Discovering New Papers and Erasing Old Ideas

Transitioning from one material to another takes time, and the willingness to fail. For years, as an analog photographer, I used AZO paper from Kodak to create my 8X10″ contact prints. Now, in the digital realm, I have been using papers from Red River and Canson with a Luster finish, printed out to my Epson printers using Photo Black ink, and have been very happy with the results.
I recently purchased an Epson Pro 3880 which would allow me to produce larger prints (17″ maximum width) than my R2400, which is limited to a max width of 13″. Paper prices really jump when you start using larger format, pre-cut sheets. I contemplated buying rolls of paper, then cutting it down to size, but decided the savings just did not make up for the extra work involved.

My current paper of choice, Canson Platine Fiber Rag, in the format 17X22″ is currently going for somewhere around $135 for 25 sheets. 2 boxes of it have been sitting in my Adorama shopping cart for the past 2 weeks. Pulling the trigger has been difficult merely due to the price.
Last week I received a promotional email from Red River Papers out of Dallas Texas. They were offering a great discount on their Aurora Art Natural paper. This is an archival rag paper, no OBD’s in a matte finish. Hmmm. Matt finish. Like with so many things in life, it came down to price. $62 delivered for 25 sheets in 17X25″. Yes, Red River offers papers in a slightly longer format! These extra 3 inches allows for a larger print when shooting in a 35mm format. I made the purchase, and received the paper a few days later. A big Kudos to Red River for their packaging. Without a doubt, the BEST packaging of photographic papers, bar none. HEAVY DUTY cardboard boxes, padded with ample bubble wrap and Kraft paper. You can see they pride themselves on how they deliver their product to their customers.

I downloaded the appropriate icc profiles from the RedRiverPaper.com website and opened up Lightroom to find my first image with which to experiment. Knowing that the properties of the paper will lend itsself to a certain type of image, I decided on this:

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It has a graphic look to it, and I was curious to see how this paper, along with the Epson Pro 3880 would handle the colors. I had a feeling that the paper would produce something that had, what I can only describe as a “silk screened” look to it. After the first print was done, I needed to increase the vibrance and color saturation by +15, and on the point curve increase the mid-range contrast. These adjustments provided a subtle but much needed improvement to the final print. Cool. Now to see whats going to happen with my black and white images.

Having just produced a run of these shots for a show, I am very familiar with the files and the final prints using Canson Platine Fiber Rag paper. But what adjustments would be needed with this new paper, and the fact that this paper uses Matte Black ink instead of my more familiar Photo Black? Here was my next test image:

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I chose this shot because of the high contrast, the black blacks in the trees, and the absolute white whites of the streetlights in the fog. Using a luster paper and photo black ink, I had to be extremely careful of “bronzing”. This is an unwanted effect that causes certain areas of an image to have a “hologram” look to them when viewed at extreme angles.
I printed this shot using the Advanced Black and White Driver from Epson rather than the .icc profile from the paper manufacturer. This driver produces a clean, neutral black and white image void of color casts by eliminating both magenta and cyan inks from the printing process.
The very first print was spot on! And the rich blacks, white whites, and, because of the matte finish of the paper, NO BRONZING! Sweet!

One more test before I reach any conclusions. I looked for an image that would have subtle colors and rich textures. Here it is:

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This print has a “painterly” feel to it. Perhaps because of the matte paper, I feel as though I can “touch” the bricks, and feel their rough surface as I rub my fingertips over their surface. I’m liking this paper more and more. And yes, in the back of my mind I am thinking, “and it’s reasonably priced too!”

The next step is to put one of these images behind glass, to see how that changes the overall look of the print.

6 months ago, when I was testing a variety of papers, I passed over the matte options because of my past experiences with them in the darkroom. I must say, my opinion has changed. While it might not be the right choice for every image I produce, I will certainly keep this paper in stock. Now I need to check my stock of matte black ink as well.

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Refilling Original Epson Ink Carts

First off, I need to thank Jose Rodriguez for his YouTube videos and contributions to various online Forums. It is the technique HE developed which allowed me to modify the original cartridges for my Epson 3880 printer, turning a “throw away” product into something not only “Greener” but much more cost effective.

