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Photography at its Finest

By Lorraine A. DarConte

Whether photographing Dale Evans for a personal project, coffee cups for an advertising agency, portraits and landscapes, or wild animals on safari for fine art collectors, each professional profiled in this piece possesses a common passion for quality large format prints. Their studios host a range of large format printers from Canon U.S.A., Inc., Epson, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and Roland DGA Corporation. Though subject matter and printing devices may differ, the four photographers profiled all contribute to the arts.

Stephen Austen Welch
Bold and Offbeat

A bold use of color and informal, offbeat compositions sets San Francisco, CA-based advertising photographer Stephen Austin Welch apart from the rest.

Welch possesses an uncanny knack for making even the most mundane subjects—paper coffee cups, a sterile office cubicle, and an outdated shower stall—look exciting and new. Regarding his artwork, Welch explains, “I think you have to break at least one rule—whether it’s mixing light sources or using a slow shutter speed—to get a good photo.”

Welch also credits his film background for his unusual style, which allows everyone involved in a photo shoot to fully participate. “It’s about lighting spaces and then letting subjects create their own moment, action, beat, or story with an essay,” says Welch. “I think photographers often have it backwards and they try to pin everything down so precisely that they lose that freedom. I’m all about lighting a set so that the model, the band, or whomever I photograph has the freedom to let their personality show.”

Welch runs an almost completely digital studio, delivering clients’ images via FTP sites. However, he has plenty of occasions to print photos too. “I use Epson inkjet printers with Epson archival ink and archival matte paper,” states Welch. “When the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 first came out, I fell in love with it and purchased four more for the studio. My IT department figures the first printer generated more than ten miles of output. Subsequent devices each printed just as much volume.”

Welch’s studio uses the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 to provide several solutions including 12x12-inch portfolio prints, fine art photographic prints, calibrated proofs for clients, and archival C-prints on traditional photographic media. “We sell prints of all sizes—up to four feet, although I favor prints at 40 inches. Any of our fine art photographic prints sell through galleries or directly from our studio,” confides Welch.

Marketing materials for the studio are another application printed off of the Epson Stylus Pro 4000. “Unique items include art cards. These are limited edition archival photographic prints sent to clients, colleagues, fans, and friends. We created one every month for two years to make up a complete collector set of 24 pieces. It was nice to send archival prints as promotional mailers because they were a couple notches above the traditional consumer postcard.”

Pleased with the in-house inkjet prints his studio produces, Welch sends files to a trusted outside lab when tasked with giant mural prints for clients. There, profiled digital archival C-prints—color photographic prints created on negative-type color photographic paper—are created on Océ North America LightJet photo laser printers. "We created a mural over 50 feet long for a client. It was an installation in a wine bar that covered an interior wall. In this instance, we printed the image in strips, similar to wallpaper, on adhesive-backed material from 3M Graphics Market Center and then had it matte laminated. The impact was stunning," says Welch. To view a sampling of Welch’s collections visit www.saw-art.com.

Jamie Williams
American Cowgirl

“People call me when they need shots of ranches or cowboys,” states Jamie Williams. Williams grew up in Lubbock, TX. About nine years ago, she began working on a documentary film and book project entitled American Cowgirl. She chose to photograph cowgirls for several reasons, one being that the American cowboy is well documented, but not the cowgirl, in her opinion. “I think the cowgirl is overlooked somewhat and hasn’t had her due recognition. The cowgirl worked right alongside the cowboy herding and branding the cattle and harvesting the crops. If you look in the history books, you see a lot about cowboys, but not as much about cowgirls, both of which are a dying breed,” explains Williams.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts provided Williams with an artist grant to pursue the project. “I plan to travel to all 50 states to produce images for the book,” explains Williams, who hopes to showcase every genre of the Western cowgirl lifestyle, including rodeo queens, trick riders, horse whispers, and others.

One famous cowgirl featured in Williams’ project is Dale Evans—Roy Rogers’ wife and partner. “I was lucky enough to get Evans’ last interview and photo session. Even though Evans was in a wheelchair, she was dressed in a Western outfit portraying a living icon just like in the movies.”

Recently, images from Williams’ American Cowgirl project were featured at ArtsEye Gallery in Tucson, AZ. Film Creations, a video crew, covered the gallery opening and created a two and a half minute piece that aired nationwide on the Encore Western Channel. The result was more than 100,000 hits to Williams’ Web site.

The photographs for the exhibit were printed at Photographic Works—the lab also runs the gallery. Prints for Williams’ show were 20x30 inches and smaller, printed on Canson Infinity’s Arches Smooth paper. The images needed to be consistent in their look, even though some were shot on film and others with a digital camera.

Bill Snyder, imaging manager, Photographic Works, printed Williams’ exhibition images in B&W on a d’Vinci Hi-Fi JET Fine Art Printing System, purchased about three years ago. The d’Vinci prints on paper up to 54 inches wide.

The printer is a combination of parts that include a Roland Hi-Fi JET Pro II FJ-540 with Epson printheads. “The d’Vinci integrates ErgoSoft StudioPrint RIP, which really makes the difference. Without the ErgoSoft, Epson, and Roland components, there is no d’Vinci,” says Snyder.

Photographic Works’ d’Vinci uses five tones of black ink made by John Cone of Cone Editions in VT. Cone provides innovative B&W inkjet techniques and methodology. The company produces a series of inks called Piezography—available in several different "flavors." Photographic Works uses Neutral K7, each of the seven inks is a neutral gray, so the user’s paper choice determines the color of the print. To see more of Williams’ work visit www.ThatGirlProductions.com.

