Friday, 29th April 2023, 10PM.
Let’s Make a print.
This post may seem like a mundane topic for a blog post. In reality, there are countless blog posts and videos on making prints out there, many of them written by more prolific authors than me. So why contribute to the noise by creating more redundant and dispensable content?
Because this goes deeper. It’s not just about making a print, but about gratitude for the simple things in life. I recently spent two weeks in the hospital, and I had a lot of time to think. I realized that being separated from the luxuries I used to take for granted actually sparked and skyrocketed my appreciation for them. I’ve always said that it’s a good thing Christmas happens only once a year. This is what keeps it special. Christmas every month would make it ordinary and boring pretty quickly. When I was in the hospital, working on my photography and creating prints was one of the things I missed the most. So, this post is not so much about the technicalities of printing as it is about the celebration of the process.
So, let’s make a print, shall we?
Choosing the Photo
It all starts with the photo, of course. The photo and its properties dictate the choice of paper after all. I think I’ll go for a photograph from my recent trip to London. I returned from this trip on Sunday evening and had to see the doctor on Monday morning, so I only had time to work on a few of these photographs for an hour or two. There are a couple of images that I immediately felt pretty excited about, so not being able to finalize and print them was a real bummer.
But now, the time has come. I choose a photo I took of the Queen Victoria Memorial near Buckingham Palace. In this photo, I tried to create some interest and mystery by combining two visually disparate objects in the frame that have no immediate connection with each other and yet somehow seem to be related to each other. It works, at least for me, as the photo clearly speaks to me, although I don’t understand what it’s saying.
Choosing the Paper
When I processed and edited the photo, I, following my intuition, went for a traditional analog look with lots of grain. Maybe it’s the lack of glossy surfaces and the fact that all the elements breathe the air of tradition and history, that made this decision appear like a legitimate choice. Also, the contrast of the photo is not abundantly strong. Even though the statue in the foreground is pretty dark, most of the highlights are pretty grayish. This allows for a matte paper. Also, the image doesn’t feature many structures or textures which is why I’ll opt for a smooth paper surface. With all things considered, I’ll go for the Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308 paper. Usually, when I print for myself, I only print small, but today, to celebrate the occasion mentioned above, I’ll treat myself to a luxurious A2-sized print.
Preparing the Photo for Print
This is a pretty straightforward process which consists of the following steps:
- Send the image to Photoshop.
- In Photoshop, hand it to the Fine Art Border Tools plugin by my photo buddy and mentor Martin Bailey to create a border.
- Send this image to the Epson Print Layout software which does the actual printing.
In Photoshop, I find that I missed a sensor spot in the clouds which I quickly remove using the Spot Healing Brush tool. In the Fine Art Border Tool plugin, I choose one of the many presets Martin provides with the plugin. I am fascinated at how simple these things have become in the year 2023. Thank you, Martin.
The Epson Print Layout Software allows for minute control of every aspect of the print in an interface much simpler than the OS’s or Photoshop’s print windows. Luckily, I have printed with this configuration before, so all I have to do is choose the A2 Hahnemühle PhotoRag 308 preset I have created on that occasion. All the necessary changes and settings are now made for me. All I have to do now is click the Print button and watch the printer work its magic.
The paper is drawn in and the print head starts whirring to and fro. It’s a large print, so it’s going to take several minutes to come out. In the printer, a lamp illuminates the paper and I can check the print as it is created. If I am not happy with what I am seeing, I can cancel the print immediately and avoid wasting precious ink. Nice feature, Epson!
Slowly, the paper proceeds through the printer, baptized by ink in the process. The result will be more than the sum of its parts – ink and paper. It will be (hopefully) a piece of art. You’ll be the judge.
While I am waiting for the print to finish, I can’t help but see an analogy between creating old-school darkroom prints in the darkroom and inkjet prints in the digital realm. Despite all the obvious differences between the two processes, there is one thing that has remained the same – the excitement and anticipation that happens while the print is taking shape.
Some of the new London photographs look truly promising. I can’t wait to print them, too. And there will be new posts and prints on another day, many of which will contain a series of images from London. But not tonight. It is late, almost midnight. I should go to bed. Now that I have scratched the itch, I shall sleep happily and gratefully.
Reviewing the print
Saturday, 30th April 2023, 3:30 PM.
The print has turned out beautifully and exactly as I had intended. It always satisfying when it does. I take a moment to closely observe the details in the statues, the grain in the background, and, after moving back a bit, the composition and the relations between the photograph’s individual elements. It is a beautiful print, subtly supported by the very smooth texture of the paper. And it is slightly enigmatic, too.
Suddenly, a thought occurs to me: Doesn’t Queen Victoria secretly throw an interested side glance at this strapping fellow in the foreground? I think she does. What do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.