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Technical Notes

  • Camera Equipment and Processing
  • Printer and Paper
  • Resources of Interest

 

Camera Equipment

 

I have been using Nikon cameras since 1972 with the purchase of a Nikkormat.  The camera bodies are both rugged and reliable.  The camera came with a 50mm f/2.0 lens and I later added a 105mm f/2.5 and 28mm f/3.5.  These were lenses produced in the days before auto focus or auto index features were available.  Shutter speed and aperture had to be set manually using either the through the lens or an external light meter.  All the lenses are well designed and give excellent resolution from wide open to stopped down at the smallest aperture.    My films of choice throughout this period were Kodachrome 64 and Tri-X. 

 

The move to digital photography began in 2008 with the purchase of a Nikon D40x digital single lens reflex camera that came with a light weight zoom lens.  I moved on to a D300 that was more rugged and had a larger sensor.  The progression continued to a full frame D810 and more recently I purchased a Nikon Z 6, one of their two new full frame mirrorless cameras. It comes with the new Z mount f4 24-70 zoom lens. This camera can also use an adaptor allowing the use of older F mount lenses. The great thing about the new mirrorless camera/lens pairing from Nikon is the smaller size and weight.  

 

I was able to have all three of my old Nikkor lenses converted so that they can be used on Nikon digital cameras.  While they are not auto focus lenses, for much of my work this is not a problem.  For tripod-mounted landscape pictures auto focus is not needed.  Since I routinely shoot in aperture priority mode, I simply set the stop to f/8 and let the camera set the shutter speed.  A number of the images in the galleries were taken with the 50mm and 105mm lenses. 

 

Processing

 

I capture all images in RAW format.  These are imported into Adobe Lightroom for cataloguing and processing.  For 95% of the pictures, Lightroom is all I need to develop the image to my satisfaction.  If there are some further manipulations I will go to Photoshop.

 

I have been gradually digitizing all my old images using a Nikon Cool Scan 5000 to convert black and weight negatives and color transparencies.  While this scanner gives good results, film grain (particularly with the Tri-X negatives) does restrict the size of digital prints that can be made.

 

Printer and Paper

 

All of my printing is done on an Epson R3880 photo stylus printer. This printer uses eight cartridges, including one black (which is automatically swapped depending on whether matte or glossy paper is being printed on), two shades of gray, two shades of magenta, yellow, and two shades of cyan (blue). The inks are Epson’s ultrachrome pigment formulation (K3) and they give outstanding results on a variety of papers. Images printed with this ink set will give viewers years of pleasure without fading as long as they are appropriately framed and not exposed to direct sunlight. This printer also has a special print driver for black and white images. It gives a darker black than the color print driver, giving black and white images of great range and tone depth. Additionally, the print driver makes it exceptionally easy to print sepia toned images.

 

There are many outstanding inkjet papers available today. In fact, one might argue that there are too many such that constant experimentation can drive one crazy. I have printed on about twenty different papers before settling on a handful that I like to print on and believe they do justice to the image. I do not care for extreme glossy paper and do not use it. I do like the 'F' type glossy papers and my printing on these papers is confined to Canson Baryta Photographique and Museo Silver Rag. Both perform well for both black and white and color printing. For matte finish, I like two Hahnemühle papers: Photo Rag Ultra Smooth and Bamboo (yes, it is a bamboo based paper with a pleasing warm tone to it) along with Moab's Entrada Natural. For certain images I also use Hahnemühle William Turner, a natural white water color paper with a textured surface, particularly good for landscapes and still lifes. In addition to the above mentioned papers, I also print on Museo artist card stock. Images on these matte finish cards may bring the art of note writing back into the mainstream, since simple e-mail cannot provide the reader with a pleasing image.

 

Color Management Software

 

While there are a number of commerical software packages that allow one to profile monitors and printers, perhaps the best solution is the Argyll Color Management System. This set of software tools is available for free though donations are encouraged by the developer, Graeme Gill. While use of these tools can is daunting as they use the computer's command line to execute, I have provided a brief tutorial on how to profile RGB photo printers to enable one to acheive better results.

 

Useful Books

 

There are a great many available books on digital photography that cover every aspect from image capture to processing and printing.  I have found the following books quite useful in developing my skills. Some of these books may be out of print but used copies can be easily found.

 

Martin Evening’s books on Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are excellent references for these two software packages.

 

Jeff Schewe's "The Digital Negative" and "The Digital Print" cover all aspects of processing a digital Raw file and outputing it to a printer achieve maximal results.

 

Vincent Versace, "From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black and White Conversion Technique Known to Man" focuses more on using Photoshop than Lightroom but the linear appoach to learning how to use the tools is well presented.

 

George DeWolfe, “B&W Printing:  Creating the Digital Master Print” discusses how Lightroom can be used to produce outstanding black and white images.  I did not pay any attention to the author’s new software tool that is supposed to improve the perceptual quality of the print.

 

Leslie Alsheimer and Bryan O'Neil Hughes, "Black and White in Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Lightroom" covers all aspects of black and white transformation using the two key Adobe software products.

 

Andrew Rodney, "Color Management for Photographers" discusses all the aspects of color management from computer display to output printing. It is comprehensive and contains useful tutorials.

 

Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe, "Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom" is the authoritative text on how to sharpen digital images.

 

 

Websites of Interest

 

John White does conversions of older Nikon lenses so they can be used on the newer digital single lens reflex cameras.

 

The Luminous Landscape is a great resource for all things photographic and participants on its forum include many of the top experts in digital photography and printing. They also offer some excellent video tutorials indluding "Camera to Print and Screen" and "Introduction and Advanced Guide to Light Room 4."

 

George Jardine has an excellent tutorial on the Lightroom 4 Develop Module with numerous examples of how to use the various tools.

 

Eric Chan's site is a wonderful reference on the Epson 3800 and 3880 printers.

 

Keith Cooper has some good tutorials on black and white printing and one of the best test prints for gauging printer and paper performance.

 

Aardenburg Imaging & Archives is a website that has print permanency data on numerous papers. Membership is free but donationa are stongly encouraged so that this important work can continue.