Sunday, June 27, 2010

Featured Print #11: 4 16x20's in 32 x 40" Frame

When I got my equipment for palladium printing, I was thinking of the 16 x20" format. My medium-format printer (17" wide) could print that size negative for contact printing. My UV light source (and old NuArc plate-burner) could provide light on a tray a little larger than that. But the temptation to print larger images is inescapable. My solution is to create a "quad" image by dividing the original image into 4 sections. This is easy to do in Photoshop, if one starts with a clear image. The challenge is in making sure that the tonal range of the four separately developed positive images is the same. This is possible to do if the chemistry is under control and the step-wedge calibration is good. I'm pleased with with these aspects of this large print.

ID #36 32" x 40" $750 Pricelist

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Root Web Page Settling In

Commendations to my daughter, Philippa, for suggesting a web page that includes this Blog and links that are more direct than here (and for alerting me to Tim Burton's Coraline, though I have obviously proceeded anyway). The main link is here, but I've added a short biographical piece here.


I've put up a new home page linking this blog, but also linking the images and catalog more directly. There are links on this home page. Check them with the "cursor over".

I've also altered the look of this blog -- made it a big less dark and coordinated the home page with it. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Commenting and Following

Blogspot has an excellent interface but with security it's a bit complex. Here is what I've found out over the past few days. In order to comment on a blog posting, you need to have an account on Google or elsewhere. I'd recommend Google and you can create a few account, with a nice set of features, at Google here. Remember your ID and password. You'll be asked for those when you Comment.

Following. You can follow this blog by clicking on the "Follow" button at the top right of any blog-page. Again, you'll be asked for credentials. I'd recommend your Google account information here as well. When you follow a blog, you will get updates of what has happened on the blog that you follow. If I post a new entry, that will show up on your Dashboard.

As an interesting note: I've created the blog, but it is not automatic that I follow my own blog. When I, too, click follow I get an update of what has happened on my blog on my Dashboard - no alerts are sent. Your Dashboard will be available to you once you start following a blog. It's possible to get updates for several blog at once, as happened when each of my students had their own blogs.

But the general "tip" here is to have a Google account (or Yahoo -- you'll get a choice) at hand to use when you want to comment or follow this blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A (Whimsical) Self-Review

Do you remember the luminous black-and-white images you saw at famous museums when you were a kid? Many prints by the most famous photographers, Adams, Weston, Stieglitz, Steichen were made by the platinum or palladium processes. They were famous for their range of "blacks" and wide tonal range in general. But with the advent of newer, more controllable techniques, the platinum and palladium processes fell into disuse. (This is a platinum print of Robert Louis Stevenson from an article on the processes.)

In recent years, however, they have been resurrected by those interested in the special qualities of the two media -- the cooler blacks of platinum and the warm tones of palladium. The latter process (palladium) is alive and well -- and well represented -- at a new show which opened at the SCA Project Gallery in Pomona, California, June 12th. The title is Sense of the Past: Palladium Prints from Digital Images by James Manley. The show evokes the past through early associations of black-and-white images, but also of ancient and remote geographical areas such as the area around Dunhuang, China, which 2,000 years ago, was the place where caravans on the Silk Route entered China through the Jade Gate and proceeded east along the Great Wall.

The vistas themselves are sweeping and impressive, but poignant in the well-crafted palladium shadings which mask the colors of modernity. Clockwise, Up is an 11" x 14" composition which records the movement of camels as they might have appeared 1,000 years ago, or 2,000, up and over the dunes into the Gobi desert. Camels is quite striking as a vertiginous exploration of point-of-view as well as a design composition using swirl-lines from the dunes. This last print is 32" x 40" and is a "Quad-tych" created from four 16" x 20" palladium prints, consistently developed. There is a "Diptych" of the Great Wall in two adjacent prints, which, together, suggest supple movement.

The photographer attempts to tie the time, objects and places into more of an historical perspective that would be typical in a photography exhibit. As a professor emeritus, this might well be expected, though the result is perhaps more poetic or philosophical rather than historical. The presence of Buddhism comes through loud and clear, however, in the omnipresence of meditation huts (one can imagine the "meaning-of-life" guru being sought out in one of them) and in the face of the temple-attendant.

