Excursions to National Gallery of Australia

There will be two excursions to the National Gallery of Australia as part of our July theme The Art of the Print:

  • Sunday 24th July, 11am
  • Monday 25th July, 11am

We will meet at the main entrance on the lower ground floor (not the old main entrance on the first floor).  (The excursion on Sunday is for those who are working and the Monday one is for those who are not working because it is likely to be less crowded then).

There is an exhibition (American Portraits) of prints by Diane Arbus together with prints from several other socially incisive American portrait and street photographers in related veins, including Weegee, Walker Evans and Garry Winogrand.  It is on the second floor.  Diane Arbus said “the subject of the picture is more important than the picture” and yet was critically concerned with the presentation of her prints.

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Identical twins Cathleen and Colleen Wade, spotted by Arbus at a Christmas party for twins and triplets.

Just outside the exhibition there are a few nineteenth century Siamese prints at one end and at the other some surrealist images including one by André Kertész.  There are many other photographs scattered through the gallery on the first floor.  There is a whole wall of images including one by Max Dupain.  There are some photographic prints at the back of the “Black” exhibit in a far corner including one by Ansell Adams.  There are also photographic prints throughout the gallery presented as Art, so that you can only be sure they are photographs by looking closely at the labels.

So let us make this a collaborative learning experience.  As we wander round in small groups, we can discuss topics such as which prints impress us, what we see in them, what ideas they invoke,  how the printing contributes to the aesthetic and what ideas the prints give us for our own images and printing.

Then at 1pm we can gather in the Cafeteria in the lower ground floor for nibbles and conversation.

(The Gallery also currently has a (non-photographic) exhibition by Fiona Hall, Wrong Way Time, but this closes on July 10, well before our visits.)

 

 

Exporting Digital Images for CPS Competitions

This is for Lightroom users who enter Canberra Photographic Society competitions.

If you enter a  Projected Image or a Print competition, you will need to upload digital images to the CPS Smugmug site.  In order to do that, you will first need to export to a jpeg on your local drive.  I will show you how to do that with a Lightroom export preset that is largely automated so that you only need to update the image file name.

First, select an image in the Library tab in Lightroom,

  • then click the [Export] button at the bottom of the left pane.
    • (Alternatively, you can right click the image and select [Export…]).
  • The following screen will appear.

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Export

(Click on this image to see it larger in a separate tab)

Here I have clicked on my saved preset CPS Digital Export. All I have to do now is to update the file name and then click [Export].

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So how do we create the preset?  We start from a blank screen and fill it out as follows:

  • Export To:
    • Select [Hard Drive] from the drop down at the very top (probably the default)
  • Export Location
    • Export to [Specific Folder]
    • Click [Choose…] to specify what folder you want to use
  • File Naming
    • Check [Rename To:] and specify [Custom Name] from the dropdown
    • Specify a default filename in [Custom Text] such as “A_Open_XXX_MurrayF”
      • A_Open or B_Open.  Change later to A_Set or B_Set for specific files
      • I use XXX as a placeholder for a quick image description (eg “Eagle” or “Chameleon”)
      • Instead of MurrayF, use your name: first name plus first letter of surname
  • File Settings
    • Image Format = [JPEG]
    • Color Space = [sRGB] or [Adobe RGB (1998)]
    • Quality = 80 (or other value you may prefer)
    • Check [Limit File Size To:] and set it to [2048]K
  • Image Sizing
    • Check [Resize to Fit:] and select [Dimensions] from Dropdown
    • Specify [2048] x [1536] [pixels]
      • (This will work for both landscape (H) and portrait (V) format images)
    • Resolution 72 pixels per inch
  • Output Sharpening
    • Sharpen for Screen, Amount Standard (this will be default)
  • Watermarking
    • Leave unchecked

Now you have specified all the details; you just need to save the preset.

  • Below the preset area at the left, click [Add]
  • Specify the name for the preset (eg “CPS Digital Export”) and click [Create]

So now you have the preset, you don’t need to make any of those changes again apart from modifying the filename to suit.

Next time you need to export a digital file for a CPS competition:

  • Click [Export…]
    • This brings up the Export dialogue box
  • Select the preset you created
  • Modify the file name
  • Click [Export].

 

How to Print

Part 3 of a three-part series on printing:

  1. Why Print?
  2. What do you need for Printing?
  3. How to Print

In this post we will cover the following topics:

  • Introduction
  • Soft Proofing
  • Print Settings and Presets
  • Advanced Black and White
  • Test prints
  • Printing

 

Introduction

Printing is the primary vehicle for creating photographic art. In our digital age photographic printing is both more readily available and more capable of high quality than ever before.  The most popular methods involve Lightroom and an Epson printer so that is what I will cover here.

Lightroom is the world’s most popular photo editing program with a simple interface that is easy to understand.  My focus here is merely on printing.   For more information on Lightroom there are many videos on the web including:

  • Julianne Kost: Many free videos from Adobe
  • Luminous Landscape: A systematic set of videos.  You need to be willing to pay an annual $US12 for access to the site.

People who use Photoshop or non-Epson printers will still find this post relevant though some details will differ.

 

Soft Proofing

Soft proofing means simulating on your screen how the image will appear as a print on a particular paper.  The most important prerequisite to make this possible is to calibrate your monitor with a good colorimeter.  A colorimeter is a small device that reads colours and densities as it sits on your screen.  It then delivers a monitor that shows your images with accurate colours and tonalities.

If you don’t have a profiled monitor, there’s no point trying to soft proof because your monitor won’t be able to display accurate colour.  It may look accurate to you but our eyes and our brain are very good at making lighting appear neutral even when it is far from that.  Tungsten light (old-style lightbulbs), fluorescent light and daylight, for example.  In this case, you can still print but there will be a greater difference between your monitor and a default print.  Probably you will end up spending much more time and money in paper for testing and your print quality may not be as good.

It helps to have a good monitor and it helps to have a good colorimeter (such as an X-Rite i1 Display Pro).  It is also an advantage to have a wide gamut monitor (with an aRGB gamut rather than an sRGB gamut).  No matter, you can work with whatever you have as long as your monitor is profiled with a reasonably good colorimeter.

