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Larger Than Life, Easier Than Ever

By Lorraine A. DarConte

Profiled are four very different photographers working in a variety of photographic situations—some dangerous, some requiring split-second timing, and a good sense of humor. All use wide format printing solutions from various manufacturers—Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Epson, and Roland. During the process, they all learned a thing or two about printing, not to mention a few things about their own work.

A.T. (Tom) Willett and Jeff Smith
Commercial photographers A.T. (Tom) Willett and Jeff Smith met in Tucson, AZ, while attending college. Both had a penchant for photographing weather, in particular, lightning. Eventually they started working together. Photographing lightning is both a trick and a skill, notes Smith, who’s spent more than 20 years perfecting his craft. "Some people would be shocked at the quality of the gear we take into the field, which includes Nikons, Canons, Hasselblads, and large format Pentax cameras, all of which can get wet and blow over," states Smith. "We’re not working with cheap cameras even though we know they’re going to be in the elements."

Willett and Smith prefer to shoot with film, in particular Fujichrome Velvia 50 Professional, but recently started shooting digital. "The latitude the film has and the quality of the scans still beats anything that’s out there," explains Smith. "Also, the idea of putting a $50,000 digital camera in the rain doesn’t make a lot of sense as they’re not sealed as well as film cameras. However, we try not to shoot in the rain," he continues. "We get as close as we can to the storm to get the best photograph without actually being in the storm. Some of the best lightning we get is before the rain starts to fall."

Willett and Smith choose their storms using a variety of methods and tools including radar, online sources, and satellite loops. "We try to figure out what’s going on with the weather so we can forecast where to go," says Willett. "We get together an hour before it gets dark and head in the direction we’ve decided on. We have to wait 15 to 20 minutes after sunset before we can shoot."

"Chasing storms is similar to how surfer’s look for waves," adds Smith. "We do it visually. And that’s why it’s good we work together—one person is driving, one is looking. Sometimes [a storm] is more interesting to the eye than it is to photograph. But, like anything, you have to take all those photos to get the great photos you’re after."

The photographers are most active during the summer months when Tucson’s monsoon season starts at the end of June and typically runs through the first week of September. Though that may seem like a lot of time, out of the entire season, notes Willett, there’s maybe two nights that they capture all their best photos. Photographing lightning isn’t without its hazards. "This year we got two close hits—one was a bolt that hit within fifty feet—scared the hell out of us," states Smith. "It makes you remember why you don’t want to get hit by lightning."

This year, Willett and Smith exhibited their images at the prestigious Etherton Gallery in Tucson. Putting the show together was a collaboration between the photographers, Photographic Works, and Deadwood Framing. "Photographic Works was brought in because they have a 54-inch Roland Hi-Fi JET Pro II FJ-540 printer."

When combined with ErgoSoft StudioPrint RIP software, the FJ-540 becomes the d’Vinci Fine Art Printing System. This boasts a 12-color ink set that includes orange and green and four additional dilutions of black. "The amazing thing for us—since we were new to the large scale printing process—was how much color there was," states Smith. "With all those inks laying down on Arches watercolor paper it really showed every little nuance of every color. The shading alone within the different blacks was really something. It was just a beautiful process."

"Before," adds Willett, "we probably adjusted everything too heavily—made the images too contrasty, too white, too black. We learned a lot about printing to output on the FJ-540, and how to get the most out of the photos. We were surprised at the consistency throughout our work. All 30 shots—15 each— had the same consistent color level and shadow and highlight detail. They all worked well together."

The exhibit was a success both artistically and financially. "Not only did we sell prints to individual collectors," states Smith, "but the Tucson Police Department bought a half dozen each of our prints for its new sub station. They wanted work that was non-political, non-religious, and very ‘Tucson.’" The duo’s work was also recently installed in the lobby at the famed Canyon Ranch Spa and Resort, in Tucson, and they are actively seeking new venues for the images.

After more than 20 years, the photographers are still looking for great shots. "You don’t know what that is until you shoot it," concludes Willett. "We would like to shoot lightning in different places around the world. We’d also like to shoot in the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly, but it’s really hard to plan to be there for a great storm." To view more images visit: www.lightningsmiths.com.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, along with those of Martin Scorcese, Steven Spielberg, and other celebrities, are on display for the first time in Movie Stars: Portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, at the Museo Carlo Bilotti in Rome, Italy. Greenfield-Sanders’ work is also showcased in the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery among others.

