satisfies one of their senses. While the video games they left at home allowed them to interact with at least three... sight, hearing, and touch. No matter how expert the musicians, those hours in symphony halls are to them so flat in comparison. Even movies are flattened by their inability to permit interaction or to allow something other than a linear experience.

Linear? Well sure. Try to jump ahead in a movie theater to "the good parts" Look how the music "album" is dying as iTunes buyers or Pandora listener are  freed from purchasing collections of an artist's music, and instead can graze through vast cafeterias choosing where they want to wallow.

And then there were parades. Remember them? They were multi-media sure, but linear. People increasingly reject the tyranny of parade organizers who mix the mediocre or shamefully commercial into the stream... Once again forcing watchers to accept their judgements. Even the large holiday celebrations are finding it hard to compete against competitors for time. Competitors who have cut markets into tinier and tinier niches. Suburban 12 year old females with an Asian heritage can build their own community networks of people like themselves who will allow them multi-entry non-linear interactive, surround sound experiences that they can access spontaneously 24/7.

Mass cultural battlements will not survive those assaults. Instead they will increasingly appeal only to the nostalgia of aging groups. We talk about the death of distance, when it's the death of traditional glue that's even more existentially transformative.

High tech has destroyed a sense of long term planning. And medium tech's the fuel only of nostalgia. It's what good aging people put into museums and holiday celebrations, while they still exist.

Tuesday, July 26

Tell Me A Story • #5 - When to say, "Done!"

Runner • Lancaster Race Against Racism • 4/16

There're novels behind every face. 

Every artist understands the challenge of when to say, "There. That's finished! Now I can turn to another work." While we all know that a work is never finished. Nor is any one interpretation or conceptualization adequate. But the composer enters a last note, the poet a last word, and the novelist a last feeling. So do I. You? Do you know that anything ends sufficiently to write "Finis"! after a work? 

Anywayzzzzz.... You'll recall I wrestled with this man's image in late May. Then I had run into tech problems, which never did resolve themselves. But his story continued to haunt me... And then it occurred to me to think that he was best "penciled in". Uh-huh, that his story was difficult to capture and is best rendered in zillions of strokes. 

In this "Tell Me A Story" series, I'm interested in your thoughts/feelings re. this man's thoughts/feelings. Faces trigger us to wonder, then tell ourselves their story, right? So? If you found this as the illustration above a serious magazine's short story... What would it be about? Hmmmmm? 

Thursday, July 7

4th of July: An Allegory?

Pre-dawn, grey morning: Musser Park dresses for it 4th of July celebration
(Click on any image to make it pop) 

Art without wonder is merely craft, right? Last Monday morning I pointed my iPhone camera around  Lancaster's Musser park which is a few steps from our home. For maybe a half century the park's hosted an "Old Fashioned" celebration of US independence with children's games, cake walks, a band on the portico, and mounds of food. Thousands of people - the city's diversity - come but they space their arrival so that there's rarely a  moment that seems crowded.

The park is ringed by pre-bellum homes and sits at the rear of Lancaster's Museum of Art which occupies the 19th century Grubb Mansion whose rear portico acts as shell for concert bands, speeches, prizes... Like that. 

This year the sky that usually blares down a baking humid heat - was grey. Rain threatened but stayed away 'till after 2 so the temps were comfortable. 

Very early as dawn broke behind clouds before the setup began
Volunteers from the sponsoring Musser Park Civic Association arrived to get chicken going...
Chicken-charcoaled smoke fogged the neighborhood. A  scent of summer.

The ice cream truck and vendors set up along the north side...

Turkey Hill creamery exports its products from Lancaster
As teams set up games, tents... Like that...

Frank Byrne's the chairman there in the center - doing what a chair man does, right?
Frank Byrne chairs the Musser Park Civic Association, the neighborhood group which produces the Old Fashioned 4th. They act as junior partners to the City of Lancaster. It's the city that maintains the park, and the association which raises funding for capital improvements. I'd drop the Association's URL here, but right now it's kind of under repair.

4th of July kicks off the summer political season in Pennsylvania and for decades each major party's brought its tent and candidates to circulate. It's a good thing. All politics are ultimately local and at this level neighbor-candidates know one another and share common goals if not tactics. There's no rancor even if opinions don't mesh. 

City and county Dems are on the Left, GOP on the right. Appropriate right?
BTW, look at the twin tents up there. Notice something missing? Uh-huh. No presidential posters! Nope, their omission's not a statement - rather, well, seems that there just aren't any -yet. With the GOP convention two weeks off and the Democrats even farther away, the national committees haven't shipped yard signs, bumper stickers and the jetsam of candidate marketing. It's  sort of refreshing that we're not yet sucked into that Big Time candidate selling. Nope, 4th of July's for retail political marketing, one-on-one. Neighbors talking. Almost reminds you of a gentler time... Which may have never been,  huh?

