An impending event like PhotoLucida can stir a photographer to action. Like this: there are all these new people who are going to see my work; now that I think about it, there are things I’d like to change. Or, this: I’ve been meaning to do xyz, but I never got around to it; now that there’s this event coming up, I’d better get right on it.
This kind of thinking can be a good thing, a bad thing, or both. The good: a) it can get you off your duff to make real ideas that you’ve just been sitting on, or b) it can be the impetus that drives you to think of new ideas. The bad: a) it can stir frenetic activity, too rushed to produce fully-realized results, or b) it can cause you to waste energy implementing half-baked ideas that under normal circumstances you would realize are not worth following through on. The both: you can come up with a great idea under pressure, but botch the implementation for the same reason.
I imagine that it’s common for photographers to reprint their work before reviews. If you’re like me, unless you’ve had a show of a particular body of work, you’ve got work prints of various sizes, printed on various papers, with color balance and midtone values optimized for various lighting conditions. What you want to take to the review are images that are consistent in all those things, at least within a given body of work.
I’ve had a show of the first part of the Nighthawks series, so that’s in good shape. I need to pick which pictures I’m going to take from that show, pick what I’m going to take from the work done since, and print the new work. I haven’t printed the PhotoCalligraphy series much at all. I need to pick a paper, decide on a size, and print the work.
The PhotoCalligraphy series looks best on baryta-coated paper. It needs the deep blacks. I’ve printed a few images on Epson Exhibition Fiber, and I was planning to print the rest of them on that paper. However, I’ve decided to try something different. Experimentation is good, but this may or may not turn out to be a good idea so close to the review.
A while back Brooks Jensen sent me some paper to test for him. He wanted me to make some prints using images that he supplied and send him the results. There was one paper that looked better to me than Exhibition Fiber: deeper blacks, and less bronzing. I asked Brooks what it was. He told me it was Harman Glossy Fiber Base AL; he liked it so well that it was going to be the paper that LensWork was going to use for their new Special Editions series. I kept meaning to try it, but the project kept bouncing along at the bottom of my priority list.
Now I’ve got this show, and I need to make some baryta-surfaced prints. I checked out my paper supply and I was low on C-sized Exhibition Fiber. The path of least resistance would be to just order some more. But some little voice in my head urged me to try the Harman paper. I fired up Firefox, and looked around. Surprisingly, Harman didn’t make 17×22 FB AL. They did make the paper in 17×25. For most of my current work, which is long and skinny, that would actually be a better size. But most of the PhotoCalligraphy work is square. I’d have to cut it down. I scouted around. There were some good prices available, but it turned out that those people were out of stock.
I was reminded of an old joke. A woman goes into a grocery store to buy milk. She finds it, but doesn’t like the price. She goes to the manager. “Why is this milk three bucks a gallon? It’s two for four dollars at the Safeway down the street.” The manager asks her why she doesn’t buy her milk at Safeway. She explains that they’re out. The manager looks at her and smiles. “Well, when we’re out, we only charge $1.50.”
I ordered two boxes and paid the high price.
The paper arrived without damage. I wasn’t really worried, since I was going to cut it down anyway, and could easily trim off a dinged corner, but I took it as a good omen.
I profiled the paper on my Epson 3800 (that’s the printer I use for glossy prints; it’s too expensive to change inks in the 9800, so I use it only for matte prints). I printed the first square picture, lying to the driver and telling it that the paper size was 17×22. When the print came out, I was blown away by how good it looked lifted up by the three inches difference between how long the paper really was and how long I told the driver it was.
I would have never thought to raise the image by that much. It made me reassess by idea of trimming the paper. The 17×25 would be great for the long skinny pictures, and to my surprise, it was good for the square pictures as well.
And the quality?
Bronzing? It’s there if you look for it, and the PhotoCalligraphy series is a extreme test of bronzing susceptibility. But it’s very nice, all things considered.
I now want to print all the PhotoCalligraphy series on 17×25 paper. But what can I use to transport such a weird size? As I write this, I have no idea. but I can’t give it up and go with 17×22. Stay tuned.