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!

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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….

Scaling continued…

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Man I can’t believe that the Lakers so totally blew it tonight, I’m bummed and am afraid that they are TOAST!

Now back to the topic at hand. Scaling this image (the one in my post on June 1st) turned out to be a good test for a re-evaluation of several scaling techniques. This time though I only did a 3 way comparison:

  1. Digital Outback Photo’s (DOP) upsizing plugin
  2. Photoshop’s bicubic smoother
  3. Qimage

For this test I scaled my image up to 24×36″ (which is quite a bit larger than I can actually print).  There was very little difference between bicubic and the DOP plugin. They both looked ok, with no noticeable jaggies or objectionable artifacts. However, the output from Qimage did actually look better, it was sharper, a little better defined, and offered more contrast. I suspect that it was a combination of Qimage’s scaling and sharpening algorithms that made the difference. I haven’t gone ahead and purchased Qimage yet, but I’m thinking that I probably will now that I can actually see that it is doing better than the other techniques I’ve been using. What’s kinda holding me back from just buying it straight away is that I don’t particularly care for its interface. Every time that I go to use this program I find myself struggling with simple things like rotating the image or deciding on which scaling algorithm to use. To me the UI is confusing and difficult to use. I also am not so thrilled about having to go to another program outside of Photoshop to get my image printed. If and when I get around to buying the program I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it here at my DevilN Details blog.

I finally made  a successful print of my second portfolio image using Qimage on Tuesday. Everything worked out well and I didn’t find any problems in this second print. Next up will be the third portfolio image which you can see in the middle of my post on May 3rd. I’m hoping that once the three of these prints are finished that they will look well in a tryptich arrangement.

Finally, on another note I ordered a new lens yesterday, the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 which is supposed to be the most awesome wide angle lens currently made. I’ll be doing some tests and comparing it to my 12-24 f/4 to see if it is worth the $600 premium. I also am expecting my first set of piezography inks to arrive next week. I might have a thing or two to say about them after I’ve had a chance to work with these new toys for a while.

Slow going, but keeping at it

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Yesterday I finished print number two, which was a long time in coming. I actually made what I thought was the final version of print number two about a week ago. But after letting it sit out to dry for a day I looked at the image closely before I boxed it up. On close inspection I could see some digital artifacts in some of the rock detail that just weren’t visible to me in the smaller prints. These image flaws made some of the very abstract detail in the rocks look harsh and brittle (very digital-ly looking, now there’s a word for you). I didn’t like this at all and felt that this was something that I wouldn’t really be happy giving to someone else, so I went back to the computer to see what went wrong.

It turns out that the problem was twofold. While working on the image in Photoshop I tend to go no larger than 50% magnification (unless something requires very small scale editing). I had applied at least 2 rounds of sharpening to the image as I worked on it. This alone wasn’t a problem, as the image looked fine as 6×10″ and I’m pretty sure it still would have been fine up to 11×17″. The images for this portfolio are being scaled up to 14×21″ and on top of that the scaling algorithm that I was using does another final round of output sharpening as part of this enlargement process. It was this final round of sharpening after scaling the image up that did this print in.

Digitally enlarging an image is a pretty interesting process that can be done in any number of ways. Choosing the best way to scale an image has become a good deal easier in recent years. Back in the “old days” pre 2004 we used either Photoshop’s bicubic method or spent some money and purchased a program like Genuine Fractals (GF), which was a very popular program for doing these kinds of things. Before Photoshop CS/CS2, Genuine Fractals was noticeably better than Photoshop’s bicubic method. PS CS3’s bicubic smoother and sharper scaling algorithms are much better nowadays especially for things that are likely only going to be scaled from a 10+ megapixel camera up to a 17×22″ print size. There are also tools like AlienSkin Blow Up, and Qimage. A couple of years ago I looked closely at all of these products (and several techniques for scaling using Photoshop tools) and was never really able to produce demonstrably better enlargements (of my images, to my desired size) with these other programs than I could with what was already in Photoshop. So I just stuck with Photoshop’s bicubic smoother, or the upsizing routine from the folks at Digital Outback Photo.

I think that in my case, I just didn’t have a need to up rez my photos to the point that these more expensive (and hopefully more advanced) scaling algorithms had a chance to show their stuff. In this particular instance it was the Digital Outback Photo upsizing method that caused print number two to be botched. I’m pretty sure that had it not applied that final bit of sharpening the image would have looked ok. With that discovery I resized the image simply using Photoshop’s bicubic smoother and it looked fine, no longer harsh and brittle. I also decided that I’d take another look at Qimage now that I had an image that was actually kinda difficult to scale to the size that I wanted.

