news, announcements and articles

What my days look like as a consultant

I thought I’d show everyone what my days often look like as a consultant. For 20 years, I’ve traveled around working with people in their studios on issues like color management, workflow, and print quality. A lot of the time this means working on big printers like these.

HP Latex printers at New Era Publishing

HP Latex printers at New Era Portfolio

In addition to common aqueous inkjet printers, I spend a lot of my time working on UV Curable, Solvent, Latex and sublimation printers from companies like Vutek, HP, Epson, Gandhi, Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland, Inca and others. Last week I visited 3 clients in 3 cities including one of my favorite clients, HPI in Houston, where we worked on several of their printers including the Vutek HS100 Pro. To show you how it works, here’s a short video of it making a 30×40 print of my image Solitude on white aluminum dibond:

UV curable printing on the Vutek HS100Pro on white aluminum dibond

This monster UV Curable machine has 48 4” print heads that cost $3500 each and unusually accurate dot placement, for a UV printer. Even though it can print at incredibly high speeds, we have it in it’s slowest setting here that produces the highest quality. It uses an 8 color UV Curable inkset that can print on just about anything, including metal and glass. The LED Ultraviolet curing lamps you see positioned on each side of the carriage cures, frys and hardens the ink to the substrate before it has a chance to bleed or move. This type of printer was previously used exclusively for outdoor signage because of it’s extreme print durability and lightfastness. The print quality has recently become so good that people are using them to print artwork shown in galleries and museums. (more…)


Celebrating 20 Years of Color Management Consulting

20+ years ago I was splitting my time between a job where I was a Leaf45 scanner operator and an apprenticeship with a master printmaker. In the printmaking studio we were making large digital negatives on an imagesetter and using them to make hand-coated platinum/palladium prints in a wet darkroom. Back then everyone was using Photoshop 2 and had CRT monitors. While the color scans coming off the Leaf45 seemed pretty decent after a little color correction in curves, I was frustrated with how different the handmade B&W platinum palladium prints looked in comparison to the same images onscreen. We had developed curves to linearize the imagesetter that made the negatives but still, the prints on Arches Cold Press paper looked soo much different than they did onscreen. The paper had a warm tone that was darker and more yellow that what I saw onscreen. And the platinum palladium blacks were much lighter and warmer than the deep neutral blacks we saw onscreen.

Knoll Gamma

One day in the early 1990s I decided there had to be a way to fix this problem. I launched the Knoll Gamma Control Panel and made radical adjustments to the black and white points to match our wet darkroom platinum palladium printing process. I had been using Knoll gamma for a while but had never attempted to make such radical adjustments like matching the paper color and gentle blacks of a 19th century printing process. With just a minute’s worth of work I was able to get an astonishingly excellent match! All of the sudden, everything on screen looked like platinum palladium prints – even email! I saved these settings for platinum palladium and made another set of settings for the 4 color press work I was doing at my other job.

I was so excited about ‘monitor matching’ that I started going around to everyone I knew adjusting their monitors to match whatever printing process they were working with. I learned to adjust the RGB gain, brighness and and contrast settings on their CRT monitors before doing the final tweaking (more…)


Night Photography Workshop in Mono Lake and Bodie Ghost Town

July 31st-August 3rd, in Eastern California
with Scott Martin and Lance Keimig

Schedule:
July 31st – Optional Lightroom 5 Class in Lee Vining
August 1st – Tioga Pass or Mono Lake
August 2nd and 3rd – Bodie Ghost Town

Steve's Rock by Scott Martin

Tioga Pass, Mono Lake and Bodie ghost town are not only some of our favorite locations that we’ve been making images in for decades, we’ve also been leading night photography workshops here for the past ten years. We think you’ll find Mono Lake’s signature monolithic rock structures that extend upward from the lake are ideal for night photography. The dramatic granite moonscapes of Tioga Pass (more…)


