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Big Winter in Yosemite

Black Oak, Snow, Cooks Meadow, Yosemite Valley

If you ever want to experience Yosemite in snow, this is a good year to do it. Yosemite is having a “big winter”, and is currently pushing towards 150% of normal snow fall thanks to frequent, and heavy storms. In a normal year, snowfall starts to decline in March, but this weather pattern often keeps snowing into April, and later. I lived in Yosemite Valley during a similar pattern during the winter of 97-98 and it was so cold we had to burn wood, our only source of heat, from October through May. 

The key to photographing Yosemite in snow is to get in the valley BEFORE the storm hits. That’s because there is a peak moment as the storm is clearing, usually the morning after a storm, where the snow is heavy on the trees and beautiful. But as soon as the sun comes out, the snow starts to melt and get ugly. I’ve been told that Ansel Adams wouldn’t even stop for coffee on such mornings, and would be out the door as quick as he could. 

If snow is not your thing, that heavy snowpack is going to lead to some incredible flow in the waterfalls.  With this size snow pack, peak will probably be in May, and warm temperatures may even lead to some flooding, turning the meadows into giant reflecting pools. All spring, the valley will rumble with the thunder of Yosemite Falls. 

April will have good waterfall activity too, with the added bonus of the dogwood bloom.

Dogwood near Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley

Expect a later opening to the Tioga Pass road…it all depends on how aggressive the current superintendent is about plowing and how long it keeps snowing (avalanche conditions.) 

If you ever needed an excuse to visit Yosemite, this year’s snowfall and waterfalls should be it!

Links:

Yosemite Webcams
Sierra Snow Pack
Weather
Call 209-372-0200 for current road conditions in Yosemite

Inkjet Printing Through Photoshop – Macintosh

Using printer profiles correctly when printing is essential to getting accurate color from your printer. The challenge is that you have a bunch of settings that have to be set up exactly right, every time, for it to work. That is further complicated because every editing software, OS, and printer driver has it’s own settings and names for those settings.

You’d think that there should be some good information out there on how do do all this, but even the paper manufacturers don’t have good guides. One of my favorite companies has German language screenshots in their English language document, and they note that their instructions don’t work for every setup. Uggg!!!! It makes you want to pull your hair out.

I’m going to make my attempt to solve this problem by sharing the settings I use with Photoshop on the Mac. These settings have been tested and verified to print my Color Test Sheets correctly.

The settings for Lightroom on the Mac are quite similar to these, so you should be able to translate them over. Understanding what each setting does may also help you translate this for other editing programs and setups. As time allows, I plan to make more of these, but the easiest place to start was with the software I print through.

download the PDF here:
Inkjet Printing Through Photoshop – Macintosh.pdf

Clinic – Better Photo Prints through Printer Tuning

Most photographers I talk with are not satisfied with the results from their home inkjet printers. That leads to frustration, and holds many back from a fuller enjoyment of the process of making prints.

If that sounds like where you are at, my April 6 Printer Tuning Clinic is for you. I’ll teach you straightforward solutions that will help you get more quality and consistency out of your printer, how to evaluate canned and custom profiles, and help you set good expectations for accuracy.

The process I’ll show you is the same one I’ve used in my professional printing business. The potential in unlocks in students once they grasp it is incredible.

Reserve your spot today at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/better-photo-prints-through-printer-tuning-tickets-58116173038

8×10 Print Sale

One of the ways I support myself and this blog is through printing for other photographers. I print using the Canon PRO-4000 which produces the finest prints I’ve made, even better than my $129,000 digital enlarger. Through the end of March, I’ll print four of your photos as 8×10 prints on any of my papers for $35 shipped. My printing service is a boutique operation, and each order is printed personally by me, so you can be assured that each print will meet my exacting standards. Go to BespokePrintmaking.com to pick a paper and upload your files.

Photographers You Should Know – Steve Dzerigian

This is my first in a series of features about photographers who have inspired or influenced me, and who I think it’s worth the time to get to know more about.

In celebration of his new book Trail of Stones: My Path in Photography, published by The Press at California State University, Fresno, I want to introduce you to Steve Dzerigian.

Dzerigian’s work always captivates me because of the great depth in every photo. Not spatial depth necessarily, but the soulful depth of seeing a place or thing in a way that captivates your imagination, and makes you want to contemplate it more deeply.

Looking at Dzerigian’s work always leaves me challenged to try and see deeper and more clearly in my own work, to be able to speak the volumes he expresses with such elegant simplicity.