I'm still working on my feelings through images  beyond these I've posted today - trying to find some wonder 'midst the craft of picture making. Which brings me back to that tiny essay way up on top of this blog post...

There's a veneer of celebration that coats an Independence Day party. There are clichés that we preserve in amber of romantic old-timey memories. But the symbols also tell stories of the moment and coming moments. Perhaps the grey dawn coating those fluttering flags is metaphoric as well as factual? Perhaps it's an augur? An omen? We live in the crack between back then and tomorrow. And perhaps philosopher Barthes' punctum's  worth considering? 

The sun'll come up tomorrow... and upon some future 4th of July celebration in Musser Park. But will it host the same culture on the other side of today's crack? Will it be recognizable to the people who lived back then? Or to those living here in this moment? Does that flat light cranking down the reds, whites, and blues aflutter on the bars of their fence - foretell? Forbode? or foreshadow?  Or is it just a snapshot in punky light? 

Does that image trigger thoughts? Feelings? Tell me the story you sense in the dawn's early light that fell here in this tiny spot on America's 240th birthday.

Monday, June 20

Summer Along James River

Summer afternoon along the James River at Palmetto Bluffs, SC

It was wet heat in Beaufort County for our 2016 June stay on Hilton Head Island. You know, the sort of heat that sops clothes like dish rags. It was so chronic you felt a bit chilly when the temp dropped below 95. But then, Hilton Head's in deep Dixie and built atop a mostly drained swamp along the Atlantic's Low Country. This was the heart of the Confederacy where, in my great-grandparents' time the most belligerent of slavery's proponents once lived. In 1850, according to a historic marker in the county seat, this region had 1,111 white people and 8,361 slaves occupying 151 plantations. Cotton was king. 

The James river mixes into the ocean about 5 miles to the southeast from where I found this image so it's tidal at this point. With Charleston to its north and Savannah to the south, Beaufort county's inches above sea level... And well down into reptile and mosquito level. Thinking about this land's people some 150 years ago means imagining a time before air-conditioning. Which is the high tech that finally disrupted how this summer wet-heat went unchallenged. 

For two weeks we largely lived like space travelers on Mars... Locked by choking hot days inside of cooled-air bubbles. I tried bike riding only twice, but even at sunrise - the humidity was so thick that downhill felt like uphill. 

It's not that Dixie's summer days are lazy. No, self defense vacationers tour the place within cars that whisk them between cool bubbles. Down there autos aren't designed so much aerodynamically as they are thermodynamically. Once, decades ago, a southerner criticized me for living where heating costs were so high in winter. He implied that Yankees were energy wasteful. And yet I'm thinking that the electric costs of summer A/C inside of those old high ceiling southern buildings must compete with my gas heat, no? Isn't electric always the most expensive way to do HVAC over the course of a year? 

Ahhhhh well. Southern summer scenes are gorgeously pretty and seem to be accompanied by a deep low voice quietly signing, "Ole man river... Dat ole man river..." And as I scurried back to my car's A/C I wondered just how much fuel, there in the 100 degree plus sun, it took a man to tote that barge and lift that bail... 

Geek Stuff: Took the reference shots with a Canon EF-S 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5) screwed to my 7D. A lot of processing later I'd finally prepared the images for AlienSkin's SnapArt to create this languid late afternoon oil painting into capture the searing sun's glare. As you can see, I try not to use a lens shade and seek opportunities to let the light flare across glass and my wide angle's got a lot of glass surface to attract sunlight. 

Sunday, May 29


PhotoShop's Selection

Tech is irritating. Yeah, it's disrupting industries and businesses like a flame thrower, incinerating jobs, careers, and dreams... yadda, yadda... Forget the macro havoc, K? This is a more focused irritant. This picture. 

I had no intention of making this image. Instead I wanted to make an image something like this...

Ted's Selection

Oh, I'd have changed the dynamic range to tease the bearded man's image out from the background.But essentially, this was I wanted to start. And Photoshop simply won't let me! "Huh?" you ask. "Ted, you've studied and worked in Photoshop for eighteen years. You've mastered its every nuance. So wudda' hell's the problem here?"

I don't know. I've poured over the THICK manuals. Tried endless permutations. I've managed to create that second image up above in the application. But when I save it... only the first image appears!!??? And it is awful. Worse, the manuals are mute on this problem. So far it's absorbed two days of tweaking and shaking. I've thought about bashing it with a hammer... Finally I did a screen shot of the pre-saved image and it's that screen shot of the adjusted image before flattening that's posted second here. 