OK, you have selected an image to print and you have a profiled monitor so we’ll go to the Develop Module in Lightroom for soft proofing…

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How to Print - Develop screen for soft proofing

Here we have the Lightroom Develop screen with soft proofing turned on.  You won’t be able to see much detail at this size though if you click on the image it expands in another screen to 1920×1200 pixels, which may be useful if you’re on a PC.  In any case, I’ve also expanded key parts of the screen to talk about them.

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How to Print - Soft proofing check box.

The first thing to do is to check the [Soft Proofing] checkbox, towards the bottom left of the Develop screen.  Your image then displays as though a print against a white paper background.  Lightroom adjusts the colours and densities to match that.

Just to the left of the [Soft Proofing] checkbox is a split box.  Just to the left of that is a rectangle containing a darker rectangle.  That button is active so that the overall screen at the top shows a single image, the image to be printed.  Clicking on the split box splits the screen to show both how your unchanged image would look as a print and how it would look after you make some adjustments.

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How to Print - Develop screen Profile settings.

The next thing is go to the top right of the overall screen to specify the profile for the paper you intend to print from.  This shows inside the box above.  You select from a dropdown list and in this case it is a profile for a matte paper.  In most cases this will be a generic paper profile from the manufacturer of the paper.  It is possible to generate your own printer profile but for most people this will be overkill.  If you’re printing on an Epson paper, that profile will come with the printer, though it’s always a good idea to check the US Epson site to see whether they have a newer and better profile there.  If you’re printing on a non-Epson paper, you can download a profile for that paper from that manufacturer’s site.

Different papers can create quite different prints.  Semigloss and particularly glossy papers can produce much darker black and brighter colours.  Some glossy papers  have a distinctive sheen and glossy papers can be easily damaged.  Matte papers have a reduced tonal range and may be suitable for more subtle prints.  I suggest starting off with one semigloss paper, perhaps later or also a matte.  It may be better to develop a “feel” for the papers than perhaps initially confuse yourself with too much choice.

You can change the profile setting above through the dropdown to simulate how your print will look with different papers.  If you have more than one paper available, that might help you to choose.

Below the profile setting is the Intent.  You can choose Perceptual or Relative.  Relative is usually the more likely choice.  Perceptual may be more useful where you have bright colours that may be in danger of going out of gamut.  The printer gamut is the set of colours and densities that the printer can accurately display.  Relative keeps in-gamut colours accurate but clips out-of-gamut colours; Perceptual should work better with out-of-gamut colours but may distort in-gamut colours.  You can try each to see which seems to work best for your image.  Often it makes little difference.

[Simulate Paper and Ink] should be checked.

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It’s even possible to have an image that’s essentially impossible to print.  This image from the 2013 Sydney Blues Festival looks as though it would print easily enough but the blue especially is so far out of the printer’s gamut that it comes out dull and murky and I couldn’t get it to work, even after repeated tests.  Usually this is not a problem, only for a few images with very intense stage lighting or in some cases, flowers.  It is possible to test for out of gamut areas in both Lightroom and Photoshop but Jeff Schewe advises that this feature is not accurate and not to use it.  He says that he will recommend a method for Adobe to fix this in future versions.  Therefore, I will not be covering that.

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How to Print - Virtual copy for Soft proofing dialogue box.

When the [Soft Proofing] checkbox is checked and you make a change to the image, the dialogue box above appears.  I usually choose the far right option, which creates a virtual copy that retains all the changes you make to make the print.  Creating a virtual copy means that Lightroom leaves your RAW file unchanged and creates another set of instructions to modify the image, stored in a sidecar file or the catalogue.

Lightroom is a non-destructive editor that records all your changes and allows you to reverse them.  The image shown in the overall screen at the top is a modified soft proof.  There is a History section at the bottom left of the screen which starts with the entry for creating a proof copy and shows all the changes I made to enhance the print.  You can go back and click on that image if you want to see the History section in a larger view.

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How to Print - Develop screen Changes.

Using the usual Develop screen sliders, I made some changes to the proof copy to make it more suitable for printing.  The slider positions above include those changes but also the changes to optimise the print before the soft proof.  Such Develop settings can vary widely from image to image.  In this case, I made small changes to a variety of settings including highlights, blacks, clarity, lights, darks and tone-curve shadows.  Usually I will make much fewer changes and sometimes none at all.  Even subtle changes can often make a difference though.

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Print settings and presets

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How to Print - Print screen Profiles2

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We have soft-proofed to enhance our image for printing.  We now go to the Print screen in Lightroom so we can print.  What makes life much easier here is that you can save your settings for a particular paper and size, and then reuse that time after time.  I’ll show you what those settings need to be and how to save them as a preset.

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How to Print - CM Dialogue

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First, in the Print Job section at bottom right of the Develop screen, under “Color Management”,we set the Profile and the Intent to the settings we used for soft proofing (in this case, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag and Relative).  Draft mode printing is off.  Print resolution is 360ppi for an Epson printer (and can even be 720ppi if your file size is not too small).  Print sharpening I leave on at Standard.  This is output sharpening and not something you can set by eye.  Media Type should be glossy or matte according to the paper.  This is so the sharpening works properly; matte papers need more output sharpening.  Leave Print Adjustment off.

Now we could click the [Printer] button (on the Print screen above), set up Properties, and go through to print.  But we’re not going to print yet, we’re first setting up a preset and any print setting we make will be lost if we exit out of the Print dialogue without printing.  So instead we’ll click on the [Page Setup…] button at bottom left.   The Epson [Print Setup] dialogue pops up.  Next we click on [Properties].  This may appear slightly differently for different models of Epson printers.

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How to Print - Printer Properties

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First we need to set the media type which here is here is Velvet Fine Art.  You will find this setting in the documentation for your paper profile or you may even be using the Epson paper Velvet Fine Art.  We can ignore the [Custom Settings…] and [Paper Config…] dialogues here.

