Monthly Archives: February 2012

Scattering Leaves

I picked up a photography magazine the other day while I was waiting for an appointment.  As I was flipping through the pages, I saw an article that struck a chord.  In it, the author talked about how Autumn was a favorite time of year for landscape photography.  While I don’t have any quarrel with the conclusion, the reasoning seemed a bit odd to me.  The author stated that unlike in other seasons, where a photographer had to work with the hand they were dealt, in the Fall, a photographer could scatter leaves throughout the scene to improve his photographs.

While there are no general ethical principles in landscape photography, as there are in journalism for instance, in my mind there is an implication that landscape photographs are rooted in fact. Yes, photographs are abstractions of reality, and yes, they can be selective in what they show and manipulated in printing, but one usually assumes they are based on what was actually present in the scene as it was found.  At least I make that assumption.  To think otherwise removes a bit of their allure, in my opinion.

While there are many valid approaches to photography, the images I make are true to the scene as I found it.  I much prefer to discover and explore the subjects of my photographs as they exist in reality. Besides, who am I to try to improve upon what is naturally present?

(Tip from the article: if you do scatter leaves in your photographs, make sure they don’t all end up right side up, as that’s a sure giveaway that you did.)

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Shades of Gray

Black and white digital printing has come a long way over the last decade or so.  In ancient times (in digital terms) – say the year 2000 – color inks were used, and they were notoriously bad at producing black and white prints.  The prints often had an unpleasant tint, were subject to color shifting or fading, had less-than-satisfactory detail, and suffered from “metamerism” – appearing differently under different lighting conditions.

To combat these issues, dedicated black and white software and inks were developed, most notably by Jon Cone at Cone Editions in Vermont.  The early inks were prone to clogging, but when they worked properly, the results were impressive.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find a host of off-the-shelf solutions: for example, the “Advanced Black and White” mode offered in some Epson printers, and a variety of dedicated black and white ink sets.

What do I currently use?  I print with a modified version of the hex-tone process developed by my friend Tom Mallonee at Owens Valley Imaging. Hex-tone uses six custom-blended carbon-pigment inks (black plus five shades of gray) to create exceptional digital black and white prints.  Using six black / gray inks provides smooth tonal gradations, and results in what is essentially a continuous tone print, even though it is produced digitally.  The printer is controlled by special software called a Raster Image Processor (RIP).  I use Quad Tone RIP developed by Roy Harrington (which despite its name can be used to control more than four inks).

Ink Colors Used in Digital Black and White Printing

I’ve replaced the eight original inks in my Epson printer with carbon-pigment inks: black, plus seven different shades and tones of gray.  Using Quad Tone RIP, I’ve created two separate hex-tone profiles which control how the inks are put down on paper – one slightly warm and one slightly cool in tone.  The warm and cool profiles can then be blended to further fine-tune each print.  The result is exceptional control and beautiful prints.

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