Qimage is a program that has a very avid following out there in the inkjet printer community. Qimage not only provides several advanced scaling algorithms, but also employs its own “intelligent” form of output sharpening, and also a page layout facility (which automates the most efficient placement of multiple images on a single page). Oh I forgot to mention that Qimage is also a fully color managed image viewer and print spooler too! Over the years I’ve wondered what it is about this program that causes so many of its users to scream its virtues at the top of their lungs, where I couldn’t see any real improvement over the scaling that I performed in Photoshop.

Its getting late and I’m pretty tired, so I’ll have to continue this post tomorrow…zzzz

Self Doubt

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I wonder if this feeling of self doubt is common to those who are trying to put something together like I am with this portfolio. Frequently when I get back from a shoot, I download my images and run through them quickly. As I am shooting I take note of the ones that I think are going to be especially interesting look at them first when reviewing the shots on the computer for the first time. Sometimes I’m right about what was a good capture and other times I’m pretty wrong. There are other images that take quite some time to grow on me, for me to notice something especially interesting about them, or for the potential of the image to be worked into something more than the shapes and light that were present when I tripped the shutter.

The very nature of many of the images that I’ve selected for this portfolio are such that I only had some general idea of what they would look like as I opened the shutter for any where from 0.75 to 5 seconds while the waves were crashing over the rocks. The three photos that will make up the triptych I am working on are examples of this delayed type of realization. It was only after spending a fair amount of time reviewing those images that I had shot several months prior to beginning this portfolio project when it dawned on me that some of the many photos of this rock formation could possibly fit together forming a single piece. I most always have a tendency to tackle the toughest problems first when working, so I’ve put of the photos I am more sure about until later in the project.

With the first photo printed I began editing the second image today (it is at the top of this post). In the preceding months I had already done some quick (maybe an hour total over the 5 months since I first shot it) and dirty tweaks of the image just to get myself an idea of what it might look like in final form. Trying to bring it into final form can be a fairly slow process for me. Today alone I’ve probably spent about 5 hours working on this photo. This involves doing a fresh conversion from the RAW color photo. Then doing a second conversion from color into black and white, followed by the tweaking of luminance curves, dodging and burning the rocks and clouds, and making around 10 test prints today. I don’t really know if I’m pitifully slow when working on an image, but there are so many things to consider: how much contrast is needed, where to set the black point, is there enough shadow/highlight detail? I spend a lot of time considering so many aspects of each photo, and then when I begin to make the print there is still even more time that goes into things like ink tone and paper choice. In this instance I have to keep things consistent across the portfolio so those two things are mostly decided already. But with this being the only the second image to be printed there is still time to change my mind I guess.

Here is the problem for me.  After spending so many hours staring at the same image, concentrating on all the areas that I see as potential problems I begin to doubt the image’s worth. I guess I kinda get tired of looking at it. So for a while there this evening it seemed as if every test print that I made was coming out too flat, too dull, too tired. In reality I guess I’m the one who is tired, but it is at this point that I really begin to wonder if I’m just wasting my time. Is anyone ever going to even begin to appreciate what I see in these images? Making art is a risky proposition, actually producing something and then putting it out there for the world to see is taking a chance. Maybe there is nothing at all there in what I’m doing. I certainly don’t expect any other person on the planet to sit there looking at what I produce for 5+ hours in a single day. Do the master’s of the art world go through the same thing when they’re producing? I certainly know that the creation of a painting or sculpture can take even longer than what I’m doing right now. What drives them, what is driving me to do this with no guarantee of reward or even recognition? The question isn’t what is art, it’s why is art?

One Down…

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Ten, twelve maybe 14 more to go. Today I finally buckled down and made some concrete decisions about how the portfolio would be printed. This involved sticking with my chosen paper (VFA) and deciding on how I would tone the inks for this series of prints. I had decided some time ago that I would start with the most difficult image in the group of candidates for the portfolio. The image that I’ve included with this post is pretty hard to appreciate on the web, or for that matter at any size less than 6×10″. It is the image that I’m probably the least sure of in this group of photographs. The reason that I kept in the portfolio along with everything else is because I think that it will work when combined with two others in order to make a triptych. When printed on a textured matte paper like VFA this photo has a certain type of subtle transition between paper white and the lightest shades of gray that make up the clouded waves.

The clouds in the waves that make up the images in this portfolio have inspired me to name this body of work Aqua-Valent which is a sort of play on the work of a rather famous early 20th centurty photographer.

