In the last decade, many photographers have switched from traditional film to digital cameras for a variety of reasons—it’s better for the environment, it’s less expensive, it saves time, and perhaps most importantly, it gives them more control over their images. We see the same thing happening with printers, particularly wide format printers. The following four photographers all use wide format printers because it gives them more control over their work—they’re fast, consistent, fairly inexpensive, and allow them to make their own color and paper choices.
Andy Biggs: Life on the Serengeti
Andy Biggs’ photography pays homage to the African landscape and its unique vistas, wildlife, people, and culture. Biggs’ photo safaris allow participants to not only enhance their understanding of photography, lighting, and animal life, but to develop a life-long admiration for Africa’s beauty and culture.
Biggs’ career in the world of photo workshops began when he and his wife went to Africa on an extended backpacking vacation for a month-and-a-half. "I had always contemplated a workshop business," states the former software consultant, "but the minute I found my passion and love for Africa, everything became clear and much easier. I immediately started running trips; but it took about two years to get to where I could ignore my old software business from an income standpoint. Now I run six safaris a year, which are solely targeted to people who want to learn more about photography; in particular, how to photograph wildlife. My goal is for people to learn a lot and come home with the best images from their safari. I walk people through preparing for the safari, photographing while on safari, and even turning some of their images into fine art prints after the safari." In fact, Biggs often provides printing services to his workshop attendees. "They’ll send me a digital file and I’ll convert it into a final print."
Biggs is currently working on a B&W portfolio, which he expects to be available by the end of 2007. "Almost everything I’ve shot or shown to date has been color," notes Biggs, who has been cultivating a new, more stylized look for his work. Although he shoots primarily with digital Canon cameras, he’s recently taken up 4x5, capitalizing on the quality of the larger negatives. Biggs primarily handholds the 4x5 using shallow depth of field with wide-open lenses so he can easily get a sharp photograph. "I’m not shooting 1/4 second exposures," he notes, "which is typical for large format. However, I do rest the camera on a beanbag."
Biggs prints with Epson 4000, 4800, and 7800 printers. "I love the output from the current Epson wide format printers as they produce nice B&W prints without having to use expensive RIP software." He’s also considering purchasing Canon’s imagePROGRAF iPF9000. "The Canon iPF9000 is a 60-inch-wide printer," states Biggs. "Most printers are 24- or 44-inch. I’m looking to produce very, very large prints primarily for my commercial installations in office buildings, etc."
Canon’s 60-inch imagePROGRAF iPF9000 has a 12-color pigment ink system that was designed to expand the color reproduction range by providing a wide color gamut for accurate colors and fine details. It also features two levels of gray, which provides a neutral monotone output, and automatic switching between regular black and matte black inks to eliminate waste and save time. The printer also has a new L-COA controller, a dual print-head system with FINE technology and a 40GB hard drive.
Phil Borges: Photography to Make a Difference
HP Pro Photography has joined forces with CARE in its global I am Powerful campaign, which uses photography to fight poverty and bring attention to social issues. The campaign, which covers 70 countries, focuses on empowering women so they can make lasting change for themselves, their families, and their communities. The HP project pairs five professional photographers and five photo students to document CARE’s humanitarian work. The photographs taken for the project will also be used to showcase today’s advanced digital printing technology.
Photographer Phil Borges is one of the five pro photographers affiliated with the project. "Most of my work is in the developing world," states Borges, who has lived with and photographed indigenous people for more than 25 years.
"I like to illustrate an issue and wrap it in a positive light. I was telling hero stories of women who had broken through some sort of repression or cultural tradition that was harmful to them." For instance, Borges documented the story of a woman in Afghanistan who educated girls—at great risk to herself—during Taliban rule.
For CARE, Borges went to Cambodia to photograph women with AIDS. "Anti-viral drugs had been shipped to and made available to their community. Today, more than 200 women are alive thanks to their efforts." Borges, who shot the project with a Canon Mark21DS and a Hasselblad 503CW with an Imacon—now Hasselblad—digital back, worked with Hoshito Omija, a photography student at Japan’s Nihon University. Students were paired with pros to encourage them to use photography to make a difference in the world. "It’s so important in alleviating poverty and halting the spread of AIDS and a myriad of things, and I’m very much in support of the organizations that do that," says Borges.
The images for the project, which will be exhibited at the United Nations, were printed by Borges on an HP Designjet Z Series wide format printer. "This new printer has a built-in spectrophotometer and it calibrates the printer for consistent results and creates profiles for new media. I’m constantly experimenting with new papers, so it’s wonderful to have a printer with a built-in profiling system," concludes Borges.
The HP Designjet Z Series utilizes HP Vivera pigment ink technology along with built-in color management technologies and an intelligent ink delivery system for museum-quality prints. Both the HP Designjet Z2100 8-ink and Designjet Z3100 12-ink printers feature the industry’s first embedded spectrophotometer, which provides accurate color matching.