A surprising percentage of images invite a return look. The Tiger's Nest (Tak Sang Monastery in Bhutan) is one such on a far southern branch of the silk route. This is where Buddhism allegedly entered Bhutan from the north in the 6th century. The show is complemented by a handsome catalogue done by the author using Blurb. The images around Dunhuang comprise the first part, but the second explores the sense of the past in California's Missions, in particular La Purisima Mission, in Lompoc. The third focuses on natural landscapes. One hopes that it will be possible to see these images in a southern California gallery sometime soon. The show was excellently hung by Robert Pece the SCA's Curator. Prints are available through the Gallery. Contact Cheryl Bookout at the SCA Gallery Bookstore: 909-865-0252
The Sense of the Distant Past is up until July 3rd. A Last Saturday reception will be held June 26 from 6-9 at the Gallery, 281 South Thomas Street, Pomona, California.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June 26th -- Another Party!

Second Saturday has the most noteriety in Pomona, but Last Saturday recreates much of the activity that occurred two weeks before. So there is another chance to do an Art Walk, see the galleries in the area and to visit the SCA Project Gallery in the evening 6-9 on June 26th. That's Last Saturday. The show will come down July 3rd.

Featured Print #10

Clockwise, Up is the title for this print. Remarkably, the camel population remains robust in this area, though they are now put to use carrying sightseers rather than goods. But this image evokes what it would have looked like a 1,000 years ago as the Caravan departed from Dunhuang across the Gobi Desert.

ID #6 11 x 14 $125 Pricelist

Featured Print #9

The is a scene on the Grand Canal in Suzhou, China, over a 1,000 miles east of Dunhuang. While these are probably 19th century residences, the banks of this canal were populated with grand residences in the 14th century when Suzhou (and Hangzhou, then known as Quinsai) were described in Marco Polo's Travels. It is possible that Marco Polo boated along this very canal. In any case, I am struck by the textures in the stucco walls, especially of the building on the right.

ID #1 11 x 14 $125 Pricelist

Policy on the Number of Prints from a Negative

One tradition among photographers who printed a certain number of prints from a particular negative would destroy the negative after that number had been made. I've heard of the burning-the-negative" ceremony for such occasions. After a run of 25-50 prints, the photographer would stage an event at which he would torch the negative for that run. Here is a discussion from the late 1990's about this.

How would one stage a similar event in the digital age? Would one erase every copy of every digital file used to make a digital negative? Would one torch the digital negative itself? This would be purely symbolic unless the digital source files were expunged as well.

My policy is to distribute no more than 100 prints from a single image source file. There would always be some variation in these prints, but that would be as expected. This policy would permit the creation of more than one digital negative in the interest of strengthening the image within the 100 print self-imposed limit, but the number of final palladium prints from the source (or root) file is the important thing and that would always remain at 100 or less.

In this show, the typical print-number is "1".

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Featured Print #8

This is an expansive vista, but I printed it in an 8 x 10 format (in a slightly cropped form). The smaller format notwithstanding, the print conveys a sense of breadth and space.

ID #47 8 x 10 $75 Pricelist

Featured Print #7

This "Flowing Sands" print has cooler palladium tones than many. The tonal range is good, even on a very bright day and this is, in part, due to palladium's wide tonal range. If the image had greater pixel density, a red filter in photoshop would have darked in sky more dramatically, but since this is not the case, a more muted filter effect was used. The good density of the digital negative invites creating a larger composite image which I have done much like the "Quad" 32 x 40 inch central piece in the show, but unlike that piece the task was to make a "seamless" composite. The central piece, with visible dividing lines seems the more satisfactory and the "Flowing Sands" Quad (Quadtych?) is not in the show.
ID #11 11 x 14 $125 Pricelist

Featured Print #6

In the hills just opposite Dunhuang, there are many, many small meditation huts. This is one of them. It is a part of a complex of two and from them, one can see Dunhuang on one side and a valley from the other.

ID #21 11 x 14 $150 Pricelist

Featured Print #5

Tak Sang monastery is far south of Dunhuang, located in Bhutan south of Tibet. But it was accessible from Dunhuang, though with great difficulty. Take Sang means "Tigers Nest" from the legend that Buddhism was brought to Bhutan in the form of a monk riding on the back of a tiger. In any case, the tiger chose a very scenic place to land and this is much photographed.

