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Olympus E-M1, f8@1/10 sec, ISO 200, 24mm, no filters
Making fine art prints is mostly about the details. And I don’t mean actual detail in the image, but rather the subtle considerations that separate good from great.
I received an email from a photographer recently who had decided to try Canson Infinity paper based on my recommendation. For me, it’s crucial when making any kind of recommendation to speak from experience, and truly have the other persons best interest in mind. There are so many motives these days for others to recommend products, that I generally stay away from things I’m not absolutely sure about, even when I have good reason to think it’s a good product or service. So that’s just a long way of saying I only recommend something when I trust and believe in it myself.
I was really pleased when the photographer had this to say about his experience:
I have a big exhibition coming up I wondered if the Canson would show any noticeable improvement in my prints. Well a box of Baryta Photographique duly arrived this morning and I set to work soft proofing and printing a selection of images and I have to say I was very impressed. Ok we aren’t talking a massive difference between [the competitor’s] Baryta paper and the Canson but there was definitely a better range of tonality and detail in shadow areas. So thanks for the tip!
My response was simply that in most cases the difference between a good print and a great print are in fact subtle. But that subtlety is critical to raise a print to a higher level of expression, where the photograph truly can transcend the medium and convey more clearly what the artist saw and felt. Whether that’s shadow detail, or increased tonal range, or better color, it all works together as a complete whole. While we can look at the individual components, it’s their sum that makes a great print. It’s only when one of those fails that we notice the individual parts.
16 x 20 Reflection, Mill Creek Canyon / Printed on Canson Rag Photographique 310 / Epson 3880
With Reflection, Mill Creek Canyon, the challenge was to maintain depth and detail in the deep shadow areas of the image while at the same time printing it onto a mat paper to have a more fine art look and feel. I wanted to use a rag paper like Canson Photographique because I love the way it reproduces color in a painterly fashion than say a more reflective surface like fiber or luster. The whole composition is built up from the rocks in the shallow pool of water, and it has a sense of growing dramatically up to sun lit rock at the top of the image. This to me needed to remain dramatic yet “quiet”, in a way that conveys how I felt making the image. It was eerily quiet and still, and the light had a warmth that I’ve never quite experienced before.
For me this is the ultimate test of an image, and the print on this paper holds the detail in the vegetation and rocks, but also helps impart that warm glow of direct light without losing the softness of the moment. And since that’s how I want the image to be experienced, I choose a paper that helps rather than distracts from that goal.
“We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.” – Ansel Adams
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