For the past few months I have been slowly cataloging prints I’ve made over the past years. This entails signing, dating and numbering the prints and then making an Index. I decided the easiest way to maintain and expand the list as I continued cataloging would be a blog. That was only the beginning of the project, it turns out.
I took on this review assignment because I’ve had considerable history with printing, both silver and digital, and printing with Epson printers. Over the past few years this interest has led me on an odyssey through various printers, profiling, and a considerable amount of (early) frustration. My emphasis has been on monochrome printing and those who share in this interest and who have attempted black-and-white printing in the past understand the numerous obstacles it can present. Those include, but are not limited to, unwanted color casts, gloss differential in deep black areas and some tonal borders, poor deep black reproduction (accompanied by equally poor highlight repro), a lot of poor paper surfaces, and the hassle and waste of switching from matte black to photo glossy inks. Color printers face these as well, plus the challenges of color balance, casts, skin tone reproduction, highlight bias, green shadows, and more. Of late I have printed with the Epson Stylus Pro 3800, 3880, and 4800 models, the 3800 being my studio workhorse for years and the 3880 the model that many photo schools and workshops at which I’ve taught use as a mainstay student and production printer.
I remember a story Fred Picker once told about showing his portfolio to a curator at a museum in New England. Fred photographed in the British Isles, near his home in Vermont and places far and wide, and trained his eye and lens on natural forms and man-made totems in nature. His favorite photographer was Paul Strand, though his photo collection ranged as far as his travels. In any case, in goes Fred to this curator, who quickly breezes through the images and dismisses the lot, saying, “We don’t need any more rocks and trees.”
The Pentax WG-1 GPS is a compact camera with a 5x zoom lens (28-140mm) and a robust body, which is water proved to 33 ft, shock proof (5 ft drop down) and an integrated GPS system. The camera offers 14 MP resolution and some extraordinary features like “Digital Microscope” mode.
Inkjet printmakers have nothing to complain about when it comes to paper choices. There are glossy, semigloss, and matte surface papers galore, each with their own charm and cachet. Regarding the latter aspect, Somerset is no slouch, having
established a reputation in both inkjet and other art papers many years back.
Their latest entry into the inkjet market is Somerset Museum Rag, distributed by Moab. This 100 percent cotton, 300 gsm paper displays a smooth matte surface, a considerable, but not yellowish warm tone, and while strong and fairly thick, is actually quite supple. The paper is single-sided, which means the tooth is on one side only, and telling the printable from the backing side is not something that will be immediately apparent. For that reason the packaging comes with a stick-on label that says “printable THIS SIDE.” You would do well to keep the original cellophane packaging until you get a good feel for the surfaces. I found that if you rub your thumb along the surface the differences become clear, with the printable surface evoking somewhat of a higher pitch.
Feeling very much in hand like a pro camera, with magnesium alloy top and rear body construction, the Nikon D7000 (list: $1199, body only) has all the bells and whistles of a modern D-SLR, including a high megapixel count CMOS sensor, a new image processor to handle all the data it can capture, including 14-bit NEF, a high ISO 6400 “normal” (expandable two stops), and the currently requisite 1080p HD movie capability. This DX (APS-C) format camera also features dual SD card slots, with spillover or format sort capability, a nice and speedy 6 frames-per-second (fps) shooting capability for up to a 100 frame burst (JPEG), and full-time AF with video and Live View. The monitor is bright and highly readable in just about every lighting condition. Unfortunately, it is fixed and does not articulate, but the penta-prism finder makes one pray that Nikon will never go EVF (electronic viewfinder), yielding 100 percent coverage and being a pleasure to view through, especially after suffering some recent EVF obscuring experiences.
Photography and travel have always been intertwined. Ever since photography was invented photographers have been exploring the world, both locally and globally, with images. The camera becomes motivator and instigator, witness and commentator, of the social, natural, and wondrous sites that surround us. And while many of the articles and images in this issue deal with particular projects undertaken by a wide range of photographers, there’s no reason to think you have to travel far and wide to discover what that magical combination of camera and travel can do for you.
For those who thought that we here at Shutterbug were inalterably attached to our Macs, the chance to work with a PC, albeit a very fast and upper-price range one at that, was something we did not want to pass up, if only to dispel our own notions about crossing the OS Rubicon. The new HP EliteBook 8540w we worked with came with 8GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, more connection slots than we ever could wish for, a Blu-ray reader/writer, a download card slot for SD memory cards (with adapters available for CF, etc.), microphone, image out slots to a projector, HDMI, and more. As configured the unit runs close to $3100, although we’ve seen lesser-priced units of the same model with more modest attributes. This is close to what you’d pay for a MacBook Pro similarly configured, albeit minus Blu-ray and various slots but plus a larger screen. But our aim was not to put it head to head against the latest MacBook Pro, but to check it out on its own merits. That said, in terms of size and weight it is similar to the 15” Mac in many respects (the HP being 9.9x14.7x1.3” and weighing in at 6.5 lbs with a 15.6” display) so there’s no plus and minus in portability here.
Remote viewing and shutter release capability opens up a host of picture opportunities, from working high atop camera platforms from ground level to very low-level shooting without muddying your clothes (given your camera lacks an articulating monitor) to placing your camera in spots and being able to view and shoot without your being right behind the viewfinder. Many photographers routinely work with radio triggers for flash, especially in studio environments where the lights are set in position and photographer and model or subject move. The Hähnel Inspire adds to the mix with remote shutter release and viewing in one.
Image processing has always been an important facet of photography, even in these post-film days. Indeed, even working from film, most photographers now go the scan route so that all images get poured through the digital funnel as they make their way to print and online. While we often run processing technique articles that concentrate on Adobe Photoshop, the reviews here feature other products that pose an alternative to that most impressive program and that might just handle many of your conversion, manipulation, and editing needs. It is rare these days that one software package can do it all, and many exciting programs are available that offer unique ways for you to work your images.