Uzbekistan, Crete, Spain and Oregon Itinerary

26 September to 11 November 2018.
.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

My partner Jools and I are about to embark on a trip to Uzbekistan, Greece, Spain and north-west USA.  In due course I will post for each part of the journey under the maps below.  I may produce some temporary posts as I go but only if I have sufficient time.  Final posts will appear later (and I still have to finish final posts for Cuba and the Caribbean).

Links for summary posts and then final posts will appear under the maps in due course.

.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Uzbekistan

(Tashkent/ (Urgench)/ Khiva/ Bukhara/ Shakrisabz/ Samarkand/ Tashkent)

A country with a long history and the centre of Tamurlane’s empire in the 14th century.

Temporary Posts:

.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Aegean Sea.

(Istanbul/ Athens/ Thira/ Crete)

Istanbul: Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern

Athens:  Acropolis, National Archæological Museum

Thira: Oia, Akrotiri, Ancient Thira

Temporary Posts:

.

 

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Crete

(Heraklion/ Knossos/ Zakros/ Matalia/ Phaestos and Gortys/ Sougia/ Chania/ (Heraklion))

Home of the Minoan Civilisation and many layers of subsequent History.

Temporary Posts:

.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Spain

((Granada)/ Cordoba/ Malaga/ Almeira/ Cabo del Gata/ Granada)

Incudes Mezquita and Alhambra.

Also Barcelona, not shown on map of Andalusia above.

Sagrada Familiar, Gaudi Houses.

.

.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington.

((Portland)/ Quinault Rain Forest/ Hoh Rain Forest/ La Push/ (Portland)).

Rainforest, coastal seascapes, maybe wildlife.

.

Andalusia, Athens, Barcelona, Crete, Greece, Istanbul, Oregon, Photography, Spain, Thira, Travel, USA, Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan Crete Spain and Oregon Itinerary, Washington

Oregon Coast.

((Portland)/ Cannon Beach/ Bandon/ Trinidad/ (San Francisco)).

A wild coastline where development has been banned since the 1960s.

.

I will put up temporary posts when I can during the next six weeks but that will depend on how much spare time I have while travelling.

Gaoersi 6×17 Camera Review (2005)

(This post will be primarily of interest to photographers).

This is a review of the 6×17 Gaoersi Camera that I published in Photo-i in 2005. When I recently came to sell the camera, I realised that the article is no longer online so I retrieved a copy with the Internet Wayback Machine and reinserted images. Note that Photoshop and the software for scanning and printing will have changed unrecognisably since 2005.

The first 6×17 camera of this type was the Linhof Technorama, introduced in the late 1970s and used by people like Ken Duncan.  The Fujifilm G617 was introduced in 1983.  Both of these cameras were initially introduced with fixed lenses and later replace by interchangeable lens versions.

This article is mainly of historical interest now, showing how much camera technologies have changed.  It will also be of interest to people still using these cameras though, and those purchasing them either new or second-hand.

(p.s.  No point clicking on the images.  These are the original, very small images used for the internet of 2005).

 

Gaoersi 6×17 Camera
review by Murray Foote
Page 1

Introduction

Welcome to photo-i if you’ve just dropped in to read this review. I’m Murray Foote. I’m an amateur photographer with large-format experience and a frequent contributor to the photo-i forum. As far as I can tell, I’ve just become the first person outside China to purchase the new Gaoersi 6×17 panorama camera.

I purchased this camera for the quality of image that it offers and because I’m familiar with the processes it requires. I intend to use it with the new Fujichrome Velvia 100 which has very fine grain (and is not to be confused with Velvia 100F). I’m intending to scan the slides on a Canon 9950F using Silverfast AI Studio, use the Vignette filter in Photoshop CS2 as a substitute for a centre filter, correct for perspective where required using the Photoshop Lens Correction Filter and print to an Epson R1800 (A3+ roll). I’ll still have the film if I need a higher quality scan in the future.

A lot has been written in recent times about the death of film and the triumph of digital. For many the epitome of a high quality digital camera is the 16MP Canon 1Ds Mk2. Yet here is a film camera from China that can actually offer superior quality at a fraction of the cost. There are other 6×17 panorama cameras out there but the new price for this one is cheaper than the second-hand price for the others.

Sure, you can stitch panoramas together but it’s not a route that appeals to me for ultrawide images where objects may be moving and the apparent density of the sky may vary. To use even a Canon 1Ds Mk2 as a substitute for a direct image you have to throw away nearly half the image to achieve the aspect ratio which leaves you with a less than 9MP. Moreover the resolution of large format lenses will be much greater at this format that 35mm/ DSLR lenses.

Of course, the devil is in the detail. This is not a camera for everyone. This is a totally manual camera with no concessions to automation that is suitable only for experienced photographers who are also used to manual techniques. The camera comes as body only, including an adaptor and viewfinder for a lens that you specify and supply. It would help to have large format experience and it would be more economic to already have suitable large format lenses.

Large format? What’s that? Well just as digital sensors have different sizes, film comes in different sizes too. Nikon and many other film cameras use the 35mm film format (24x36mm), Hasselblad is an example of a medium format film camera (using 120 film at 6x6cm) and then there are the view cameras that look like they came straight out of the nineteenth century using sheet film with sizes of 9x12cm or 5×4 or larger. The Gaoersi uses 120 film but it is better thought of as a large format camera. This is because the 6x17mm film size is almost the same area as 9x12cm and because you need large format lenses to use it.

There’s really only one reason for buying this camera – and that’s if you want to have the capacity to print really big prints, because that’s ultimately where the advantage of a dedicated panorama camera lays.

Page 2

The Camera Arrives

Here it is, well packed, in the mail from China.

I ordered the camera with two lens adaptors (for my 75mm and 150mm large format lenses), two viewers to go with the lenses and an 8x focusing loupe. It also comes with a small piece of ground glass to calibrate the lens adaptors and a small metal device to lock the lenses in place.

The lens adaptors screw onto the camera using the large bolts on the front of the camera. There is a “dark slide” behind the lens adaptor so you can change lenses without exposing the film. You need to slide the dark slide out to take a picture.

Rear of camera with dark slide in place
Dark slide out (lens and adaptor also removed)

That hole in the back of the camera is the window where you read the numbers on the paper backing of the film. How this works is explained later under “Changing Formats on the Fly”.

Top view of camera
  • On the left of the picture is the Format knob. You can set the image size to 6×17, 6×15 or 6x12mm and this sets masks inside the camera.
  • Beside that is a spirit level
  • In the middle is a viewing scope that clips into a metal bracket.
  • The film wind-on knob is on the right of the picture
    • the film winds from right to left
      • this picture is upside-down from that point of view
  • There are also two lugs on top of the camera to attach a neck-strap.
  • There is also a hole at the handgrip in front of the format knob where you can put a cable release and screw it to the lens
Camera set to 6 x 17
Camera set to 6 x 12

The camera back comes right off by sliding up a couple of stiff clips. You need to have a spare spool to wind the 120 film onto because none is supplied. The back fits quite tightly and is very solidly made. The clips need a little bit of effort to lock in but this is a good thing because the back won’t come unlocked by accident. On the bottom of the camera are screw-thread fittings for tripods in two standard sizes

Page 3

What accessories does this camera require?

Many people think when they buy a digital camera with a built-in lens or a standard kit lens that they’re done with expenditure. Sadly though, if you want to produce really good quality output that’s just the beginning. This is even more the case with this camera.

To take photos you will also need :

  • Large format lens(s)
  • Cable release(s)
  • 120 Film
  • Hand-held meter (should be good quality)
  • Spot attachment or spot meter desirable
  • Tripod
  • Padded camera bag or pack
  • Neck strap
  • Analogue EXIF Data Recorder (i.e. pen and notebook)
  • A small torch to see what you’re doing when it gets dark
  • Biological Repository for Analysis, Inspiration and Nous
    • i.e. BRAIN – this is not a camera that will make any decisions for you

To print b&w in chemical darkroom you will need:

  • 5×7 Enlarger (rare and huge)
  • other darkroom equipment

To print in digital darkroom (colour or b&w) you will need:

  • Scanner
    • Canon 9950F + Silverfast AI Studio
    • Or Epson 4990 + Doug Fisher’s slide holder
  • PC with lots of RAM and Disk Space and good monitor(s)
  • Colorimeter for monitor
  • Editing software
    • eg Photoshop CS2
  • Printer – A3+ or larger (with roll paper)

eg – Epson R1800, R2400, R4800, HP 8750, DJ 90, Canon iP9950

Page 4

What to expect of this camera?

  • Lens calibrating should work
  • Viewfinders should be accurate
  • Film plane should be flat
  • Winding and frame spacing should work OK
  • Format switching should work OK
  • Build quality should be good including no light leaks

Lens and metering quality are not relevant here because the camera doesn’t’t come with lenses or a meter. I guess you could say that the camera should produce superb images with a high quality lens and appropriate metering.

Calibrating the Lenses

Calibrating the lens may come easily but it can also become something of a Chinese puzzle because the instructions are terse to the point of cryptic. It took me quite some time to work out the procedure. However, once you understand what to do, it becomes relatively simple again.

The camera comes with a small piece of ground glass so once you have removed both the camera back and the dark slide, you can check the focus through the back of the camera. I also purchased the 8x loupe, as shown below:

Checking the focus through the back of the camera

At the front of the camera, the Lens adaptor fits onto the camera body and the Lens fits onto the Lens adaptor.

  • The whole mechanism that attaches the Lens to the camera is the Lens Adaptor.

Each Lens Adaptor has a Focus Ring and a Lens Ring, as shown below:

Lens with Focus ring, Lens ring and Lens adaptor

When the lens adaptor is correctly set up, the infinity sign will be on top and the lens will be focusing to infinity (as shown above). Then as you turn the lens up to half a turn clockwise towards the minimum focusing distance, the end part of the lens mount (together with the lens) moves away from the Focus Ring and changes the focus.

