Cloudy, 22 Degrees, Calm Winds.
It continues to feel wintry despite the date. A weak sun is trying to burn through the overcast but it will only barely get above freezing today. It feels far more like winter than any kind of spring I know. Over the years I have often called March the cruelest month. It’s usually because we get patches of warm weather followed by rain or snow. This year, it’s just felt like winter. The sun is climbing higher and the days are longer, but the weather has not caught up with the our path around the sun.
This morning I had to take Jamie to the vet for oral surgery, so no walk today for the first time in the last month and a half. Poor guy is going to get his gums cut back. He’s been having trouble chewing normally and the surgery is important for his overall health. He’ll be out of commission for the day. He might not be feeling very well tomorrow either, but I would bet dollars to donuts that he will want his walk nonetheless.
Yesterday on our walk, he was his usual sweet self. As we were returning home, walking down the dirt road heading, a young girl was running up the road. She said ‘Cute dog!’ as she passed. He’s just that kind of guy. His personality shows through even in passing. He would have been looking longingly at her and wagging his tail and she could see that he was a sweet and friendly dog.
I’ve mentioned before that he gets a lot of this kind of response. Complete strangers passing on the street will frequently say he’s a beautiful dog. It’s not just my prejudice. He is beautiful and he has a soulful face and friendly manner. I’m sure everyone’s dog is the smartest and most beautiful dog on the planet, but people seem to see that in Jamie very quickly.
I want to touch on yesterday’s bark pictures taken with the Sony NEX 7. I was thrilled with what I got. There were several that I thought were better than the pictures I got the last time with the Canon 5ds. I did have problems with focus, probably caused by movement of the camera, but I really liked the images. The sun was out this time and I got more variety of color. I think I got a better depth of field so I have focus further out to the perimeter and deeper in the recesses of the bark. I’m not sure if this is due to a slightly shorter focal length or whether it’s a function of the smaller lenses. I think I got some interesting compositions too. There’s more to be done with these.
It’s turning out that these are more than just documentary shots. I really like the dark presentation that I worked out. I think it’s conveying the power and beauty of the bark. Sounds funny to say, but I think these images are expressing more than just an image of tree bark. I think they could be pretty powerful when printed. I’m looking forward to seeing them. I just have to decide whether to go big (27 x 40”) or medium sized (20 x 30”). Smaller might actually be nice too, but I think my gallery will want bigger prints.
With no walk this morning, I’m going to spend the day printing. I’ll print a bunch of images on the watercolor paper I like, then profile the Epson Exhibition Fiber paper that I plan to use for my snow images where the brighter white of the paper should make the images pop more. I hope to print a bunch of the snow images too, after I do the profiling.
Printing is the final test of an image for me. Viewing images online is great, but it’s prints that I sell to supplement my income. A print is a very different thing. Something that looks great on screen may not look as good on paper, or vice versa. I’m excited, but anxious about printing. I love to see the results, but I worry about images that don’t look great and the expense of printing such big images. I’m making 27 x 40” prints of these images, so they’re not cheap. I don’t buy $300 rolls of paper casually.
Deciding the size of an image is tricky too. I usually print at the 27 x 40” size. It’s what the gallery prefers and it’s also the most profitable for me. But I’m not sure all of these images will look their best at that size. Do all of the winter images need to be that size? I’m not sure. I can see a few of them need to be, but some others could be smaller. Same with the tree bark stuff. I’m really not sure they need to be that big, but they might also look very impressive at that size. It’s not an easy choice.
The gallery that represents me (the LaFontsee Gallery in Grand Rapids, MI) always takes whatever images I bring them, but they’ll frame only one or two of them initially. When they sell, then they’ll frame another. It’s possible that some of these prints never get framed or sold. In fact, it’s likely. The rest will remain in inventory where they may be seen by customers at some point. I don’t want a lot of prints sitting in inventory. It’s too expensive.
So choosing the images to print and how many to print is important to me. I may be printing too many, but I’m excited about them and want the gallery to see that I have a lot of good new work. I want them excited too. It may mean that they frame more and my work gets seen by more people.
Right now, I am printing and preparing these prints in my basement. I have very limited room and poor lighting down there. I have an entire studio space that I prepared in our garage years ago, but that’s been filled entirely with my motorcycle building stuff. I have three bikes in there plus machinery for building, a bike lift, work tables and storage cabinets for tools and supplies.
I desperately need to clean up the shop, make room for some clean tables so that I can see these images in good light and with a little room to gain perspective. It’s very hard to judge a print in poor light. You want to be able to see the details and get far enough away to really absorb the impression the print makes.
I’ll mention an aspect of preparing these big prints because it’s something you might not think of. They’re printed from rolled paper so when they come off the printer, they roll up into rolls about six inches across. You have to do something to flatten them and you have to do it without causing any lumps or ridges across the print.
The solution is a thing called a D-Roller. It’s a tube of chromed metal with a sheet of stiff plastic rolled around it. You unroll the plastic, put your print face up on the plastic and roll the print up around the metal tube. You leave it rolled up just for ten or fifteen seconds and then unroll it. Voila, you have a flat print without any flaws.
You might think a tube with a sheet of plastic wrapped around it wouldn’t cost much. You’d be wrong. It’s $3-400. When I started out I tried making my own to save money. You would think it would be easy, but my homemade roller left ridges across the print. I had to spring for the official D-Roller. It works like a charm. There is definitely some investment involved in doing your own printing. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s not cheap.
I wanted to be able to print, evaluate my prints and print again if necessary. Having my work printed by a third party just never seemed practical to me. It’s probably the choice for many people, but not for me.
Of course you need a $4,000 printer, a lot of ink, and room to store an 4′ x 8′ printer somewhere. By the way, the printer is so heavy that two people can barely lift it. I mean it. I could just barely do it ten years ago. No way could I do it now. That means it takes four men to move the thing. Fortunately, you only have to do it when you move it to a new location. It’s on a stand with rollers once you get it set up.