Frankly it needs a lot more work to bring out the details around his eyes, hair and beard. I'd like to have more 3D modeling. But why bother? I cannot save the worked version, much less export a jpg for export. 

Arthur C. Clarke's written, "A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from witchcraft." Uh, huh. There's a gremlin in my machine that will not let me do what I have done routinely until this image. &*^&%$!! 

Anybody know why adjustment layers won't compress or flatten without disappearing? Has it something to do with the B&W gamut? Should I work in a CMYK space instead of rgb or srgb? Where do I buy an aerosol can of gremlin remover? AAARGH!

Friday, May 27

Tell Me A Story • 4: Madonna

Race Against Racism runner(a)  • 4/30/17 • Lancaster, PA
Mysterious eyes. 

When color's surgically cut away, is there more or less identity... More or less story... More or fewer clues? I wonder: Do blind people understand others at a deeper or more shallow level? Is radio in anyway superior to video in communicating the depth of personalities? 

There's a resistance to digital post-processing, dismissing it as inauthentic. The word manipulation is the common verb that describes digital post work. I prefer augmentation, even revelation since manipulation sounds what? Dreary? Calculating? Callow? Shallow? Never mind that painters, for example, do nothing but manipulate... augment... reveal... the realities they imagine. Ditto poets, novelists, and composers. Can you imagine someone charging a symphonic composer of manipulation? Playwrights routinely manipulate the emotions of audiences, don't they? Is that a bad thing?

Yet somehow describing digital post processing as manipulation is dismissive, even insulting. But that's not my real point here. Those most likely to critique the idea of augmentative post processing argue that purity lies only in the image which comes out of the camera, right? Now I've written about pre-processing (lens choice, lighting constructs, filters, makeup, wardrobe, scenery, POV... and like that), and even what I guess you could call immediate processing involving the manipulation of panning, framing, and DOF. All of that manipulates what comes out of the camera. And that doesn't even begin to touch the things camera engineers have built in to manipulate sharpness, color and dynamic range, Etc. 

But none the less, purists who reject digital post processing as in-authentic have no memory of the wet darkroom where printmakers first selected among radically different developer chemistries/timings/heat, then chose between diffuser versus condenser enlargers, contrast/texture/pigment of papers/substrate, developer dynamics, hold-backs, burnings-in, solarizations, and on and on to create a one-of-a-kind final print, even in monotone. The opportunities to create one-off darkroom prints in color increased exponentially. The fact is that there never was a final print that was not processed heavily by at least the photographic artists and perhaps different darkroom technicians, and retouchers (both on the negatives and prints). 

Is all of this sounding defensive? Okay.... look at this:

Race Against Racism runner (b)  • 4/30/17 • Lancaster, PA
As I roamed the park next to my home here in Lancaster on the morning of this year's Race Against Racism run - I consciously looked for a series of faces to speak to you dramatically in monochrome.I could have set my Canon 7D to bleach away all color and make captures only in monochrome. Why do that? Why not allow all of the information possible to reveal narrative arcs? 

So first I processed this image above as a square (you'll note that this and the next images will all be square-cropped, since my Hasselblad days, that format's been a powerful challenge to me). And I processed it for the most haunting dynamic range and sculpting, adding a touch of glow to offset the overcast lighting of that morning. Then finally worked in monochrome to release the image at the start of this essay. 

But the geek-stuff all involves focusing powerful tools to carve out a narrative arc that allows the lady to tell her story. So, what is it? Once again, Tell Me A Story - THE story which you read from faces. I'm convinced that every street portrait needs to trigger at least  a short story - and perhaps a poem, novel, or epic. Hell, maybe even a sonata, if you won't accuse the composer of manipulating the notes - or the mysterious eyes :-)

Monday, May 23

Tell Me A Story • 3: Cryptic Moments

Philosophy Unbounded?

Lens glass
Slices life

Ambiguity: To the artist it's a window, to the craftsman it's a wall.

I try to make my pictures about something, y'know? I'm searching for images that resonate some thought and feeling. Anne Leibowitz once wrote, "A photographer hangs frames around pieces of life. In every direction I look, I'm framing." Works of art are about something, but where to find the answer to their questions? In the artist's mind? I don't think so. In fact when the creator supplies an unambiguous answer to that question we modify his title... We call him a commercial artist, right?  Which is a lot more craft than art.

