Entries Tagged as 'Photography'

Problems and Things to Watch Out For

ealy_ZionVacation2009_Final_SEPhotographing kids is a lot of work. The youngest I shot for this project was 1 and the oldest about 22 years old. But get this, even the 20 & 22 year olds were some of the most difficult to shoot. But for entirely different reasons than the 1 year old. With the toddler the biggest issue was just keeping up with him. He is one of these kids that moves very fast, and is interested in everything. So even though I had the mighty 24-70 f/2.8 Nikkor and the D700 I was still having trouble keeping the focus on him. Surprisingly it seemed that it was more difficult shooting the teenagers and young adults.

The biggest problem with the older kids was a combination of simple teen apathy and some lack of confidence/self-image issues. I found it most frustrating to spend time photographing someone, then asking which of their photos they like the best only to hear, “none of them”, or worse “I don’t care”. When this type of thing happened it was always towards the beginning of the shoot. Luckily things got better as time progressed. Though with the oldest two kids I had to actually re-shoot them before they actually got more into the project, put some effort into making pleasing photos, and then finally began to appreciate that some of the images I took of them were actually pretty nice. So, what did I take from all of this? For starters, just be prepared for indifference or even worse when dealing with some kids. But remain positive and try to figure out what is necessary for them to take an interest in the shoot. Because if they aren’t into it, making good photos is just a hard thing to do. During that first night with my most difficult subjects there was just nothing I could do to get them liven up and buy into this project. I was able to coax one good picture from one of them that night, but he hated it (his mother and I overruled him on that one and that photo made it into the final product).

Another thing that I learned from this is that you can’t depend on people to show up to a photo shoot properly dressed, groomed and coiffed. So I after that first shoot I made a point of telling parents what type of clothes I was expecting, suggesting that the parent be involved in prepping hair, and generally just forcing a pleasant presentation of their child. This all kinda feeds into the idea that you want the subject to have total buy-in for the photo shoot. So when working with kids it is probably worthwhile to talk with them before the shoot trying to get them to understand that good photos just don’t magically appear. This is especially true in a portrait setting. I guess people kind of expect that since sometimes good photos happen just naturally while out and about when people are interacting with one another with a photographer snapping here and there capturing candid moments, that the same thing will happen in a portrait setting. Well there will be no candid moments in when sitting in front of a backdrop surrounded by lights stands, and all by oneself. At least there won’t be unless you can get the subject to become totally relaxed and forget about the camera (which is pretty difficult when the photographer is standing there saying move half a step to the left, tilt you head back, smile a bit less, and look just over my left shoulder).

Next: More things to watch out for

Experimentation & Prep Work

ealy_ZionVacation2009__DSC2963-EditAfter acquiring all of my new gear and reading up on portrait lighting I started experimenting on my wife and kids. At first everyone was pretty excited about modeling in front of the camera with all of the new equipment. But that only lasted for about 45 minutes. Then it became more of a chore to sit there in front of the camera while Daddy was continually fiddling with lights, exposure, and positioning of the flashes. The things I was looking into were generally what was the exposure range I’d need for my light setup, and to see the look of the shadowed areas on my subjects faces. Honestly there were somethings that I just never really figured out, even during the whole 6 month time frame of this project.

But here are a few things that I discovered:

  • My f-stops ranged from f/1.8 to f/8 but most of the time they were limited to the range f/3.2 – f/5.6.
  • The shutter speeds ranged from 1/50 to 1/200th seconds.
  • Most images were shot on my 24-70mm f/2.8, with several on my 85mm f/1.8 and a few with my 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lenses.
  • Most images were shot at 320 ISO, with a few at 200 ISO (base ISO on the D700).
  • The number of flashes used was from 1 to 5. I had 3 SB-800s one SB-600 and also used the built in flash on my D700.
  • For this project I used 2 cameras, my own D700 and also my father’s D3x.
  • Cheap backdrops are quite a pain in the butt, mostly because they’re thin and see through, and hold on to their wrinkles.
  • Shoot through umbrellas are really great.
  • Nikon CLS is your friend.

