This morning, I opened the collection of Nighthawks images that are tweaked for matte printing and printed them out, one to a page, on a laser printer. I spread them all out on the bed and went through my stock of 17×22 Nighthawks pictures, pulling out the ones that matched the laser-printed ones. I didn’t find a lot. I tried to think of why. I’d used some for the Choate exhibition, and everything in the show had been either sold or given away to donors, and I sent some of the others to a local gallery that still had them. So I ended up having to reprint almost all the pictures; I figured it would make things more consistent if I just printer them all.
During the process of going through the 17x22s, I found a few pictures that I just couldn’t bear to leave out. I was trying to hold the number to twenty, but I found four that I just had to take, and could only bear to take out one. Since this would be my last chance to print on matte paper for a while, I decided to print all 23, and decide which ones to drop later. Somehow, it was much harder to say no to a picture when I was holding a beautiful image in my hand than it was when I was pushing thumbnails around in Lightroom. The physicality of the image makes it so much more alluring, at least to the photographer.
And why is it that I keep falling in love with my own images? At least it’s better than the alternative. But I wonder why I can’t just rationally rank the pictures like I did the reviewers, and just cut the list off at 20? Why is it so painful to leave one out? Do other photographers go through this agony? Do you suppose Edward Weston said to himself, “Pepper #19 is just fantastic, and how could I forget Pepper #47? Do you suppose I could do a triptych?”
I had to decide on what paper to use. I went with Photo Rag, reasoning that it would make the stack of prints weight a lot less than if I printed them on Arches Infinity, and I’d save some money to boot. I expect the prints to be too beat up to exhibit or sell by the end of the review, which made the financial part a bit more important.
So I added four images to the Lightroom collection, deleted one, hit Ctrl-A, went to the print module, and said print ‘em all. I guess I’m enough of a computer old timer to be slightly amazed when everything goes right. I just kept going over to the printer, hitting enter to eject the picture, dropping the new paper in the slot, hitting pause to tell the printer to load the paper, until, automagically, less than three hours later, I had all my prints.
I have a couple of comments on the experience.
First, a big thank you to Epson for the great paper handling capabilities of the 9800. I bought a 9000 in 1999, had it upgraded to a 9500 (pigment instead of dye-based inks) in 2001, sat out the 9600, and spring for the 9800 a couple of years ago. To load paper in the 9000/9500, you had to release the paper clamp, then get down on your hands and knees to manually line up the paper with a set of holes, then set the clamp. With the 9800, you just drop it in and hit pause.
Second, if I needed to produce 23 different prints in a darkroom, it would have taken me a week of five or six-hour days. The world has sure changed.