In confirming my paper choice I printed several small copies of the image also on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 (HPR), H. Museum Etching and H. German Etching. Even though I really love the HGE it didn’t work as well with this image because the highlights suffered from a lack of separation within the upper 5% of image density. Museum Etching simply came across as a little flat when compared to the others, and its shadows seemed to suffer in a similar way as the highlights did on HGE. That left it to the pair of VFA and HPR, which are without a doubt two of the most highly regarded matte papers out there. And for good reason, the image really did look best on these two, VFA is able to generate a superior black to HPR, however as I’m sure anyone would notice, there just isn’t much black in this image at all. The biggest differences between HPR and VFA are the paper color and the texture. VFA is a bright white paper, while HPR has a creamier color close to that of a natural paper wihtout OBAs. HPR still has OBAs nonetheless and that is the reason why it looked superior to the Museum Etching paper.

In the end VFA won out because of the fact that I really like the way that this image (and I expect the others also) look on textured paper. I had envisioned that this image would be rendered on the matte paper in such a way as to look as if it were almost painted on. That effect is more readily achieved with the textured surface of VFA or even HGE. This image when printed large on a sheet of VFA came with the look I was after. I moved the white point of the image down so that small parts of the clouds would be clipped to paper white. The lightest gray shades then are allowed to more obviously stand out from the paper white, giving those paper white areas a painterly feel, while the texture of the paper kinda sorta mimics the texture that a brush would impart upon oil based paints applied to canvas.

Choosing a color tone for the b/w images was one of the easier decisions to make, well at least it was that way since I had to put aside building my own ink mixtures in QTR. For some reason I never seem to want to make my prints as a straight up neutral b/w. In previous posts I had described my quest for a certain type of sepia/selenium split effect. I also like my images printed up as slightly warm with the Epson ABW driver (H:5, V:5), to a deeper (H:10, V:10). While fooling around with toning the ABW driver I discovered an interesting combination (H:19, V:-33) that works quite well on the creamy or natural papers without OBAs. However this last combination didn’t seem to fit my image when printed on VFA. I finally wound up trying an ABW setting suggested by Clayton Jones in one of his paper chase articles. Using H:2, V:8 gives a slightly warm rendition that seems to work in a pleasing fashion with the brightened white of VFA. My test print using this setting came out looking pretty nice, not neutral gray, but also not too warm either. After examining the test print’s tone, shadows and highlight separation with this setting I was satisfied. With that last decision made I was able to prep and print the first image that will make up my first portfolio Aqua-Valent.

Little Progress

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The past week has been pretty busy, and not much has happened with the portfolio work in some time. The time that I’ve had to spend on photography has been centered around getting other prints made for sale, and struggling with paper and ink issues. I went to make a final print on a paper that I had done extensive testing with (Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk(GFS)) on 8.5 x 11″ paper. I ordered a box of 13 x 19″ paper just for this particular print, this was the first time I had tried the paper in anything other than letter size.

I recently began reading the book Real World Color Management, along with several other web sites on the topic. All of this reading had reminded me that I never did a thorough analysis of the various media settings available when creating a paper profile and printing an image. So I spent a couple of days making test prints and waiting for them to dry before selecting the best paper type to use when printing on GFS. It turns out that the media setting I used when I first created a profile for this paper wasn’t really the best one (though it did offer the deepest blacks). So with my newly found paper setting I created a new profile for GFS and that is where the problems started. After printing the test sheets and allowing them to dry for 6 hours or so, I took a look at them under a strong light and with my glasses on. And I found something I had never seen before on this paper… the dreaded pizza wheel marks from my Epson printer. Pizza wheel marks are created by the feed mechanism Epson uses in their lower end (if you can call the 3800 that) printers without a vacuum suction transport. What pulls the paper through the printer are two sets of opposed rollers, rubber on the bottom and spiked wheels on the top. These spiked wheels sometimes dig into the ink and paper and leave columns of tracks that are affectionately known as pizza wheel marks.

Normally these marks are only visible when looking very closely at the print under direct lighting at a specific angle. These marks only show up on glossy type papers. In this instance I had not seen them in my initial evaluations of the paper, and was fairly annoyed that they’ve only showed up just as I’m preparing a print for a client. So I went back and made a few changes to the paper thickness settings hoping that would alleviate the problem. I wound up picking a paper thickness of 0.5mm and a platen gap of “wider”. This seemed to get rid of the marks. With my new best possible profile for GFS in hand I made what I thought was the final print of the ForestFlora5 image. My initial inspection under the light showed nothing wrong with the print, so I boxed it up to let it sit for 24 hours before its final spray.