Next, we’re printing colour so we choose “Color”.

Print Quality is “Quality” which here means 1440×770 dpi.  If we were printing on a glossy or semigloss paper, we would probably choose “Max Quality” or 2880×1440 but there is no point for a matte paper.  Different printer models may have different names for these terms.

Mode is “Off (No Color Adjustment)” because we are using colour management – printing with a profile from a profiled monitor.

Source is specific to the printer and the different choices you have for paper feed for different papers.

Size here is 13×19 in, or A3+.

Now we have finished with all our print settings so we click OK and return to the main screen to save the preset.

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How to Print - Create Print Preset

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To name and create a new print preset, we go to the top left of the Print screen and click the plus sign [+] to the right of the heading “Template Browser”.  For example, there is one already there for “SC_P800 Crane Museo Portfolio Rag A3+”.  Now each time you go to print on that paper on A3+, you can click on that preset and everything is set up.  You don’t need to go through each time and carefully set those parameters.  As well as making printing much quicker it greatly reduces the risk of a mistake.

 

Advanced Black and White

Many Epson printers have an “Advanced Black and White” mode.  This gives deeper blacks and potentially better image quality for black and white prints.    However, if you want a toned monochrome, you are probably better of printing colour as above, or you will have to set the toning by trial and error in a dialogue box.

There are two things you need to do to print in ABW mode.  First, at the bottom right of the Print screen, where we set the profile of the paper, instead select “Managed by the Printer” from that dropdown.

Then we need to make a modification to printer properties (screen capture before last).  You can get to the Printer Properties dialogue box through [Page Setup..] at the bottom left of the Print screen, if you are setting it there or defining a preset.  Otherwise you clicking the [Printer…] button at bottom right of the Print screen and get to it on the way through to printing.  In either case, instead of setting Color to [Color], set it to [Advanced B&W Photo].  That also changes the value for Mode to [Neutral] and makes an [Advanced] button appear.

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How to Print - Color Controls

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Clicking the [Advanced] button takes you to this screen. You can set toning by dragging the cursor round in the big colour wheel.  The dialogue only shows you how the tone of that specific image of the young woman changes though, not the image you are trying to print.  At the top, I always leave Color Toning to [Neutral] though other values are cool, warm and sepia and you can always click on those to see where the cursor goes in the colour wheel.

For the P800, I leave tone as [Dark].  I seem to recall the recommended setting was [Darker] for the 3800 and 3880.  May be cause for experimentation and testing.

ABW isn’t colour managed to you can’t soft proof for it – though you can if you get a custom profile from Image Science (you won’t be able to roll your own here).  This still won’t allow you to soft proof toning though.

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Test prints

Having a calibrated monitor and creating a plausible soft proof will get you much of the way to a successful print.  In some cases you’ll be able to print straight off the soft proof with no adjustments.  In other cases you may need to put some time and effort into test prints to fine tune your final output.  The soft proof is very useful but it can only take you so far.  Prints have a texture, a physical presence and you’re looking at a reflected surface instead of the equivalent of a slide (i.e. a transparency film  – do I need to say that for anyone?).  And if you’re printing without colour management, you’re likely to expend much more paper and time and even then have less chance of “getting it right”.

Fortunately, Lightroom has some easy and powerful tools for generating test prints.

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How to Print - Test Prints 3

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Here we are using a 4×5 grid on A3+ paper to print out up to 20 test prints.  This is a preset I created for just the arrangement of the grid.  First I click on one of my A3+ presets for a specific paper, then I click on the preset for the grid.  But if we look at the Print Job section at the lower right (as shown four screen captures up), we will see that [Draft Mode Printing] is checked.  So we uncheck it and that reveals the paper type from the initial preset.  I could have saved the grid preset with [Draft Mode Printing] unchecked but then it would have been for a specific paper.  That would be a better option though if you use only one paper.

I made the grid preset by modifying the [4×5 Contact Sheet] preset provided with Lightroom.

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How to Print - Layout 2

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Starting from that preset, I checked [Rotate to Fit] so images rotate to fill the cell.  Also, because the Lightroom preset was designed for an A4 sheet, there was too much space between the cells.  I unchecked [Keep Square] towards the bottom and adjusted the Cell Height.

When printing out test prints, you’re usually going to want to make several passes on the same sheet of paper to print on all the squares.  You can do this by adjusting the rows and columns.  For example, suppose you want to start printing on the third row.  I can see from the ruler to the left of the images that the top of this row starts at 19.5 cm.  I change the number of rows in the Page Grid from 5 down to 3, and increase the Top Margin from 0.28cm to 19.5cm.  (I can see the ruler because at the bottom of the screen above, I have the Guides checked, including the borders of the cells and the ruler at the sides.)

At the bottom of the Guides section, I have Dimensions turned off.  When on, that shows the actual size your image will print at, as a small label at the top left of the image.  This is just for the screen view and does not print.  It is not relevant for test prints but very useful when you come to make the print, especially if you are printing for an existing matte.

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How to Print - Page

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Further down the right side of the Print page, there’s another setting that can be useful for test prints.  After checking the [Photo Info] checkbox, I’ve specified a label to occur below the images.  Currently it’s set at Filename but there are various choices including Caption and Title.  You might be printing a set of virtual copies of the same image with variations on a setting, say exposure.  You might like to record abbreviated labels in either Caption or Title such as X +0.5, X +1.0, X +1.5, X +2.0. They would then print out below the image so you can be sure to identify the correct modification.

Finally, a general point.  If your prints come out too dark and you have a calibrated monitor, then you may be calibrating to too high a brightness.  Personally, I use 100 cd/m² for semigloss/ glossy papers and 90 cd/m² for matte.  If your colorimeter can’t set the brightness, then you need a better colorimeter (or perhaps just the software for it, if you can upgrade that).

 

 

Printing

Right then, you’re ready to go to print, perhaps to print out some tests.  It’s a good idea to first print out a nozzle check on plain A4 paper, particularly if you haven’t used the printer for a while (From the Print screen, [Printer] brings up the Epson Print Dialogue, then click [Properties], select the Utility tab and choose [Nozzle Check]).

