I was in Norfolk photographing an area near the Wash when I came across a field full of Skylarks. Not seen or heard them for many years and their beautiful, endlessly varied song is just magical. Need to go back with a decent mic and blimp as it is always windy!
When I started using a digital camera it was obvious that however many pixels you have, and however much you spend on super lenses, good results are not guaranteed. Having lots of pixels does not automatically mean better pics, there is still some photographic technique involved.
I work on long term project which usually result from having something to say. In terms of project planning I work backwards from having an idea of how I want to prints to look and where they will be shown. For the Quarried project I decided I wanted large prints mounted without glass so that there was as little as possible between the audience and the print. That eventually turned out to be matt colour prints mounted on Diabond.
Knowing what I wanted narrowed down the decision required to achieve the end result. Basically I could use 5×4 colour negative film or a high end digital system. Using 5×4 would have given the resolution but would have resulted in a different project. I opted for a Nikon D800 which, at 36MP was the highest resolution DLSR at the time.
Learning to use the new camera took a while but it soon became obvious that it needed to be on a good tripod with the camera in mirror-up mode and triggered by a remote shutter release. The reason for that is that the mirror cause vibrations in the camera which can significantly degrade the image quality especially when using longer lenses.
This image was taken across a valley approximately 500m from the camera. It works well at A0 (1200mm x 800mm.)
Having taken care of the photographic technique the next stage was printing test images. I did this by using 4, A2 prints fixed together with masking tape. Other issues were now obvious. If I edited the image on my home computer I had to change colour balance, brightness, contrast and saturation on the PC connected to the printer. My PC monitor was not calibrated. This is absolutely crucial if you want to send image files to commercial printers. But it seemed like a lot of additional expense until one of the tutors on the MA course asked how much I had spent on the lens and how much I had spent on my monitor. The ratio was 20:1. She then asked what I expected from a cheap monitor. She was absolutely right – thank you Karen.
The choice of monitor was relatively easy – EIZO the industry standard. I got the cheapest model but even that is amazing. I check the calibration every 1-2 weeks and it does not move much at all. I can now edit my files and use them on other printers without any problems. Recently I prepared a file for printing on fabric, it was 1350mm x 2000mm. I was told to use 8 bit, RGB1998 and it worked perfectly. (It is a type of printer used in fashion and textiles to print directly onto rolls of fabric.)
And of course the usual disclaimer – these are my opinions based on my own experiences. I am not being paid to endorse products.
Last month I applied for a place on the Artists Access to Art Colleges scheme and have been accepted by Sheffield Hallam University. It means I have access to the facilities in the new Sheffield Institute of Arts for this academic year.
It is a wonderful opportunity to do some experimental work on alternative ways of printing and showing photographs. I hope this will lead to an exhibition maybe in late 2017 or 2018.
Today I made a print on fabric, 1350mm wide by 2020mm long, of a miner I photographed in 2013. It took almost an hour to print. The print still has to be steamed to fix the dye to the fabric but from what I saw coming off the printer it looked good. More later.
A couple of months back a friend gave me a box of unwanted darkroom stuff. Looking through it and came across an antique printing frame for half-plate negatives, 4¾ × 6½ inches or 120 × 165mm.
Looking in more details there are a couple of small dials with movable pointers labelled “Required” with marks at 3,6,9,12,18,21,24, possibly hours? And “Printed” with a range of 1 to 12. The date on the metalwork is 1886.
I have cleaned it up and intend using for Cyanotypes and other similar process. It will also act as a pattern for making larger frames. I am struck by the fusion of digital technology, which makes producing the negatives easy, and old equipment and processes which go back to beginning of photography.
Just been playing with an old image. This time I used Capture One Pro 9 for the RAW conversion and all editing. It took 10 minutes max as opposed to several hours when I did the original edit in CS6. No need to darken the white helmet to retain detail. No need to darken the black to remove the purple cast. No hours if fiddling to get the colour balance right. No special noise reduction. Output from CP1 was at 1200x800mm, this is an A4 version. It is interesting getting back to CP1 after a break, I am beginning to realise its full potential. Techy stuff: Nikon D800, effective ISO 24,600, taken in a mine using available light.
I have no connection with Phase One apart from being a customer.
A few weeks back I entered 4 prints from the Quarried exhibition in the Royal Photographic Society International Print Exhibition #159 and forgot all about it. Today I heard that all 4 have been shortlisted. Now they have to be printed and sent down to Bath for the final selection.
All prints will be at the Great Dome Art Fair
Probably the most important and most difficult thing to learn. And the skill that separates the ‘snapper’ from the ‘serious’ photographer.