Before I started with this project I had only used off camera flash a handful of times. And when I had done so the results were less than stellar because A. I didn’t put much thought into it, and B. I didn’t have proper flash stands. The combination of the stands and shoot through umbrellas really made the light much more pleasing as it illuminated the subject, not so harsh with such deep shadows as you normally get with a bare flashgun.

I also did a bit of experimentation with light modifiers. One thing that I had wanted to try was using a cookie to cast an interesting shadow on my backdrops. A cookie is something that goes between the light source and what is being illuminated. For instance if you were to place some window blinds between your light and its subject then you would get horizontal shadows cast upon it. I never really had much success with cookies in this project (we didn’t have much stuff around the house that lent itself to that type of usage, or I wasn’t being quite imaginative enough). One trick that I did have some success with was in making various snoots to keep the light confined to a controlled shape.

My need for a snoot first arose when I was trying to light one of my backdrops with the desire to keep the illumination such that it would only be slightly larger than the person I was photographing. I was actually quick on my feet during this process because the need came up in the middle of a shoot, and I didn’t already have something planned out for this. Thinking of what was in the house it occurred to me that we have plenty of little plastic tubs that food ships in (like tupperware containers that hold 2 cups of liquid). So I grabbed one of these from the cupboard and just put it over the flash that was pointing at the backdrop. In this first usage the flash was about 2 feet from the backdrop and the circle of light it cast was a fairly well defined circle. I used this quick and dirty snoot for a number of shots, but eventually moved up to a more sophisticated (cereal boxes, straws, white glue and gaffers tape) later in the project.

Next time: Problems and things to watch out for.

Flash Photography – gear acquisition

ealy_HobsonCalendarShoot__DSC3263Before this project I never really spent much time learning about flash photography techniques. With this project I had envisioned that every image would employ multiple flashguns. At first I wasn’t quite sure what type of lighting setup I would need, or could afford. One of my photographer friends had been using a constant lighting setup made up of rather inexpensive flourescent energy saver coil bulbs, in a dish. After talking with him I was made aware of the rather sever shortcomings of that type of setup. I began digging around on the internet for more information about lighting. I made a post on the dpreview lighting forum asking for advice about how to proceed. And along with the usual chaff and negativity stemming from the internet, I found a couple of jewels.

One person pointed out that I already had the beginnings of a decent lighting setup due to the fact that I own two Nikon CLS flash units (SB800 & SB600).  The other was that someone pointed me to a really cool blog, called Strobist. At the Strobist blog I found a ton of information, tutorials, discussions, advertisements and such. It turns out that for the type of work I was doing, the Nikon CLS system preforms really well when indoors in a room that isn’t too large. So I borrowed two more SB800s from my friends, and bought a pretty cool lighting setup from Midwest Photo Exchange. The kit I bought had two flash light stands, two adjustable heads, two shoot through umbrellas, gaffers tape, ties, and flash filters. Since this project was all in black and white I didn’t need the filters, but they may be useful in the future. I also found a really cheap set of stands and two el-cheapo muslin backdrops on ebay. These were no thicker than a sheet, but are 10×12 feet, and actually can make for interesting backdrops if you make sure they have some illumination. The last piece of gear was a book “Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers” from Amazon.

So all in all I spent about $400 on gear for this project (not including speedlights and cameras).

Next up, experimentation and learning.

Back at it again

ealy_HobsonCalendarShoot_FinalNathan-2Well a bit over a year ago I kinda began a gradual slowdown of my photography. Life, work, and cycling all combined to leave me little time and energy to devote to my photography. But at the beginning of the year (2009) I decided that I would embark upon my biggest project. I envisioned that it would take at least 6 months to complete. In this new project I’m branching into an area of photography that I’ve never really made a concerted effort into before. Unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail about it right now. However the project is only about 2 weeks away from completion, so afterward I expect that I will go into greater depths discussing what I’ve learned and accomplished.

In the past year I’ve upgraded my camera to a Nikon D700 and got 2 new absolutely fantastic lenses. The first is the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 wide angle zoom. This lens is a pretty amazing piece of work, and really delivers when it comes to image quality. It is quite sharp, and the corners look pretty great on my full frame camera. The other is the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 zoom lens. I’m also more than pleased with the image quality from this lens (when I’ve nailed the focus). I’m often quite surprised at the level of detail I’m seeing while editing my images in Photoshop that are taken with this lens. It is a bit of a bummer that the 24-70 doesn’t have VR, but I’ve been managing pretty well without it.