To print you press [Printer] to bring up the Epson Print Dialogue.  You may wish to click [Properties] to double-check your print settings.  Then you press OK….

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Hopefully, after a few minutes, a wonderful print will emerge.

 

 

Further Reading

Eugene Atget Photographic Enigma?

 by David Maish

 

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The title of this post may seem strange and it may be a misuse of the word enigma, but as an enigma is someone or something that is mysterious or puzzling I  believe that it is possible to apply this term to Atget’s photography.

Originally I was going to provide a dissertation on Atget and his photography but the internet is a wonderful resource and many have preceded me in doing this. So I will not attempt to regurgitate these efforts but rather leave the reader to follow up on this wonderful photographer and his legacy at their leisure.   I will provide a few links at the end of the post, but a Google search on the man will provide heaps of information, and putting his name into the YouTube search engine will provide links to a number of slideshows displaying his work.  What I will attempt to do is expand on this idea that indeed Atget is a photographic enigma, in the process covering briefly the history of his work and its influences.

Before I start I will briefly cover my history of contact with Atget’s work.  Believe it or not I first heard of Eugene Atget from Ian Marshall, immediate past President of the Canberra Photographic Society, who I assume had come across him in his studies. Around that time I received as a Christmas gift a DVD set of a wonderful documentary series entitled “The Genius of Photography”.  In this show one of the talking heads described Atget as “the Mozart of photography”, which at the time I thought was a big call. On reflection the talking head may be right. In 2012 from late August to early November the NSW Art Gallery showcased in a major exhibition of over 200 original prints. Rarely permitted to travel due to their fragile nature, loans came primarily from the Musée Carnavalet, Paris, alongside the selection of prints compiled by Man Ray from George Eastman House, Rochester, USA.  Since it was shortly after I retired I took a Murrays coach up to Sydney one Wednesday (forgoing golf!!) and needless to say I was blown away!

In 2014 my wife and I travelled to Europe and towards the end of our trip my wife suffered an aneurism which necessitated here being in hospital for just over 2 months. During this time I obviously needed to keep occupied.  Prior to leaving Australia I printed off a number of Atget’s Parisian images on the off chance of seeing them visiting Paris I could do a rephotograph. Shortly after my wife fell ill I chanced upon a shop that had a number of books containing Atget’s work. I ended up purchasing the most portable one and decided to fill in my time “doing an Atget” wandering around Paris rephotographing some of his work. I had to do something to fill in the time and Atget came along and saved me.  If you’re interested check my article in the Society’s Ezine for last winter entitled Purgatory in Paris or How Photography kept me Sane.

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At the Sign of the Drum

At the sign of the Drum.

(Click on any image for larger size, where available)

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After trying his hand at acting , being drafted for military service and a short time as a painter with little or no success Atget took up photography around 1880 and would continue until his death in 1927. There was a break from 1914 til around 1920 because of the Great War in Europe during which he did not work.

“Atget’s work is unique on two levels. He was the maker of a great visual catalogue of the fruits of French culture, as it survived in and near Paris in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was in addition a photographer of such authority and originality that his work remains a bench mark against which much of the sophisticated contemporary photography measures itself. Other photographers had been concerned with describing specific facts (documentation), or with exploiting their individual sensibilities (self-expression). Atget encompassed and transcended both approaches when he set himself the task of understanding and interpreting in visual terms a complex, ancient, and living tradition. The pictures that he made in the service of this concept are seductively and deceptively simple, wholly poised, reticent, dense with experience, mysterious, and true.”….from http://www.atgetphotography.com

I believe Atget saw himself as a documenter, a visual historian who photographed what was in front of him. His obsession of course was the city of Paris. He built up a vast archive of Paris’ old houses, shops, churches and streets as well as architectural ornamentation including doors, stairways, door knockers and the like.

He derived an income from selling his “documents for artists” as he call them. One of his advertisements stated “that he produced documents for artists, landscapes, studies of trees and plants, picturesque views.”  He only wanted to produce photographic documents. He had no pretentions towards the artistic in his work.  In fact a quote attributed to him perhaps supports this view.

” A good photograph is like a good hound dog, dumb, but  eloquent.”

He came to the notice of Man Ray and American ex pat surrealist artist living in Paris.  In 1926, Man Ray reproduced an Atget photograph a group of pedestrians shading their eyes as they looked at the sky, watching an eclipse on the cover of a Surrealist magazine. When he told Atget of his intention, the older man replied, “Don’t put my name on it. These are simply documents I make.”  .

At Man Rays behest other surrealists were encouraged to meet Atget and look at his work.  Dali and Picasso ( a cubist) are said to have been influenced by him.

In my travels around the internet I found a number of commentaries on Atget photographs waxing lyrical about the image. One particular favourite of mine is a commentary on an image of a statue in the garden at Versailles which represents Mosniers replica of the Dying Gladiator in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.  It goes…

“Drawing on his long experience relating near and far objects and vistas in the gardens of Versailles, the photographer juxtaposed the statues so that the figure of Apollo in the background seems to rise like the living spirit escaping the body at death.”

Really such imagery from a man who said “these are simply documents I make”

The image in question is below:

Digital Photo File Name:DT1190.tif Online Publications Edited By Michelle Ma for TOAH 11_23_15

Dying gladiator.

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I tend to believe that in the end, the success of Atget’s work seems to suggest that the art of photography has less to do with following conventional methods  than with intuitively knowing the right place to stand.

One of the puzzles with Atget’s work is trying to fit a genre to him.  In this day and age, and even in times gone by we tend to try an pigeon hole people and categorise their work.   With Atget it is no different.

Was he a street photographer? It could be argued he is the father of street photography . Many of his photos show hawkers walking the streets plying their trade, shop windows and mannequins and dare I say ladies of the evening in red light areas.

Was he a documentary photographer/historian,  documenting  parts of Paris for posterity before they were lost forever?

Was he a landscape photographer documenting the Parisian urban streetscape?