My photograph is a 35mm color slide from 1988 which became a 4 x 6 color print, which I scanned at about 1200 dpi in 2007 and made into a digital negative and then into a 16 x 20 palladium print.

ID #33 16 x 20 $200 Pricelist

Featured Prints #3 and #4

Here we have a "Diptych" consisting of two adjacent images. (I suppressed the middle dividing line for display purposes.) They compose a wide landscape view of the 2,000 year-old Great Wall of China, as it begins at the Jade Gate in Western China near Dunhuang. In emphasizing the left-right sweep of the way, I hoped to evoke something like the motion in a "Lion-Dance" where the right hand is the "Lion" and the left, the tail of the Lion.

#'s 18 & 39 2x 16 x 20 (Portrait) $450 for both Pricelist

Featured Print #2

The detail surprises in Two Bystanders

A close look will reveal a tiny stick-like figure on either end of the ridge and (perhaps) one in the middle. I looked back at the meta-data from September of 2005 and noted that the shutter was set at 1000/sec. This clearly minimized camera motion. Also interesting is the tonal range which permits reading of the details in the shadows on the right while maintaining details in the sky. Palladium printing permits this kind of wide tonal range, if the digital negative is properly adjusted in Photoshop.
ID #14 16 x 20 $200 Pricelist

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Invitation: Your Questions are Welcome

One of the nice things about the blog-format is that it is an opportunity for two-way communication. If you have questions about the palladium process, any of the featured prints (more annotations are on the horizon), or anything else, please feel free to add a comment and I'll be happy to get back to you. You have perhaps picked up on my enthusiasm for photography. The blog is a natural way to share thoughts about the techniques and aesthetics of this collection of palladium prints.

Featured Print #1

I call this print "The Sentinel" because it is so prominent on the first ridge of hills outside of Dunhuang. It is most likely a meditation hut but could also serve as a lookout post as well. Is is interesting as a palladium print because of the tonal range -- wider than that of a regular silver-gelatin print. It is possible to "read" the detail in the shadow on the right while at the same time there is no white "blowout," and the gravel on the lower left is clear and distinct. This print has quite intense blacks, perhaps "cooler" than many palladium blacks. It printed well at 16 x 20 inches even though the pixel density is modest. It is at the Gallery but not mounted. Cheryl would be happy to show it. I've also printed it as in the larger "Quad" format and the exposure and tonal range are consistent with the smaller 16 x 20 one, although I've not placed this one at the Gallery.

This image also highlights a key historical temple at Dunhuang. Look past the right side of the "Sentinal". You will see a taller building rising up against the foliage along Dunhuang's central creek. That is the building an explorer saw more than a hundred years ago. Dunhuang was abandoned at that time and but for that building, the discovery (or rather rediscovery) might have occurred much later.

ID # 25; 16 x 20; $200 Pricelist

Show Backgrounder

The palladium prints now on display are a subset of those in the catalogue. What they all have in common is a way of invoking the "sense of the past." They do this in several ways. First, they look old. After all they are in black and white. They are palladium prints, such as you would see in an early Weston exhibit. But they are also of old things: old buildings along the silk route, camel caravans and such. Hopefully, the "sense of the past" is an emergent property, occasioned by these overlapping aspects.

Finally, there is an historical component, even narrative, having to do with beginnings and endings. The Jade Gate is an ancient customs house through which each caravan arriving in China had to pass. Moving through the desert, the customs house would appear in an almost unrelieved desert setting, just beyond the last of the trail-guide banners of the old silk route. (You can see the tall tripods even today.) The Jade Gate is a terminus of the silk route outside of China and the beginning of the route within China along the Great Wall. The far Eastern terminus is on the East China Sea. Quinsai (now Hangzhou) was one of these destinations and is described in Marco Polo's "Travels." He describes a meeting with the deposed Southern Sung Emperor whose palace compound even then is in ruins.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Great Party!

Many thanks to those who made the trek to this past Second Saturday at the SCA Project Gallery! The turnout was awesome and this photographer very much appreciated the support of friends, fellow faculty, and the Claremont Cyclists.