Tom Upton: A Penchant for Panoramas
Commercial photographer Tom Upton’s penchant for panorama photography has been a lifelong affair. "Ever since I began photographing, I’ve always liked the idea of panning a camera, taking separate shots, and putting the images together," states Upton. Most of his early panoramas are multiple image sets shot with film that were assembled by overlapping prints or placed neatly together frame-to-frame during the mounting phase. "When [Adobe] Photoshop came along I started putting them together from scans, which I could do seamlessly. When I shoot, I leave thirty percent of the image to overlap and then I construct it in Photoshop CS2," he continues.
"Photoshop has a quirky assembling utility, which I use to do the grunt work of getting all the images under one canvas; then I do the rest by hand. The algorithms for combining images are still pretty terrible," notes Upton. "They can’t make decisions for you about correcting composition or perspective. With Photoshop, I can shoot a bunch of raw images for possible panoramas, but I never really know what will work until I pull the images together."
Upton photographs with a Hasselblad 500c and a 553 ELX, which he uses with the Phase One P20 Back and a Phase 1 digital back. He also uses several Canon cameras—the EOS 10D, 20D, and 5D, and developed an interest in the Widelux and Hasselblad X-Pan. "The Widelux and XPan are rangefinder film cameras built for the panorama format. The Widelux camera makes a 24x58mm image onto 35mm film with a moving lens on a spring-wound turret. Hasselblad’s Xpan camera—now discontinued—offers up a whopping 24mmx 64mm for a bonafide wide format image."
Upton produces art prints with the Epson Stylus Pro 4800, though his files work for the Epson 9800, as well. He applies traditional fine art photography printing principles as influenced by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and his own 20-plus-years of B&W printing. "I’m really interested in printing and the revolution we have experienced in the last five years. Although I still miss the print quality of the B&W negative on paper, the Epson 4800 has rekindled my love for printing."
"The printer is lightening fast and very reliable," he continues. "I get amazing color and there are profiles readily available from both Epson and Atkinson—for the 9800—that translate fairly well to the 4800. I also print with the Epson 2200 with a matte black ink set so I don’t have to keep swapping inks. I print more fine art-oriented rag papers on the Epson 2200. My only constraint is I don’t have the size I have with the 4800, which prints 17 inches wide. The Epson 4800 handles a lot of things for me really well such as proof sheets and soft-proofs, and the color management is stable and easily controlled."
Upton’s exhibit at the Catherine Lush Gallery in Palo Alto, CA, is scheduled for January 2 to March 2, 2007, and will include new panorama images from San Francisco.
Walter J. Stickley, Jr.: Capturing the Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS) was released in the United Kingdom in 1975 as a science-fiction/comedy-horror-musical film. It was based on Richard O’Brien’s long-running stage production of the same name. The movie eventually went on to become a cult classic that to this day plays weekly in theaters across the country. Photographer Walter J. Stickley, Jr. admits to having seen the film more than a handful of times. "I saw it when it first came out and have seen it in a number of places including, New York, London, and Paris."
Now living in Tucson, AZ, Stickley heard that a local theater, The Loft Cinema, in conjunction with filmmaker Charley Brown, was hosting the recent RHPS 31st annual convention, Queens of the Desert. This, of course, piqued his interest. "Rocky Horror is a phenomenon whose heyday was probably about fifteen years ago; and it’s been declining ever since. I think it’s going to have a resurgence; but I wanted to capture the event before it disappeared."
The project was shot with digital 35mm using ambient light so as not interfere with the performance. Stickley’s equipment included a Canon EOS 1 Ds Mk II and a Canon 5d with 85 mm f 1.2/L USM, 16-35 mm f 2.8 L USM, and 24-105 f/4L IS USM lenses. Stickley also used a tripod for most of the shoot. "It was intentionally shot on-screen while the actors were doing their thing. I wanted to capture it live with no pretenses; I wanted it to be documentary in nature and not posed."
Exhibit prints, which Stickley will print on his Epson Stylus Pro 4800, will be 16x20 inches, but he’s also made a deal with Pictopia.com, which will be offering prints up to 50x75 inches. Additionally, the prints will be used for Rocky Horror promotion in Tucson with the intent to extend to other RHPS markets. For example, posters at the Loft Cinema and postcards/picture cards for an ad campaign to promote the RHPS experience are in the works.
Stickley prints on an Epson 4800 with Epson Premium Luster paper because, "I believe it’s the largest size printer that makes sense for the small studio. The 4800 enables me to handily print on letter-size and flat paper, but I can also load 16x20-inch sheets into the printer. The only disadvantage of this printer is the need to flush the black ink when changing to matte paper, so I use an Epson 2200 that is dedicated to matte paper." All prints are made using an Image Print V6 RIP by Colorbyte.
The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 features a 17-inch-wide printer design with new 8-color ink technology and a high-performance 1-inch-wide print head that produces resolution of 2880x1440 dpi. The printer handles virtually any media type in roll or cut-sheets up to 17 inches wide and its high-capacity paper tray can handle cut-sheet media up to 17x22 inches.
Here to Stay
More and more professional photographers are taking advantage of large format. It’s evident, considering the unique variety and sizes that today’s advanced machines handle, that the in-house wide format printer is here to stay—and is sure to improve in leaps and bounds.