Was he an architectural photographing in detail the buildings,  fountains and statues?

He also did some formal portrait work during his career as well as a few nude female images.

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Corner Rue de Seine
Corner Rue de Seine.
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So here we have this somewhat driven man photographing Paris producing his documents for artists to make his living.  I believe he did not regard himself as an artist but rather one who captured what was in front of him.  I feel he was intuitive photographer with a great eye for composition who produced a legacy that still inspires and influences photographers today. It goes without saying that we are probably lucky to have this lasting legacy.

In 1925 the American photographer Berenice Abbott saw a few of Atget’s prints that had been collected by the artist Man Ray, for whom she then worked. She subsequently visited Atget several times before his death in 1927. In 1928 Abbott bought Atget’s residual collection of more than 1,000 glass plates and perhaps as many as 10,000 prints. The next year Abbott wrote the first of her many essays on Atget’s work, in which she said, “In looking at the work of Eugène Atget, a new world is opened up in the world of creative expression.” By the end of 1931, this admiration had been echoed by two other outstanding young photographers of the time—Ansel Adams and Walker Evans. Indeed, a new generation of photographers developed, with the help of Atget’s example, a new idea of creative photography, based on the poetic potential of plain facts, clearly seen.

So here we have a photographer who primarily saw himself a producer of documents who clearly had an innate photographic  ability, producing a legacy which is , dare I say it timeless.  He did not see himself as an artist but today many do. Who cares what genre of photography he is labelled with, or whether he is artistic or documentary?   I remember watching a documentary hosted by the English Actor Hugh Lawrie of “House” and “Blackadder”  fame . He was travelling in the Southern USA following his desire for Blues music.  In the show  he was in a record shop talking about all the different labels and genres on display. Then he stated that he believed that there are only two types of music.  Good and Bad.  I feel the same applies to photography.  Atget’s work is definitely in the former category.

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Marchard d'abat-jour, rue Lepic

Hawker of lampshades, Rue Lepic.

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I’ll conclude with a couple of paragraphs from Christopher Rauschenberg  that appear on the Lensculture website.

“As I was rephotographing Atget images, I kept seeing places that he hadn’t photographed but that seemed to me to be also rich with the feeling of his work. I photographed hundreds of those places where I felt Atget’s spirit. Included here are just six of them. I don’t claim to have been channelling Atget, or that Atget would have photographed those places were he to see them. I was walking around Paris “in Atget’s shoes” and this is where they took me.

Having photographed all of these scenes, it is clear to me that the Paris of Atget’s vision is still there and available to eyes that look for it. In central Paris, most of the scenes that Atget photographed are still there, and still posing. You can see the effects of acid rain on them; you can see the effects of graffiti; most of all, you can see that the magical streets of Paris are now thickly covered with parked cars.

However, among all the other Parises that co-exist so thickly in one amazing city, Atget’s Paris is still definitely and hauntingly there.”

Having done the same thing  as Rauschenberg  I wholeheartedly agree and  I couldn’t say it better.

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Prostitute taking her shift.

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Following  are some web links for more on Atget as well as a link to my Flickr album with some of my Atget rephotographs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excursion to Point Hicks

The Canberra Photographic  Society is planning an excursion to Point Hicks Lighthouse where we can stay in the lighthouse cottages.  Point Hicks is in Victoria at the end of a road from Cann River, about 4½ hours drive from Canberra.  The excursion will be for three full days and the tentative date is for the nights of 11th to 14th November, arriving on the night of Friday 11th November and leaving on the morning of Tuesday 15th November.  Final dates will depend on preferences of participants and what dates are available at time of booking.

The excursion is for financial members of the Canberra Photographic Society only (and their spouses).

Food, drinks and linen are not supplied.  Linen can be supplied for a $15 fee but they prefer not to do this.  There will be no wifi and some phone coverage at a few places.  A washing machine is available at $4 per load though probably no-one will need this.  There are fireplaces and wood in the cottages and bungalow.

Camping is also available at Thurra River, about three kilometres from the lighthouse.

Point Hicks is the tallest lighthouse in Australia, with a tower 150 feet high, and we will be able to enter the lighthouse.  There is a wreck a little way south of the lighthouse, there are large sand dunes nearby and there are two three-man canoes available for hire for use in the Mueller River, about four kilometres from the lighthouse.  If we are lucky we may see dolphins, seals, whales, wombats, goannas and a variety of birds.

Here are some links with more information :

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Looking down Point Hicks stairwell to Keeper on pulley, 17 July 1987
Arca-Swiss 5×4″ monorail camera. 90mm Schneider Super Angulon, Fujichrome 50

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Cost will depend on how many people go and how many dwellings we use.  There are two cottages and a bungalow.  Each cottage has a double bedroom, a twin bedroom and a bunk room with four bunks (each 1.9 metres long).  Cottage #1 also has a second bunk room.  The bungalow has a double room and an outside toilet.  All have cooking facilities and equipment.

That makes a total of 22 people but we will probably limit numbers to two per bunk room for a total of 16.

At up to 16 people, depending on numbers, costs per person for four nights range from $245 to $350 for double room, $200 to $280 for twin room and $127 to $173 for a bunk.  The bungalow is $480.

However, for standard rate December, January and long weekends, costs per person for four nights range from $238 to $390 for double room, $185 to $310 for twin room and $129 to $205 for a bunk.  The bungalow is $560.

The default date is for four nights starting Friday 11th November, for which both cottages and the bungalow are currently available (if the website is accurate).  We have booked Cottage #1 and the Bungalow.  We are still able to book Cottage #2 if we have a couple to take the double room and in that case, berths may be availoable there.

  • Other possible dates with both cottages and the bungalow available are for weekends starting Friday 2 December*, 27 Jan*, 3 Feb, 17 Feb, 24 Feb, 3 March, 17 March and 24 March.
  • Possible dates with Cottage #2 only and the bungalow are weekends starting Friday 15 October, 18 November and 10 March*
  • Possible date with both cottages (but not bungalow) is 20 Jan*
  • Dates with asterisk are at higher “standard” rate.