A darkroom practitioner, his prints are made in silver gelatin with an occasional addition of delicate hand coloring. Typically of small scale, they are like little gems that hold worlds much larger than their apparent physical size. They are a poignant reminder that our social feeds really don’t do justice to a photograph…you need to get out and look at real prints as often as you can. Prints can show the full depth of an artist and their expression in a way a little 1500 pixel square fails to do.

But Dzerigian’s photos are only part of his story. For many decades he has been a force in Fresno and Yosemite to help inspire and teach other photographers, from working on The Ansel Adams Photography Workshops, to helping found the Spectrum Art Gallery in Fresno, to his many years teaching at Fresno City College. To know Steve is to know the many people he has influenced, inspired, and befriended.

Steve is one of those people that you feel better just for knowing. It seems every time I talk to him, I’m left encouraged and inspired to reach for a higher bar in life, and am always so thankful to have our paths intersect. And that makes me an even bigger fan of his work.

I’ve included a few pieces his work here. His latest exhibition is on display at Spectrum Art Gallery in Fresno March 7-31, 2019 with an artist reception March 7 from 5-8 pm and a live discussion March 22 at 7 pm also at Spectrum. If you can’t make the trip to Fresno, visit his website stevedzerigian.com.

Ansel Adams Books

Few people have had such a sweeping impact on an art as Ansel Adams continues to have on photography. He helped make photography acceptable as a fine art, and even today, he is the best selling photographer at the annual art auction. But one of the things that makes Ansel most unique is his lifelong effort to teach photography and improve the understanding of the medium. His Zone System has helped countless photographers gain control over exposure, development, and printing, and still has relevancy in the digital age.

I think there is much to be learned by reading Ansel’s books and studying his methods. I’ve been a student of Ansel since I first discovered him as a eager, but inexperienced seventeen year old. In Ansel’s books, I found answers I couldn’t find in the dozens and dozens of other books I had read. In my early years, I devoured Ansel’s books as I attempted to improve my craft, and started a journey that lead me to a stint working at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, and the chance to meet many of the people who worked with him and whom he influenced.

His way of approaching the making of a photograph has had a profound effect on me, and I still find directly applicable to digital cameras today. So I’ve compiled a list of his books that I think will help give insight into the photographic process. While Ansel’s books are primarily about black & white (please don’t call it monochrome), the though process of making a print is equally applicable to color.


Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs
Detailed notes on the controls Ansel applied at printing to create the final piece. How he selectively lightened and darkened, controlled contrast, and more. As interesting as the technical part is, the insight into is though process, how he “saw” and pre-visualised the results is arguably of even greater valuable.

The Print
Book three of Ansel’s three part instructional series on the Zone System, The Print focuses on everything related to the printing process. The insight in to how to approach the challenges of adjusting contrast and image density both global and locally through dodging & burning is as applicable to digital processing as it is to darkroom work.

The Negative
Valuable insight into the Zone System which describes the series of shades in a photograph from black to white as Zones that can be pre-visualised to better control exposure.

The Camera
Fundamentals of how to “see” with different focal length lenses. How wide angle and telephoto lenses change the perspective on a subject, and so much more fundamental information on how cameras and lenses work.

Yosemite and the Range of Light
Ansel’s Magnum Opus, reflecting his life long relationship with Yosemite and the High Sierra. One of my favorite coffee table books, and still an inspiration.

Glossary of Photo Terms

What does specular highlight mean? Or how about local contrast, d-max, pixel value, or paper white? Do you just nod along when people use these terms? Be honest now!

Photography is full of terms that are completely foreign outside of the medium, but are a necessary part of talking about it. I’ve compiled a brief glossary of terms that I use frequently and I thought could use a little definition.

Some of these are technical, and others are terms in common use among professional photographers and photo printmakers, but all of them bring necessary insight and understanding to the medium. 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and is mostly meant to define things that will help understand my articles and workshops. Most of these words and concepts are worthy of in-depth study; a more complete understanding of the what, when, why, and how will grow your skill and abilities. So treat this as a study guide as there will be a test every time you click the shutter, move a slider, or make a print!

Want to add a word? Or have something explained? Ask in the comments and let’s discuss! 

Color Correction

Still Photos – The process of correcting color and density with the objective of correcting errors in camera exposure and color balance

Contrast

Used to describe the difference in tonal values in a photograph, both global and locally. Large differences are described as high contrast, small differences are described as low contrast.  High contrast may also be used to describe a photograph where less than the full range of tones is used.

Contrast – Global

What we normally think of when we hear the word contrast. This is the  overall contrast of the photograph based on the the difference and amount of the brightest areas of a photograph. It can also be defined by the speed at which tones transition from black to white. 

Contrast – Local

Contrast within a specific area of the photograph as opposed to the overall contrast of a photograph.