Though Greenfield-Sanders has been a professional photographer since the mid-1970s, photography wasn’t his first career choice. He discovered the joys of portraiture while attending the American Film Institute. While there, he was asked to take portraits of visiting filmmakers and guest lecturers such as Ingmar Bergman and Bette Davis for the school’s archives.

One week, he had the opportunity to photograph film legend Alfred Hitchcock. During their session, Hitchcock didn’t like the way Greenfield-Sanders was lighting the room, invited him to his studio, and introduced him to his lighting staff. "They taught me what to do because I really didn’t know what to do; I wasn’t much of a photographer," Greenfield-Sanders admits. "So I started to learn at the feet of these great masters." He eventually switched gears noting he liked the portrait experience more than filmmaking. "I enjoyed the one-on-one aspect of it and the chance to meet new people."

Greenfield-Sanders photographs more than just celebrities. "I began with the art world, photographing artists, some famous, some not. Eventually that opened up my world to fashion, actors, politicians, musicians, and architects. Shooting for me is always easy; once I meet the person it’s a question of chemistry and I try to find something in common." Greenfield-Sanders jokes that he tends to know a lot about the subjects he photographs and notes that the biggest challenge of taking a good portrait is getting the person to the studio and dealing with public relations.

Greenfield-Sanders captures his portraits using 8x10 and 11x14 large format view cameras. For this exhibit, he notes, it was essential that he use the latest technology to produce photographs worthy of the Museo Carlo Bilotti, so he teamed up with Epson and Nash Editions, a fine art digital printmaking studio. Greenfield-Sanders wanted to exhibit 50 B&W and color prints up to 56 inches wide by 72 inches high. His negatives were scanned and then printed with the Epson Stylus Pro 11880 - 64-inch wide format ink jet printer.

The printer features a new TFP print head, which in combination with AccuPhoto HD screening technology holds all the detail captured in the original 11x14 negatives. The combination of the print head, screening algorithm, and UltraChrome K3 Ink Technology with Vivid Magenta faithfully reproduces all the subtleties of the photographer’s lighting, including accurate flesh tones.

"My negatives are all large format—8x10 and 11x14—and so it was a chance to get gigantic scans and really see the quality of this printer. I have to say the results are phenomenal; the quality of the printer is remarkable."

Prior to working with the Epson Stylus Pro 11880, he used the Epson Stylus Pro 9800, a 44-inch wide format printer. Before that, Greenfield-Sanders contact-printed his negatives. "Ten years ago, you couldn’t imagine printing anything beyond 11x14 unless you had an 11x14 enlarger, and there were only two in the world," he states.

Choosing images for the exhibit was not as hard as one might think. "I was looking for the best large format pictures I’d taken—my favorites." To see the images this scale—5x6 feet—was like seeing pictures I’ve never seen of mine before. There’s something marvelous about blowing them up so big that you look at the faces in a new way. The finished prints simply look real." Greenfield-Sanders hopes the museum exhibit will travel and says they’re trying to find venues now. To view more images visit: www.greenfield-sanders.com.

Parish Kohanim
Parish Kohanim has been a successful commercial photographer for more than thirty years. He worked in San Francisco, New York, and currently Atlanta, GA. His clients include advertising agencies, design firms, and Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola, DeBeers Diamonds, IBM, and Kimberly Clark. His work appeared in numerous publications including Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek, Time, and Vogue. Recently, Kohanim turned his photographic eye toward fine art photography—his first love.

Kohanim is currently photographing performers—dancers, acrobats, and contortionists, many from Cirque du Soleil, for an upcoming book and ongoing exhibits. One of his favorite subjects is Elena, an aerial acrobat artist who once danced with the Ballet Russe. "Her story is very compelling; she’s very focused and dedicated," states Kohanim. "She does contortions—that look painful—I can’t even imagine the body being able to do." Kohanim met Elena through a friend that’s a sculptor who asked if he’d like to photograph her.

Of course, he accepted. "It felt right to shoot at the time," he says, even though he didn’t have a specific purpose for the images." I talk to a lot of people about giving themselves assignments without thinking about what the financial ramifications might be. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the images turn out to be a lucrative part of a project."

This project was no exception. Using a Canon EOS-1D Mark II and III, as well as view cameras, Kohanim spent three full days photographing Elena, who can only hold a contortion for a few seconds. "It was one of the most thrilling, exciting, three days ever," he states. "I like working with people that inspire me. After she left, it felt like it did when you were a kid and went to a special event, and after that event was over, you felt this longing, this void in your life. That’s how I felt after this shoot; I wanted more. It was so magnificent."