Briefly, these are the steps you need to follow to calibrate a lens:

  • Turn Focus Ring to Infinity (lens fully retracted)
  • Loosen lens ring
  • Unscrew barrel between lens ring and Focus Ring and focus to infinity using ground glass screen and loupe
  • Tighten lens Ring
  • Align focus ring and ensure that it’s tight

To loosen the Lens Ring you first have to loosen the two adjustment rings on each side of it. One of them is shown below:

Fixing screw on Lens Ring
Adjustment screw inside Lens

Notwithstanding the instructions, the Lens Ring doesn’t change the focus; it’s just a locking ring. When you loosen it you can turn around the barrel of the adaptor between the Lens Ring and the Focus Ring. In this way you can screw the whole assembly out, thereby changing the focus.

The next task is to align the Lens so that when you are focused at infinity, the infinity sign is in the middle on top. There’s another issue associated with this. The Focus Ring should rotate between infinity and the minimum focus and stop at each end. Sometimes, though, it can just go round and round with no point of reference. This is because it is screwed into a separate small ring inside the barrel of the Lens Adaptor and it is possible for this to come undone – we will call this small ring the “Threading Ring”. You can use the little holes in the threading ring to screw it in but I found it difficult to get it tight enough. Then I found another trick for doing this. The Focus Ring can unscrew if you screw it too hard past infinity but provided the threading ring is still connected, you can also tighten it by screwing it past the minimum distance.

There are then two ways to align the Focus Ring. You can have it locked into in position but Infinity may not be on the top. By rotating the barrel of the Lens adaptor (i.e. everything outside the Lens ring) you may be able to get the Lens correctly aligned with the focus still correct. This may work because rotating the whole assembly causes very gradual changes in focus. However, a more accurate way is to get the focus you want by rotating the whole assembly and then adjust the alignment of the Focus Ring using the methods of the previous paragraph.

Though the instructions suggest focusing at infinity this is difficult because objects are so far away and very small for a wide-angle Lens However, if you carefully turn the Lens Ring around exactly half a turn and then calibrate the focusing on that distance it amounts to exactly the same thing. When you have the adaptor properly focused and aligned you should retighten the screws in the Lens Ring and align the Lens itself in the mount.

Then according to the instructions the last step is to tighten the two screws inside the Lens The white arrow in the picture above points to one of these screws. The screws just go up and down in a slot to restrict focusing to between infinity and the minimum distance. My guess is that the only purpose of tightening them is to make sure they don’t fall out. They didn’t’t seem to want to be tightened so I just left them well alone.(Above the white arrow in the diagram above you can also see one of the locking holes you can use to lock the Focus Ring against the “threading ring”, as discussed above).

The one significant problem I did encounter was with my 150mm lens. First the hole in the adaptor was too small to take the lens so I filed the adaptor hole out to size using a half-round file. But then I couldn’t get the lens to focus at all. At 6m the point of focus was about 16mm behind the film plane – far too much for any adjustment. The reason for this is that I was sent an adaptor for a current lens whereas my 150mm lens is 40 years old. No problem though. I was sent an additional spacer ring that screws in below the lens ring and now it’s correctly set up and focuses. Great service. I’m impressed.

One possible room for improvement is that it would be nice if the lens adaptors had a mark to align distances against and a depth of field scale. One of their illustrations on the Web does show this with what I think is a 90mm Super Angulon lens– perhaps this is only available with that lens Still, it might introduce another element of complication to the calibration process and I do not regard this as a big issue; depth-of-field tables are easy enough to come by on the Web.

Page 5

Viewfinders

I ordered two fixed viewfinders (for 75mm and 150mm) but since they were out of stock of the 150mm finder I received a zoom finder.

Fixed 75mm Viewing Scope on the left; 72mm – 150mm Zoom Scope on the right
Viewfinders, front and rear shots

The zoom viewing scope gives a very small window at 150mm, as you can see above, though it is useful for deciding which lens to use. The fixed viewing scope also has the 6×12 format is marked out in addition to the 6×17. In either case there is a fair amount of barrel distortion which won’t be present in the camera lens

The effectiveness of the scopes partly depends on their parallax and coverage. Parallax refers to the displacement of the view through the viewing scope as compared to the view through the lens Parallax will not be much of an issue when focusing at infinity but it will be for close objects. It’s easy enough to allow for, though, by viewing through the scope both above and alongside the camera.

Coverage is more of an issue. The 75mm viewfinder shows considerably more than the lens covers and is not very precise. This applies to 75mm on the zoom scope as well as to the 75mm fixed scope. You also have to be careful about the angle you are looking through the viewing scope. There is probably an inherent problem with such scopes though presumably the Linhof ones which cost $US600 instead of $US80 are more accurate. However, the zoom scope at 150mm seems quite accurate.

The Fotoman 6×17 camera offers an option for a ground glass screen in a magnetized holder. You can use this to compose under a dark cloth like a view camera provided that there is no film in the camera. This is more viable than it sounds since you only get four 6×17 exposures to a roll of film. It would be good if Gaoersi offered this as well. Since at present they don’t, I may look to getting one made.

Page 6

Changing formats on the Fly

There is a long round window on the back of the camera
When you open it you can see the numbers on the film

The black numbers and dots are on the paper backing of the film; the off-white numbers and lines are on the window of the camera. They’re probably easier to see if your film doesn’t have white paper backing.

You’ll see there are four “0” points across the top of the window. These are the indicators you use to wind on for your first exposure on a roll of film.

  • The first “0” is where you wind to if your first exposure is 6×12 and you wind on so the number “1” appears.
    • There’s a 6×12 indicator below the first “0”, obscured in this case by the lower black “6”
  • If your first exposure is 6×17 you wind on to the third “0” so that the number “2” appears there.
    • Underneath the 3rd “0” it says “617 (2)”
  • If your first exposure is 6×15 you wind on to the fourth “0” so that the number “2” appears there.
    • Underneath the 4th “0” it says “615 (2)”

Then, when you take further exposures, to see how many numbers on the film backing you wind on by, you can consult the Format Change knob:

Format Change knob

Obviously the Format Knob must be pointing to the correct format before you take the shot. It also tells you how much to wind on. If shooting in 6×12 format you wind on by 2 numbers on the film, for 6×15 it’s 2½ and for 6×17 it’s 3.

You can estimate fractions from the numbers and markings on the film. In the film number window (second-to-last picture), the position for 6½ is just to the right of the big dot.

If you’re changing formats mid-roll, you read the outer numbers on the top of the knob. Changing between 6×17 and 6×15 you advance 2¾ numbers, changing between 6×15 and 6×12 you advance 2¼ numbers and changing between 6×17 and 6×12 you advance 2½ numbers. It may sound a bit complex but it’s all quite simple really. You just have to bear in mind how much space you have left at the end of the film.

On a roll of 120 film you’ll get four exposures at 6×17, five at 6×15, six at 6×12 and then there are various combinations. Usually with 120 film it’s better to wind on after you take a shot to avoid the risk of double exposures. In this case it’s better to wind on when you take a shot because it’s only at that point you’ll know what format the shot will be (and therefore how much to wind on).

Build Quality

Build quality seems to me to be very good. The camera back for example fits so closely that you really need two hands to ease it off. Winding on of the film works well and just looking at the camera back I feel confident that it will hold the film flat.

Taking a Shot

Taking a shot involves a sequential ritual of a rather manual nature:

  1. Ensure that Format Change knob is pointing to the correct format
  2. Read how much to advance the film off the Format Change knob
  3. Advance film to correct position
  4. Ensure preview button on lens is not on (i.e. shutter is not open)
  5. Fire off shutter a couple of times to check operation
  6. Remove lens cap
  7. Remove darkslide
  8. Take exposure using a hand-held exposure meter
  9. Take the shot
  10. Replace dark slide
  11. Replace lens cap
  12. Do not wind the film on at this point

Hand holding is not generally viable at 6×17 because you will need to stop the lens down to something like f22 to cover the format – it may be more viable at 6×12, especially if you use 400 ISO film. Even so, it defeats the purpose of the camera somewhat – this is really a camera to use on a tripod.

Results

The next step is to look at some results from this camera. I’ve taken two rolls of film in my immediate environment using available lighting conditions. The first roll was mainly taken at the new building where I work. The second roll was taken over the back fence. As it happens, I live in an inner suburb of Australia’s National Capital and there’s 10,000 acres of native bush over my back fence.

I’ll cover what I do to scan these images, how I optimise them in Photoshop and what I do to print them out. I’ll be brief because there is lots of good documentation for both Silverfast and Photoshop. My scanner is calibrated (using Monaco EZColor and Wolf Faust targets) which is useful for slides but not essential. More importantly, my monitor is calibrated using a colorimeter (Monaco Optix).

Page 7

Choice of Scanner and Scanning Resolution

I am scanning the slides using a Canon 9950F scanner with Silverfast AI Studio software. Another option would be to use the Epson 4990 or 4870 together with Doug Fisher’s filmholder. I believe that the Canon is capable of producing better quality scans. It may be slightly sharper but that it not so important – the main thing is that it has a better DMax (density range) than the Epsons as reported in tests by a German magazine (3.8 as compared to 3.3). However, to produce good results with the 9950F it is essential to use Vuescan software or (my preference) Silverfast AI Studio. For more information on these scanners see Vincent’s Scanner Reviews on the 4870, the 4990, the 9950 and the Software Review on the 9950 when used with Silverfast.

The scanner has a nominal resolution of 4800dpi. When you scan you should use an even fraction of the nominal resolution (½, 1/3, ¼ etc) but so that the resulting resolution comes out as a whole number (e.g. ¼ of 4800 is 1200, a whole number). This way you are avoiding interpolation by the scanner and if you need to resize your scan it is better to do it later in Photoshop.