Beds will be allocated on a first-come first served basis.  Couples will have priority for double and twin rooms.  Bunks will only be available if double and twin rooms are full.  Default order of preference for rooms is as follows:

  • Couples:
    1. Double room
    2. Bungalow (outside toilet)
    3. Twin room
    4. Bunk
  • Singles:
    1. Twin Room
    2. Bunk

Reservations must be final, at least by midnight on the night of Thursday 9th June You commit to paying a 50% deposit in early June and if the default date is available, the remaining 50% in early October.  You must pay the full amount which can be refunded only if someone can take your place.  (Note:  I expect to be travelling between 14th August and 7th October, so I may not be very responsive to emails in that time).

You can record an expression of interest or commit to requesting a berth later than that.  Additional beds may be allocated if available and we might later be able to rent a second cottage or the bungalow if there is sufficient delayed interest and they are still available.

Final payments (in October) will be adjusted for any later participants so the amount may differ from the initial deposit (potentially probably less).

To reserve a place you will need to record the following details in a comment below or send me an email at zenophon@velocitynet.com.au :

  1. Name (singles) or Names (couples)
  2. Definite commitment or expression of interest
  3. Preference and availability for dates and whether that affects commitment
  4. Whether you accept the default order of preference for rooms, or else your preference
  5. Alternatively, whether you intend to be camping (you can arrange that yourself through the Camping link above when dates are finalised)

Even if you send an email, please record your name(s) in a comment below.  This will facilitate group discussions later on.

What do you need for Printing?

Part 2 of a three-part series on printing:

  1. Why Print?
  2. What do you need for Printing?
  3. How to Print

In this post we will cover the following topics:

  • Fume Room
  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Monitor and colorimeter
  • Software
  • Lighting
  • Printer
  • Ink
  • Paper
  • Cost of printing
  • Matting
  • What to do with the prints

 

Fume Room

The chemical darkroom is essentially out of scope for this series, though you could potentially pick up say a second hand Mamiya RB67, compatible enlarger and accessories quite cheaply.  Printing from film in a darkroom is likely to actually work out much cheaper than a digital workflow, even with film costs, but also much more difficult and much more time-consuming.

 

Camera

Printing requires you have an image.  Creating an image usually requires that you have a camera.  So how good a camera do you need?  Do you need say a Nikon D810 with a professional lens for example?  Well, let me answer this at first by example.  The following image is of Selfoss in Iceland and it won a 5 (out of 5) in a monthly competition last year.  It was taken with a good camera – Nikon D3s and a good lens (85mm f1.4) but I discovered later there had been a problem.  I had been grappling with the settings of the camera while it was inside a raincover a week or two earlier in Greenland and hadn’t realised that instead of the usual 16MP RAW files, I had it set to save 2.8MP TIFF files.  After cropping the size of the file was 2.2MP.

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_13S5354 .

Admittedly, my choice of paper helped.  I printed it on a matte paper which has a texture and less resolution.  I don’t think a glossy paper would have worked.   But what this shows if you can have sufficient inspiration and skill and get to the right place at the right time,  the camera doesn’t matter very much, at least as long as you understand the limitations of the camera and operate within them.

 

Computer

I’m not going to say much about computers because I just wrote an article about purchasing one.  You need something with enough RAM to process your files and enough disk space to store them.  It helps if it does something when you turn it on.

 

Monitor and Colorimeter

Having a good monitor makes a big difference and having it well profiled is almost essential for printing.  You can get away without that but you are likely to lose a lot of time in testing, you may find it difficult to achieve accurate colour and it may end up costing you more.  I’m not going to say much about monitors because I covered that in the Computers post.   NEC and Eizo make the best monitors; anything else is a compromise though no doubt a necessary compromise for many.  It is an advantage to have a monitor with an aRBG gamut (Adobe RGB) rather than an sRGB gamut because you will be able to more accurately see the colours of an image for printing.

Profiling the monitor is important because if we are not seeing accurate colour, we will find it difficult to print accurate colour.  Whether a monitor looks good anyway is besides the point.  Our eyes are very good at making lighting sources as different as daylight and tungsten light (old-style lightbulbs) appear normal.  Consequently, we can’t expect our eyes alone to adjust monitors.

To profile your minotaur monitor you need a colorimeter and the best one is the XRite Display Pro (at around $300).  Be wary of cheap options or old colorimeters as they may not be accurate, they may not allow important adjustments and they may not work well if you have a wide gamut monitor.  Some may wish to generate their own paper profiles with say an X-Rite ColorMunki Photo but this is optional; it probably won’t make much difference and profiling your monitor is the really important thing here.

 

Software

There are many software choices for editing images and printing them.  If you have a profiled monitor though, what makes a big difference in printing is using a program you can soft proof with.  That means you can simulate how your print wil appear, on your screen.  It’s not perfect but it can be very helpful.  Photoshop is an option but these days most people use Lightroom which is a very powerful program that is also very easy to use.

These days, you can pay $12 per month for perpetually up-to-date versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop.  This is very good value compared to what prices used to be though the catch is that if you stop paying you can no longer run the programs (though you can still access your files).    There are many instructional videos for Lightroom and Photoshop on the web, such as those of Julianne Kost.  There are also comprehensive sets of videos on Luminous Landscape for both Lightroom and printing if you are willing to pay their subscription of $US12 per year.

 

Lighting

Ideally, the room you process your images in should have dim consistent lighting and be neutral in colour.  If you are in a room with bright purple walls, it will affect your colour perceptions of your images on screen (as well as possibly your state of mind).  Preferably, you should also wear neutral clothing for the same reason.

Once you have generated a print, you need a neutral light source to assess it.  This can be sunlight, although its colour temperature changes throughout the day and may differ between direct sunlight and shadow.  Ordinary lightbulbs of whatever type are problematic, even if they are labelled “daylight”, unless you are printing for that specific light source.