Many thanks to Bob Pece, who hung the show, and to Cheryl Bookout who is a master of human resources, even with an injured foot. It was great to have my brother and sister, Linda and Randy, and daughter, Pippa, present for the event.

I found the conversations at the gallery were stimulating and I thank those who stopped by for the opportunity to talk about the special palladium printing process. I welcome "followers" of the blog. All this means is that you are updated when the Blog is updated, so that you no longer need to stop by in order to see if anything new has been posted. It's my plan to offer some thoughts on particular prints from a technical and aesthetic point of view. If you are interested, joining would make it easier to extend the conversation.

For those who asked about buying a print, the SCA would be very happy to oblige. Let Cheryl know. If you are in the vicinity, stop by the SCA Project store which is next door to the gallery. Her email is Telephone: 909-865-0252.

Let her know the ID number of the print you are interested in from the list in the gallery or this copy, which contains the ID and thumbnails of the prints in the show (and those at the far end of the gallery as well).

She can put a "sold" marker on the your print. (There are a couple up already - #'s 15 and 22.) You can then collect it when the show comes down. A commision goes to support this excellent gallery.

You may order the catalogue here from the Blurb bookstore either as a hardback, with or without a dustjacket, or as a softback. I would recommend premium paper in any case.

Your cost is Blurb's standard fee plus plus a small royalty for the Gallery of $2 for the paperback and $3 for the hardback version. Blurb is charting new territory in my opinion and I think you'll find excellent workmanship, relatively low cost and efficient delivery. You might also be intrigued enough, as I was, to make your own book.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Posters: The Show Title

It's been fun to put my Epson 4000 printer to a use other than printing digital negatives.

Posters: The Palladium Process

It's a challenge to try to encapsulate the palladium process. Here's a poster that distills the essentials from the previous postings. (Don't forget to click on the thumbnail. It is possible to read the text.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Process - Printing a Digital Negative

A beautiful 16" x 20" is now emerging from your printer. When it is finished, set it aside and proceed to the next step.

You have cut a sheet of high-quality watercolor paper to a size slightly larger than your negative. Bring out the chemicals that Willis used in 1871. I use Ron Reeder's process, which is a little different from the "standard" method which controls contrast by varying concentration of one of the chemicals. In Reeder's process, contrast is controlled in Photoshop.

Determine the amount of coating (in drops or "minums") for the specific surface area. (It is all proportional). Combine the number of drops of the palladium solution and the ferric oxalate solution. Usually this is done in a whiskey shot glass. Swirl the mixture (which looks very much like whiskey) a few times and pour it on the watercolor paper. With a brush, work the liquid into the fibers of the paper. This may take a few minutes, depending on the size. Set aside to dry. In this climate, usually about 30 minutes.

When the paper is dry, place the digital negative emulsion to emulsion (as with a normal negative) and expose to an ultra-violate light source. This can be the sun (usually about 8-10 minutes on a bright day) or, as I do, in an artificial UV light source that is, er, predictable. Mine is an old NuArc plate burner that was used in the lithography business several years ago. It delivers well-timed and measured UV light.

The calibration of the process is tricky, but exposure has sorted out to be about 4-5 minutes. A latent image is evident when you remove it the light source.

Place it in a tray and pour the developer over it. Immediately, the latent image becomes vivid and clear (hopefully). Fix and wash the print and hang it up to dry. Within a couple of hours you have a dry and beautiful palladium print.

The Process - Making a Digital Negative

In a regular darkroom, you would take the analog negative (say a 3.25" x 3.25" as would be produced by a Rolliflex) and enlarge it using an optical enlarger. But with a digital camera, you have no negative to enlarge. And so you make one precisely the correct size. With a medium format printer, it is possible make a 16" x 20" negative at high resolution. This in turn makes it possible to directly print a positive image from the same-size negative. The enlargement occurs in Photoshop rather than the enlarger.

