Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Still Raining

Woodbury, Connecticut

Blog Notes: Ten 8x10s

Atkins, Virginia, 2003

Over the weekend Mike Johnston posted one of my pictures at his blog, The Online Photographer. A couple people asked about the shot because they couldn't find it anywhere on my web site. So, a little background.

The picture was made in 2003 and originally printed in Pt/Pd, shortly after it was made. Then in 2006 when we acquired a high-end digital printer I selected it as one of ten shots to make a demonstration portfolio of digital prints from negatives originally intended for platinum. The portfolio also had a theme of something like "orphan pictures." I generally work in series or projects. But even when traveling to shoot, say, drive-in theaters, I don't pass up any interesting subject. So I decided to group a set of pictures that weren't part of any series into this little folio. For some reason, I never got around to making a web version, so I corrected that this morning. Anyone interested can link to it here.

Big Yellow Machine

Washington, Connecticut

It's a grader, parked next to an unpaved road that leads from the state highway to a fancy private school. The unpaved road is a shortcut for many, and so is traveled twice daily by a convoy of BMWs, Volvos, and monster SUVs taking kids to and from. With all this rain, maybe someone decided it was easier to leave it there to grade the road again tomorrow, than take it back to the municipal garage.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"It Was Electric"

Berlin, Connecticut

The local paper reported yesterday on the health care vote in congress. Chris Murphy represents Berlin's district in The House.

Connecticut River at Flood

Hartford, Connecticut

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Double Hit

Hartford, Connecticut

The same tag on the brick walls at the north and south end of a block of commercial buildings at the edge of the city's downtown.

Monday, March 15, 2010

For Lease

Plainville, Connecticut

Some time back I mentioned here that pictures seem to come in clusters, and that a surprising number of times I've found something worth shooting just by turning 180 degrees after shooting something else. When I saw the bunny suit sign in yesterday's post, I had to make a long loop around back streets to approach it again. I spotted a small strip mall across the street, and this is what I saw when I parked.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rest Stop

Milldale, Connecticut

Meanwhile, St. Patricks's Day 2010 has begun over at The WPII Blog.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


The Ten-in-One Crew, Coleman Bros. Show, 1985

Another from the Carnival series. The reds in the nylon polo shirt and the painted staging and ticket stand totally defeated the interneg/RA process I tried to print these with twenty-five years ago. The look of these reds as I inspect the post with a suite of browsers with and without color management reminds me precisely of that problem. Take my word for it, the reds are the exact to-die-for color that they look like in the original Kodachromes, when I print the scans from my new machine.

So a side note since Mike J has just been doing some posts on Kodachrome over at TOP. I agree that Kodachrome was an entire medium in itself. Hell, I made my living shooting thousands of rolls of K64 for commercial clients over a couple of decades, and also used it for a small number of personal projects like this one. So to print these pictures, the print process has to keep the "signature" of the Kodachrome medium that I used to make them. I'd like to make fluid-mount scans on a better scanner from these chromes but it will have to wait. Meanwhile I'm very happy to have these 10x15 prints.

An interesting sidelight is that I haven't the slightest desire to make my digital captures "look like Kodachrome." Kodachrome was such an aggressively powerful partner that you just had to learn to play along. Digital capture has a neutrality, a lack of "signature" that I quite enjoy. To pretend it should look like K64 strikes me as ridiculous, at best. It's as foreign to me as making a "monochrome" picture from something I shot while working in color, as with a dSLR. I can't accept prints from these carnival pictures that don't make an exacting effort to understand the look of Kodachrome. Because that's what was in my head as I shot the pictures. The palette of Kodachrome.

In the same way, I find it's impossible to make a black and white conversion from anything I shoot with a dSLR because I shoot the pictures with my head thinking color, period. The other side of the coin is, I don't miss the element of color in pictures I've made on black and white film over the past forty+ years. I was shooting in black and white, no color need apply.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Blog Notes: Industrial Design Philosophy

New Haven, Connecticut, 1985 (from Carnival Color)

Dennis asked a question in comments a couple posts back, and by the time I'd been typing a reply for a while I decided to make a post of it. Dennis asked, "If it's not too much trouble, could you outline your reasoning in moving from Epson to HP?"