The best light source for proofing is Solux bulbs, which are very accurate, and most people prefer a colour temperature around 5,000°K.  The problem is that they are MR16 bulbs – in other words they have two little round prongs like the small round lights that may be in your kitchen ceiling and they take low voltage direct current rather than 240V DC.  Fine if you can get them installed like your kitchen lights.  Alternatively, you could use a Graflite fluorescent desk light which is almost as good though the larger one, more suitable for A3+ prints, costs $300 (at Imagescience).

There is a way around this, if you’re adventurous enough.  From a local store such as Southside Lighting, you get an ordinary lamp and also a small inline transformer that converts from 240volt DC to a small direct current suitable for MR16 bulbs.  You get an electrician to insert the transformer in the lamp’s electrical line before the switch.  Now it’s no good for ordinary bulbs anymore.  Next, you order online a B22 (large bayonet) to MR16 converter or a E27 (large screw) to MR16 converter depending on your lamp fitting.  These are not available in a shop because they don’t meet Australian safety standards since someone might use them with an MR16 bulb without a transformer and effectively cause a short circuit.  When this arrives, you put the Solux bulb on it, insert it in the lamp and you now have a colour accurate light source for printing.

 

Printer

The choice for a photographic printer is likely to come down to different models of Epson inkjet printers.

It’s possible to print a photograph with a laser printer but it won’t handle the range of media that inkjet printers can, the colours and densities won’t be at all accurate unless you profile it yourself and even then it’s not likely to produce the quality of an inkjet printer.

Canon and HP still produce ranges of very large printers for the professional market, but HP has dropped out of the consumer market and Canon has a fairly low profile.  In any case, I’m not familiar with Canon printers and will confine my comments to Epson.

Here are some likely choices:

  • P800 (A2 printer): $1,900+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P600 (A3+ printer): $1,300+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P405 (A3+ printer): $900+:  Excellent quality colour but not as good for monochrome due to smaller ink set.
  • Artisan 1430 (A3+): $350+: Uses dye-based inks rather than pigment-based inks.  Probably excellent quality for colour images on glossy and semigloss paper.  May not be so good on matte and may not be very suitable for monochrome.  Will have higher ink cost due to small cartridges.

 

Ink

If you have an Epson printer, you should definitely use Epson ink.  You can get very cheap third party ink but that doesn’t mean it’s good value.  Such inks can kill your printer.  Also, you may need to get custom paper profiles which otherwise are not really necessary.

 

Paper

These days there is a bewildering variety of papers available.  At least initially, just have one or two and get to understand them.  If two, perhaps a semigloss paper and a matte.  Maybe try a few test packs to help decide.  Glossy and semigloss papers show brighter colours and deeper blacks than matte papers so they are suitable for different kinds of images.  Matte papers can give a subtler effect for lower contrast images.

If you want a first paper to start with on a new printer, perhaps Ilford Smooth Pearl is a good and relatively economical place to start.  It is suitable for both printers that use dye-based and pigment-based inks.  You need to be careful if you have a dye-based printer that you purchase suitable papers, not ones for pigment ink printers only.

 

Cost of Printing

You can of course print A4 prints but for purposes of a cost comparison, let’s say you decide to print for yourself and enter A3+ prints in CPS competitions for a year.  That’s sixteen A3+ prints in monthly competitions, two in Image of the Year, say four for Out There exhibition and five A4 prints for the Hedda Morrison portfolio competition.   That’s 22 A3+ prints and 5 A4, equivalent to around 24.5 A3+ prints.  We will not consider here what other prints you may generate.

An article by Mark Segal suggests ink costs of around $2 for an A3+ print from an Epson 3800 printer.  This should be about the same for a P800 or a P600 (the current models).  Say you’re printing Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, that will cost about $3.30 per A3+ sheet.  Assuming 25% for testing and wastage, that makes about $7.50 per A3+ print. That’s about $180 for printing costs for a competition year.

Getting Harvey Norman to make the same prints would cost $410 but they would have to be on a cheaper paper and lower quality and the paper sizes are slightly smaller.  Next step up, getting Bica to print them would cost $588 for “Premium Prints” and $1,031 for “Custom Prints” (and for A3 rather than A3+).  Next step up, getting Stephen Best to print them will cost $1,005 plus postage, or picking up from PhotoAccess on a Thursday or Friday, or trips to Braidwood.

I recently sold my Epson 3880 printer for $550 (to upgrade to a P800).  I had bought it six years ago for $1900.  My overall printing cost for that period was equivalent to getting prints made by Harvey Norman at much lesser quality and much less convenience.  I saved 60% (or $3,700) over getting custom prints made by Bica or Stephen Best.   So, buying a printer can pay off as long as you’re going to use it.

 

Matting

Prints in CPS competitions are usually matted.  It helps if you print in standard sizes because then you can reuse the matte for other prints.  Unlike prints, there is no particular reason to produce your own mattes; it’s a question of convenience and cost. There are three approaches you can take:

  • You can get some cut. Last time I did this it cost $15 each, but that’s a few years ago and it may be more now.
  • You can take the cheap option and use a Stanley knife for straight edges and a Dexter matte cutter for bevelled edges. Entirely possible but slow and painstaking.
  • If you will be cutting a fair few mattes, you may consider a “proper” matte cutter such as those from FrameCo.

Just briefly, if you are matting a print to permanently mount in a frame, you should use archival matte board and archival tape (from a specialist retailer) and hang the print from the top edge only so it can move in the frame.

 

What to do with the prints

A question some people ask is “what do you do with the prints?”.  Well, to some extent, this may not be the right place to start.  If you want to produce some outstanding prints that are truly yours because you printed them, you have to work at it.  The prints you produce after a few years may be greatly improved and you will have needed to produce the earlier ones to get there.

You can of course hang some on your walls and rotate them.  You may be able to give some away as presents.  In this case you need to be sure it really is your best work (probably no point even holding on to seconds) and also that other people really will appreciate them.  The Society competitions help to give you a good feel for that.  Similarly, you might like to send some prints to people you met while travelling.  You might want to hold an exhibition at some stage, when you feel you really understand your craft and have something to say.  You might even try selling some though that’s easier said than done and certainly extremely difficult to generate a significant income flow from fine art prints.