Normally I would scan slides at a resolution to produce the largest size I am likely to print, then later downsize the finished image in Photoshop when I need it for other purposes. This gives the following choices for scanning resolution:

  • 1600dpi (output resolution) would give an output size of 10×28” (25x71mm) for printing at 360dpi (print resolution) and produce a file size of 200MB
  • 2400dpi gives an output size of 15×42” (37x106cm) and a file size of 450MB. However, the file size is then getting a bit large for my PC so I would probably scale it back in Photoshop to 2,000 dpi which corresponds to printing on A3+ roll for an initial file size of only 320MB.

Normal slide film has a resolution of about 4,000 dpi but the new Velvia 100 probably has a resolution of 8,000 dpi or even more. To scan at this resolution you would need an Imacon or a drum scanner which would produce a file of about 5GB that you might be able to print to around 8×23’ (2×6 metres) at 180dpi.

However, for the purposes of this exercise, Vincent has told me that the maximum size for images to display on this page is 550 pixels (at 72dpi). This means that I only need to scan at 96dpi – but it’s easier if I scan a bit larger than that so I can see what I am doing in Photoshop more easily – so I’ll mostly scan at just 160dpi (as shown in the picture) and then downsize.

 

Scanning

To start scanning we turn on the scanner and the computer, open Photoshop and launch Silverfast.

Perhaps the first thing to do is to is to set up a 6×17 frame set. Silverfast doesn’t have automatic thumbnail recognition but you can drag out the location of two 6×17 frames on the main Preview screen, set your default scanning preferences and then save the frame set to use each time you scan.

When you save a new frame-set using the Save option on the Frame-Set dropdown on the General tab, the set you save adds to the menu (as shown in the picture). Saving a Frame-Set is also a good way to make sure that each time you scan you start off with a clean set of parameters.

The buttons towards the top of the frame provide Silverfast’s core functionality. From left to right you can:

  • zoom to expand the Preview Window to full screen;
  • auto-correct (you can specify the parameters this uses from the Options button at bottom right of the picture)
  • adjust histogram (overall or by channel; there is also a colour -caste removal slider)
  • adjust curves (overall or by channel; there are also sliders for midtones, highlights and shadows)
  • globally correct colour with a simple yet powerful interface
  • selectively correct specific colours.

(The last two buttons on the right are not covered here)

I generally zoom then auto-correct. This generally results in a small amount of clipping that I will correct using the Histogram. Sometimes I will make the histogram correction immediately or other times when I am adjusting colours I will do it just before the scan. It is important to retain your full shadow and highlight detail in the scanned file in Photoshop.

This is the Silverfast Preview window. You can zoom into the images from here and there are also a number of buttons down the left side that offer useful functions.

The Multiscan function helps eliminate noise by averaging several scans. Here it is set to 1 which is OK to scan only for Web. Usually I scan to print and operate it at 4 (as per Vincent’s finding)

The AACO button brightens up shadows without affecting highlights and midtones. I tried this in some of the example images that follow but found other methods more effective.

Job Manager allows you to send a batch of images to the scanner, including several versions of the same image.

The next picture is of the Job Manager dialogue box

.

There are various scans displayed in its main window (white background), some of different images, some with different settings, some different parts of images.

The six small buttons below the main window allow you to import one or more images into Job Manager, delete images from Job Manager, edit parameters, copy parameters to other images in Job Manager and select all images in Job Manager. You can scan all at once or one at a time. It is important to make sure you save the job before you scan (Job menu at top left) in case you need to scan again.

There’s also one intermittent but nasty trap I’ve encountered in Silverfast. When you zoom into an image (whether from Job Manager or normally) you should click on the image before you do anything to it. Sometimes this changes the apparent exposure of the image and if you don’t do it you may end up with an overexposed scan.

Page 8

Lens Correction Filter in Photoshop CS2

Before we move on to some sample images I’ll show you a screen shot of one of the new features of Photoshop CS2 because it is one that is very relevant to processing 6×17 panoramic scans.

Photoshop CS2 Lens Correction Filter (Filter/ Distort/ Lens Correction)

This screen allows you to correct pincushion or barrel distortion and reduce chromatic aberration. Perhaps most important for our purposes is the Vignette filter which may allow us to manage the falloff inherent in ultra wide 6×17 images. You can select the amount of the correction (making the corners darker or lighter) and with the midpoint slider you can determine how much of the image the falloff refers to.

There is also the Transform box, where you can correct vertical or horizontal perspective if the camera had been at an angle to the subject.

Page 9

Images

Now for a few images. These are my first shots with the camera, shot in available lighting conditions. In some cases I may go back and try again later. For each image I’ll briefly say what the image is about, what settings I used to scan it and how I processed the image in Photoshop. This is my own approach as it happened; there are many ways of doing these things and no doubt better approaches as well. All were taken with my 75mm lens before I got the 150mm lens calibrated.

Note: There’s no point downloading and trying to blow up these images because they’re only prepared for viewing at this size on screen.

First is a picture taken at the new building where my workplace has just moved.

It was taken late in the afternoon on a cloudy day and it was actually composed a bit wider than this. At that time I didn’t realise the viewing scope might be inaccurate though I also had this composition in mind as a fallback.

I had a minor confrontation with a security guard just after taking this. He ordered me not to take a photograph of a public building for no valid legal reason that I could see. (I continued and took the exposure I was waiting for).

  • Silverfast operations
    • I used curves to bring up shadows and hold back highlights
      • I also tried the new AACO feature to bring out shadow detail but found curves to be more effective (in this case at least)
    • No sharpening in Silverfast
      • Silverfast sharpening works quite well but there’s no point if you’re going to be optimising the image in Photoshop
  • Photoshop operations
    • Three-phase sharpening using PK Sharpener
      • This included using Hi-Pass filter for dark contour only
    • Curves used to increase brightness without blowing highlights
    • Vignette filter – moderate amount (as shown in previous picture)
    • 85 Warming Filter (c. 80%)

Overall I was quite happy with this image and I think it demonstrates that the camera and lens can work quite effectively even without using a centre-weighted neutral density filter.

It’s sharp, too as the picture below shows:

This is a blow up of a small area from the window in the middle to the left. There is a reflection on the glass and a couple of bits of dust, a green fluoride light coming through the Venetians and the edge of a shading grille. There’s even a diagonal grid texture on the grey frame for the grille. As viewed under the loupe, the film appears tack-sharp from top to bottom.

It’s only scanned at 1x and there would no doubt be less noise with 4x multi scanning. There’s more detail on the slide too that a really expensive scanner could pull out but it does demonstrate that the Canon 9950F is a viable option with this camera and film.

The next one looks down the central stairwell in my new work building. This was actually my first exposure with the new camera. It poses a particular problem for scanning and processing. With slide film you have to expose to retain the highlights but here the lighting was brighter in the centre than at the sides. This in turn exacerbates the problem with lens falloff.

I also managed to overlap this one with the one before which meant I had to crop in to a different composition.

  • Silverfast
    • Auto-adjust
    • Adjust histogram highlight and use “remove colour caste” slider
  • Photoshop
    • Vignette (Amount +47; Midpoint +33)
    • Shadow Highlight, mainly to further bring out shadows
    • Crop
    • Hue/ Saturation
      • Use eyedropper to select the fire pole, which was a bit too magenta, change hue and increase saturation (just of the pole)
    • Gentle 2-stage sharpening using PK Sharpener

I tried getting more detail out of the shadow of the sides but I was fighting a losing battle, risking savage colour castes and some posterisation. That’s OK. I don’t mind it the way it is. But to get more shadow detail on the sides, given the bright centre lighting, a centre-weighted neutral density filter may have helped. The exposure would have been about two stops slower, though.

The next shot was taken in the “bush” (Australian term) beyond my back fence. The shadows of the surrounding trees posed a problem for composition. Imprecision of composition due to the inaccuracy of the 75mm viewing scope was a problem here too. I tried composing through the back of the camera using the little piece of ground glass supplied for focusing but it was just too hard.

  • Silverfast
    • Auto adjust
    • Preserve highlights in histogram
      • that’s all for this one
  • Photoshop
    • Gentle curves adjustment to lighten highlights and darken shadows
    • Cropped in by about 40%
    • Gentle sharpening with PK Sharpener

There were details in the deep shadows at the top left that I cropped away because I couldn’t pull them back. It’s almost OK but there’s a better shot waiting for me when I go back to try again with a bit more time….

Here we have some Wattle (Acacia Baileyana) glowing in the late afternoon sun of late winter/ early spring – and silhouettes of eucalypts in the background. Acacia Baileyana is an Australian native plant but also declared as a weed in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory).

  • Silverfast
    • Auto adjust and preserve highlights in histogram
  • Photoshop
    • Vignette filter
    • Bringing the highlights out with levels
      • Also tried curves but in this instance levels worked well
    • Cropped in by about one-third from the right
      • Note that this has to happen after scanning and after applying the vignette filter – otherwise the vignette filter will operate on the wrong part of the frame
    • Gentle sharpening with PK Sharpener

As it turns out I might as well have taken it as a 6×12.

The last one is a Eucalypt in the last seconds of the sun….

