...With a certain Epson. She is proudly black, admittedly blocky in shape, decidedly petite, expensive, and doesn't say much. But oh, my, the things she can do.
So do you remember this post? I was reviewing the Nikon D800E, a.k.a. the Big Dragoon, since replaced in the lineup by the current D810. I had ventured abroad into the night (the inky dark, I called it), where I shot that top picture of Sunset Drive just after dark. Here it is again if you have no patience for following links:
(The reason I was thinking of the D800E is that when I rented it, the weather suddenly turned surly and sullen, spitting drizzle amid unrelenting drab and drear for four point five days. I spent the last half-day camera-pointing madly, hoping to accrue a useful mass of samples, and took pictures of things like random lampposts. Now the same thing has happened with the Nikon D7200, too—after a whole Spring and Summer with very little rain and no long cloudy spells, the weather has been remarkably uncooperative for my five-day rental period. I've concluded, primitively, that either God doesn't want me to use a Nikon, or He wants me to buy one and stop trying to rent the dang things. It brings rain. I should hire myself out to areas of the country that are experiencing drought.
Well, I guess this is a lamppost too.
It took me only four years to print this, but I made a small workprint on Saturday and it looked so lovely that I cracked open the box of 13x19-inch paper that Epson kindly provided (Papier photo ultra haute qualité LUSTRE, oui oui oui), and made a big print.
Well, big for me. Fifteen inches wide. And...
...My heart! My heart! Elizabeth, I'm coming!*
Or to quote the late, great Frank Barone, "holy crap."**
It is beautiful. Just abso-froikin'-lutly george-ee-us. It's such a simple picture it's almost not there; just dark-on-dark with a tiny little brush-swish of detail in the lower center. But the printer...can you be in love with a printer? I immediately felt my lizard mind getting sucked in. I started to forgive the little P600 its stingy money-extorting ways with ink. I started to feel the P800 that I thought was in my future begin to recede: what if it's not as good?
These are silly, superstitious thoughts, but this thing is good, this P600.
So it took me one week to go from making workprints to making a finished print. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist for very long. Sunset Drive is just how I want it, just right.
Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster (260) is beautiful, too. Or actually not beautiful...that is, it doesn't call attention to itself. Its surface is not overtly luxurious, nor is it obviously thick. But it seems to have a perfectly judged just-glossy-enough surface, enough to deepen the blacks but not so much as to cause reflections, and it apparently dries instantly. It stays nicely flat, doesn't pick up fingerprints, and seems to be robust. Lastly—this seems a nice bonus—the display rating of black-and-white prints made with 260 and the earlier K3 inkset that the P600's UltraChrome HD inkset is said to improve is given as >315 years, which, given the vagaries of such extrapolations, I would translate to "don't worry about it." Although it's undeniably reassuring. Anyway, Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster is a very fine paper with excellent usability and image quality and absolutely no bad habits. Its character in all ways is "balanced." I'm looking forward to exploring other papers—we are awash with a wealth of them—but this one is far from pedestrian. I'm considerably impressed.
Sunset Drive was Saturday's print. Yesterday's was this one, and the lovely Epson it makes a gratifyingly glorious print too, if I do say.
In the last Featured Comment of the "Picky" post, Steve Caddy wrote that printmaking is "...satisfying as hell. Making that final object closes the creative loop." He hit that nail square. That's the best reason to print. I've had a deeply gratifying week since I set up the P600, the most photographic fun I've had in a while.
(Thanks to Epson for the printer loan)
*American '70s TV Redd Foxx reference
**American '90s TV Peter Boyle reference
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ed Hawco: "Oh, I get it. I bought an Epson 3880 almost two years ago. I had zero experience with digital printing and almost two decades under my belt since I'd been in a darkroom. I'd held off on digital printing because of all the verbiage about it online and in books; huge tomes full of graphs and diagrams, entire websites that made it seem more complicated than launching a moon shot. But I was emboldened by some posts and comments on TOP that lead me to believe that I did not require an advanced degree in digital imaging minutiae in order to get a decent print. Like you, I went from making test and work prints to finished prints in a matter of days. A year in I splurged on a pack of 17x22 paper and almost died on the spot when the first print rolled off the machine. OMG!"
MHMG [Mark of Aardenburg Imaging —Ed.]: "Not a single RC photo paper on the market today deserves such a lofty print permanence rating as '>315 years' no matter how stable the image-forming pigments are. Epson's Premium Luster is one of the worst performers with regard to light-induced low intensity staining (LILIS) and should never have been bestowed with a high print permanence rating. Testing labs are either not aware of the LILIS issue or, worse, are simply ignoring it. To pick the problem up in an accelerated light fade testing protocol, one needs to follow up with further test measurements after a dark storage period of a few months or so. Papers that exhibit the problem will show notably increased LAB b* values in media white point and highlights after just a few months in dark storage.
"Only moderate light exposure doses (10–20 Megalux hours) can cause OBAs to degrade. They initially just lose their cool white fluorescence thus causing a perceived shift towards warmer iimage highlights and midtones. But it can get worse, especially in RC media where low light intensity or dark storage allows these colorless OBA degradation by-products to further react with other components in the RC PE-TiO2 layers, and they don't remain colorless. An additional yellowish stain is formed which in some cases can be quite severe. The additional staining is, curiously enough, light bleachable with additional high intensity light levels, but there's no practical way around it. The yellowish stain returns yet again whenever the print sample is placed under low intensity display lighting or in dark storage.
"My advice: if one does decide print permanence is important, print your important images on non-RC papers that also have little or no OBAs...papers like Hahnemuhle Museum Etching, Canson Rag Photographique, etc. for matte surfaces; or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl, Canson Platine, etc., for glossy/luster finishes."
Ger Lawlor: "When the printer is behaving, these type of prints are stunning. The main thing to watch for, in my experience with making big prints with big areas of dark continuous tones or subtle gradations, is that the slightest clog or mis-aligned nozzle will cause banding. And it always waits until the print is almost finished. My record is the day I dumped north of $200 worth of materials into the bin while printing a job for a client where the clog (a slight mis-fire on magenta) only showed up after the prints were dry, and under very bright light. (And only on certain parts of the image). Faint but there. Get yourself a good loupe for checking prints and importantly, also for examining nozzle check patterns."