Andromeda Galaxy 2010

The Great Andromeda GalaxyIf you have followed previous blog posts you know that I have been working on this image for some time.  I apologize that I did not provide more intermediate updates, but here is the final image as it will be printed on my Epson 7800.  You may want to reference earlier posts about making a print of Andromeda beginning on September 15.  You can see the initial RAW image at initial capture and compare to the finished image.  As Ansel said, "you don't take a photograph, you MAKE a photograph."

It is always a pleasure to revisit familiar astronomical objects and the Great Andromeda Galaxy is certainly one of the finest.  This past August we had the opportunity to capture the galaxy from the fabulous dark skies of The Mountain Institute on Spruce Knob in West Virginia during the Almost Heaven Star Party.  The galaxy is a marvel to behold as one of our local neighborhood galaxies that stretches over 220,000 light years across.  It is the farthest deep sky object that can be seen with the unaided eye and is located at a distance of over 2,000,000 light years away.  The galaxy is easily seen from the dark skies of Spruce Knob with the unaided eye.  The diffuse glow of the galaxy is caused by billions of stars shining throughout the galaxy's disk.  Andromeda is classified as a spiral type of galaxy.  For more information and to view the image in the black portfolio screen (the best view) please click here.    

A Day for Fine Art Photography

Today was a perfect example of what production in Fine Art Photography entails. The image enhancement does not stop at the final digital optimization for the web. I don't simply upload an image to a mass production printer and let them print the image on whatever paper using whatever profile they wish.

Today I spent hours optimizing the "Atlantic Morning" print for an upcoming art show. I was very happy with the image on the screen and the first proof prints looked fine at 8x10 and even the 11x14. Then came the 28x16 attempt and something was definitely lacking. Normally my images expand and become even more alive in larger prints, especially on the Canson Baryta Photographique paper. This particular paper has a luster finish which is more like a glossy than a mat paper.

Atlantic MorningBut there were some printing irregularities that were showing up as well as the color fidelity just wasn't there. I have seen these printing irregularities before on luster types of paper, in particular with images that have large smooth areas of fairly bright tones. It is mainly a function of the ink simply not going on the luster paper in a uniform fashion and there can be very subtle thick bands. Not like the original banding from the ancient inkjet days, but thick variations in luminosity that can only just barely be picked up by the eye at certain angles. This is a very rare event, but it does happen and fortunately through experience I know how to handle it. So after optimizing and evaluating the print as much as I could for the given luster paper profile, I decided to move onto my classic standby paper, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.

Now moving to a new paper requires reviewing the original image in Photoshop and proofing it utilizing the appropriate paper profile. You may already know this, but there are multiple profiles for just one paper. There are profiles for daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, combined light, high contrast, phatte get the picture. I have, over time, narrowed the profiles and papers down to the two I like the most. For me, it is vital to have at least two paper options, one luster and one photo rag, from which to select. It also goes without saying that the paper should meet all archival standards to guarantee years of enjoyment at the original color fidelity. It is important to have these options as you never really know what paper an image will really sparkle on and you get surprised sometimes like I did today.

Today was a perfect example of what a fine art photographer does. Sweats out the last detail until the image on paper looks the way he/she intended. It is amazing how good this print looks on the photo rag paper. I went from being totally discouraged to being ecstatic with a few minor adjustments to the original file and a switch to a more appropriate paper.

This is part of the value that a fine art photographer creates. I know that it can sometimes be hard to understand that value and my hope is that when you see my fine art prints that it becomes all too obvious that this is something more than just a file that was printed by a mass production print house.

Thanks so much for your support of Jeff Ball Photography and have a great day.

Kool Tac and Perma Lon-no orange peel here

Dry mounting photographic prints has been, at times, a necessary evil.  I always tried to avoid a dry mount, but for large prints on glossy papers it was necessary.  One of the biggest problems of dry mounting was the "orange peel" look of the surface of the print once it was dry-mounted.  The term is extremely accurate in describing the look, the print surface would look like that of an orange, especially when viewed at oblique angles.  

I am very fortunate to live in Huntington, WV which is home to a regional wholesale framer and distributor, Mayne Framing and Supply.  The experts there recently educated me on a new mounting option free from the orange peel effect.  There are actually two products involved, one is the mounting board and the other is the adhesive for the print.  The dry mount board is Kool Tack and the adhesive is Perma Lon.  The two together produce outstanding results.  

I have now mounted both glossy and matte papers with the Kool Tac/Perma Lon combination and simply love the results.  The surface of the print is really just as smooth as the surface of the actual paper.  Little to no mounting/dry board texture can be seen on the prints.  They are simply beautiful.  

Now the photographer has a mounting option that gets out of the way of the print and lets the viewer become more engaged in the print.  I highly recommend Kool Tac/Perma Lon for your photographic mounting needs.

Here are two links for you.

Kool Tac/Perma Lon

And if you are looking for a distributor, I highly recommend Mayne Framing.  

Surprises from printing marathon...

Preparing for the Norton Commons show next month and fine tuning all of the astronomical fine art prints.  I have said it too many times, but an image that looks fine on the monitor is often times not nearly ready for fine art printing.  Over the past few days I have been optimizing my astrophotography prints and today I had an opportunity to compare two different papers.  

Now earlier in the week I had an opportunity to compare my two favorite papers, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag (matte paper) to Harman Fiber Gloss (semi-glossy.)  To my surprise I preferred the matte paper to the glossy.  Today I just received a new semi-glossy paper, Canson Baryta.  Just finished the new comparison and again, I prefer the matte paper for my current asto prints.  The Canson looks like a gorgeous paper and will probably become my preferred paper for landscape prints.  But for astrophotography prints right now, the matte paper provides a more comfortable look into the scene and presents the image in the best possible way.  

My first thought at the beginning of the week was that the semi-glossy paper would be the preferred for the astronomical subjects.  But the darks in the matte paper and the subdued contrast and highlights really deepen the visual experience of each astronomical print.  

So after numerous hours of printing and comparing I am very confident in printing my next round of astronomical prints with the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag matte paper.  It really looks wonderful!