  • Silverfast
    • Auto adjust
    • Preserve highlights in histogram
      • that’s all for this one
  • Photoshop
    • Vignette filter (Amount +42, Midpoint +20) brightens it up considerably at the top and bottom
      • There is no doubt perspective distortion and I tried correcting for it but I decided that the image is better as it is.
    • Gentle curves adjustment to lighten highlights and darken shadows
    • Slight straightening because the slide wasn’t quite straight in the holder
    • Slight cropping in at the bottom
    • Gentle sharpening with PK Sharpener

Once again, looking at the slide under an 8x loupe, the bark on the tree is really quite sharp

Page 10

Printing

The last test is to actually generate a print and examine it. I haven’t worked out a method to get it to disgorge through your screen but I’m still going to describe it because printing is the objective of the whole process. The image I’m printing is the first one I showed you, the vertical one of the building. I scanned it at 2400dpi and I’ll try leaving it at that size and printing at something like 12×34” (30x86cm) at 440dpi. This is because it is preferable (from the point of view of output quality) to vary the dpi within reason rather than to resize the image. However, if it gets too much for my PC I’ll downsize to 2000dpi.

My PC is a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 with only 1GB of memory but I do have a RAID array of hard disks which helps to speed things up. Scratch disk and virtual memory are set up on separate defragged disks and I’m saving to PSB (large file format). Even so, it can get slow so I need something else to do at the same time such as writing this review.

One additional thing I’ll do on the large image that I didn’t bother with on the small one is to remove dust and scratches, going through screen by screen at 100% display. Because this is such a large image, even on my 22” monitor this comes to 64 screens(!). I’ll be using a combination of the Spot Healing Brush, the Healing Brush and the Clone tool. On an image with a lot of sky I might duplicate the image, apply Photoshop’s Dust & Scratches filter to the lower image and erase down to it with a large brush – not in this case, though.

I didn’t use FARE (Canon’s equivalent of ICE) because Silverfast doesn’t have it since Canon won’t license it. It does have software-based dust and scratch removal which can be useful for some images but which also takes a bit of time to get right. Mind you, hardware-based functionality for dust and scratch removal such as FARE and ICE seems to have something of a mixed reputation. Some people say it is wonderful, others say it degrades the image too much to be worthwhile. (There may be a case here for using a wet-mounting system such as ScanMax but that’s another issue for another time.)

I processed the image in Photoshop using essentially the same steps I described earlier except that this time, because of the larger file size, I flattened layers and saved the file after each significant operation. The various operations took about an hour and a half in total, including 15 minutes for capture sharpening, 35 minutes for cleaning dust and scratches and 20 minutes to apply the vignette filter.

The next step was soft proofing. Soft proofing is something you can do in Photoshop when you have a monitor that is calibrated with a colorimeter. It shows you what the image may look like when printed using a particular paper profile for your printer. The dialogue where you define soft-proofing parameters is shown below. There was little difference in rendering intent and I used Perceptual. I also made slight increases to the adjustments to Curves and Hue/ Saturation.

View/ Proof Setup/ Custom…

Since it’s a large print I’ll printed out a small test print first which worked out fine. When I turned the printer on, the flashing lights told me I needed to replace Matte Black and Red cartridges. I also replaced Cyan to minimise ink lost in cartridge recharge because it was quite low.

To produce the final print I first rescaled the image to final output size (in this case, changing the dpi without changing the overall size of the image). Then I flattened it, reduced it to 8-bit, output sharpened, flattened again and saved as PSD. This took about 22 minutes.

Then I printed using dialogue box settings as shown below:

  • Colour Management section of Print with Preview dialogue:

File/ Print with Preview…

  • Print Properties dialogue:

File/ Print/ Properties …

It took 25 minutes to print out – 11 minutes for Photoshop to think about it and 14 minutes for the R1800 to print it. (Print size 30×86 cm @ 440dpi).

The print looks stunning. Sharp from edge to edge no matter how close the viewing distance. It took some hours to generate and no doubt would have been quicker with a better specified computer, especially say 4GB of memory. It demonstrates two things:

  1. that the camera can deliver stunning results with appropriate lenses, other equipment and processes
that for most shots, Photoshop’s Vignette filter can effectively replace the traditional centre-weighted neutral density filter.
Page 11

Specifications

It’s a camera review, remember? Since you’re on photo-i we’re not merely covering the camera as a consumer commodity, we’re looking at it from a photographic point of view in the context of the processes of the digital darkroom so we can assess its ability to produce worthwhile images.

Gaoersi camera (big black thing) and a Canon PowerShot A75 (small silver thing)

Which of the two cameras above do you think might fit into your coat pocket? (And if you reply “Both of them” may I suggest you change tailors). Mind you, the difference in potential image quality is greater than the difference is size.

Size of body: 200mm x 112mm x 75mm (for the Gaoersi, just in case there’s any doubt)

Weight of body only: 0.8kg

Weight of body with adaptor, lens and viewing scope: 2.3 or 2.4kg

Actual image size on film: 56x162mm (6×17); 56x142mm (6×15); 56x122mm (6×12)

Diagonal of film size: 171mm (6×17), 153mm (6×15), 134mm (6×12)

Focal lengths of lenses: 72mm to 150mm

Link for Gaoersi store on E-Bay

Page 12

Conclusions

The Gaoersi 617 is a specialist camera for experienced photographers who are used to manual processes with film cameras. It requires a slow and deliberative approach to taking photos and is most suitable for those with large format or at least medium format experience.

All cameras provide only a small part of the process to generate worthwhile images which particularly applies to this kind of camera. However, provided you’re appropriately set up to do so, it offers an affordable route to generate large high quality prints through the digital darkroom.

Overall, for the right photographer, I think that it’s a great camera and great value.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Stunning image quality
  • Precise build quality for back and mechanism
  • Zoom Viewing Scope is accurate at 150mm
  • Takes a wide range of large format lenses
  • Works well coupled with the Canon 9950F scanner, Silverfast and Photoshop CS2, using a well-specified, fully colour-managed PC.
  • It’s a film camera

Cons

  • Zoom and Fixed Viewing Scopes not accurate at 75mm
  • Calibration instructions too terse (unless you’ve read this review)
  • Be nice to have a ground-glass option
  • It’s a film camera

Score out of 10? You’ve read the review – you can do that.

If you’d like to make some comments or ask some questions, please visit the new photo-i Film Camera forum. You may also find many other interesting threads in other photo–i forums covering topics including Colour Management, Scanning and Printing

Many thanks to Murray Foote for putting in all the hard work on this review. I know this is a rather specialist camera that may not appeal to the masses. However, I am sure there are people who will be interested in this camera.

Vincent

Backup for Photographers

I am back from Ladakh and in the meantime will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog :

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Next, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).

 

Backup for Photographers

 

  • Why backup
    • Hard disks will fail
    • System files can become corrupted
    • Working files can be deleted or corrupted
    • Viruses can hit (worst case: Ransomware)
  • What to backup
    • Create boot disk (or USB)
    • Create system image
    • Three levels of backup
      • Local backup
      • Backup to Disk
      • Remote backup
  • How to backup
    • Create boot disk
    • Create system image
    • Create local backups
    • Create remote backups to disk or Cloud
  • Backup while travelling
    • Laptop plus external drives
    • Portable storage device
    • Cards

Analogue backup: Warehouses in Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan, during the Otaru Lantern Festival (and in heavy snow)

 

Why Backup

Often people only become convinced of the necessity for backup when they lose their hard drive and their computer stops working. They may have lost all their data. All hard drives fail. Some may last for a long time, some may not.

Apart from the hard disk dying, system files may become corrupted so your PC doesn’t work any more and images or working files can become corrupted or be accidentally deleted.

Your computer might get a virus that could render it inoperable. A good anti-virus program safeguards against that but it won’t catch everything. In the worst case it might be a ransomware Trojan that encrypts all your files and demands money to recover them which then may still not happen. Potentially, this could include connected backup files and other computers on your home network.

Macs are less susceptible to viruses than Windows PCs but can still get them so anti-virus software may be appropriate there too.

What to Backup

If you have not already done so, you should create a boot disk for your computer on a CD, DVD or USB stick. Then if your operating system dies, you can most probably still start your computer by booting up from the boot disk.

You should save a system image for your PC. This includes all the programs on your computer and all the hidden system files. Then if you get a virus, your operating system becomes corrupt or you need a new C Drive, you can restore everything the way it was.

Of course, you should also backup your data files. For a photographer that will include all your images, RAW, TIFF, PSD or jpeg. In fact you should have three backup copies of your files because the hard disks you backup on may fail too.

  • Your first level backup might be directly attached to your computer as a hard disk or as a bunch of disks in a box that operate together (called a DAS or a NAS depending on direct or network access).
  • Your second level backup might be to hard drives not usually connected to your computer.
  • Your third level backup might be to hard drives stored at work or at a friend or relation’s house, or it might be to the cloud. If your house burns down you still have your images.

How to Backup

  • How to create a boot disk (or recovery drive):
  • How to save a system image
    • For Windows
    • For Mac
    • Note: At least for Windows, you can’t restore the system image to upgrade your system to different hardware (i.e. to a different kind of hard disk or from a hard disk to an SSD). For that you need Acronis or another backup utility with this capability.
    • Another option is to clone your system disk to a spare one. Then, if you get a virus, you swap the spare disk in. You can do it on the fly with Acronis; with other programs you would need to start your computer off a boot disk first.
  • How to create local backups
    • From inside Windows
      • This should work but will only allow you to back up files to a schedule of a minimum once a day.
    • Using a free program
    • If you are using a Norton antivirus product such as Norton 360 or Norton Security Premium, that will include a backup utility that is better than the one that comes with Windows.
    • Acronis provides a full-featured backup option with many other useful tools. The stand-alone version is likely to be better value than the subscription. It is the market leader but there are also many other alternatives.
    • For Mac

How to create remote backups

  • You can create local backups to disk as above and take the disk to another location. The problem with this is that your backups are likely to be out of date.
  • Backing up to the cloud has become affordable and viable. Since photographers have lots of images, a cloud backup that allows unlimited backup is best. You also need an ISP such as iiNet that allows unlimited uploads and downloads. Initial upload is slow (months if you have many terabytes of data) but after that it works unnoticed. Downloads are faster but may still take considerable time for large amounts of data. So you still need local backups due to speed of recovery and because no backup is 100% secure. There are two main options:
    • BackBlaze for $US50 per year or about $A70
      • Carbonite is another option but it costs more and I don’t see any reason to prefer it to BackBlaze.
    • CrashPlan for Business for $US120 per year or about $A160.
      • BackBlaze only stores deleted files and previous versions of files for 30 days whereas CrashPlan stores them indefinitely.
    • For more information see the updated Blog article Cloud Backup for Photographers.