I took a mountain biking trip to the Grand Canyon this summer, and it was the best cycling experience that I’ve had so far. It was very difficult from a physical perspective because we were on the North Rim between 7000-9000 ft altitude. There was no way to prepare my lungs for that kind of thin air. So we were pretty exhausted at the end of every day. I did manage to make some pretty nice images while I was there. But so far haven’t really taken the time to put them together in any type of useful web presentation.

Next up I’ll talk more about some of the new techniques I’ve employed for my big project.

In a bit of a funk

Since coming back from our vacation last month life has kept me pretty busy. Work is just as hectic as ever, and there are always many things to occupy my time on the weekends. The kids have music and Soccer, and I’m actually doing a pretty good job of getting back into shape. In additon to my weekend bicycle rides I’m now waking up at 5:00am twice a week to ride my bike to work and back. So that leaves even less time and energy to devote to photography and this blog in the evenings. I suppose that as a result of the overload from vacation and work and life I just haven’t felt very creative lately. I haven’t shot much, and I’ve only printed things that I had to, so there just hasn’t been much to say.

I’ve been participating in a print exchange group with several other people for the past few months. This group only trades digitally printed blackand white images. Its pretty fun and quite interesting to see not only what other people are photographing, but also all the different ways that we are capturing, processing and printing our images. I’ve been using the Epson 1400 printer along with the Piezography Special Edition K6 inks for the exchanges for 3 months now. The prints that this system makes really are beautifully warm. I’ve grown to like them quite a lot. But the Epson 1400 printer itself has been a royal pain to use. I’m currently on my second one, and a replacement for that one is supposed to be on its way from Epson. The paper feed mechanism in this printer is just rubbish. I really wish that I had waited for Jon Cone to develop the special edition ink set for another printer. He has recently announced a special edition K7 inkset for the Epson 1900, and I expect that printer will perform much better than the 1400. Unfortunately I already have a sum of a few hundred dollars invested in the 1400 and moving to the 1900 won’t be cheap. So I’m left hoping that I’ll get lucky with this next replacement from Epson and my problems will be solved. If so I’ll be sure to post it here.

Another bit of photography related news is that I’m once again participating in an Aline Smithson workshop at Julia Dean’s. These classes are always fun and eye opening. Its a great way to meet other photographers who are in a place similar to my own (but everyone else seems to be a little further ahead in getting their stuff shown). Aline is always sending us information on photo competitions, new shows, portfolio review opportunities etc. I’d really like to get that portfolio I mentioned at the beginnig of this blog printed so I could actually have something to bring to a review, but that just hasn’t been happening for me lately. 

Back from a wonderful vacation!

Well I’ve been on a pretty cool european vacation for the past few weeks. I’ve been back in the states for a week now, but it has been difficult to make the time to update this blog due to jet lag and all the things that life requires when gone from home for 3 weeks. I had hoped that I would have better internet access while I was away but that didn’t really happen. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do here on DevliN Details.

I guess the first order of business is to give a quick rundown of where I’ve been. We started out by flying from L.A. to Milan Italy, and then taking a train to visit old friends in Padua. Our time there was just wonderful, friends were great, food was great, wine was great, and I even did a decent job of picking up on Italian. Next was on to Venice to visit with one of my old college friends and her 3 children. I hadn’t seen here in over 10 years so that was very nice and venice was just as beautiful as you might expect. There was lots of time spent seeing the sights and travelling around on water buses. St. Mark’s Square and the palace of the Doge’s was a site to behold. Next was another train ride to Rome where we caught up with my sisters and their families for 3 days of heat, walking and lots of Roman touristy kinda places to see. We managed to hit all the big ones, but it was all kind of a rush because we had our days crammed with places to go see, shop and eat at. The most impressive thing wasn’t the colloseum, it was indeed the Cistine chapel. It is truly as great as its cracked up to be. After Italy we went on a 10 day eastern Mediterranian cruise, hitting up Dubrovnik, Katakolon, Corfu, Santorini, Valetta and Messina. After all of that we decided to wind things down by flying to Berlin to stay with my brother in-law for 3 nights.

