Entries Tagged as 'ink'

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 ZeissĀ  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 ranĀ  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….

Piezography

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Before I get to Piezography, a little bit about this blog. I don’t really know if the issues I’m having with this blog are related to my hosting provider, problems with WordPress plugins, or simply my own misunderstandings about how they are all supposed to work together. None of the statistics for my website or my blog show any activity at all. Now it could be that almost no one has found this yet, but I’ve had a friend already thank me for listing him on my blogroll, and the only way he would have known that I had done so was by visiting by blog. If any of you WordPress experts out there have a clue what might be wrong please let me know.

I’ve received two sets of sample prints made with the Piezography system and they look pretty fantastic! Good enough that I’m going to pick up a new printer so I can try them out myself. Its kinda hard to say why they are better (maybe they aren’t, just sufficiently different in a pleasing way) than the b/w prints I’m making with the Epson ABW driver on my 3800. I think one thing about them that I can put my finger on is that they do seem to offer greater resolution. The Piezography website has a demonstration of this using 1pt text from Alice in Wonderland. When I first saw it I was pretty skeptical but after holding a few of their prints in hand I guess they must have a point. Its kinda hard to be sure without printing the same image with both systems, but I’m intrigued enough to plunk down some money in order to give it a try. I’ll be getting the Epson 1400 I mentioned a few days ago, but probably won’t get the Piezography inks right away. Currently the Piezography system for the 1400 only works with a continuous inkflow system (CIS). Which means that there are no refillable cartridges for this printer yet (nor are there any for my 3800). There is a possibility that new carts will be coming soon, so I’ll wait a little while in the hopes I can get some. If not then I’ll wind up paying more for the inks and CIS than for the printer itself. I’m pretty excited about getting to work with the Piezography system, I’ve been reading about it for years, hoping to see why this is such a big deal.

Back to my own work. I’ve put my whole selenium QTR curve project aside for now. Tonight I just concentrated on printing a couple of b/w images exploring what I can do with the Epson inks and to see if I can tell where the difference lies between them (Epson) and the Piezography inks. I didn’t really come to any conclusions, and I think that to the untrained eye there probably wouldn’t be very much difference at all. I guess one other thing that really surprised me about the Piezography prints is how subtle their color tones are. Their selenium tone ink is just barely perceptible to me, while the sepia is certainly more noticeable, it’s not at all like what most of us think of what an old sepia toned photograph would look like. I printed the image at the top of this posting several times tonight with several variations in color toning applied, or with different printing profiles. After quizzing my daughter about the differences between them I’m left with an observation no more concrete than this: photographers must be nuts to obsess over the minutiae of toning, metamerism, neutrality, or what ever else may be the topic of the day.

Portfolio: INK, ink, Ink?

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In case you didn’t get it, ink was the next big issue on my mind. My photo printer is a 17″ Epson 3800, a cutting edge printer that is capable of producing quite wonderful images. Straight out of the box the 3800 comes with 2 different options for making a b/w print. You can simply convert the image to grayscale in photoshop and fire it off to the standard color print driver. Printing b/w this way is simply the easiest thing going. However it uses a lot of the color inks (cyan, magenta, and yellow) in creating the b/w image. The colored inks are viewed with a degree of suspicion by many in the b/w inkjet community for several reasons, with the main two being they degrade color stability of the print over time (colored inks tend to fade faster) and sometimes, some people are able to perceive the influences of the color inks. The second more complex b/w printing method is using the Advanced Black and White (ABW) option that Epson provides. While not quite as straightforward as printing using the color option, ABW isn’t too difficult either. Printing with the ABW driver uses much much less color ink to create a neutral print, and it also offers a deeper dmax than the color driver.