Backup while travelling

You should really have three copies of your images while travelling. At least one should be stored separately, in a coat pocket for example, just in case.

  • A laptop and portable hard drives are an obvious option. Samsung T3 SSDs are very small, pocketable portable hard drives. If using a tablet, it will need to have sufficient USB ports for importing and saving or backing up images.
  • A more compact option is a portable storage device. Some of the more expensive ones you may be able to synch wirelessly with a hard drive for backup.
    • Another cheap option is the RAVPower FileHub Plus where you can use your phone to backup an SD card to a portable hard drive.
  • If you are going for an extended walk in the wilderness where there is no electricity, you may have no alternative but to take multiple CF or SD cards for storage and backup. However, if you’re not travelling too light there may be additional options such as Anker solar panels and batteries.

New Auto Changes in Lightroom

I am back from Ladakh but not yet ready to start posting on the trip. In the meantime, I will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog .:

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Following this, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).

 

New Auto Changes in Lightroom

 

Auto Button

The Auto button in Lightroom Develop module is now actually useful (as of Lightroom CC Classic 7.1 in 20 December 2017).

 

 

When you click the [Auto] button, Lightroom now applies artificial intelligence based on the practices of many photographers to make individual adjustments to each image.  This can provide a very useful basis for further adjustments.   It entirely comprises changes in the basic panel and does not include white balance, clarity, tone curve, sharpening and lens correction amongst others.

 

 

For example, here is a live music image.  Lights are flashing on and off and one is coming straight at the camera.  This is a difficult exposure situation because the appropriate level of exposure compensation can change moment by moment.  Here the image is significantly underexposed.

 

 

So we hit the [Auto] button.  Kaboom!  What a difference!  You can see over on the right, it’s not just that the exposure increases by over one and a half stops, most of the sliders in the Basic panel have changed too.  (Click for larger image if necessary).  How those sliders change will differ for each image.

Of course, the [Auto] button won’t always be right, you will usually need to modify some settings and you can always reverse it and start again.

And we’re finished with this image.  Wwe still need to apply lens corrections, sharpen, straighten, reduce the brightness of the “white” (actually blue) light, crop, maybe adjust some colours and in Photoshop, remove the microphone at top left and the mike stand at lower right.  Where the [Auto] button has got us to is impressive though.

 

Auto Button en masse

You don’t have to click [Auto] for each image, you can do it for a whole batch of images.

  • Select images in Grid mode in the Library module.
  • Switch to Develop module
  • At bottom right, click the little switch to the left of the [Sync] button to change it to the [Auto Sync] button
  • Click [Auto]
    • Auto changes are appled to all selected images
  • Important:  Click the little switch to the left of the [Auto Sync] button to change it back to the [Sync] button
    • If you don’t do that, any changes you subsequently make to an image in Develop will be applied to all selected images.

 

Other automated changes via Presets

If you’re going to use the [Auto] button, there are a few other changes you might want to automate:

  • Capture sharpening
  • Lens corrections
  • For Fuji cameras at least, perhaps Camera Calibration Profile

If you start with an unedited image you can make such changes and then save them to a Preset.

 

For capture sharpening, in the left column in the Develop module under Presets, select Sharpen – Faces or Sharpen – Scenic.

  • Note that this will not work for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor.  See instead this article and create your own presets.

 

Almost always, you will want to check [Remove Chromatic Aberration] and [Enable Lens Corrections] in the Lens Corrections panel at the right in Develop.  (Probably the only exception is if you’re playing around with a fisheye lens and don’t want to use the lens profile).

 

Fuji cameras have a great selection of camera profiles in the Camera Calibration panel at the right in Develop.  You might want to select one as a default. You can always change it later, for individual images or en masse.  For Nikon, Canon and other brands, this may not be so useful.  Have a look, see what’s there and try the alternatives though.  It’s manufacturer specific and camera specific.

 

OK, you’ve got some default changes in an otherwise unedited image.  To save them as a preset, click the “+” sign at top right of the Presets panel (three images above).  Then, you can apply them to individual images or groups of images from the Presets Panel (under /User Presets).

To apply as an import preset, select your saved preset under Develop Settings in the Apply During Import panel at top right of the Import screen (The one of mine illustrated is called Nikon Scenic Import).

 

Auto button and previews

When you import images into Lightroom, you can select to build previews, which can be either Embedded and Sidecar Previews, Standard Previews or 1:1 Previews.  If you later click the Auto button for an image, or especially for all images you import, the image may change greatly as you see it in the Develop module but it will look as imported in the Library module because the previews have not changed.   So what you will need to do is regenerate the previews with the command Library/ Previews/ Build Standard-sized Previews or Library/ Previews/ Build 1:1 Previews.

Therefore, if you are going to run the Auto Button on all images yo import, there is no point building previews when you import.  You should run the presets on import, select all images (as shown above) and run the Auto Button, then build standard previews or 1:1 previews.

 

 

 

 

Getting Lightroom to Fly

I am back from Ladakh but not yet ready to start posting on the trip. In the meantime, I will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog .:

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Following this, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).

 

Getting Lightroom to fly

.

(Pipeline, Hawaii, 2015).

.

Introduction

Previews enhance Lightroom’s performance.  They can also help free disk space and restore missing files. We will discuss:

  • What are previews?
  • Speeding processing with smart previews
  • Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop
  • Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom catalogue
  • Missing and excluded images
  • Regenerating missing images

.

What are Previews?

Lightroom creates a variety of previews to speed up display and processing of images.

  • Standard previews let you quickly see the image full screen in the Library module.
  • 1:1 previews let you zoom into 100% in the Library module, for example to compare the sharpness of one image against another to determine what to delete or what to retain. This doesn’t apply to viewing images in the Develop module or zooming in one-to-one in the Develop module because there you are accessing the actual RAW file.
  • Smart previews speed viewing images in the Develop module but don’t apply to zooming in 1:1 where you are directly looking at the RAW file. Their original use was to still allow most processing of images stored on a disconnected drive and we will discuss them separately.

.

You can see the settings defined for your previews in the Edit/Catalog Settings/File Handling dialogue.

  • Standard previews default to your monitor resolution.
  • The setting “Preview Quality: High” relates to thumbnails.
  • You can set to discard your 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never.

.

Previews - Import File Handling 2

You can define previews when you import files, by specifying a value for “Build Previews” under File Handling in the top right corner of the Import dialogue. Here 1:1 previews are selected, as well as to build smart previews (covered below).

For Lightroom CC Classic (and probably Lightroom CC), under Build Previews you can also select Embedded & Sidecar. This allows you to import the embedded jpeg files from your camera.For Nikon and Canon these are full-size, for Fuji, Olympus and Sony they are reduced size. This may speed the import process but Lightroom will replace them with standard previews as you make changes to your files.

.

Alternatively, you can select files in Lightroom and use the command Library/Previews/Build Standard Previews or Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews.

If you don’t have a problem with disk space you might as well retain 1:1 previews indefinitely and create them while importing files. This slows down import but makes Lightroom run faster in the Library module, especially when zooming in to 1:1 to check sharpness.  If you don’t define 1:1 previews, Lightroom will create them on the fly which may have a significant impact on performance.

 

Speeding processing with smart previews

Normal previews and 1:1 previews speed operations in the Library Module; smart previews speed processing in the Develop module. They are actually miniature RAW files and save in a folder under your catalogue taking about 2% to 5% of the space of the photos themselves. They were introduced some years ago as a means to let you keep processing while disconnected from your data when travelling. However, they are just as useful to greatly improve response time in normal editing.

First you need to generate the smart previews, which you can do on import, or by the command Library/ Previews/ Build Smart Previews (see second and third screen shots from the top of this article).

.

In current versions of Lightroom (from CC2015.7 and 6.7), you can select a checkbox to use smart previews instead of originals for image editing. (Edit/ Preferences/Performance).

Changes transfer instantly to the original RAW files, and stay there even if you discard the smart previews. The only limitation is for sharpening and noise reduction; custom sharpening done on a smart preview will not transfer well to the original file. However, if you zoom to 1:1, Lightroom is showing you the original file so it is safe to use smart previews with custom sharpening, as long as you do that at 1:1.

If you are using an earlier version of Lightroom, you need to trick it that your folder is offline. If you close Lightroom, rename the folder say by adding ” xxx” at the end, then reopen Lightroom, you are working with your smart previews. To transfer the changes to your RAW files, you will need to close Lightroom and rename the folder back.

You might retain smart previews indefinitely if you’re not short of disk space. Still, you only use smart previews when you’re processing in Develop module so you may not need to keep them for long. Unlike the 1:1 previews, discarding smart previews works OK.

Optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop

The specification of your PC is one of the main factors affecting the performance of Lightroom and Photoshop. I wrote an article about that a while ago. A new generation of chipsets and motherboards has come out but everything else should be pretty much unchanged:

Adobe also provides useful guides to optimising performance in Lightroom and Photoshop:

Saving disk space by trimming your Lightroom Catalogue

One of the ways you can improve the performance of Lightroom is to use an SSD as the hard disk for your catalogue. Since the storage capacity may be small, the size of your Lightroom Catalogue may become a problem. For example, when I put my catalogue on my new 500GB hard drive (an M.2 SSD), I found I was left with less than 10% free space, too little for reliable performance. So I had to find a way to reduce it.