Here is the magical link:

Using nothing more than a blunt sewing needle, by following the simple instructions set forth in the video I was able to modify the original Epson “one way” valve used in the 3800 and 3880 ink cartridges. You see, the valves are designed to let ink out, but not back in. So without this modification, re-filling is just not an option. The entire process took me about 90 minutes, including the weighing and refilling of the then modified carts.

Why bother you ask? Because this opens the door to refill original carts using either third party inks, such as those from Jon Cone, or STS Inks (who took over Image Specialists) or, to buy original Epson ink in bulk, thereby greatly reducing your printing costs. Sure there are many re-fillable cartridges out there, available on Ebay or Amazon, and I am using such carts in my Epson R2400. But the fact is, the cartridges from Epson are built MUCH better than any of those offered by aftermarket companies. In fact, the Epson carts are built like tanks!

So, after the alteration process was complete, including re-filling and re-setting the chips, my Epson 3880 registered ALL tanks as full using the Epson Print Utility. I ran a quick nozzle check which was perfect, and proceeded to print using my newly modified carts, freshly filled with Epson OEM ink harvested from the larger 110ml carts I purchased off of Ebay.

If you print larger format at any quantity, you might want to consider taking a look at this video. It will save you money on your print costs.

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Cable Management can be Addictive

With the purchase of my new iMac, along with a new printer, a quasi-new scanner among other miscellaneous peripherals, the cable spaghetti that was growing under my desk was getting way too out of control. Getting inspiration from several YouTube videos, in particular one from a contributor called the “iBook Guy”, I decided to take on the task of getting my cables straight.

I decided to tackle the living room first, to gain practical experience before taking on the critical task of my office desk. After unplugging all of the equipment and pulling everything away from the wall, my first task was to clean the dust bunnies from the cables, the equipment and the floor. That alone gave me a real sense of accomplishment! But little did I know how much pleasure one could derive from carefully coiling wires, securing cables along a clear and logical path, securing them with cable ties, both traditional and ones made from Velcro.

Other not necessary, but useful items include a hot glue gun and museum wax, which is a putty used for securing the corners of picture frames, preventing them from becoming crooked as well as securing small items such as those made from glass and pottery to their shelves in the hopes of preventing a costly fall. This putty is strong enough to secure small items like USB hubs to the underside of a desk without the need for screws or brackets. Now it’s not going to secure a 2lb external hard drive, but small stuff, including cables, it’s just about perfect. Easy to install and easy to clean up.

After finishing up the living room, it was time to attack my desk. Same procedure as before, but this time, I had a bit of experience. This made me or conscience of how the cables were routed, coiled and secured. In the middle of the project, my wife came in and asked how it was going. I couldn’t lie, I told her I was both comfortable working under my desk, and having fun doing too! So about an hour after starting, I was turning everything on and making sure the connecting were both correct and secure. And in the back of my mind, looking for my next project. Cable management was both satisfying and addictive. With just a few inexpensive items and some time, anyone can turn that Chaos under the desk (or behind the credenza) into a orderly (albeit complex) mixed media design of cables, wires, power-blocks and power strips.

Would I suggest everyone take on this project? Maybe not, but as a little extra incentive, I will tell you this. Ever since getting my cables organized, I could swear my computer is running just a little bit faster.

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The “After Show” Effect

After a few months of preparation for a photo exhibit at the #Andaz, I find myself suffering from what can only be described as a form of postpartum depression.

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The show went well. The response was very positive, and luckily, work was sold, at least enough to cover the costs of producing such an event. So, breaking even is, in many regards, a success.

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The new task at hand is to build upon the new found momentum. New relationships have been formed that will need tending to. New “potential” opportunities need to be
followed up on.
When I would rather be out shooting, what is really needed is to unleash the salesman in me. We all know this already. Marketing is MORE than half the battle. It’s all about building a brand. Name recognition. Getting out there in front of people, even when you don’t want to. But it has to be done. So, instead of writing about it, just do it.

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The Devil is in the Details

As with so many things in life, the old saying does indeed hold true. “The Devil is in the details”.

For the past 2 months or so, I have been preparing for a showing of my most recent photographic work. The show is on the 21st of May at the Andaz
Hotel in Savannah, Ga. The images were shot over the past year, and the editing and printing process was completed about a week ago.