Needless to say we were all thoroughly exhausted by the time we got home. Each day consisted of miles of walking, way too much shopping, and pretty stiff heat (until Berlin). I shot roughly 1700 images (though there was a lot of bracketing going on due to only being out in the middle of the day), I’ve only begun to look at a few of them so far. It will be a pretty big effort for me to get them slimmed down to something manageable for a person to view on the web. Unfortunately I didn’t really get to do much shooting for fine artwork due to the limitations of time from the cruise, and also unfortunately to being sick for about a week on the boat. I totally missed going ashore at Katakolon due to feeling poorly. My time in Santorini was also hampered by my sick stomach.

Photography wise it was difficult shooting only in the middle of the day. The sun was high and bright, the skies were usually cloudless and missing that lovely dark blue we get later in the day. One thing that I did feel good about was the performance of my Nikon D300. The camera really is quite awsome, I was most impressed with the layout of the controls on the body and how I was able to manipulate so many of them without even having to remove my eye from the viewfinder. Turning on and off bracketing, continuous shooting modes, AF sensor selection, ISO, exposure compensation all worked really well. And I was making changes to those settings all the time. I also was really impressed with my first extensive uses of the 17-55 and 14-24 lenses. I rarely ever shot with anything else on this trip.

However using such wide angle lenses presents a higher degree of difficulty in coming up with interesting compositions. I made some progress in this regard, but there are still lots of photos where I just wasn’t able to pull it all together into something more interesting than a snapshot. I also did some experimentation with bracketing and using my SB-800 for fill flash. After reviewing the first few days of shooting on my laptop, it was really apparent to me that I was going to have a tough time making nice pictures with all the  blown highlights and blocked shadows because a camera just doesn’t have any where near the dynamic range of the human eye. Taking 3 photos with bracketing +0 EV, -1EV and +1EV makes for a lot of work later on in post processing. On top of that I wasn’t able to bring a tripod due to weight issues so I’ll have to line up many of the images in PS and try to figure out a way to get the highs lows and mids in the range that I want. I expect that I’ll spend a lot of time learning even more about masking in the next few weeks. As such I put in an order for Katrin Eismann’s Photoshop Masking and Compositing so I can really do my best to merge the 3 exposures into something I find pleasing.

On a final note, while I was gone on vacation an old photo of mine kept gaining greater interest over at Jpeg magazine. The image at the top of this post was shot in Puerto Vallarta in 2004 and has been up at jpgmag.com for at least 18 months or so. I guess it has slowly gained popularity because every once in a while I’d get an email from them about how it was favorited by one of their users. Now it is officially a “Hot Photo”. I haven’t posted any images at Jpeg ever since that first day, I guess I should do a better job of trying to get my images out there for others to see. Its funny, I’ve always liked that photo and can see the interest in it because of the colors, but it never was one that I considered to be one of my best, or all that unique. Of couse most of those remain in boxes, or on my walls, or hidden on some hard drive where no one else can see them.

There just isn’t enough time to make everything happen!

More on Piezography

Well I’ve had this new printing system for a while now and have learned quite a few things about it. And for that matter I suppose at least a couple of new things about me too. As I originally expected nothing is ever as easy as it seems at first blush. There are certainly aspects of printing with this new printer that drive me crazy. I’ve been using higher end Epson printers for over 5 years now and going back to something that is built to a $300.00 price point brings along with it a few frustrations. The biggest two have to be the fact that the ink cartridges are so small, and that the printer doesn’t have and adjustable paper thickness settings and that can result in frequent print head strikes against the paper.  Due to the small size (11 ml I think) of the cartridges, I’ve been having to refill one or two carts every day or so. This is really annoying to me. I’ve been printing with the Epson 3800 for over a year now and have become used to the large 80ml ink carts, that usually only require replacing 1 every month or so. If I wind up dedicating this printer to B/W printing with the Piezography inks then I will have to plunk down the money for the continuous ink system (CIS) just so I’m not spending a little bit of time refilling cartridges every day. Right now it seems like that is a distinct possibility for me since I can get my hands on an old Epson 2200 printer that my wife and kids can use for making color prints. I checked online at my favorite Epson supply store (atlex.com) and the 2200 carts sell for only about $8.90 each while the Epson color carts for the 1400 are about $16.00!