There are four elements associated with the catalogue

  • The Catalogue itself. Mine was 3.6GB. I have seen people advocate clearing Develop versions in Lightroom but that seems to me a waste of time. You lose functionality and only save a couple of gigabytes, which does not solve the problem.
  • Catalogue backups. I had 22.7GB here and you can save some space by deleting old backups but this wasn’t enough to solve this problem.
  • The Cache. Many versions ago, Lightroom benefited from a huge cache but this is no longer required. The default is 1GB and you can have more than that but 10GB will be plenty for most people. Stored cache files may build up to a few GB and you can clear them with Edit/ Preferences/ File Handling/ [Purge Cache].
  • The Previews. This is where all the files were, 391.3GB in my case. Reducing this is not as easy as one might think.

Catalogue backups offer some scope for space saving by changing the drive where you store the backups. You can’t set this from inside Lightroom but you can change it in the dialogue that appears when Lightroom is about to make a backup. It also makes sense from a security point of view to have the backups on a separate drive to the catalogue.

Previews is where all the action is though for saving space. We saw above that you can discard 1:1 previews after a day, a week, a month or never. I had mine set to Never but you’re supposed to be able to remove them with the command Library/Previews/Discard 1:1 Previews. I decided to remove all 1:1 previews for images rated at less than 3 stars (85% of my images) but it only reduced the stored previews by 0.4%. I then read on an Adobe performance guide that this only works where the standard preview size (2560px in my case) is less than half the resolution of images from your camera (4193px for the Nikon D3s). So I reduced the standard preview size to a low number, reopened Lightroom and tried again. That was better but not much. I only reduced the stored previews by 5%.

So that left only one option – to delete the Previews file and start again. In other words, I deleted the folder Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata under the folder for the Lightroom catalogue.

Whoompa! Previews to zero! Lightroom still works!

My next step was to create new 1:1 previews using the Lightroom command Library/Previews/Build 1:1 Previews (see previous image). I decided to create them for all my images with 3 stars or more, plus current working folders. That took a long time. More than a day and a half for 23,000 images. After that I had a previews folder 141.4GB in size, 64% smaller than it was. That solved my disk space problem. Lightroom also seemed to create standard previews for all images automatically, which I wasn’t expecting.

Missing and excluded images

Do you have missing images or images unintentionally excluded from your catalogue?
.

On the left-hand side on the library module, right click on a folder and select “Synchronise folder…” .

.

The Synchronise Folder dialogue appears. It may show you have photos in that directory that have not been imported into Lightroom, or photos in the catalogue that are missing on your hard drive.

If [Import New Photos] shows images in that folder that are not in Lightroom, you can click [Synchronize] to import them and see what they are. After the import, you can select them all under “Previous Import” at top left of the Library Module and then click on their folder (left pane in Lightroom) to compare the new selected images with the ones already there. They may be images you want to have in your catalogue or they may be images you meant to delete from the disk but instead just removed from Lightroom.

Missing photos may simply have been moved in Windows Explorer (so Lightroom doesn’t know where they are). If you have some, you can click [Show Missing Photos] to see what they are. You can then click on the little exclamation mark that appears at the top right corner of an image to locate them. Alternatively, the missing images may have been deleted or lost.

However, before you remove any previews, especially 1:1 previews, you should check that you don’t really need them. As we shall soon see, you may soon be able to use the previews to recreate missing images.

Regenerating missing images

A few years ago, I had three hard drives fail within a week, two in my main data drive (a RAID array) and one in my Drobo backup (essentially another RAID array). When the smoke cleared (metaphorically), I realised I had holes in my backups. Whole directories of files now showed in my Lightroom catalogue as missing. Fortunately, I left them there and did not delete the previews. Quite recently, I realised I could regenerate those missing images which were still in my catalogue, using Jeffery Friedel’s Preview Extraction Tool. Because they were 1:1 previews I was able to recover them as full-sized jpegs, good enough to print from.

.

You can have to copy the regenerated images to a different location, but you can copy them all into a single folder or preserve a whole folder structure. You can also retain image metadata and Lightroom’s metadata including star ratings and colour labels.

.

Summary

  • To increase Lightroom performance by running it on a small fast SSD, you may need to reduce the size of your Previews file
  • You may be able to recover deleted or lost images by regenerating files from the 1:1 previews
  • Standard and 1:1 previews speed Library module operations; smart previews speed Develop module operations

How to Print

I am back from Ladakh but not yet ready to start posting on the trip. In the meantime, I will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog .:

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Lightroom Previews and Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Following this, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).

 

How to Print

Introduction

Printing is the primary vehicle for creating photographic art. In our digital age photographic printing is both more readily available and more capable of high quality than ever before. The most popular methods involve Lightroom and an Epson printer so that is what I will cover here.

Lightroom is the world’s most popular photo editing program with a simple interface that is easy to understand. My focus here is merely on printing. For more information on Lightroom there are many videos on the web including:

  • Julianne Kost .: Many free videos from Adobe
  • Luminous Landscape .: A systematic set of videos. You need to be willing to pay an annual $US12 for access to the site.

People who use Photoshop or non-Epson printers will still find this post relevant though some details will differ.

Soft Proofing

Soft proofing means simulating on your screen how the image will appear as a print on a particular paper. The most important prerequisite to make this possible is to calibrate your monitor with a good colorimeter. A colorimeter is a small device that reads colours and densities as it sits on your screen. It then delivers a monitor that shows your images with accurate colours and tonalities.

If you don’t have a profiled monitor, there’s no point trying to soft proof because your monitor won’t be able to display accurate colour. It may look accurate to you but our eyes and our brain are very good at making lighting appear neutral even when it is far from that. Tungsten light (old-style lightbulbs), fluorescent light and daylight, for example. In this case, you can still print but there will be a greater difference between your monitor and a default print. Probably you will end up spending much more time and money in paper for testing and your print quality may not be as good.

It helps to have a good monitor and it helps to have a good colorimeter (such as an X-Rite i1 Display Pro). It is also an advantage to have a wide gamut monitor (with an aRGB gamut rather than an sRGB gamut). No matter, you can work with whatever you have as long as your monitor is profiled with a reasonably good colorimeter.

OK, you have selected an image to print and you have a profiled monitor so we’ll go to the Develop Module in Lightroom for soft proofing…

.

How to Print - Develop screen for soft proofing .

Here we have the Lightroom Develop screen with soft proofing turned on. You won’t be able to see much detail at this size though if you click on the image it expands in another screen to 1920×1200 pixels, which may be useful if you’re on a PC. In any case, I’ve also expanded key parts of the screen to talk about them.

.

How to Print - Soft proofing check box ..

The first thing to do is to check the [Soft Proofing] checkbox, towards the bottom left of the Develop screen. Your image then displays as though a print against a white paper background. Lightroom adjusts the colours and densities to match that.

Just to the left of the [Soft Proofing] checkbox is a split box. Just to the left of that is a rectangle containing a darker rectangle. That button is active so that the overall screen at the top shows a single image, the image to be printed. Clicking on the split box splits the screen to show both how your unchanged image would look as a print and how it would look after you make some adjustments.

.

How to Print - Develop screen Profile settings ..

The next thing is go to the top right of the overall screen to specify the profile for the paper you intend to print from. This shows inside the box above. You select from a dropdown list and in this case it is a profile for a matte paper. In most cases this will be a generic paper profile from the manufacturer of the paper. It is possible to generate your own printer profile but for most people this will be overkill. If you’re printing on an Epson paper, that profile will come with the printer, though it’s always a good idea to check the US Epson site to see whether they have a newer and better profile there. If you’re printing on a non-Epson paper, you can download a profile for that paper from that manufacturer’s site.

Different papers can create quite different prints. Semigloss and particularly glossy papers can produce much darker black and brighter colours. Some glossy papers have a distinctive sheen and glossy papers can be easily damaged. Matte papers have a reduced tonal range and may be suitable for more subtle prints. I suggest starting off with one semigloss paper, perhaps later or also a matte. It may be better to develop a “feel” for the papers than perhaps initially confuse yourself with too much choice.

You can change the profile setting above through the dropdown to simulate how your print will look with different papers. If you have more than one paper available, that might help you to choose.

Below the profile setting is the Intent. You can choose Perceptual or Relative. Relative is usually the more likely choice. Perceptual may be more useful where you have bright colours that may be in danger of going out of gamut. The printer gamut is the set of colours and densities that the printer can accurately display. Relative keeps in-gamut colours accurate but clips out-of-gamut colours; Perceptual should work better with out-of-gamut colours but may distort in-gamut colours. You can try each to see which seems to work best for your image. Often it makes little difference.

[Simulate Paper and Ink] should be checked.

.

_13S0113-Edit . .

It’s even possible to have an image that’s essentially impossible to print. This image from the 2013 Sydney Blues Festival looks as though it would print easily enough but the blue especially is so far out of the printer’s gamut that it comes out dull and murky and I couldn’t get it to work, even after repeated tests. Usually this is not a problem, only for a few images with very intense stage lighting or in some cases, flowers. It is possible to test for out of gamut areas in both Lightroom and Photoshop but Jeff Schewe advises that this feature is not accurate and not to use it. He says that he will recommend a method for Adobe to fix this in future versions. Therefore, I will not be covering that.

.

How to Print - Virtual copy for Soft proofing dialogue box ..

When the [Soft Proofing] checkbox is checked and you make a change to the image, the dialogue box above appears. I usually choose the far right option, which creates a virtual copy that retains all the changes you make to make the print. Creating a virtual copy means that Lightroom leaves your RAW file unchanged and creates another set of instructions to modify the image, stored in a sidecar file or the catalogue.