Generally when printing b/w I go straight to the ABW driver because of the dmax, and controls for adjusting shadows, highlight and toning of the image. I myself rarely print a straight up neutral b/w version of my photos. Most of the time I add some warmth to my images. I expect that when printing this portfolio I will decide on how warm the prints should be and keep it consistent throughout the portfolio. On top of my tendency for warm b/w images I also have been trying to come up with a way of creating a split toned image to my liking. So far I have not been able to do this with my 3800. Last year I was at a workshop and met a photographer who had produced an absolutely stunning portfolio, with a sublime sepia/selenium split tone. I’d never seen anything quite like it before. Given my colorvision problems (I’m red/green colorblind) it is especially difficult for me to distinguish purple from blue. However on these selenium toned shadows I could actually see the purple, something I normally just can’t make out. Since then, whenever the mood strikes me I’ve spent a little time in photoshop fooling around trying to reproduce it, or also trying to find an ABW combination that gets me close. So far I’ve been unsuccessful in that endeavor, which leads me to my next topic.

QTR

Quad Tone Rip is a cool piece of software written by Roy Harrington. It is a standalone print driver for many Epson inkjet printers, which is built on top of the Gimp/Gutenprint print engine. The neat thing about QTR is that you have pretty much complete control of each individual ink channel in your Epson printer. Learning how to use QTR for blending your own inks, creating curves and icc profiles is not for the faint of heart (nor possibly for the sane of mind either). Since I had never been able to come up with a decent selenium tone in Photoshop, or with my other b/w profiling (Spyder3 Print – a topic for another day) or ABW controls, I thought that maybe I would actually force myself to learn how to use QTR in the hopes of developing my own ink curves for the selenium tone purple shadows I was after. Of course the only reason I embarked upon this additional task was because I didn’t already have enough on my plate with selecting images, editing them, choosing paper, formatting and printing my portfolio, on top of the normal everyday things like going to work, delivering a new software system, and making time for my family. Maybe I have some new kind of attention deficit disorder, kinda like ADHD in kids, but kinda in reverse for my adult mind that has to find a way to fill up every possible moment in time or uncommitted neural processing moment with a new (and rarely easy) potentially distracting task.

I contacted an old inkjet acquaintance who was familiar with QTR (thanks Lou!) and asked for some pointers, between his help, the poorly written QTR manual, the internet and lots of fooling around I actually made some progress and was able to work up a partial curve for producing my deep purple shadows. I printed many test strips with curves adjustments, and lots of questions to my daughter about the colors of purple/blue that she could see and I couldn’t. In the process I had to pretty much start from scratch, and it eventually dawned on me that I was going to have to start with just black and magenta, and work my way up from there. Eventually my light grey to magenta/black test strip actually smoothed out and even began to have a look like it was approaching linearity.

I set the QTR ink blending project aside for a few hours, and expected to come back and start mixing in some cyan in the hopes of moving toward purple and black. During this whole business with ink curves, the temperature in the greater L.A. area began to rise into the 90’s. This began to strain my computers, my photo editing workstation became mysteriously slow, with almost every little action spiking the dual core CPU. Finally one of my disk drives died, unfortunately it was one of my main disks with all my photography on it. Luckily that drive was part of a RAID mirror, so there were two copies of everything. After cursing my bad luck I ordered a replacement drive, and figured with the disk in the process of flaking out the I/O subsystem on my machine was being taxed and that was the cause of the slowness of my computer. Oops not so fast inkboy! My computer wasn’t finished F’in with me yet. The next morning the fan on my $80 CPU cooler failed! Stop, don’t pass go, head straight on over to jail. Sometimes I just have the worst luck when it comes to computer hardware.

And that is where my portfolio project has been for the past week, in jail. The people that make my ridiculously huge and expensive CPU cooler are right here in southern California. I called to ask about getting a replacement fan, and they said that they would ship me a new one right away. No need to send in the defective unit, no need to spend a fortune on a replacement (which would require disassembling the whole bloody computer). It should be there in a couple of days. Well, its been a week now, no dice, no computer, no inkjet curves, no portfolio printing, no ability to even get some sample photos to include in these ridiculously long blog postings.