And what about interior designers? Are they artists? Is decorative art - art? When we buy an image to coordinate with the couch, have we purchased art? Or does the art exist independent of, the couch? Should  a professional artist care? Uh-oh, when someone adds, professional to their title, that means they expect to augment their income from their work, right? So they are driven by some market's interest.

Which brings us back to the creator supplying an answer to a market's question. Of course there are situations where a market finds an artist's work which was created without an expectation to specifically answering someone else's question. But once again I've got this niggling question:
What is the difference between creativity and adaptability? Does the weight of survival inexorably shape the meaning of a professional artist's work toward answering some market's questions?

Art, they say in art school:Art lacks constraints - it is philosophy unbounded. And yet the product of art schools are artists who want to survive through their work. Which is one hell of a constraint, huh? No wonder we call 'em starving artists.

Oh, the picture up there is another in this year's Race Against Racism 2016. I'm enchanted by the beauty of this woman. Her face is a portraitist's dream and this slice of life is about... about... Well okay... What's the answer?

Geek Stuff: Another hand-held capture through my Canon 7D's EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. It's razor sharp... perfect for slicing life into cryptic moments, huh? 

Monday, May 16

Tell Me A Story • 2: Suspending Disbelief

Runner in the April 30th, 2016 YWCA Race Against Racism

We live across the street from Lancaster's YWCA. Since the turn of the century the Y's held a Saturday April morning Race Against Racism attracting thousands of runners. Nice of them to flood the street out front and the park we adjoin with a sea of puzzling faces. And As I wrote in the last post... "A face ignites its own explanation: Which is a dramatic narrative." So wandering through the crowds with my long lens (Canon 70-300mm) lets me pluck out wondering, y'know? 

Take this young guy. Someone said he's a 16 or 17 year old high school student. Hmmmm.... He looks like a movie star, no? It's hard to pry out tales from young faces, particularly when they are way attractive. Still, although it looks like the young man's won a lot in the gene lottery, I'm guessing that those shoulders and arms took a bunch of discipline to pump, right? And his caramel skin and curly hair seem latin? About thirty feet from this guy sat a collection of food vendors where he could have grabbed candy, fries, pretzels, and pastries. Instead he chose that apple. 

Uh-huh, there's discipline there and add the 5 kilometer run he just finished the guy's got an athlete's instinct. Do we instinctively trust handsome or pretty faces? It's like attractive people have a unique muscle that works emotionally. But it also defends them like an armor... protects them from probing. Maybe that's why lead actors are so good-looking: so that we'll believe whatever character they'll pull on for a performance? 

Does beauty make it easier for an audience to suspend disbelief? Hmmmm.... 

Grabbed the shot hand-held with my Canon 7D at 160mm (perfect length for portraits, huh?), 1/1000 sec and a low noise 400 ISO. The morning was slightly overcast and still early enough for sweet light. 

Friday, May 6

Tell Me A Story

A face ignites its own explanation: Which is a dramatic narrative.   

Street portraits capture what? Maybe the first words, of the first sentence, of a story. They’re about portents. They’re like keyholes. We plug our imaginations into them to create a dramatic narrative. We expect a face to have more meaning than what it communicates. Its first jolt to our imaginations is processed by our emotions to hunt for collateral messages. We’re programmed to find order that creates meaning. A face ignites its own explanation: A dramatic narrative.

A face sliced from an infinite number of instants at 1/500th of second is like an onion-skin-thin slice of tree. The texture and rings give up some knowledge of age and maybe species, perhaps gender… It gives back something about the tree’s experiences with physics, biology, and even how it leaned against nature’s propositions. But we’d need to see a lot more of the tree to release secrets of its coping mechanisms. It tells of the way life’s winds and weather whirled about its location. What stunting or enabling happened as it aged.

Street portraits trigger speculation. The best of them are purées of nuanced ingredients which fuel then steer the engine of wonder. And art without wonder is merely craft.

Who is this man? What a tantalizing hint he gives us both with his fleeting expression and with the way he’s allowed years to chisel his face. See how he’s chosen to permit and resist life’s propositions?

My take? Here’s a strong, alert guy… A skeptic but not a cynic… He knows there’s enough evidence to make decisions. Learned to cautiously seek it. And learned to learn from it. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. 

About a century ago, the now forgotten journalist and humorist Ambrose Bierce wrote, “Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum… I think I think, therefore I think I am.” And I think that the man I pictured up there, would think carefully about that joke… and smile.

On the last Saturday of April 2016  Lancaster’s YWCA held its annual Race Against Racism right outside of my home. For the past 16 years I’ve hunted among the many hundreds of runners and spectators who participate for these storybook faces. This year I gathered them through my Canon 7D’s EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens, then tried to decipher their stories. 