David Saffir
Home Printing Business
David Saffir, who photographs everything from portraits to products and landscapes, operates his own printing service, born out of a desire to produce better prints. “I was deep into making the switch to digital photography with my first DSLR, but I wasn’t really happy with the prints I was getting from my desktop,” explains Saffir. “I wanted to understand how to use it better, which made me realize the machine I had was not capable of doing what I wanted.”

Hence, Saffir purchased a system from Oji ILFORD USA and created a small business making prints for himself and others. “I found that local photographers didn’t necessarily want to invest in purchasing or learning how to run a wide format printer; what they wanted were wide format prints.”

Saffir prints a lot of work for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International and Professional Photographers of America, both of which have statewide and national competitions. “That got me rolling, and along the way, I rediscovered the beauty of B&W. Although in those days, I couldn’t run fine art and photographic style paper on the same machine without switching out the inks.” Saffir eventually purchased a second printer, which uses matte inks and allows him to print B&W regularly. “I also produce fine art for people on different types of media,” he adds.

“I started working with HP printers several years ago after I saw the HP Designjet 130 at a trade show. It uses dye-based inks, which in some instances provides a different color palette,” notes Saffir, who still uses the printer today.

Saffir now owns an HP Designjet Z3200 as well. “Before the HP Designjet Z Series printers were introduced, if you let any pigment-based printer sit for more than a few days, the pigment inks would clog the printhead, relentlessly, and it would cost money to get it running again,” notes Saffir. Both HP’s Designjet Z Series and Desktop B Series printers don’t have that issue. When not in use, they hibernate and wake up occasionally to clean themselves.

“The HP Designjet Z Series provides excellent print quality,” says Saffir. “It also has a color management system built right in, as well as a spectrophotometer. It’s extremely accurate and instead of spending 30 to 60 minutes creating an ICC profile for the media being used, the machine does all this work according to its program.”

“Another primary feature of the Z series printers are the four black inks, allowing an operator to print with only black inks when desired. There are two advantages to that. The first is there are no issues in terms of color cast. And, if it prints with no color, that print is going to last longer. Color fades but black inks are extraordinarily archival. This is the only wide format printer that I know with a gloss optimizer that HP treats as an additional ink channel so it doesn’t create an overcoat. In other words, it allows me to make B&W prints on glossy paper, resembling darkroom prints.”

Thanks to the printer’s built-in spectrophotometer, Saffir uses a variety of paper without a struggle. “Right now, I’m making posters for a client with Ilford poster paper. Later today, I’ll switch to HahnemŸhle paper for watercolor reproductions. In the past, to have repeatable color for 100 pieces in an edition, I had to make the edition prints all at once, which was enormously expensive. Now, once I have an image file where I want it, it’s print on demand.”

Saffir also teaches printing workshops. The seminars include how to photograph, edit, and print gallery-quality fine art reproductions using the new HP Designjet Z3200 photo printer and HP Artist software solution. For more information on Saffir and his art visit www.davidsaffir.com.

Bruce Dorn
Where the Wild Things Are
Bruce Dorn works in highly competitive markets such as Hollywood, New York, and Paris. Both he and Maura Dutra—wife and business partner—own iDC Photography in Prescott, AZ.

Dorn’s background includes stints as a fashion and advertising photographer and some 20 years working within the Director’s Guild of America.

Recently, Dorn spent time in Africa conducting photo video safari workshops. “I did three different back-to-back safari trips in Tanzania this summer,” states Dorn. “I was able to travel there a couple times over the last three to four years; Botswana and Tanzania being my favorite destinations.” After working in the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle arenas, Dorn was ready to turn his camera back to nature, a subject he finds very interesting.

The majority of subjects Dorn shoots in Africa are made into fine art prints for sale. “I make digital paintings with Corel Corporation’s Painter program. Recently, I created a digital painting of two bull giraffes. They swing their heads at each other like polo mallets; it looks like they’re necking, but in fact they’re trying to knock each other down. I created an interesting image, which I’d like to print close to life size, but my main problem is width,” says Dorn.

Dorn uses a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF9100 60-inch printer, which allows him to print images that are five feet wide and virtually any length. “But the bull giraffes in the painting are 21 feet tall,” says Dorn. “I can certainly get the height, but getting the width of these two creatures in the frame is going to keep me from going life size.” Dorn plans to use the bull giraffe image, among others, as part of iDC’s touring show.

Dorn enjoys using the Canon imagePROGRAF for a number of reasons. “In the past, the dry climate of AZ raised clogging concerns. But the printhead technology in this printer prevents it from clogging. We spent a lot of time and money blowing pigment through orifices trying to prevent printers from clogging toward the end of a print run. A 40x60-inch print would run and in the last few inches it would lay down a stripe of nothing,” notes Dorn.

Thanks to the imagePROGRAF iPF9100’s dual printhead system with 30,720 print nozzles, if it clogs, the printer can reassign another nozzle and continue without any gaps in the coverage. The iPF9100 is also equipped with a pallet of 12 colors for greater tonal range and more precise color reproduction. The black, matte black, gray, and photo gray ink formulations reduce bronzing and provide strong ink adhesion to the print media for better scratch resistance. “I also like that it can print ridiculous lengths and I can create interesting verticals and panels. I’ve had my best luck with images done in a horizontal panoramic format. Art is also a decor consideration,” says Dorn, “So finding formats that work in consumers’ homes is always important.”

Besides African shoots, Dorn is deeply interested in dance photography. “I don’t have any rhythm to move my body in a stylish manner,” he laughs. “But I enjoy watching beautiful bodies in motion—ballet, flamenco, whatever kind of dance I can find. I’m hoping to make connections in the Native American community so I can get a bit of an insider’s look at some of the tribal dancers,” adds Dorn. Visit www.idcphotography.com to learn more about Dorn’s work.

Feb2009, Digital Output

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