Besides the usual decisions that needed to be made, such as what paper to use, what size should the prints be, the frames, the glass, the mats etc., there are so many other details to be done. Labels, signs, additional information about the work and myself for press releases and to provide the guests. What food and drink will be served (luckily this will be left in the most capable hands of Chef Lauren Teague of the Andaz Hotel), how will payments for sold art be processed, and so on and so on.

With all of this on my mind, what is the first question asked by my mother during her most recent phone conversation with my wife Yvonne? ……“What is Bill going to wear?”

Blue jeans and a t-shirt. THAT was easy.

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My Epson R2400 Printer is a CHAMP!

Want your printer to work at peak performance? Want a printer that spits out print after print without clogging, needing to re-align the printer head and wondering why is my print…(fill in the blank, too dark too light too magenta, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda). There IS a simple formula for achieving such nirvana. USE IT! A LOT!

After tweaking the printer head through aligning, cleaning and other such annoying diagnostics, I started to print. Non stop. 13X19″ prints, black and white and color. one after another. 8, 10, 12 prints a day. And what I discovered was, my printer got better and more reliable every day. I would refill my after market carts with Inkjet Mall Cone Color inks when necessary, run a quick nozzle check ( which 99% of the time came back perfect the very first time) and back to the races I’d go.

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I came to realize that my Epson R2400 printer is a bit like a sled dog. Bred to run. And the more they run, the happier they are, and the faster they become. While my printer did not actually become faster, the quality of the output, and reliability of the machine was never better. Thoughts of replacing this “thoroughbred” with a newer, “younger” model have been put on the back burner for now. In fact, I think replacement is out of the question.

Making room for a 17″ wide printer will surely come to pass, but my R2400 will find a place in my studio nonetheless. There is always a conversion to piezography. Time (and money) will tell.

Now get out there and PRINT! If you think your image looks good on a screen, wait until you see it, and feel it! By printing your image you are saying, “it’s done”. This is what I want to share. It will awaken more than just your sense of sight. It is the final step in creating an image. It is a commitment.

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Thank You to Jon Cone and Inkjet Mall

I know I have written several times about my conversion from Epson OEM inks to “Third Party” cartridges and inks before, but I think it is important to keep this information current for those of you seeking guidance before taking the plunge.

About 2 weeks ago, I installed my final “after market cartridge” in my Epson R2400 printer. It was the color magenta. Up until this point, the process had gone smoothly, without any major problems. Unfortunately that was all coming to an end with this final cart. After filling and installing, I proceeded with a nozzle check to make sure all colors were flowing and that the heads were clear of obstructions. To my surprise, the newly installed magenta was “bleeding” into the neighboring color fields. I performed a head cleaning routine and tried again. Same result. Why now! I have only a few weeks before my show, and I need to get some serious printing done. Looking for an answer, I turned to the Inkjet Mall Forum. This forum is not only populated by users of these inks and cartridges, but there seems to be a person from the technical support department always available to lend a helping hand.

So, after describing my problem as clearly as possible, I was almost immediately answered by both a member of the forum AND a moderator, who, as I just mentioned, is also a member of the tech support staff at Inkjet Mall and Vermont Inks. It was only a matter of a few hours (which I considered to be lighting fast) before I was on my way to a solution. Here is what was necessary in order to get my printer back on track.

1. I needed to buy an Epson OEM Magenta Cartridge in order to verify if the problem was the aftermarket cart, or perhaps the magenta head of my printer.

2. Contact the Technical Support Staff at Inkjet Mall (I spoke with a great CS Rep named Wells) who immediately sent out via Priority Mail, not only a replacement magenta cartridge, but a FULL SET of carts, in case any other colors started “acting up”.

3. Perform a complete cleaning of the printer head and capping station.

After receiving the shipments, I first tested the original Epson cartridge. It performed flawlessly, which seemed to confirm my suspicion that the problem was indeed the “after market” magenta cart. I then filled and installed the newly received Inkjet Mall magenta cart and voila! A perfect nozzle check. I was back in business.

I must admit, when the problem first surfaced, I was disappointed with Inkjet Mall carts. The thought that one of them might actually be defective never crossed my mind, so when that was indeed the case, I of course started to look at their competition for a “better product”. What I quickly learned however was this; the carts from the top providers are all just about equal. What it really comes down to is the quality of the ink, and just as important, the after sale customer service!

Inkjet Mall has secured me as not only a customer, but an advocate for their products and their company.

Service really does matter!

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