Creating Large Format Negs with HP Wide-Format Inkjets

By Kristin Reimer

Photography has been evolving since its conception, however the age of digital seems to be ushering in new technology with a rapid speed that has exceeded the industry’s expectations. New technology brings with it fresh ideas and creativity. It’s often inevitable when things are new, that it will bring with it, its share of critics and curmudgeons who must have something negative to say.

When I had been asked to write this article about the HP DesignJet Z3200, with the Large Format Negative Application, a printer that has the technology to create large format digital negatives, I was very excited. I thought to myself how far this industry has come and how exciting these times are. My thoughts immediately took me back to my days in college learning photography… more specifically, it brought me back to the stone age days of laboring over making the perfect digital negative that I could use to create my platinum and palladium prints. I was young, I was impatient, I wanted everything “now” and on top of it, I was made even more impatient from the constant inhalation of chemicals in my little darkroom.

Times Have Changed

As I read about this printer, I drooled and immediately began thinking of getting into non-traditional processes once more. I had been wanting to for a long time, one of the things holding me back was the reaction I had to thinking about the time extensive process, not to mention the expense of, making digital negatives.

I immediately heard the wedding bells of technology, the marriage of digital photography and alternative processing. I saw myself barefoot in the kitchen printing out thousands upon thousands of digital negatives and spending my time lovingly stroking platinum over a sheet of paper, confidently sandwiching my perfect digital negative and placing it under U.V. lamps to finish to perfection. The end result—exquisite.

As I was mapping out my plan to become the supreme ruler of non-traditional processes, I had another thought; everyone else and their Uncle Bob would be too. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the rants that have come from how easy digital photography has made it for the masses to partake in our profession. This brings both advantages and disadvantages. The market changes, it becomes tougher to keep the proper rates, it becomes more competitive. On the flip side, it forces us to become more creative, it forces us to push ourselves, to find ways to stand ahead of the pack, to stay away from complacency. This is the attitude that led Hewlett-Packard to push ahead and create this innovative tool for our industry.

“Invent.”

HP’s slogan was created in 1999. I think they chose wisely.

I want to digress a moment here for a history lesson. You won’t be quizzed, but there is a nifty little tidbit at the end.

Sir John Herschel, mathematician, astronomer and chemist, made significant contributions to the birth of photography. From Sir John, we received the word “photography” which is Greek for “light” and “writing,” in addition to the terms “negative” and “positive.” Sir John also contributed to the work of fellow photography pioneers, Niepce and Daguerre, supplying them with his discovery of an early photographic fixer.

Joseph Nicephore Niepce, chemist, brings to us, the invention of photography, and the world’s first known photograph in 1825.

Louis Jacques Daguerre, artist and chemist, was also working to perfect the process of early photography. From Daguerre, we have received the famous Daguerreotype. Daguerre was in direct competition to William Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype process, and the first to hold a patent in Britain for this early photographic process.

In 1829, Niepce and Daguerre formed a partnership to further explore and create in the world of photography. Unfortunately Niepce passed away a few years later. The contributions by both live on today.

In those early days of photography, the art world was ablaze with excitement about this new process. Just as we often think there are too many photographers working today, the new processes brought to the photography world brought an ease that had the masses rushing out to create “Daguerrotype Studios” worldwide. Of course, with the creative excitement, came the local critics. Many artists claimed photography was not art. It was considered “soulless” and simply a “mechanical process.” Many artists felt photography threatened their livelihood and the invention would destroy the world of painting.

Sound familiar?

Photography continued to expand and develop. Competition continued to grow and boundaries and creativity continued to be pushed further. By 1884, the photography world saw the development of film by George Eastman.

Digital Merging with Film and Alternative Processes

The birth of digital photography began in the 1960’s and by 1990, the first digital camera was available for commercial sales.

Just as in the late 1800s, the debate raged between painters and photographers, so today does one often see a debate between digital and traditional photography. In the early days it was in relation to the lack of personal touches eliminated by using a mechanical box, much as today we are presented with further mechanical debates, which seem to take photography even further away from “art.”

As digital photography entered its more mature years, we began to see another faction being created, that of traditional film photographers who stood firm in their craft, abstaining from further mechanical interferences to their art. The film faction holds that it can be seen as being even more artistic for its connection to the human touch required. The “alternative processes” that employ even more of the human hand, the mixing of chemistry, the precious metals that are painted by hand on to a single sheet of paper, have raised the bar, and the price tag of another early aspect of photography.

And here is where Hewlett-Packard enters my history lesson. Just as photography began with mechanics and chemistry, not the “arts” per se, so too has HP entered our world. Similar to the birth of photography, HP was birthed in technology, not the “arts.” In the early 1800’s a partnership was created between two chemists, Niepce and Dagueere that led us to this exciting new world. In the early 1930’s, a team of engineers formed a partnership to create a company that would eventually find itself involved in a rich history of photography and creative leadership. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their business in 1939, and in the 1980’s they entered the photographic printer market. How’s that for that “nifty tidbit” I tried to entice you with earlier?