Besides the soon-to-be-published book, photographs from the project are on display at The Parish Kohanim Fine Art Gallery, located in Kohanim’s studio in the heart of the art district in Midtown Atlanta. Elena’s images were shown in conjunction with his friend’s sculptures of Elena. Both C Prints and inkjet prints were made for the exhibit. "I’m my own worse critic when it comes to printing," admits Kohanim, who worked with Canon’s imagePROGRAF iPF6100. "It takes a lot to please me and I can’t endorse any product that I don’t fully believe in. Prints from the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100, I dare say, are better than darkroom prints. I thought I would never say that. The luminosity, the tonal range, everything is just breathtaking."

The Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 large format printing system has sophisticated print-head technology and high-speed output. It is engineered to produce colors, fine details, and subtleties required for challenging color environments such as photography, proofing, and professional graphic applications. The printer can recalibrate itself to the original factory settings and apply any necessary adjustments across the printer media types for a more predictable printing platform and consistent results.

The 12-color pigment ink system with LUCIA inks provides excellent color fastness and stability with a very wide color gamut. The new ink formulation for black, matte black, gray, and photo gray minimizes bronzing while providing stronger ink adhesion to print media, resulting in better scratch resistance without additional protection.

"It prints color and B&W effortlessly and I can go from matte to glossy without flushing any ink, which is a waste of ink and time. I don’t have to spend endless amounts of time trouble shooting and the printer is user-friendly. I profile the paper, do some minor tweaking and one or two prints later, I’ve got it. Ideally, that’s what everyone wants, especially me. I’d rather be shooting than sitting in front of the computer. I don’t put too much emphasis on technology. I think ultimately it’s the image that needs to be right," Kohanim concludes. "But the technology helps you get there." To view more images visit: www.parishkohanim.com.

Joe Buissink
Beverly Hills-based wedding photographer Joe Buissink’s images tell a story through a series of artfully captured moments—an anxious groom, a pensive bride, a joyful frolic on the beach—that are often described as "fine art."

He’s been featured on Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Good Morning America, and Lifetime Television’s Wedding of a Lifetime. His work was published in Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, InStyle Weddings, and People Magazine. Last February, American Photo nominated him as one of the top ten wedding photographers in the world.

Buissink’s photographic style is loose, natural, and real, the polar opposite of traditional wedding images, which have the tendency to be stiff and over-posed. In about a dozen years, Buissink has risen quickly from photographing friends that believe in him to a much sought-after international star with many celebrity clients including, Christina Applegate and Jennifer Lopez.

"I took a risk one day and approached a high-end wedding coordinator with simply ten images," recalls Buissink. "Rather than calling, I showed up at his doorstep and showed him my work. I know I didn’t follow protocol; I’d heard it would take six months to talk to him and he already had photographers like Denis Reggie, and he didn’t need anyone else. I said ‘What the heck, I’m just going to show up. What’s the worst that can happen?’"

"He saw the images and thought they were really cool and different. He had just the person for me, which turned out to be Kelsey Grammer. His was the first celebrity wedding I shot and from there it was word of mouth."

Buissink’s style is derived from B&W images from the 1940s and 1950s, hence, it’s no surprise that 70 to 80 percent of his images are B&W. He shoots with Canon cameras and Kodak film including, 400, 3200, and high speed infrared. "Infrared is actually my calling card," he notes. "It is one of the big reasons why people call me."

"I then scan the negatives and print them on HP printers. I print the large prints in-house on the HP Designjet Z3100 24-inch printer and use a HP Photosmart Pro 9180. It’s easier than sending it to a lab and I have more control." Buissink finds he’s printing 20x24 and 30x40 wall portraits of his more artistic pieces, such as the infrared shots. "The quality of the B&W on the HP Designjet Z3100 is insanely beautiful. The consistency is unbelievable. Once I print one, I can crank out several in a row and they’re all exactly the same."

The new HP Designjet Z3100 printers feature embedded spectrophotometers, 12-color HP Vivera pigment inks, and automatic calibrations, which provide both color accuracy and consistency.

"Sometimes," admits Buissink, "I will print one large photo before the clients pick up their proofs and it’ll be hanging in the studio when they arrive. It ends up being a sale," he concludes, because his clients have to have it. "They literally want it off my wall—and I let them buy it from me." To view more images visit: www.joebuissink.com.

Conclusion
So, whether you’re a fashion, commercial, fine art, or a wedding photographer, there’s a wide format printer on the market that will fit your output needs.

Feb2008, Digital Output

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