March 9, 2018

Cloudy, 28 Degrees, West Northwest Winds 10 – 15 mph.

Looking out the window this morning it looked like another wintry day. Snow everywhere, gray skies. But once outside it was a little milder than I expected. The over cast was thin with a weak sun trying to shine through. The wind made it colder than it might have been, but the woods afford shelter so the wind isn’t much of a factor once I’m there.

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What can I say? Stunning color and texture.

Today I gave myself over entirely to my documentary impulse. I’ve been trying every day for a while now to make “Art” every single day. I’ve been having some success, but it’s draining to try to find something fresh and new and strong every day in the same limited area. Today, as soon as I stepped up into the woods themselves, my eye was attracted to the bark of a big pine tree there. I got in as close as I could and took some pictures. I really liked what I saw through the viewfinder.

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Amazing the different forms that bark takes…

My camera would focus down to less than a foot and I was zoomed all the way in to 105mm, so the area of the image was quite small and incredibly detailed. I liked what I saw a lot. I’ve been shooting this bark stuff over and over since I started. I started out fairly far away, then got in tighter. Now I’m in as close as I can get. I think maybe this is what I’ve been looking for, though it’s hard to tell until I edit and print some of these.

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So I walked around the entire loop and photographed every single kind of bark that looked at all interesting. There are a lot of them. I wish I knew what each of them are. I may try to figure it out as the year progresses. Once the leaves are out it will be easier. I know some of the varieties. There are Hickory, Cherry, a lot of Oaks, a variety of Pines, Maples of course. But I don’t know exactly what kinds of Oaks or Pines and I want to know.

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I am absolutely blow away by the variety and the incredible detail and beauty of these different bark types. They’re all over the map, as you can see here, from deep ridges to big slabs and small flakes. I don’t know if these have any artistic merit, but I’d like a set of them for myself.

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This is a very unusual bark. Big chunks rather than strips of any kind. 

I have to say, now that I’ve seen the pictures that I think they are stunning. Finally what I’ve wanted from these bark pictures. These are not just straight from the camera either. I’ve added a lot of vignette, added some contrast and punched up the color to get what you see here.

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I love these linear strips that almost flake off.

I did take time to compose the images as best I could. I sometimes shot two or three different images from a given tree. I walked around to try different light, and I chose patches of bark that had interesting shapes and created interesting designs in the frame. I guess it’s no different than what I do with any other image except that these are so manifestly one thing; there is no intimation of other meanings, at least that I am aware of at this point.

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Jamie has been incredibly patient while I trudge along and take my pictures. He follows me no matter where I go, waiting quietly while I compose and shoot, then wander off to another tree. On the walk back, I stopped a couple of times to shoot trees along the road. I put his leash in my pocket because I need both hands to shoot. He stand there quietly, even though he could pull out the leash and run around if he wanted to.

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This one is really rich, with small details.

I love the quiet trust and togetherness that we have. On the last part of the walk, where we pass through some neighborhoods, he just jogged alongside me. He seemed really mellow today. Often, after we get home and I’m taking off my boots, he comes and presses himself up against me. It’s as if he were saying thank you. He often comes into my room with me when I’m writing and lies on a rug nearby, just to be close. What a good guy. I love him dearly.

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I like the mix of warm and cool colors and the few little lichen growing on it. 

I’ll just touch on the printer again today because I spent quite a bit of time on it yesterday. The Canon ipf 8300 that I have is a 44” wide large format printer. It has 12 colors of ink and makes spectacular images just about as big as you care to print. It’s expensive to get set up and occasionally needs expensive parts because I let the printer sit too much, but all in all it’s been a real boon to me. My gallery likes big prints and of course I make good money when I sell big prints. The landscapes I’ve shot over the years look great in large formats too, so it’s perfect.

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All I can say is wow. 

Because the printer has sat for a long time now I was concerned that it might not be printing optimally, so I removed each ink cartridge (they’re huge and very expensive, about $280 each) and agitated it for a while to stir up any pigment that may have settled. Then I went through the process of calibrating my monitor and the printer to be sure that I get out of the printer what I send to it from the printer. I use X-Rite’s Colormunki device for this. It works great and is pretty easy to use.

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Basically this little measuring tape sized device has a sensor that reads the colors on your monitor and adjusts them to be correct. The software displays a long sequence of colors on screen then creates a monitor profile to make the adjustments. For the printer, the software prints a set of colored patches and then you scan them with the device. Once the software figures out any differences between what the color should have been and what was printed, it creates another set of color patches in the color ranges that need adjustment. You print those patches and scan again. Then the software creates a profile that you then use when printing. You have to go through the printer profiling for each paper you use, so it can take some time.

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This is a very unusual bark. I think it’s on a pine. 

All this effort assures as best as possible that what you see on screen comes out of the printer. This is important because big prints are expensive to make. You don’t want to have to print things two or three times.

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I’ve emphasized how expensive it is to supply the printer and the paper is not cheap either ($300 for a 50′ roll), but once you’re set up the ink lasts for a long time. You replace cartridges only occasionally and prints can sell for over $1,000 so a few sales can easily offset any expenses. The trick is to take great pictures, print only the best of them, and hope people like them. Many prints never sell, while others may sell repeatedly, though that’s not that common.

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These are the color charts that you print and scan. 

All in all, it’s well worth it to me. I love doing the photography, but I’m a retiree on a pretty tight budget. A little income from prints is very helpful. It’s like Christmas when I get a check from the gallery. You never know how much it might be for.

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