Digital Innovations
Black And White And Read All Over

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Digital Innovations

This photograph of international supermodel Devra was made on a movie set in Phoenix using a Canon EOS 10D camera and printed using black ink "only" on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 printer.
Photos © 2002, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

"Everything looks worse in black and white..."--Paul Simon's Kodachrome

I think Paul Simon is wrong, but getting a true monochrome print out of a color ink jet printer can be a challenge. To me, the trick in making a real black and white print is not to use any color ink! Seems obvious doesn't it? But that's not what many of us are doing; instead we're trying to make the best out of a bad situation by making color inks think they're not.

Lyson (www.lyson.com) makes archival monochrome ink jet printing supplies for fine art photographers and recently I've had some hands-on experience setting up an Epson (www.epson.com) Stylus Photo 1280 to use their Continuous Ink Systems (CIS). The CIS uses 125ml (4.23 oz) bottles that hold the equivalent of 10 ink cartridges, which brings down the cost/droplet considerably. The CIS is also available for the Epson 870, 890, 1160, 1270, and 2000P. Inks can be purchased in individual 125ml bottles ready for installation in four- or six-color sets, depending on the printer.

This photo was taken about three years ago on Ilford Delta 100, a film I love for its very long tonal scale. I used a Canon 20mm wide angle lens because I could not get back farther from the doorway, which is on a busy street.

For my initial tests, I selected Lyson's Small Gamut Toneable Monochrome inks because they combine the flexibility of the company's full-gamut ink sets for color printing with gray scale reproduction throughout a tonal scale that's produced with their "zero-gamut" monochrome ink sets. Like Lyson's quadtone, tritone, and duotone ink sets, the Small Gamut Toneable Monochrome inks combine black with a set of gray inks. One of the things that I like about the Small Gamut ink set is that it avoids the non-linearity--red highlights with green mid tones and off-color shadows--that create problems when printing black and white images with color ink.

You can also switch papers with consistent color expectations or use effects such as selenium-toned silver; black and warm gray duotone; warm tone; cool tone; split-toned; or even localized color effects! Lyson claims that prints made with its Small Gamut ink sets exhibit superior light fading resistance, similar to that which can be obtained with high-stability zero-gamut monochrome ink sets. If archival stability is critical to your own image making, visit Henry Wilhelm's web site (www.wilhelmimaging.com) and do some research on the various inks and papers that he's tested.


I'm gradually going back through my 30+ years of black and white negatives and picking out some of the best for traditional printing. This one is only about 10 years old.

Getting Started
The first thing you need to do with any new ink jet printer is clean the heads. Epson photo printers have transportation fluid in the heads to keep them from clogging during shipment. You can get rid of that stuff with Lyson's Head Cleaning fluid or by installing the ink cartridges that Epson packs with the printer. Just use the Print Head Alignment, Nozzle Check, Head Cleaning utilities to pump ink through the heads. For some reason, Apple hides these under the Printers>Configure Printer menu in Mac OS X, not the driver like in the good ole days of Mac OS 9. Windows users will find these utilities in the usual places.

Free Utility Of The Month
TinkerTool is a Control Panel for Mac OS X's System Preferences that lets users access more operating system settings than are usually available. TinkerTool can also change the start up and login panel language of the operating system without having to reinstall Mac OS X. Despite its freebie price tag, TinkerTool does lots of cool tweaks, including disabling the annoying "zooming rectangle" animation effect when opening files in the Finder. Dock fans will like the ability to put the Dock to the top screen position; at the beginning or end of any screen border. Also, you can use transparent Dock icons that show hidden applications. TinkerTool lets you set the maximum number of label lines in the Finder's icon view; place both scroll arrow buttons of any scroll bar at both ends of the bar; and switch font-smoothing off or on in applications that use QuickDraw. There's lots more to TinkerTool. Check it out and download from www.bresink.de/osx/tinkerTool2.html.


Making a quick contact sheet on traditional photo paper is still the best way to evaluate black and white negatives, in my opinion. It's much faster than any digital scanning I know of. Although I have often been told to take the negatives out of the archival sheets before making contact sheets, I usually leave them in since tonality and exposure is primarily what I am looking at. I'll evaluate sharpness by putting the negative on a light box and using a loupe.