Once I got a few things explained to me multiple times by Jon Cone I was able to make some pretty nice prints with this new system. However, frequently when I first pull a print off of the printer I’m a little bit disappointed in the look, sometimes its too flat, or too red/brown, or just not right in some way. But then, I wait a few hours and the inks begin to stabilize and work more in concert with one another and the paper, then the prints begin to grow on me. And usually by the next day I’m thinking, man this image looks pretty darned good now. I didn’t really get around to printing the same file with the new inks and comparing them to a print made with my 3800 and the ABW mode until tonight.  I took the image that will be the third in the triptych that I’ve mentioned before and printed it with both systems on the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 paper. By printing the same file (which was optimized for Piezography) I could immediatly see that the ABW print was simply outclassed. The ABW print was much darker in the lower tones, and looses some detail due to blocking. Additionally, the mid and upper tones of the ABW print just lacked the spark that I see in the Piezography print. This may be the result of the subtle split tone that you get out of the Piezography print.

At some point in the next few days I’ll have to tweak that file for ABW printing and redo this comparison to make it a little more fair. I suspect that the Piezography print had a real advantage here in that I was able to use the provided ICC profiles for softproofing, and all of my fine tuning edits were made with that in mind. This is one area where printing with Piezography really does have a leg up on the ABW system. The only way to get softproofs with ABW is through the somewhat laborious QTR Create ICC program. I had tried it before a year or two ago and wasn’t that thrilled with the results. The ICC profiles that Cone provides are actually pretty darned accurate….zzzzzz I’m dozing at the keyboard again.

An acquired taste?

I’ve gone through ups and downs while evaluating this new inkset. At firt I thought it was really cool, then I realized it was just coincidental color still in my system. Then I thought it wasn’t all too different from the images that I can make with the ABW mode on my 3800. Next I was feeling really unsure about the look of the darker tones in the piezography images (the reddish warmth was quite different than what I was used to and struck me as rather odd). But now for the past couple of days it has started to grow on me once again, kinda like an acquired taste. Over the past few days I’ve been combing through some of my favorite b/w images and printing them with the new inks. I’ve already had to refill one of the cartridges and I’ve only been using the system for one week now. Tonight I came across this image that I took at the Guggenheim Museum back in 2005.

I really enjoyed the time I had at the Guggenheim that day, they just happened to have an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s on display when I was there. I knew that Mapplethorpe had caused quite some controversy while he was alive, but didn’t really know too much about it. Well I can certainly see why a bunch of stuffy old conservatives would get all bent out of shape by some of Mapplethorpe’s photographs. While I was able to get by some of the more difficult to appreciate homoerotic images, I was at the same time blown away by the beauty in so many of those prints. It didn’t really matter if they were of flowers, a statue or a person there was just so much artistic verisimilitude in his work that I found inspiring. I recall seeing for the first time a modern highly techincal large format platinum print. Having become used to the near perfection of Ansel Adams style of printing with deep blacks (think later versions of Hernandez) and rather strong contrasts, it was rather astonishing to see soft warm radiance in those Mapplethorpe prints. At the time it also reinforced in my mind that not all photographic worth should be tied up in trying to approximate the air dried fiber based glossy look. Producing an image with our modern inkjets with the reduced dmax and acuity of the best fine art matte papers produces a result than can at times be not unlike what I saw that day at the Guggenheim.

The new inks that I’ve been working with have a distinct look, they ought to provide me with the chance to produce some of my own soft, warm, radiant prints.

Lots o printing going on here.

I’ve been printing pretty much at every free moment that I have at home. Using these new inks is quite interesting, but not a slam dunk for me. Normally I won’t be posting photos of my family on this blog, but I’ve been staring at many prints of this image all day long and I figure it will come up in my comments.