Cropping

Still Photos – Making a photo fit a specific aspect ratio. May be done for practical purposes to fit a frame or print size. Also done to improve the aesthetics of a photograph by removing unwanted content and or changing the center point of the photograph.

D-Max

The highest density black a material can achieve, i.e. density maximum. Every paper and ink combinations or analog paper produces a different d-max. Higher D-max can be desirable because it creates more dynamic range, and a greater illusion of three dimensionality. Papers with some degree of gloss typically create the highest d-maxes. Matte papers, or artist papers generally have a lower d-max, or softer appearing blacks that produced reduced contrast. 

D-Min

The lightest value a paper can produce. See also paper white.

Interpretation

A set of adjustment to a photograph that produce a specific appearance. The goal of interpretation is to bring forth on paper the image or expression pre-visualised in the photographer’s mind at the moment of exposure.

Pixel Value

The numeric value of a pixel that defines it’s color and or density. Pixel values can be measured with the info tool in Photoshop to previsualize their final appearance on a print. 

Pre-visualization

Seeing what you want the print (or final outcome) to look like before you click the shutter. Pre-visualization guides choices in camera to produce the desired print including exposure, depth of field, motion, etc. Requires learning to see the way the camera and print see. 

Editing

Still photos: A sorting process to find the best photos from a group. 

Paper white

The color and brightness of a paper determine paper white. This in turn affects the color tone of the image. Papers typically fall into warm or cool paper whites. I generally prefer warmer paper bases for black and white photographs as they more closely replicate prints made in the darkroom. 

Specular Highlight

Small areas of extreme brightness caused by reflection of smooth, shiny, or reflective surfaces. Examples include metal, water, polished or glossy surfaces. Specular highlights contain no detail and are typically printed as paper white or the whitest white of the output medium. 

Lighting for Screen to Print Match

Lighting is a critical component of achieving a screen to print match. Most importantly, the color of the light needs to be the about the same temperature as your monitor, and it needs to be full spectrum to reveal all the eyes the color can see.  Prepress professionals rely on $1,000+ industry standard D50 viewing booths to compare prints, press sheets, and product samples in consistent and quality light. But there is actually a better option that can fit the budget of any photographer. 

SoLux makes a 4700k full spectrum tungsten halogen bulb that fits in standard track lighting and costs about $15 a bulb. I’ve used these for years at my studio, and they have proven their accuracy again and again when compared to NEC color reference monitors. In fact, I’ve trained myself to not really trust the color unless it’s under a SoLux bulb. 

How does it work? Well, first of all, the 4700K white point is close enough to the 5000k or 6500k most color reference monitors are calibrated to. I’ve used SoLux with both calibrations and can attest that it works equally well with both. 

Of equal importance is it’s accuracy. To see all the colors in a print, you need a full spectrum lamp. If you’ve ever seen ugly office fluorescent lighting, part of the cause was the gaps in the spectrum that didn’t cover the full range of light our eye is sensitive to. This is often measured as CRI or color rendition index. Cheap fluorescent are often a CRI of about 70, although there are higher quality bulbs. Sunlight is a perfect 100. SoLux achieves a CRI of 98, which very good for a $15 bulb, and I know of no better light source in common use.

So what is the difference between SoLux and those thousand dollar viewing booths I mentioned earlier? The viewing booths use special multi phosphor fluorescent tubes to better cover the full visible spectrum, but there are still peaks and irregularities that can limit their accuracy. They are very good, but the SoLux is better in my experience because it’s tungsten halogen bulb emits light smoothly over the entire visible spectrum. And it does it for a lot less money. 

What about LED? Don’t even get me started. LEDs suck for viewing art and they have even damaged prices originals by Van Gogh. They suffer the same issues with spectrum that fluorescent lights do, in addition to putting out more UV light which accelerates fading. LED has it’s place, but not for viewing art in my opinion, and it hasn’t replaced the accuracy of tungsten filament technology. 

While SoLux 4700k lights are my choice for viewing color accuracy, they are not my choice for display lighting. For print display in a home, gallery, or business setting, I recommend standard tungsten halogen bulbs which will average about 2800k to 3200k, give or take. This “warm white” is still full spectrum but I find makes for much more pleasant room lighting. 

SoLux can be purchased from Amazon and other sources and is available in a variety of wattages, spot and flood, as well as different color temperatures. I’ve added a list below to make  purchasing easy. 

Manufacturer website:
http://solux.net/cgi-bin/tlistore/infopages/index.html

50 Watt 4700k
36 Degree Flood
36 Degree Black Back
24 Degree Narrow Flood
17 Degree Spot
17 Degree Black Back
10 Degree Narrow Spot Black Back

35 Watt 4700k
36 Degree Flood
36 Degree Black Back
24 Degree