And for those us who are working in digital capture? Imagine being able to take a digital file and transform it into an actual piece of film, and to be able to do in a way that one can afford! Let your mind run away with ideas of the future of your photography.

Preserving Photographic Masterpieces

hp photo for picture-soup.com article

Gabe Greenberg with a negative being printed on the HP Designjet Z3200. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

Of course, this printer has another wonderful selling point. In the hands of masters that we have studied, this is a way to preserve old negatives and to ensure that a fragile archive and its history isn’t lost. In the hands of master photographer, Elliott Erwitt, the HP DesignJet Z3200 was used to create 30×40-inch, perfect renditions of his most iconic images in platinum. Who would have dreamed we could afford to see 30×40-inch platinum prints? Erwitt and HP have bridged our “mechanic” digital world with the artistry of years gone by and allowing precious, original negatives to sit undisturbed in a proper climate to ensure they will remain preserved in history.

Gabe Greenberg and Elliott Erwitt reviewing the negative. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to have worked with Elliott Erwitt for a number of years running his studio. I wish I could fully describe what it was like as a young photography student viewing his vast archive of negatives. The history at my fingertips was awe-inspiring. I was able to see the elaborate and time-consuming process that happened with every print that was created in his darkroom. Elliott treats his tools with the utmost respect.

Making the print. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

Elliott keeps the tradition of photography alive, but I also know how much he respects his time and strives to work the most efficiently he can. The HP DesignJet Z3200 must be a welcome tool to his studio, one which enables him to keep his archive of negatives pristine and enables him to produce gorgeous gallery prints while leaving him time to continue making the art we all know and love.

Elliott Erwitt with the final platinum print for picture-soup hp article

Elliott Erwitt with the final platinum print. Photograph courtesy Elliott Erwitt.

HP has raised the bar and has closed the gap between artists around the world. With that gap closed, we may find some competition among ourselves, but I urge you to join in on the fun and see where that competition may take you. Without the early competitiveness of Talbot and Daguerre, I wonder where we might have ended up?

More information about HP Designjet solutions is available at www.hp.com/go/designjet. Retail price from $ 3,496. (24”) to $ 5,799. (44”).

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Adobe Announces Lightroom 3 Release and Availability

By Diane Berkenfeld

After thorough Beta testing by the photographic community, Adobe today announced the release of Lightroom 3.

Lightroom 3, like the prior versions of the software, groups tools into five areas: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print, and Web. The Library is where you organize your images. Develop is where the exposure changes are made, cropping is done, sharpening and noise reduction occurs, grain is added, etc. Slideshow, Print and Web are the areas that you’d work on Slideshows, Printing and Web sharing respectively.

This latest version of the image management/editing/RAW file processing software offers a brand new image processing engine, increased processing speeds and a host of improvements and new features.

Adobe rebuilt the engines that drive Lightroom from the ground up, to keep pace with the growing resolution and file size of today’s popular digital cameras, and the growth of photographers’ image libraries.

Because a new image processing engine is incorporated into Lightroom 3, when working on images that were originally processed in Lightroom 1 or 2, you’ll be given the option of using the previous version’s processing engine, or updating to the image processing engine in Lightroom 3. The choice is given to the user because slight changes can occur when updating from one version to the next, so now you don’t need to worry about the images you’ve worked on in the past and perfected.

Improvements include:

• Improved noise reduction and sharpening.

• Enhanced post crop vignetting.

• An improved import feature.

• Lens and perspective correction. Adobe also created a Lens Profile Creator that you can use to create profiles for the specific lenses you own.

• An expanded offering of custom print layouts.

• Addition of new Develop presets.

New features include:

• The ability to shoot tethered to a camera and import images directly into Lightroom. (26 Canon and Nikon models have been approved as being compatible with the launch of Lightroom 3. Additional models, as well as cameras from other manufacturers are expected to be added to that list as testing is completed. An updated list will be posted at Go.adobe.com/kb/ts_cpsid_84221_en-us.

• Cataloging of video files in addition to still images. Video files will show an icon of a video camera in the bottom left corner.

• The ability to add natural looking grain to images.

• The creation of slideshows synced to music that can be output as movie files compressed for the web, at HD quality and everywhere in between.

• Flexible watermarking.

• Direct access to image sharing websites and mobile devices. An included Flickr plug-in lets you upload directly to that website. Developers will be able to create such direct access for other websites and services.

Minimum system requirements for Lightroom 3 are: Mac – Intel-based Mac, OS X 10.5 or 10.6, 2 Gigs of RAM, 1 Gig of hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, and 1024 x 768 monitor resolution; Windows – Intel Pentium 4, OS Windows 7, Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise (certified for 32-bit and 64-bit editions) or Microsoft XP with Service Pack 2, 2 Gigs RAM, 1 Gig available hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, and 1024 x 768 monitor resolution. Lightroom 3 is a 64-bit application by default for the Mac, and can be used as a 32-bit application if users so choose. For Windows, the 64-bit version will only be installed on Windows 7 or Vista 64-bit operating systems, all other operating systems will install the 32-bit version by default.