After that first night of printing with the Piezography inks in my 1400 my hopes were pretty high and I was excited about all the changes that I was seeing in the ink colors throughout the image. By the middle of the day it started to dawn on me that something wasn’t quite right with the colors that I was seeeing. They were just too colorful to have come out of the bottles of gray muck that I had poured into the ink cartridges before beginning this whole process. After thinking about this a little harder my mind began to gain some traction on what was happening here. Putting 2 and 2 together I finally realized that it was the earlier prints that were more colorful while in the later ones the warmth around the sun that looked so amazing was settling down to a more expected shade of gray. As I continued to use the system the last bits of color were finally being removed from the ink lines and heads, and I was beginning to see the true color of what the Piezography Special K6 inkset looks like on the Epson 1400. It was much different than I had expected.

The split toned nature of the images produced by this system are rather subtle, and I don’t really see much neutral in the images at all. The sepia ink is pretty strong in this combination and as the image gets darker it takes on a rather ruddy hue in the shadow areas. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to accurately describe what I see when using this new inkset and have a few ideas. However this initial effort to blog about what I’m doing and seeing won’t be perfect. Objectively describing what these prints look like will be difficult and I suspect not very satisfying for the reader. When I see a slew of Lab values describing a step wedge it doesn’t translate at all into a visual representation of luminance and color in my head. Yet at this point I can think of no other way to objectively state the subtle changes in color that these inks present on the page.

This ink system really does look best on the high quality matte papers like Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, German Etching and Epson Velvet Fine Art. But these papers are all quite expensive (each sheet costs more than $1.00). I’ve burned through a lot of expensive paper in the past week fooling around with this system. So one of my first goals was to figure out what inexpensive paper would work best for me. I do lots of testing and proof prints in my normal approach to working up an image. So its pretty important for me to have a paper that I know well and that costs a reasonable amount of money. Most people default to Epson Enhanced Matte (EEM) for this duty because it offers a good dmax (with Ultrachrome K3 inks) and is very reasonably priced. However, for myself I’ve never liked how shadows and black areas work with EEM and UC K3. This combination gives a mottled appearance of over inking in the shadow areas. I have tons of this paper that’s just been sitting around my house for the past 2 or 3 years (ever since I got a 2400 and the UC K3 inks came out).

With the arrival of the Piezography inks I had high hopes for being able to make use of all the EEM that I have here. Well after the first two prints I gave up on EEM with Piezography. This paper offers the weakest dmax with the piezography inks (which is the exact opposite of UC K3). Not only that, but the mottling in the shadow areas was still there! So it was in fact a double whammy of no and HELL no to using EEM with this new system.

Thanks to a suggestion from another B/W ink genius I found out about Premier Art Matte BW 210 (PBW). This paper is available from MIS at www.inksupply.com and also from Atlex.com. It is a much more affordable $0.22/sheet and doesn’t suffer from the same poor shadow performance as EEM. I’ve been using this paper somewhat successfully over the past two years with my 3800. The Piezography system didn’t come with QTR curves for this paper, or with icc profiles that would allow a soft proof preview. My first couple of prints on this paper with the new inks weren’t so hot. So this weekend I set out to systematically figure out what to do about an inexpensive proofing paper. I looked at EEM, PBW, Premier Art Hot Press 205 (not really that cheap) and started printing the image at the top of this post with many of the various QTR curves that are made for the 1400 and Piezography K6 inks. Eventually I found a curve file that works well with PBW. Using the curve for H. Photo Rag Bright White gave a decent image on PBW. Still not really as good as the more expensive papers, but close enough. PBW has kind of a lot of OBAs so the paper white is more blueish in color than EEM. I haven’t yet measured the dmax with the K6 inkset on PBW, but will get to that tomorrow after my step wedge has had a night to dry and settle down.

Woah, it late, already after 11:00. I’ll have more to say in my next post.

I’ve been really busy lately!


Well life has been very full for me in the past few weeks. I’m working like crazy at my regular job, early mornings, and even working on the weekend. Its not so bad though, because I’m doing stuff that is challenging and kinda fun. At the same time though some of it is pretty hard and requires tons of abstract thought and the type of problem solving required to integrate many conceptual components that only exist in my head (such is the life of a software designer). On top of all the work that pays the bills I’ve also been pretty wrapped up in exercising some of the new photo gear that I’ve received over the past couple of weeks.