Commentary: Monitors are bad and noise (can be) good

We’d like to think that todays $1000+ LED LCD displays are great but I’m going to say they’re not. They suck actually. We just don’t know better because we haven’t seen anything better – yet. Today’s displays are like cars from the 1970s – much better transportation than a decade prior but still horribly polluting, underpowered and unsafe in comparison to what’s coming in the next few decades. Today’s desktop computer monitors are fairly low resolution ranging from 72-150ppi. While this works fine for 95% of the people out there communicating via email and browsing the web, its having some negative consequences when it comes to photographic image development. People are over sharpening their images and including too much localized contrast. Most importantly, we’re taking out noise that can be beautiful and make prints look incredible.

The original digital capture [left and above right] is so typicially clean that it can lead to bland, boring prints. With grain added in LR/ACR the image prints beutifully with a luscious, precision fine texture. We’ve come to the incorrect assumption that becuase noise and grain looks terrible onscreen it will be equally terrible in print. That’s a false assumption. (more…)


Night Photography Workshop: Death Valley

March 19-21, 2014 in Death Valley, CA
with Scott Martin and Lance Keimig

Death Valley by Scott Martin

Lance Keimig and I invite you to join us in Death Valley in March. Unlike our usual Full Moon Night Photography workshops, this one will take place in the waning stage of the lunar cycle which will offer us some dark skies full of stars. I’ve come to love this time of night after the sun has gone down and before the moon comes up. It will be a great chance to rely upon light painting and make some ‘galactic sky’ images. We are also going to some unusual and remote locations in the park that most workshops don’t get to.

There will also be lots of opportunities for light drawing as well as light painting. Adding add to these scenes will be an important process towards getting a satifiying image. This intensive workshop is intended for photographers with a (more…)


Lightroom for Pros

February 18th, 2013, 9am – 4pm in Houston Texas
with Scott Martin in conjunction with ASMP

This 1 day workshop takes an intense look at optimizing photography workflows from capture-to-print using Adobe Lightroom. Skipping the basics, we’ll focus on the nitty gritty details necessary for professionals in the field. This workshop will be held at a photography studio downtown with lunch at the infamous Last Concert Cafe.

Topics of discussion:
Lessoning dependency on Photoshop
The DNG format and how to incorporate it into your workflow
File Management
Organizing your images and preparing for 100,000+ image libraries
High Volume storage management
Image Development with the new 2012 pipeline
Making your images sing
Printing from Lightroom
UV Curable Printing
Timelapse workflow with Lightroom (more…)


Icelandic Photo Tour

March 29 – April 6, 2013 in Iceland
with Lance Keimig, Tim Vollmer and Scott Martin

Iceland Night Photos

Iceland is a popular destination for so many reasons. This trip will be special in that it comes at the end of winter at what is essentially the best time to photograph the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis in the next decade. We’ll have 8 days and 7 nights to explore and photograph this amazingly beautiful country, and all expenses except airfare, gratuities, and alcohol are included. The trip will be co-led with Lance Keimig and Tim Vollmer (whose photographs illustrate this page). Having three instructors (more…)


Mastering the Night: Death Valley

March 2-4, 2013 in Death Valley, CA
optional Lightroom class on March 1st
with Scott Martin and Lance Keimig

Death Valley by Scott Martin

Lance Keimig and I invite you to join us in Death Valley in March. We’re shaking things up for this workshop and doing several things diffrrently than we normally do. Unlike our usual Full Moon Night Photography workshops, this one will take place in the waning stage of the lunar cycle which will offer us some dark skies full of stars. I’ve come to love this time of night after the sun has gone down and before the moon comes up. It will be a great chance to rely upon light painting and make some ‘galactic sky’ images. We are also going to some unusual and remote locations in the park that most workshops don’t get to.

There will also be lots of opportunities for light drawing as well as light painting. Adding add to these scenes will be an important process towards getting a satifiying image. This intensive workshop is intended for photographers with a (more…)