My 2 ¢

As a Lightroom user since version 1.0, the decision to upgrade to the latest version of Lightroom is a no brainer. Why stay in the past when you can improve your workflow and utilize the many new features of the software. And at a cost of only $99 to upgrade, its quite affordable to do so.

If you’re debating whether or not to add Lightoom to your workflow, the list of features alone should sway the decision. The full program MSRP is $299.

Lightroom is a powerful part of my workflow. When you’re shooting hundreds or thousands of images per job, you don’t want to be editing through images by opening each file individually. While Adobe Bridge offers the ability to perform some tasks, Lightroom 3 features not only image management but image editing tools as well.

Using Lightroom 3 in conjunction with Photoshop CS5 is my ideal workflow. I import all images I shoot into Lightroom, edit through them for the files I want to work with, make exposure changes, crop/straighten images, and export the files in the size(s) I need. (The export feature alone is worth the price of the software to me! Especially when I have to save multiple sizes of the same images.) Major retouching or compositing is then done in Photoshop.

Adobe is shipping Lightroom 3 starting today.

For more information, go to www.adobe.com.

• We’ve begun testing out Lightroom 3 and will be posting a full review within a week! —Ed.

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Product Review: Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0

Article and Images by Diane Berkenfeld

Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 (MTTC) is a major upgrade of the suite of production oriented filters from AutoFX Software. The software comes as a stand-alone application and Photoshop plug-in. Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 is compatible with Windows-based PCs running Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Mac OS X (all versions); the Photoshop plug-in works with Photoshop CS4, CS3, CS2, CS, and Photoshop v.7.0.

Plug-ins like Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 are great because they give you the ability to make enhancements and alter your images creatively in one step—without the trouble of having to spend hours in Photoshop trying figure out how to do so. They do save you a lot of time.

Photographers can use the filters either globally or by brushing on/off the filter effect manually, as well as using tools like the gradient path and ellipse that let you blend the effect across a photo using Bezier based control paths. The new Effect Mask tool blends the filter through special content filters and masks that give a stylized look.

MTTC 2.0 lets you combine an unlimited number of filter effects, and easily delete unwanted layers—as it works by creating a new layer, leaving the original untouched. MTTC 2.0 supports .psd, .tif, .bmp, .jpg, and .png file formats. When you save a file as a Photoshop document (.psd), the effect(s) are exported onto a layered document with full transparency. The software supports Adobe Photoshop actions, layers and last filter commands.

Screenshot of an image within MTTC 2.0. Note the dialog box with the filter options on the left.

In addition to the 60 production filters, the software includes a collection of over 300 instant effect presets.  The software’s user interface is simple to navigate, offering you the option to further enhance the presets, making the effects stronger or weaker. The filters are categorized in groups: Color effects, toning effects, smoothing, lens filters, special, sharpening, HDR filters, and portrait. You can preview either by the full screen or split screen in numerous split configurations.

Cool features:

One of the cool features of the software is that you can stack effects using Effect layers and then save that combination as a Layer Present that can be applied to other images. This allows you to create your own custom library of effects. When you add effect layers you instantly see the changes and can decide right then to delete a layer or not; no need to save the file and rerun other filters.

I really like the software because it allows you to dial back the preset if you feel its too strong, or to increase the effect if you want more of a certain effect. This flexibility means you can make any tweaks within the program—you don’t have to let the filter do its thing and then go to another menu to dial back the effect or run it again to add more strength, as some plug-ins require you to do.

The filters in Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 are realistic looking, and that’s important because you want to make enhancements that are believable. Often you want a subtle effect, so viewers of the image will not be able to tell right away that it was “Photoshopped.”

Some of my favorite filters include the B&W Conversions. The example below is of a portrait that was converted using the Soft Black and White filter. Once you run it, you can change the color filtration used. For instance, for folks who remember shooting B&W film, to get a nice contrast tone in the sky you might have used a yellow or orange filter on the lens, and to get really deep sky tone you’d have used a red filter—well you can do this digitally. Just choose which color filter you want used and you’ll see the effect on the tones in your image. I also love the Moon Glow; the Sharp Contrast results are gorgeous; the Gradient Tinting is cool; and so are the Sepia and Color Tone filters. Many of the filters add vibrancy and enrich the colors of your image and really add punch.

The original image of Michael.

Final image after converting to Soft B&W, with the yellow filtration.

AutoFX provides training videos at: http://www.autofx.com/videos-training/mystical_2_list.html and detailed tutorials at: http://www.autofx.com/tutorials/mystical_2_list.html.

Price and Availability: estimated street price of Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 is $249. Upgrades from previous versions are available for $129. Go to www.autofx.com for more information.

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