A couple of days later I removed the print and put it up on the line to shoot it with a dose of Premiere Art Print Shield which is a spray designed to add a layer of scuff protection and lightfastness to inkjet images. Once on the line I could see two small white spots on the print. Hoping that they were just dust or something on the surface I backtapped, then blew, and finally brushed the print with my hand. Nope, the ink had not adhered to the paper in two pinprick sized spots. Before I printed on this sheet, I cleaned it as I normally do with an anti-static brush (with orthogonal brush strokes). Then I blasted the paper with a can of compressed air as a final cleaning measure before putting it into the printer. This sequence of prepping the paper has worked quite well for me over the years, and I rarely ever get flakes on my cotton rag papers, let alone leave dust on a glossy type paper before printing. Assuming that somehow I just had some bad luck and some piece of detritus had found its way on to the paper just before printing I grumbled about wasted time and went back to make a new print.

On my second “final” print I followed the same paper cleaning procedure. Then after the printer was finished I carefully examined the print under my light (with my glasses on). And sure enough there were two other small defects in the image, these weren’t missing inks but defects in the paper (as I now suspect the first problems were). These defects are quite small less than a square millimeter in area and practically impossible to see on the paper before making the print. By now I was getting kinda mad and kicking myself for trying to do a job on a new box of paper in a size I had never tried before. I sat down and made a third “final” print and hopped that there would be no issues with this one. The third sheet was good, and suffered from no paper defects. It is now dry, sprayed and bagged, ready for delivery.

When using new products, you never know what is going to happen, or trip you up. I sincerely hope that these problems were just isolated incidents since I really like this paper’s look and cost. However, the issue with the pizza wheel marks remain, and my search for the perfect photo black type of paper for me might not be over after all.

New Epson 1400 Printer

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I’ve been out of town for the past few days camping near Lake Cachuma with the family and my son’s scout troop. But just before I left my computer gremlins left another present for me. My new hard drive to replace the failed mirror drive started reporting errors on Thursday night. Of course this angered me to no end. So my time on Thursday was spent trying to figure out what was wrong, or if I just have bad luck (more on the luck thing later). I was all set to just rip the drive out and wait for a replacement from Western Digital (this is an RE2 drive which is supposed to be very reliable). When I thought that maybe there could be a hardware problem in my drive subsystem. So I ran SpinRite 6 on this drive all night long in mode 4 which is the deep cleaning and analysis mode. In the morning it reported that there were no errors on the drive.

When we returned from the camping trip yesterday I was pretty perplexed about what to do about the drive system. For the time being I’ve just replaced the SATA cable, and re-added it to the mirror. The drive has been functioning properly yesterday and today with no errors. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but if the system once again starts logging errors on that drive while SpinRite claims that it is ok, I may have to look into getting a standalone RAID controller (which would totally suck).

Today when I got home my Epson 1400 printer had arrived. I had ordered one that was supposedly a “like new” printer that just was in an open box. Well that was being a bit generous. The printer has obviously been used, didn’t arrive in its original Epson box, was missing the install CD, and one CD printing accessory. I suspect that this may have been a floor model at the store I bought it from since there are signs of use in the form of light scratches on the cover and buttons. To make matters worse the printer didn’t work when I took it out of the box. It reported that the black ink cartridge was empty (even though the cartridge was new and in a sealed wrapper). After talking with Epson they said that the only way to tell if the problem was in the printer or a defective cartridge, was to put in a new cartridge. They shipped me one for free but it won’t get here ’till Friday. I couldn’t wait that long to find out if the printer really has a problem so I went to Frys Electronics and bought a replacement cart. Luckily the printer immediately fired up with the new cartridge, so maybe I just had a mid sized amount of bad luck going for me today. Luckily Epson does a pretty darned good job of standing by the warranty on their printers and is always ready to ship a replacement part (or whole printer if necessary) when something goes wrong.

With all the disk/printer problems in the past few days I haven’t done any work on my portfolio. I just wonder why the hardware problems are around every corner of my life when I’m trying to work on this portfolio, its like the gods are frowning on me for even attempting to do this…

Selling my first piece

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My first commissioned art piece was given the go ahead today. It is a print of the image above, that was originally part of a set I did for a gallery show last year. None of the pieces in that show sold, but now finally someone has said hey, I like that, I want that, I’ll give you money for that! Maybe there will be more printed for her in the future, maybe things will start to happen and I’ll finally have this whole photography thing start bringing in a little money to offset all my expenses that I’ve racked up over the past few years. Its funny that the work I’m doing for my portfolio moved away from these flora type images. Looking at the copy of this image in the browser doesn’t quite do it justice (it may be that the greens don’t properly fit in the sRGB space), but at least it’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Actually making a real effort to market my photographs has been on my todo list for quite sometime. I guess I’m lucky that something is selling considering I’ve done nothing other than that gallery show last year in order to get my images out for people to see. At some point I am going to get a professional web site designer to build something for my artwork; but I keep dragging my feet on that issue because it is something I should be able to do myself. The problem is making the time to actually get it done.