31 October, 2016

Epson Hot Press Natural - tough

Zeiss Touit 32mm - Pizza, North Burleigh Heads, Queensland [Click image to enlarge]

There may be a bit of heresy in this, but once in awhile, there's a reason to choose Epson's Hot Press Natural printing paper for a reason other than its image reproduction qualities — HPN is tough.

HPN is not a coated paper, so it's hard to scratch or injure. And there are those times when I want to be able to hand out great looking prints without handling them (or expecting them to be handled) with kid gloves.

Yes, it might be that an image would look better on a coated paper that accommodates photo black ink. But none of that matters if the print won't make it back home with the person to whom I've given it.

29 October, 2016

x-rite i1 Display Pro

Sony 70-200mm - Coolangatta, Queensland [Click on image to enlarge]

Because I print wide format, I soon learned how expensive ink and paper are. Trial and error will never be entirely left behind, but soft proofing (seeing an approximation on the screen of how an image will look using a particular printer and paper) is invaluable.

But for soft proofing to work effectively, there has to be monitor calibration to ensure the display is speaking the same language (with the same accent) as the printer.

For example, if my monitor is set too bright, then I will dial down the brightness on an image in Lightroom to make it look right. But when I go to print — the brightness of the image having been turned down — the print will come out too dark. Colours are similarly affected by a misadjusted monitor.

For monitor calibration, from time to time I use a colorimeter — a device that sits on the front my monitor to measure how it responds to colour patches that x-rite's profiling software provides on screen. Then I adjust the monitor to respond to the images in the same way that my printer will respond to the images when they're printed. And, happily my display has little drift so I don't have to calibrate too often.

Some people claim to be able to calibrate from a reference image. You print a known image, and judge from the print whether the monitor is too bright, too dark, too red.... You get the idea. I don't doubt the claim that it's doable; I'm just know I'm not one of those people that can do it.

Even though it's relatively inexpensive, my non-Apple, wide-gamut (96% Adobe RGB) monitor is more amenable to such calibration than most Apple displays, because it allows direct hardware adjustment. But I understand that the i1 Display Pro can work with Apple's current crop as well. (I have to admit that the resolution of Apple's 5K Retina Display looks pretty impressive — too glossy, but impressive)

This discussion (finally) leads me to my point. In moving to the Mac I upgraded my colorimeter from the older x-rite eye-one Display 2, to the i1 Display Pro. The new device is a joy.

The old, egg shaped, device had its day. It did the job and it did it well, but it came from a time when most monitors were still Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). The old colorimeter had suction cups on the front to make it stick to the display's glass surface. But when I used it in on my LCD flat screen, I had to be careful not to let the cups stick as they could damage the screen.

Without an in-depth review of the i1 Display Pro (there are plenty of those around), I can say it's the difference between night and day. Easy to use and essential for predictable colour.

There are other colorimeters out there, but I have no experience of those.  So, the most that I can say is that the i1 Display Pro works for me.

19 October, 2016

Switched to the Mac

Sony/Zeiss 55mm - Coolangatta, Queensland [Click on image to enlarge]

I've moved to the Mac (OS 10.12 Sierra), leaving behind my Windows 7 machine.

I inherited the Mac.

The PC was over 4 years old and it was struggling with Lightroom, so it came at the right time. The PCs ancient graphics card wasn't recognised by LR, and the program and the PC both struggled with any but the simplest HDRs or panoramas.

The switch has forced me to do a badly needed cleanup. Over the years utilities and files have accumulated. With the advances in Lightroom I won't be needing the external sharpening, HDR and stitching programs.

I have, however, loaded the Nik suite from Google. I'm still a big fan of Silver Efex Pro 2. But I'm still worried that Google won't be updating the (now free) suite.

What made the switch possible is the Adobe Photography Plan (Lightroom and Photoshop) being agnostic about the platforms. If you switch off the PC version, you can download the Mac version and off you go. Thanks, Adobe.

I haven't calibrated my monitor on the new system yet. For that I had to pop for the i1 Display Pro. Once that's done I'll be able to get the printer going.