Saturday, April 23

Crapping Up The Urnings

I'm thinking that what made the 1910-1920s B&W images seem profound was to a certain degree the way that their camera lenses sucked. There were so many opportunities for light to gyrate inside their lens barrel, then imperfections in the glass would slice away at image edges so that high contrast pictures seemed to smoke off into misty fog.

It's the curse of our tech that we can only get that effect by crapping at the laser sharp stuff that decent cameras (and even indecent cameras) now capture. What has perfection hidden away? A couple of posts back... On March 18th, this urn caught my attention when I saw it outside of Robber Baron, Henry Flaggler's Whitehall mansion. But my Canon 7D's too good to replicate early20th century fine art photography. So... How about another go at the thing...

A foggy burst of urn

Made misty, this marble sculpture sort of emerges from a dream... The dream of a guy who was rich beyond imagining when most people weren't. OTH, what's new?

Sunday, March 27

What About The P-Word?

1925 • Packard • Paddy Wagon
Trigger Alert...

See on the rear side of the Fort Lauderdale cop wagon? It says "P" Wagon. Odd about this. People use the “P” word with impunity, but never the “N” word? Hmmm... and the Ps came here to escape the Brits’ attempt at genocide during the potato famine, were discriminated against and despised (No Irish Need Apply). and here’s a 1925 vehicle with the “P” word painted right onto it??? My family lost uncles who were impressed off the boat into the Union cause where they died to end slavery. Yet we celebrated St. P*ddy's Day earlier this month when millions got falling down drunk.

Wonder what’d happen if someone painted “N-Wagon on a cop vehicle today? Don’t ask, I know.... Sigh...

GEEK STUFF: Fort Lauderdale has an internationally acclaimed Packard museum. The collection's totally hot. I captured this 1925 Paddy Wagon (Look at the back panel... that's what it reads) with my Canon 7D hand held then washed it through PS CC with help from my tool-making friends at AlienSkin and Topaz. Oh, the classic cop-truck runs wonderfully.

Friday, March 18

Once There Wasn't Color

Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler built his Palm Beach palace, Whitehall in 1902. It was the photographic age dominated in America by Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, arguably this country's fathers of fine art photography. Kodak disposable cameras were around for over two decades when Whitehall went up, democratizing photography by stripping it away from heavy metal priests who lumbered under giant 8X10 monsters, speaking in a tongue reserved for initiates into a secret craft.

But the Big Camera artistes were finally breaking into galleries with exquisitely exposed and focused large format prints of very still objects captured in squint-bright sunlight to maximize depth of field and tonal range.

The marble urns on Whitehall's front portico ooze out the feelings of the Gilded Age, don't they? Look at their perfection. Imagine the skills of their unknown crafters. I see these twin prints framed large on the walls of an old-money mansion. Or perhaps the waiting room of a great city's largest white-shoe law-firm or  brokerage house. They belong to a hushed-place thick with the scent of money.

Now we can do this without tripods on a Canon 7D through its standard sense with the help of the custom controls that PS-CC allows Alien Skin's Exposure X to bring to bear.

Wednesday, March 16

Winter in Miami

Miami • Late February • 2016

Poke around in your memory banks. Look for snapshots. They're impressions. We recall in art? This image is what's in my cerebral hard drive. As opposed to what's recorded on my digital storage space. In fact, I like this image more than what came off of my flash card. It's more reassuring. It's cool to have the skill to display my memory as opposed to my snapshot. What do you think? Is memory a feeling? 

Winter in Florida, BTW, is a feeling. 

Wednesday, March 9

It's a Pelican, Right?

Pelican • Boynton Beach, Fla. • 2/29/16
We went to Florida a couple of weeks ago to stay for ten days and got back last week. February's the cruelest month in America's Northeast. Which is why so many of my buddies and neighbors become snowbirds... Most of them December through March. Work's never allowed us to do it, so their winter tans have always fed a lot of envy. Thanks to an invitation from friends, we finally took the AutoTrain on its overnight run from Virginia to Sanford, Fla. then drove down to the Palm Beach/Boynton Beach area.

It's weird to walk through bone chilling winter winds into the train's door, and walk out into mid summer. And since the ride's through darkness, you can't see the snow disappear and the palm trees sprout. It's as if you nod off in the arctic and awake in the tropics. It's kinda/ like a Twilight Zone thing.

Anyways... Tropics have their own beasties... Like this girl sitting beside our restaurant's dock in hopes that something tasty'll drop. She was about five feet away at twilight and easy to grab through my  Canon 7D's  EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6) normal lens. Of course I snapped up the dynamic range in CCPC. 

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?