The Digital Case For Lightware
Tucked away in a corner of Phase One's PMA trade show booth was a prototype of Lightware's (www.lightwareinc.com) newest product. The Digital Location Station (DLS) is a portable platform that holds your laptop computer while it's tethered to a digital camera--or not. The DLS attaches to a tripod, and the interior is covered in "dead black" material to eliminate ambient reflections. The computer is held in place by a powerful suction cup thatallows it to float, so there's room to use a mouse while providing ventilation and access to ports, connections, and drive bays. The DLS doubles as a lid for one of Lightware's
Multi Format camera cases.

Plug-In Of The Month
Pictographics' (www.picto.com) iCorrect EditLab 4.0 Photoshop compatible plug-in automatically analyzes an image and sequentially sets each of its four-color control areas (gray balance, white/black point, brightness/contrast/saturation, and hue selective editing) at an optimum starting point. All that's left to do is the simpler job of making small tweaks. New features in 4.0 include the ability to save color corrections and edits as an International Color Consortium (www.color.org) profile and apply it to other images; edit ICC Input profiles created by any digital camera or scanner profile software; and create and add custom "memory" or reference colors. The color transform and ICC profiles created by iCorrect EditLab are linked to Photoshop's RGB color space, so corrections are made within a profiled, device-independent, reference color space.

This new version of iCorrect EditLab is Photoshop Action Enabled for automatic batch processing. It is compatible with Photoshop 5, 6, and 7 and Photoshop Elements, along with Mac OS 8.6, 9.2, and 10.1 and 10.2 in Native and Classic modes, and Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP. This plug-in is available for $99.95 from Pictographics' web site or your friendly local or mail-order photo retailer.


The real stars of the film "2 Fast 2 Furious" at the International Auto Salon in Los Angeles, photographed with a Canon EOS D60 and Sigma 15mm lens with special care taken not to create identical image folder numbers to the 10D that had another lens mounted.

Labels, Labels, Labels
When I need to make labels, it takes a lot of time (and ink) to set up my ink jet printer to make them. The DYMO (www.dymo.com) LabelWriter 330 Turbo costs less than $200 and spits out a finished label in 2 seconds. Initial setup time is fast, too. The 330 Turbo connects to your computer with a serial (Windows only) or USB (Mac OS and Windows) connection and sets up in less than 5 minutes. Since DYMO uses thermal print technology, you don't need ribbons, toner, or ink cartridges and the LabelWriter 300dpi output is crisp. You can add postal bar codes (or not, it's optional) for shipping labels that should help speed mail delivery--if only a bit.

The little printer has a smaller desktop footprint than a 4x5 Wacom tablet and can use more than 40 different label sizes up to 2.3" (56mm) wide, including address, shipping, file folder, disk, CD/DVD video, name badge, cassette, ZIP disk, and others. Swapping different kinds of labels in and out of the LabelWriter is a snap and is aided by a lever that takes pressure off the tape. It's one of just two controls on the printer. Software is easy to use, integrates with Microsoft Word or Outlook, and is compatible with Microsoft Windows 98, 2000, XP, and Me along with Macintosh OS 8.6 and X.

Folders, Folders Everywhere But Where You Need Them
I have a new Canon EOS 10D and love it. This past weekend, I was photographing the 2003 International Auto Salon using both my 10D and EOS D60 and found that sometimes the cameras created folders with identical numbers. When transferring the CompactFlash cards to my laptop, I was careful not to accidentally erase files but still worried about erasures. I asked ace Canon guru Rudy Winston if he had any tips on how to set each camera up for unique folder numbers and here's what he told me: Unlike the EOS-1D and 1Ds, 10D and D60 provide almost no user control over creating folders. With any two cameras that essentially work the same way, Canon or not, Winston suggests you set one body on its "Continuous" file numbering system and set the other to "Auto Reset." This isn't a sure-fire way to eliminate the possibility of duplicate file numbers, but when a large (my tip) card is installed into the latter camera, it should start with folder 100, and image 0001 to minimize the possibility of duplication.

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