Lightroom is a non-destructive editor that records all your changes and allows you to reverse them. The image shown in the overall screen at the top is a modified soft proof. There is a History section at the bottom left of the screen which starts with the entry for creating a proof copy and shows all the changes I made to enhance the print. You can go back and click on that image if you want to see the History section in a larger view.

.

How to Print - Develop screen Changes ..

Using the usual Develop screen sliders, I made some changes to the proof copy to make it more suitable for printing. The slider positions above include those changes but also the changes to optimise the print before the soft proof. Such Develop settings can vary widely from image to image. In this case, I made small changes to a variety of settings including highlights, blacks, clarity, lights, darks and tone-curve shadows. Usually I will make much fewer changes and sometimes none at all. Even subtle changes can often make a difference though.

.

.

Print settings and presets

.

How to Print - Print screen Profiles2 .

.

We have soft-proofed to enhance our image for printing. We now go to the Print screen in Lightroom so we can print. What makes life much easier here is that you can save your settings for a particular paper and size, and then reuse that time after time. I’ll show you what those settings need to be and how to save them as a preset.

.

How to Print - CM Dialogue .

.

First, in the Print Job section at bottom right of the Develop screen, under “Color Management”,we set the Profile and the Intent to the settings we used for soft proofing (in this case, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag and Relative). Draft mode printing is off. Print resolution is 360ppi for an Epson printer (and can even be 720ppi if your file size is not too small). Print sharpening I leave on at Standard. This is output sharpening and not something you can set by eye. Media Type should be glossy or matte according to the paper. This is so the sharpening works properly; matte papers need more output sharpening. Leave Print Adjustment off.

Now we could click the [Printer] button (on the Print screen above), set up Properties, and go through to print. But we’re not going to print yet, we’re first setting up a preset and any print setting we make will be lost if we exit out of the Print dialogue without printing. So instead we’ll click on the [Page Setup…] button at bottom left. The Epson [Print Setup] dialogue pops up. Next we click on [Properties]. This may appear slightly differently for different models of Epson printers.

.

How to Print - Printer Properties .

.

First we need to set the media type which here is here is Velvet Fine Art. You will find this setting in the documentation for your paper profile or you may even be using the Epson paper Velvet Fine Art. We can ignore the [Custom Settings…] and [Paper Config…] dialogues here.

Next, we’re printing colour so we choose “Color”.

Print Quality is “Quality” which here means 1440×770 dpi. If we were printing on a glossy or semigloss paper, we would probably choose “Max Quality” or 2880×1440 but there is no point for a matte paper. Different printer models may have different names for these terms.

Mode is “Off (No Color Adjustment)” because we are using colour management – printing with a profile from a profiled monitor.

Source is specific to the printer and the different choices you have for paper feed for different papers.

Size here is 13×19 in, or A3+.

Now we have finished with all our print settings so we click OK and return to the main screen to save the preset.

.

How to Print - Create Print Preset .

.

To name and create a new print preset, we go to the top left of the Print screen and click the plus sign [+] to the right of the heading “Template Browser”. For example, there is one already there for “SC_P800 Crane Museo Portfolio Rag A3+”. Now each time you go to print on that paper on A3+, you can click on that preset and everything is set up. You don’t need to go through each time and carefully set those parameters. As well as making printing much quicker it greatly reduces the risk of a mistake.

Advanced Black and White

Many Epson printers have an “Advanced Black and White” mode. This gives deeper blacks and potentially better image quality for black and white prints. However, if you want a toned monochrome, you are probably better of printing colour as above, or you will have to set the toning by trial and error in a dialogue box.

There are two things you need to do to print in ABW mode. First, at the bottom right of the Print screen, where we set the profile of the paper, instead select “Managed by the Printer” from that dropdown.

Then we need to make a modification to printer properties (screen capture before last). You can get to the Printer Properties dialogue box through [Page Setup..] at the bottom left of the Print screen, if you are setting it there or defining a preset. Otherwise you clicking the [Printer…] button at bottom right of the Print screen and get to it on the way through to printing. In either case, instead of setting Color to [Color], set it to [Advanced B&W Photo]. That also changes the value for Mode to [Neutral] and makes an [Advanced] button appear.

.

How to Print - Color Controls .

.

Clicking the [Advanced] button takes you to this screen. You can set toning by dragging the cursor round in the big colour wheel. The dialogue only shows you how the tone of that specific image of the young woman changes though, not the image you are trying to print. At the top, I always leave Color Toning to [Neutral] though other values are cool, warm and sepia and you can always click on those to see where the cursor goes in the colour wheel.

For the P800, I leave tone as [Dark]. I seem to recall the recommended setting was [Darker] for the 3800 and 3880. May be cause for experimentation and testing.

ABW isn’t colour managed to you can’t soft proof for it – though you can if you get a custom profile from Image Science (you won’t be able to roll your own here). This still won’t allow you to soft proof toning though.

.

.

Test prints

Having a calibrated monitor and creating a plausible soft proof will get you much of the way to a successful print. In some cases you’ll be able to print straight off the soft proof with no adjustments. In other cases you may need to put some time and effort into test prints to fine tune your final output. The soft proof is very useful but it can only take you so far. Prints have a texture, a physical presence and you’re looking at a reflected surface instead of the equivalent of a slide (i.e. a transparency film – do I need to say that for anyone?). And if you’re printing without colour management, you’re likely to expend much more paper and time and even then have less chance of “getting it right”.

Fortunately, Lightroom has some easy and powerful tools for generating test prints.

.

How to Print - Test Prints 3 .

.

Here we are using a 4×5 grid on A3+ paper to print out up to 20 test prints. This is a preset I created for just the arrangement of the grid. First I click on one of my A3+ presets for a specific paper, then I click on the preset for the grid. But if we look at the Print Job section at the lower right (as shown four screen captures up), we will see that [Draft Mode Printing] is checked. So we uncheck it and that reveals the paper type from the initial preset. I could have saved the grid preset with [Draft Mode Printing] unchecked but then it would have been for a specific paper. That would be a better option though if you use only one paper.

I made the grid preset by modifying the [4×5 Contact Sheet] preset provided with Lightroom.

.

How to Print - Layout 2 .

.

Starting from that preset, I checked [Rotate to Fit] so images rotate to fill the cell. Also, because the Lightroom preset was designed for an A4 sheet, there was too much space between the cells. I unchecked [Keep Square] towards the bottom and adjusted the Cell Height.

When printing out test prints, you’re usually going to want to make several passes on the same sheet of paper to print on all the squares. You can do this by adjusting the rows and columns. For example, suppose you want to start printing on the third row. I can see from the ruler to the left of the images that the top of this row starts at 19.5 cm. I change the number of rows in the Page Grid from 5 down to 3, and increase the Top Margin from 0.28cm to 19.5cm. (I can see the ruler because at the bottom of the screen above, I have the Guides checked, including the borders of the cells and the ruler at the sides.)

At the bottom of the Guides section, I have Dimensions turned off. When on, that shows the actual size your image will print at, as a small label at the top left of the image. This is just for the screen view and does not print. It is not relevant for test prints but very useful when you come to make the print, especially if you are printing for an existing matte.

.

How to Print - Page .

.

Further down the right side of the Print page, there’s another setting that can be useful for test prints. After checking the [Photo Info] checkbox, I’ve specified a label to occur below the images. Currently it’s set at Filename but there are various choices including Caption and Title. You might be printing a set of virtual copies of the same image with variations on a setting, say exposure. You might like to record abbreviated labels in either Caption or Title such as X +0.5, X +1.0, X +1.5, X +2.0. They would then print out below the image so you can be sure to identify the correct modification.

Finally, a general point. If your prints come out too dark and you have a calibrated monitor, then you may be calibrating to too high a brightness. Personally, I use 100 cd/m² for semigloss/ glossy papers and 90 cd/m² for matte. If your colorimeter can’t set the brightness, then you need a better colorimeter (or perhaps just the software for it, if you can upgrade that).

Printing

Right then, you’re ready to go to print, perhaps to print out some tests. It’s a good idea to first print out a nozzle check on plain A4 paper, particularly if you haven’t used the printer for a while (From the Print screen, [Printer] brings up the Epson Print Dialogue, then click [Properties], select the Utility tab and choose [Nozzle Check]).

To print you press [Printer] to bring up the Epson Print Dialogue. You may wish to click [Properties] to double-check your print settings. Then you press OK….

.

_P160665 .

.

Hopefully, after a few minutes, a wonderful print will emerge.

Further Reading

What do you need for Printing?

I am back from Ladakh but not yet ready to start posting on the trip.  In the meantime, I will post technical articles I have already published for the Canberra Photographic Society Blog:

  • Computers for Photography
  • Why Print?
  • What do you need for Printing?
  • How to Print
  • Lightroom Previews and Getting Lightroom to Fly
  • New Auto Changes in Lightroom
  • Backup for Photographers

Following this, I will start posting on the trip to Ladakh, then the Atacama (2015), then the Caribbean (2016).

 

What do you need for Printing?

In this post we will cover the following topics:

  • Fume Room
  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Monitor and colorimeter
  • Software
  • Lighting
  • Printer
  • Ink
  • Paper
  • Cost of printing
  • Matting
  • What to do with the prints

 

Fume Room

The chemical darkroom is essentially out of scope for this series, though you could potentially pick up say a second hand Mamiya RB67, compatible enlarger and accessories quite cheaply.  Printing from film in a darkroom is likely to actually work out much cheaper than a digital workflow, even with film costs, but also much more difficult and much more time-consuming.

 

Camera

Printing requires you have an image.  Creating an image usually requires that you have a camera.  So how good a camera do you need?  Do you need say a Nikon D850 with a professional lens for example?  Well, let me answer this at first by example.  The following image is of Selfoss in Iceland and it won a 5 (out of 5) in a monthly competition last year.  It was taken with a good camera – Nikon D3s and a good lens (85mm f1.4) but I discovered later there had been a problem.  I had been grappling with the settings of the camera while it was inside a raincover a week or two earlier in Greenland and hadn’t realised that instead of the usual 16MP RAW files, I had it set to save 2.8MP TIFF files.  After cropping the size of the file was 2.2MP.