Many express surprise that it is possible to make digital negative on a regular printer. In fact, anytime someone prepares an overhead transparency for a presentation (or any other reason) has gone through the same steps as in printing a digital negative. One starts with a transparent printing media such as Pictorico's or Digital Art Supplies Transfilm. One side of the material is prepared to accept quite an amount of ink. The best digital negatives are produced with high-resolution printers. Mine is an Epson Stylus Pro 4000 which can print at 2800 dpi. It turns out to be possible to print high-resolution digital negatives from files whose resolution varies from 180 to 240 dpi. The most important factors are proper exposure and good focus such as is possible on a bright day. So one is putting the finishing touches on a favorite image in Photoshop (or GIMP or any of a number of such programs). The image is still in color. All factors are "Go". The image is well-cropped, balanced, straight (or intentionally askew), and so on. It is appropriately sized (say 11 x 14 or 16 x 20). The appropriate color profile and color depth are assigned to the file. Any new metadata is assigned to the file (such as the title, caption, author). Now you are ready for two quick steps:
  • Converting the image to black-and-white and then
  • Inverting and rotating the image (so that it is a true "negative")

Now you are ready to print.

The Process -- Taking the Picture

This is of couse what photographers like to do. No special equipment is needed, any camera can provide an image which can end up as a palladium print. I now use a Nikon D80, but most of the images in this show were taken by a Canon Powershot. My old Rolliflex (literally -- it is well over 50 years old) is a wonderful source of images. My Olympus 350 SP works very well also.

Of course, if you use a digital camera, you don't need to scan your image. What is true in this hybrid process is that you need a digital image in order to make a digital negative. That is the key. The digital negative is then used to contact print the final palladium picture.

So the process goes like this. Take a picture. If it is already in digital form, great. You are ready for the next step. If not, scan the analog negative (I would suggest at least 800 dpi) to digitize it.

Make any adjustments to it in an image-processing program like Photoshop or GIMP. Make it look just the way you would like. Often this just means straightening and cropping the image. You'll want to make as few substantive changes (in contrast, for example) as possible. Nothing beats starting with a well-exposed, well-composed image. Get it just the way you want. Save it and get your printer ready.

Why Palladium?

With the advent of high quality medium format printers, one might ask why make palladium prints at all? Why not just print a black and white image rather than making a digital negative and then making a contact print of it? (More on the process later.)

Part of the reason is that palladium (and its more expensive sister element platinum) produce such superb black-and-white "colors." Platinum is known for its "cool" blacks, but palladium can produce them as well. Palladium also is thought to have a "warmer" feel to its blacks (but not "sepia" which is much warmer). Another reason is that the image is nestled into the surface texture of the medium. It is "in" the paper rather than "on" the paper.

Still another reason is that palladium (and of course platinum) are archival. Under normal display conditions, the image will last as long or longer than any other medium, including UltraChrome (UC) Epson pigments, which are currently an industry standard.

There are many other reasons as well, some of which are quite subjective. Since the palladium coating is sensitive only to ultra-violet (UV) light, it is possible to develop these prints in low (even medium) light. One of the great moments in the process is when the developer is poured over the latent image and that image springs into existence. You can tell in a few seconds how it will look. From there, it is only a matter of washing and drying the print, which can be done in full light.

Can these Palladium Prints be purchased?

Yes, and quite reasonably for those who would like to own a high quality palladium print. The price list for those in the show is here. It is also possible for me to make a palladium print to order in any of several sizes, stay tuned.

What's Happening Saturday, June 12

Well, the show begins then for one thing. But this is part of "Second Saturday" so all of the galleries will be open. The opening at the SCA Project Gallery starts at 6 in the evening, but it will be open before then, as will the other galleries as well. So my suggestion is to come before six if you can, enjoy the Art Walk and then come to the SCA Project Gallery, ground floor at 281 South Thomas. Take a look here for some background on the galleries in the Arts Colony area. They have done pretty well over the past few years.

Find your way downstairs at the SCA Gallery. There is an elevator. The stairs are to your right as you enter. There are two shows this month. One is on architecture. Mine is towards the far side of the gallery.

The "opening" is scheduled from 6-9, but folks tend to thin out about 8:30. I'll be there from 6 on. Part of what is nice about art walks, openings and such is that it does give people a chance to meet, greet, chat, catch up and talk about art and different places in the world. Or, just think of it as a party!

SCA Project Gallery, 281 S. Thomas St., Pomona, CA

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