The Epson has been a love-hate thing. Four years ago with the introduction of UltraChrome K3 inks it was the only game in town for what I wanted to do (monochrome and color from the same printer without mono-inks from a third-party to avoid metamerism.) But it was continually a mechanical nightmare with frustrating paper handling problems, both roll and sheet.

And the ink use! As it was dying over the past month I did a sort of back of the envelope calculation of how many times I'd replaced the ink carts and how many times the maintenance tank. My conclusion is that more ink was used to maintain the printer than to make prints. That was without ever having major clogs requiring Power Cleanings (it was hard to believe that, from what I was reading online, my experience with the Epson having only once in a while, minor, clogs was unusually lucky!) That's not counting the disaster of having to replace all eight cartridges (over $600) in order to run the most powerful maintenance routines, which appeared to kill the print heads rather than clear them. So now I have eight nearly full carts I can't use. And of course I abhorred the need to waste upwards of $50 of ink in order to switch between matte and glossy paper. I never once used anything but matte for that reason.

The HP machines have a completely different design philosophy. Epson print heads are "calibrated for life" at the factory. Deconstruct that and you find that a print head failure totals the machine. Especially if it's nearly four years old and getting obsolete.

HP makes the print heads a long life consumable, user-replaceable. All reports are that its self-maintenance is much superior and uses only a tiny bit of ink for maintenance, comparatively. All of this just appealed strongly to me in theory, aside from practical concerns. The built-in photospectometer is used both to calibrate each type of paper to the printer (you'd recalibrate after replacing a print head for example) and to generate custom ICC profiles. These profiles seem to me every bit as good as the several that I had done for my favorite papers on the Epson. Since I don't own profiling gear this is a great value added for the HP. (And the profiles are V.2, avoiding the dreaded Snow Leopard color management issue.) Based on the size of the starter carts and the HP Utility readouts, the initial setup used vastly less ink than the 4800.

What I wasn't expecting was the dramatic improvement in print quality. The good thing about the Epson was that it could make wonderful prints in both color and b&w. I was simply hoping not to step back, but it's a big leap forward. (A current model Epson, say a 7900, may also be much improved from the 4800, of course.) Some of my work also begs for non-matte paper.

A couple of years ago I scanned work from a 1985 project with a traveling carnival, shot mostly at night using 35mm Kodachrome and fill-flash. I had never been happy with "vintage" prints made via internegative, and they would have required massive amounts of masking to try Cibachrome, while dye transfer was financially out of the question. I prepped scans of my favorites thinking that if I ever got forced into switching the 4800 to PK ink for something, a side benefit would be that I could attempt to print these—I knew I couldn't get what I wanted from them with the 4800 on matte paper. The minute I made a test print from the Z3200 Thursday on HP Premium Satin paper I remembered the set, finished cleaning up the scans and started testing. Just a few hours later I had a set of eleven 10x15 inch prints that blow the "vintage" RA prints out of the water. Detail and murky half-seen things in the intentionally dark night-time shadows is wonderful and the reds, which I could never get on RA, are simply to die for.

And if a print head goes bad, it's sixty-five bucks for a new one.

New Haven, Connecticut, 1985 (from Carnival Color)
Kane, Pennsylvania

Here's a shot from the drive-in theater series, done in the winter of 2007. A snapshot of the setup was posted back then. It's interesting to note that using the back of a drive-in screen for billboard advertising is unusual even though it would seem an obvious way to pick up some extra income.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Blog Notes, II

Woodbury, Connecticut

Self-explanatory snapshot.

Blog Notes

Woodbury, Connecticut

No real Working Picture today, just a working snapshot of what's been taking up all my time the past day or so. My Epson 4800 died a long, slow, expensive death over the past month. Tuesday my new HP Z3200 arrived and I've been buried in the setup (complex but wonderfully well documented in the manuals) and initial testing. Print quality immediately looks like a big step forward from its four year old predecessor. The larger, 24-inch size and ability to switch seamlessly between glossy and matte ink/media will be great improvements to work and capabilities. More on this later, and I'll try to get outside to make some new pictures too.

Thursday, March 04, 2010