.

_13S5354 .

Admittedly, my choice of paper helped.  I printed it on a matte paper which has a texture and less resolution.  I don’t think a glossy paper would have worked.   But what this shows if you can have sufficient inspiration and skill and get to the right place at the right time,  the camera doesn’t matter very much, at least as long as you understand the limitations of the camera and operate within them.

 

Computer

I’m not going to say much about computers because I just wrote an article about purchasing one.  You need something with enough RAM to process your files and enough disk space to store them.  It helps if it does something when you turn it on.

 

Monitor and Colorimeter

Having a good monitor makes a big difference and having it well profiled is almost essential for printing.  You can get away without that but you are likely to lose a lot of time in testing, you may find it difficult to achieve accurate colour and it may end up costing you more.  I’m not going to say much about monitors because I covered that in the Computers post.   NEC and Eizo make the best monitors; anything else is a compromise though no doubt a necessary compromise for many.  It is an advantage to have a monitor with an aRBG gamut (Adobe RGB) rather than an sRGB gamut because you will be able to more accurately see the colours of an image for printing.

Profiling the monitor is important because if we are not seeing accurate colour, we will find it difficult to print accurate colour.  Whether a monitor looks good anyway is besides the point.  Our eyes are very good at making lighting sources as different as daylight and tungsten light (old-style lightbulbs) appear normal.  Consequently, we can’t expect our eyes alone to adjust monitors.

To profile your minotaur monitor you need a colorimeter and the best one is the XRite Display Pro (at around $300).  Be wary of cheap options or old colorimeters as they may not be accurate, they may not allow important adjustments and they may not work well if you have a wide gamut monitor.  Some may wish to generate their own paper profiles with say an X-Rite ColorMunki Photo but this is optional; it probably won’t make much difference and profiling your monitor is the really important thing here.

 

Software

There are many software choices for editing images and printing them.  If you have a profiled monitor though, what makes a big difference in printing is using a program you can soft proof with.  That means you can simulate how your print wil appear, on your screen.  It’s not perfect but it can be very helpful.  Photoshop is an option but these days most people use Lightroom which is a very powerful program that is also very easy to use.

These days, you can pay $14 per month for perpetually up-to-date versions of both Lightroom and Photoshop.  This is very good value compared to what prices used to be though if you stop paying you can no longer use the programs to modify your images (though you can still access the images).    There are many instructional videos for Lightroom and Photoshop on the web, such as those of Julianne Kost.  There are also comprehensive sets of videos on Luminous Landscape for both Lightroom and printing if you are willing to pay their subscription of $US12 per year.

 

Lighting

Ideally, the room you process your images in should have dim consistent lighting and be neutral in colour.  If you are in a room with bright purple walls, it will affect your colour perceptions of your images on screen (as well as possibly your state of mind).  Preferably, you should also wear neutral clothing for the same reason.

Once you have generated a print, you need a neutral light source to assess it.  This can be sunlight, although its colour temperature changes throughout the day and may differ between direct sunlight and shadow.  Ordinary lightbulbs of whatever type are problematic, even if they are labelled “daylight”, unless you are printing for that specific light source.

The best light source for proofing is Solux bulbs, which are very accurate, and most people prefer a colour temperature around 5,000°K.  The problem is that they are MR16 bulbs – in other words they have two little round prongs like the small round lights that may be in your kitchen ceiling and they take low voltage direct current rather than 240V DC.  Fine if you can get them installed like your kitchen lights.  Alternatively, you could use a Graflite fluorescent desk light which is almost as good though the larger one, more suitable for A3+ prints, costs $300 (at Imagescience).

There is a way around this, if you’re adventurous enough.  From a local store such as Southside Lighting, you get an ordinary lamp and also a small inline transformer that converts from 240volt DC to a small direct current suitable for MR16 bulbs.  You get an electrician to insert the transformer in the lamp’s electrical line before the switch.  Now it’s no good for ordinary bulbs anymore.  Next, you order online a B22 (large bayonet) to MR16 converter or a E27 (large screw) to MR16 converter depending on your lamp fitting.  These are not available in a shop because they don’t meet Australian safety standards since someone might use them with an MR16 bulb without a transformer and effectively cause a short circuit.  When this arrives, you put the Solux bulb on it, insert it in the lamp and you now have a colour accurate light source for printing.

 

Printer

The choice for a photographic printer is likely to come down to different models of Epson inkjet printers.

It’s possible to print a photograph with a laser printer but it won’t handle the range of media that inkjet printers can, the colours and densities won’t be at all accurate unless you profile it yourself and even then it’s not likely to produce the quality of an inkjet printer.

Canon and HP still produce ranges of very large printers for the professional market, but HP has dropped out of the consumer market and Canon has a fairly low profile.  In any case, I’m not familiar with Canon printers and will confine my comments to Epson.

Here are some likely choices:

  • P800 (A2 printer): $1,900+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P600 (A3+ printer): $1,300+: Excellent quality colour and monochrome images.
  • P405 (A3+ printer): $900+:  Excellent quality colour but not as good for monochrome due to smaller ink set.
  • Artisan 1430 (A3+): $350+: Uses dye-based inks rather than pigment-based inks.  Probably excellent quality for colour images on glossy and semigloss paper.  May not be so good on matte and may not be very suitable for monochrome.  Will have higher ink cost due to small cartridges.

 

Ink

If you have an Epson printer, you should definitely use Epson ink.  You can get very cheap third party ink but that doesn’t mean it’s good value.  Such inks can kill your printer.  Also, you may need to get custom paper profiles which otherwise are not really necessary.

 

Paper

These days there is a bewildering variety of papers available.  At least initially, just have one or two and get to understand them.  If two, perhaps a semigloss paper and a matte.  Maybe try a few test packs to help decide.  Glossy and semigloss papers show brighter colours and deeper blacks than matte papers so they are suitable for different kinds of images.  Matte papers can give a subtler effect for lower contrast images.

If you want a first paper to start with on a new printer, perhaps Ilford Smooth Pearl is a good and relatively economical place to start.  It is suitable for both printers that use dye-based and pigment-based inks.  You need to be careful if you have a dye-based printer that you purchase suitable papers, not ones for pigment ink printers only.

 

Cost of Printing

You can of course print A4 prints but for purposes of a cost comparison, let’s say you decide to print for yourself and enter A3+ prints in CPS competitions for a year.  That’s sixteen A3+ prints in monthly competitions, two in Image of the Year, say four for Out There exhibition and five A4 prints for the Hedda Morrison portfolio competition.   That’s 22 A3+ prints and 5 A4, equivalent to around 24.5 A3+ prints.  We will not consider here what other prints you may generate.

An article by Mark Segal suggests ink costs of around $2 for an A3+ print from an Epson 3800 printer.  This should be about the same for a P800 or a P600 (the current models).  Say you’re printing Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, that will cost about $3.30 per A3+ sheet.  Assuming 25% for testing and wastage, that makes about $7.50 per A3+ print. That’s about $180 for printing costs for a competition year.

Getting Harvey Norman to make the same prints would cost $410 but they would have to be on a cheaper paper and lower quality and the paper sizes are slightly smaller.  Next step up, getting Bica to print them would cost $588 for “Premium Prints” and $1,031 for “Custom Prints” (and for A3 rather than A3+).  Next step up, getting Stephen Best to print them will cost $1,005 plus postage, or picking up from PhotoAccess on a Thursday or Friday, or trips to Braidwood.

I recently sold my Epson 3880 printer for $550 (to upgrade to a P800).  I had bought it six years ago for $1900.  My overall printing cost for that period was equivalent to getting prints made by Harvey Norman at much lesser quality and much less convenience.  I saved 60% (or $3,700) over getting custom prints made by Bica or Stephen Best.   So, buying a printer can pay off as long as you’re going to use it.

 

Matting

Prints in CPS competitions are usually matted.  It helps if you print in standard sizes because then you can reuse the matte for other prints.  Unlike prints, there is no particular reason to produce your own mattes; it’s a question of convenience and cost. There are three approaches you can take:

  • You can get some cut. Last time I did this it cost $15 each, but that’s a few years ago and it may be more now.
  • You can take the cheap option and use a Stanley knife for straight edges and a Dexter matte cutter for bevelled edges. Entirely possible but slow and painstaking.
  • If you will be cutting a fair few mattes, you may consider a “proper” matte cutter such as those from FrameCo.

Just briefly, if you are matting a print to permanently mount in a frame, you should use archival matte board and archival tape (from a specialist retailer) and hang the print from the top edge only so it can move in the frame.

 

What to do with the prints

A question some people ask is “what do you do with the prints?”.  Well, to some extent, this may not be the right place to start.  If you want to produce some outstanding prints that are truly yours because you printed them, you have to work at it.  The prints you produce after a few years may be greatly improved and you will have needed to produce the earlier ones to get there.

You can of course hang some on your walls and rotate them.  You may be able to give some away as presents.  In this case you need to be sure it really is your best work (probably no point even holding on to seconds) and also that other people really will appreciate them.  The Society competitions help to give you a good feel for that.  Similarly, you might like to send some prints to people you met while travelling.  You might want to hold an exhibition at some stage, when you feel you really understand your craft and have something to say.  You might even try selling some though that’s easier said than done and certainly extremely difficult to generate a significant income flow from fine art prints.

You can store them in the old boxes that the paper came in (or special boxes for the same purpose) or you can get special transparent envelopes to store them in.  I have also found album folios that can store 48 A3+ prints.  This is a very convenient way to show your prints to guests.