You can store them in the old boxes that the paper came in (or special boxes for the same purpose) or you can get special transparent envelopes to store them in.  I have also found album folios that can store 48 A3+ prints.  This is a very convenient way to show your prints to guests.

 

A Photoshop Workflow

In response to several requests for more technical information to be provided as part of Canberra Photographic Society activities, we have started a new technical session to be conducted at the start of each Workshop evening. Members will take it in turns to spend 15-20 minutes talking about a technical aspect of photography or image processing. I kicked off the series with a demonstration of a workflow (using Bridge and Photoshop) that I used to process one of my images from Bermagui.

I chose this image because it has some short-comings and I wanted to demonstrate how I could overcome some of these with processing. Obviously it is not possible, nor desirable, to “fix” bad images with processing, but I wanted to illustrate a couple of points. I find the image inherently amusing but the background is a bit distracting as it has a lot of color, structure and light areas. Also, there is a pelican in the foreground that could be seen as a distraction, so I am going to demonstrate how to “clone it out.” I want to draw attention to the main subject – namely the fish in the pelican’s beak.

Below is the original raw file that has been opened in Bridge. I have made some adjustments to the exposure and reduced the contrast. In Bridge I almost always go into the Lens Corrections tab (6th from left) and enable lens profile corrections (in the profile sub-tab) and tick remove chromatic aberration (in the color sub-tab). Most of the other adjustments (such as noise removal) I leave on the default values. 01_Pelican_Raw

Once I am happy with the raw processing in Bridge I click on the “Open Image” button at the bottom and this opens the image in Photoshop. 03_pelican_photoshop

Above you can see what the base layer looks like without all the adjustment layers (only the bottom layer has an eye symbol to its left). To illustrate my workflow I am going to step through turning on each layer so you can see the effect that it has on the image.

04_pelican_photoshop

The first layer (above) corrects the color balance. I used the color picker tool (a pencil with a plus sign) and select an area that should be white or neutral grey. I then use a curves layer and adjust each of the colors so that the values for red, green and blue are the same. If they are 255,255,255 then I have adjusted the spot (and the highlights) to white – if the value is less then the spot is grey and I have adjusted the high mid-tones. You can see that this adjustment has removed a magenta cast from the image.

05_pelican_photoshop

In this layer (above) I have removed the pelican on the left. I used the lasso tool to draw a rough outline around it and then went to the Edit tab at the top of the page and select Fill then Content-Aware to give a rough fill. I then used the clone tool to tidy up the fill, making sure that there are no repeated structures evident. I also built up the tip of the remaining pelican’s wing.

 

07_pelican_photoshop

I then have several curves layers where I have progressively darkened the background and lightened the birds. I do this in steps so it gives a more subtle result and I use a different mask for each layer. I use a soft brush to make my masks and usually feather each mask also.

08_pelican_photoshop

You can see here (above) the mask that I used to darken the background while not changing the birds. You can visualise the mask by going to the channels tab and clicking on the bottom channel, which is usually the mask. Don’t forget to turn the mask channel off before returning to the layers menu (unless you want to see the mask to make fine adjustments to it).

11_pelican_photoshop

In this layer (above) I am working to give more emphasis to the pelican beaks. I start by changing the color balance and shifting it slightly to the magenta and red (from cyan and green respectively). The rest of the image is masked out so the changes only apply to the beaks. I then apply a hue-saturation layer where I gently increase the saturation in the reds and magentas. I almost always make saturation adjustments selectively and usually avoid increasing the global saturation. I have a second saturation adjustment layer where I have reduced the saturation in the blue and cyan. This often corrects a consequence of darkening (particularly for skies) as Photoshop has the unfortunate tendency to make darkened skies too saturated. Here I am removing color from the water to bring emphasis back to the pelican beaks. Often removing saturation in some colors is a more effective way of emphasising the remaining colors than just increasing those colors’ saturation.

14_pelican_photoshop

In the next few layers I have lightened the black feathers in the wings to bring some structure back there. I also have a few more layers to reduce the contrast in the water even further. I now want to add more contrast and emphasis to the plumage of the birds. Here I am using a technique for adding structure called HiRaLoam. This is basically a sharpening tool, so I need to work on committed pixels. Most of my layers so far (except for the cloning layer) have been adjustment layers that are basically a set of instructions that tell photoshop what to do with the information from the layers below. A useful shortcut that I use when I need a committed layer (a requirement for sharpening) is to hold down the Control-Shift-Alt-E keys simultaneously. You will see a lot of other ways of doing this, but I have found this to be the quickest and simplest.

To perform the HiRaLoam adjustment I go to the Filter tab at the top of the page, select Sharpen, then Unsharp Mask. Then I use a high radius and a low amount (Amount 30, radius 30, threshold 2). There is nothing magical about these numbers and it sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to get the desired effect. Be sparing with this as it can produce halos (as can all sharpening techniques). I usually start with a black mask, and only add the effect sparingly where I want it, taking care to avoid any obvious edges.

Finally I have a couple more curves layers to get the overall brightness and contrast correct – sometimes it is useful just to use the Auto setting on the curves layer to see where photoshop thinks you should be. You can accept or reject or modify this at your discretion.

Obviously you want to be saving your photoshop file frequently as you go along. If you need to produce a small jpg version of your file my last step is to resize the image. Because photoshop doesn’t retain the detail in the masks at high resolution when it resizes, it is desirable to flatten your image before resizing. Note that this will compress all your workings and discard any layers that aren’t visible. You need to be very careful NOT to save this version of the photoshop file as you will then lose all your working. To resize the flattened image go to the Image tab at the top of the page and then Image Size. Enter the desired values and then save your file AS A JPG. When closing the file photoshop will ask if you want to save it – now say NO to avoid ending up with a low resolution, layerless .psd file. Below if the final version of the image (top). It isn’t markedly different from the original (below) as I like to keep a fairly light touch with photoshop work, but I leave you to judge if it is an improvement.

Pelican_W2A8829

ORIGINAL_W2A8829