The final article in this series on printing leaves behind the technique and even the images to consider a far deeper philosophical consideration: art vs. the process vs. the result. To make a successful image, there are three primary considerations: the idea, the execution, and the display medium. Most photographers struggle to manage more than one of these – there are a lot of people who are very good at shooting brick walls and test charts and can remember ever single custom function of their cameras, but cannot compose at all. Similarly, there are a lot of people who point and shoot with their phones but are quite gifted compositionally; yet they are frustrated by their inability to capture what they imagine. And both groups almost never think about how the finished work is to be presented and viewed.
What you are seeing is not a capture or printing error. The irregular inner concave surface of the moon is due to variations in depth from craters; the moon itself is in the very extremes of Zone X in the actual image, yet there is still tonal separation present in the print.
Following on from my earlier article on pushing print limits, I’d like to show you the fruits our labour: the Ultraprint. I think the above image pretty much says it all: that is a photograph of the actual print, with a ruler for comparison. Scale markings are in millimetres, as shown.
Today’s post is a little different: following on from the excellent reception given to my interview with Nick Brandt, and my current focus on pushing print limits, it is high time we heard from the print master himself – Wesley Wong. I can say plenty about the process, but there are a lot of areas in which is expertise greatly outstrips my own. I also strongly believe that he is an integral part of the artistic process of bringing an image to its final form, and that my print buyers – thank you – would also enjoy meeting the man, albeit virtually. It’s a lengthy discourse as there’s a lot of ground to cover, so the interview will be split into two parts. Read on…
Let’s again start with the simple question of ‘how many of you print’? For those that do, inevitably, your development is going to look something like this:
- Make your first print – marvel at how different it looks to the screen version
- Make larger prints, start to note that the detail still holds and in fact you’ve got much more resolution than you actually need even for the largest prints you’re willing to pay for/ have space to hang
- Pause for a moment and then decide to try making your own prints because it’s cheaper and more convenient
- Buy a home photo inkjet, find that it takes half a dozen tries to get one good print, add up the costs and find that ink and paper will bankrupt you in short order; worse still, lab results are still better
- Stop printing for a while
- Go back to using the lab because your print heads have clogged and the ink has dried up, and it would be cheaper to buy a new printer than replace the cartridges and heads and you really don’t want to go down that route again…
- Find a better lab – assuming you’re not happy with what you’re getting
- Start to wonder what you’re going to do with all of these 24×36” prints; you have rolled up tubes and prints all over your house
- Abandon printing or start selling your prints so you can make more prints
- Start wondering what’s next?
Here’s a question for all photographers: how many of you have considered the intended viewing method for an image at any point before final output? No need to answer this to anybody other than yourself. That said, I’m willing to bet that the number is very small indeed. In my recent article on pushing clarity and transparency in a photograph and the intense discussion that ensued, the one thing that stuck in my mind was how we (collectively) undervalue the output medium.
From the print session at the end of last year’s Making Light workshop - these were a bit of a revelation to the participants, most of whom had never made large prints before. And we were doing straight out of camera printing with no real postprocessing or optimization…
If all of you, dear readers, were sitting in a room, and I asked “How many of you print?” I think not every hand would be raised. “Regularly?” Even fewer. “Large?” Fewer still. And you’ve all proven yourselves to be a pretty exceptional bunch of people, if the comment threads are anything to go by. If anything, the average photographer – taking both amateurs and pros into consideration – these days prints very little, if at all. Yet a concern that seems to dominate a lot of photographers’ thoughts is over resolution; my question is why?