Returning to ⌘P

Charlie Waite is one of many photographers to champion the importance and satisfaction to be gained from turning a digital file into a physical print. Such advocates are possibly less forthright about the challenges and difficulties attendant when one decides to take up that particular  gauntlet and commit image to paper however.

For reasons unclear, about 18 months ago I decided it would a good idea to undertake a solo exhibition (Jersey Arts Centre, 20th March- 8th April 2017). Reasonably easy to make the decision, as the notion coincided with the work I was doing on Fragile (Triplekite Publishing) and it seemed like a natural progression. However, even taking into account my advanced age where time seems to speed by with precocious haste, it still seemed as if 20th March, 2017 was sufficiently far into the future that it would never really arrive.

But arrive it (almost) has - and with indecent haste - so at the beginning of the year I realised that important decisions needed to be made.  The decision regarding the printing was easy - outsourcing it was never an option. Although I no longer have the desire to spend time in a blacked out lavatory sloshing around with malodorous chemicals in the red glow of a darkroom safelight,  I do miss the satisfaction to be had from seeing a print come to life. I also like to have complete control over how my image is rendered and the freedom to change paper on a whim. Hence the resolution to produce the images myself.

 I have been printing my own work for the best part of 8 or 9 years and in that time I have owned two Epson printers  (Epson 3800 and 4900). By and large, they have served me well.  However…it is probably mutually advantageous that they are about as unwieldy as a wheelbarrow and twice as heavy because they would certainly have been thrown out of my studio window on more than one occasion. The quality of the prints - when they eventually materialise - has always been first rate; the constant headache of the clogged nozzles and paper feed issues, somewhat less so.
 
I realise the fault lies partly - if not entirely - with the owner and the nozzle issue is largely a consequence of not printing often enough. Nevertheless, after one tantrum too many I called up the good people at Fotospeed to ask about the much heralded and glowingly reviewed  Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000.
 

Within a couple of days, a new and more caring owner had been found for the Epson 4900 and the PRO-1000 was sitting next to me expectantly and full of hope.  Because of Christmas and other work-related commitments I have only recently managed to test the printer thoroughly. And what a revelation.  I have just seen the last of thirty two exhibition prints emerge and the process has been utterly transformative. Not without its issues, certainly, but issues largely of my own making and not entirely unconnected with having a head full of clutter and a reluctance to properly read the manual. Or indeed to remember that printers ship with a minimum amount of ink and the absolute first job on the list must be to order up a spare set. In fact I think I have probably made every error in the book. Printed on the wrong side of the paper. Printed at full size the cropped section of the print used for hard proofing. Printed the unedited file. Printed too big. Printed too small. Over trimmed the finished print. And probably most frustrating of all, after finally nailing the print, signing it upside down.

The most extraordinary revelation has been the canned ICC profiles already loaded. I realise that my view of what constitutes correct colour in a landscape image is vastly different to most people's but both tonal values and colours have been pretty much spot on with Canon’s profiles. The paper feed issues that plagued me with my last printer are but a distant memory.  I even managed to force the software to print a couple of centimetres beyond its stated maximum length which saved me having to send four images off to a lab for processing. Fotospeed very kindly and swiftly  dispatched some roll paper to facilitate this experiment and though the printer was a little reluctant to take the paper (because, I assume, I hadn’t had time to flatten out the curl), with a few gentle words of encouragement, it toed the line.

    

Above - the final print for the exhibition - perfect colour rendition from the soft proof in Lightroom (left).
 

Now that I have seen the process through from start to finish, I couldn’t be more delighted. I have no affiliation with Canon (although I use their products widely) and I have little doubt that there are people out there whose experience with Canon printers is contrary to my own. This is by no means a technical review - just a first hand experience from somebody who hasn’t even properly read the manual. However, there may be somebody out there who will find it useful.

I would like to offer up thanks to Vince and the good people at Fotospeed who dispatched inks and paper with such speed and continue
to provide an unfailingly efficient service.
 
      
 Above - a quality printer is still no guard against user error. Pile of rejects for recycling.
 

  1. Hazel Bingham on 03/03/2017 at 4:09 pm

    Valda thank you for sharing. I hope your exhibition in Jersey goes well. I wish it was nearer but no doubt I will see somebof your work again soon.

  2. Deborah Hughes on 03/03/2017 at 4:37 pm

    Ahhh, the vagaries of printing. I often find myself paralyzed by the knowledge of the quirks and inevitable trips of the process. Your recent work looks stunning. Wish I could visit your show and see the results upclose and personal. As always, your words and images challenge me see and create in new ways.

  3. Terry Hurt on 03/03/2017 at 6:55 pm

    I can relate to everything you’ve said, but offer one observation from my Epson R3000, which has taken me 3 years to realise(!): the nozzles can clog even 24 hrs since they were last cleaned! Even the finest missing line from the nozzle test print can lead to major colour errors in the next print if not cleaned. Deeply frustrating until finally realise, with lots of consternation and binned paper. Now I make a nozzle check (& clean where needed) at the beginning of every single session – it works! Still get paper feed issues though! If you’re looking for someone to… er… recycle your rejects let me know!! (Of course you won’t!) Your finished prints look quite beautiful.

    • valdab on 03/03/2017 at 8:06 pm

      Thanks Terry – I can assure you the rejects were pretty abysmal. Hope your Epson continues to give you untroubled service 🙂

  4. valdab on 03/03/2017 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you all – I appreciate you taking the time to read through and leave such kind and supportive feedback

  5. Rachael on 04/03/2017 at 10:41 am

    A very good read. Not for the first time, I wish I was in Jersey.
    I have very recently started to use the same printer. Fun and games! But I’m loving it. Now to order some more ink. 🙂

    • valdab on 04/03/2017 at 12:29 pm

      It’s an irritating extra expense on top of the printer, but definitely better to bite on the bullet sooner rather than later 🙂

  6. Margaret Smith on 09/04/2017 at 9:16 am

    Hello Valda, I have read your articles with great interest as a photographer who enjoys working in a similar abstract way. My Canon Prograf is my best friend too. My fingers are crossed as I am typing! After years of similar frustration with other printers it has served me really well although I am careful now not to experiment with papers which clearly state not suitable for inkjet printers!
    Many thanks for your sharing your inspirational work and accompanying frustrations.

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