Firstly I got a new lens (I’ve convinced myself that I needed to evaluate it). The Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 wide angle zoom lens is the newest and quite possibly the best wide angle lens available short of the legendary 21mm Zeiss  Distagon. The lens is rather large and heavy, and the front lens element is huge and bulbous. But it does take some pretty darned nice photos. I don’t have anything particularly worthwhile to show from it yet because I just haven’t been able to shoot without outside of my driveway, or in the house in the evenings. My initial batch of comparisons against my Nikon 12-24 f/4 show that the new 14-24 is very impressive in the corners (the weakest spot of the 12-24). In all likelihood I’ll wind up keeping this lens, even though it is so expensive and not quite as wide as the 12-24. The photo that I’ve included with this post is one of the few photos I’ve shot at 12mm that I would consider successful. At the time I was on a moving ship, so that along with the subject matter rendered the somewhat weak corners moot.

Part of the reason why I haven’t had as much time to shoot with the new lens is that I also have been experimenting with a new printing system and new papers. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got a new Epson 1400 printer. This is a color inkjet printer that uses Epson dyes. However, a couple of the black and white inkjet gurus like Jon Cone and Paul Roark have discovered that this printer really excels at b/w when using dedicated monochrome pigmented inks. Now I’ve been hearing about how wonderful Cone’s piezography system has been for years and have really wanted to get a chance to try this out for myself. The combination of the economically priced 1400 and the great things I was hearing about piezography inks using this printer finally convinced me to take the plunge and purchase the Piezography Special Edition K6 inkset for the 1400.

The new inks arrived on Monday along with two sample packs of Cone Studio Type 1 and Type 2 papers. Normally the Piezography system for the 1400 is only available as a CIS system. I didn’t really want to use a CIS system because my wife and kids will also need to be able to swap out the b/w ink cartridges and replace them with the color ones. Luckily MIS sells a set of refillable ink cartridges for the 1400 (for how much longer I’m not sure though). This brought the cost of going to a dedicated monochrome inks to be just about $400. This is pretty steep considering that the printer itself only cost about $200. Prices for everything are just ridiculous nowadays. Yesterday I went to order 2 special pens for writing on CDs. The cost of the pens was $8, the cost to ship them to me was $9.00. I canceled the order so Icould wait ’till I was ready to order something else so I could combine shipping costs.

Filling the carts with the Piezography inks was fairly straightforward. Though I had some trouble with using the backfill adapter to suck out 1cc of ink inorder to remove air bubbles from the cartridge. I was a little worried that there might be problems with the chips on these refillable cartridges since they were all third party items. But everything worked perfectly well after installing the new carts (we’ll have to see if things go so smoothly when it becomes time to refill the carts). I ran 2 cleaning cycles on the 1400 waiting to get all nozzles firing without any gaps. This proved to be more difficult than I expected because the number 1 piezography ink is so light that its darned near impossible to see. So I ran  fourth cleaning cycle and then made my first piezography print of the image at the top of this post. It came out kinda flat and with some funny coloring to the image. Well I had made the first of many mistakes in learning about printing with these new inks. The first mistake I made was trying to save a little bit of ink and time by printing at 1440 dpi. Normally with the Epson Ultrachrome inks there is not too much difference between 1440 and 2880 dpi. Not so with these inks on the 1400, according to Jon Cone the printing curve description files were made specifically with the 2880 dpi resolution as the intended target.

My next print was done at 2880 and came out looking tons better! There was a decent amount of black in the image now, and the mid tone contrast was dramatically improved, along with highlight separation. Also at this point I could see that there was a very interesting color shift in the upper mids to highs around the sun and gradually radiating through the left third of the image. I thought that this was an amazing split with warmth in the mid to upper regions and gradually going through a neutral/cooling descent into black. This wasn’t really how the inks were supposed to perform. What I was seeing was just a very lucky coincidence of the remaining yellow ink that was still in the printer, and seemed to really only show up in the areas that looked incredibly interesting around the lighter areas of the photo. That first night I probably printed at least 8 different versions of this image on several different papers and was amazed about how much the colors changed as I chaged each paper. While Piezography normally does go through subtle hue changes with different papers, that was not was not what I was seeing. I was still seeing the final remnants of the color inks that were originally in the printer.

To be continued….