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Epson Printer Photography Blog

Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printer for sale

March 9th, 2015

Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printerI’m selling my Epson Stylus Pro 4900 photographic printer.  It’s the A2+ (43cm or 17″ wide) desktop model in Epson’s 900 series printers, and is the top of the range with 11 colours (including mat black and photo black), paper tray up to A2 size, roll feed and rear flat feed for heavy media.
The printer still running on 10 out 11 of the original first charge cartridges.  It comes with an additional full set of 11 200ml Epson Ink cartridges (one has just gone into the printer), and 4 extra 200ml cartridges, so 15 extra 200ml Epson ink cartridges.

UPDATE

I’ve sold the 4900, thanks for all your interest folks.

Photographic Technique

March 15th, 2011

Technical Information

6x17cm Transparency images shown to scale

617 transparencies on a lightbox with my hand for scale

All my images are printed using leading edge digital technology; the original image however is shot on film, at least for now. For this I use a selection of large format panoramic cameras, mainly the Fuji GX617 (see a review of the Fuji GX617 here). The 6×17 denotes the negative (positive actually) size in cm, 6cm high x 17cm long, that’s dramatically bigger than a standard 35mm negative, in fact 11 times the area. That greatly enlarged image area combined with a fine grain high colour saturation film (Fuji Velvia) creates an image of superb detail that can be enlarged to enormous proportions without going soft or blurry.

So why Digital, and is there a difference between digital printing and digital manipulation?

Fuji GX617 camera with 35mm film canister for size comparison

Fuji GX617 with a 35mm film canister to show the size

Photographic Printing

Digital printing is making use of advancing technology, it now offers a quality surpassing older traditional techniques with many added advantages.

Traditional Process

With a traditional process the photographic image is projected with an Enlarger onto light sensitive paper by shining a light through the transparency and focusing it with a lens, in fact a camera in reverse. The printer, a highly skilled technician, then adjusts various aspects of the image such as contrast, colour balance and density using a combination of lens tuning, coloured filters and exposure time. He/She also lightens areas that are too dark and darkens highlights that are too bright to bring the image into balance, this is the traditional printing method,  not digital, and I spent many years working in printing labs doing exactly this. These procedures are to compensate for the fact that film has a much shorter contrast scale than your eye and the printing paper has one even shorter still, so some manual manipulation is required to bring the shadows and highlights back into balance.  There is nothing worse than an image with all the shadows running to black and all the highlights burning out to paper white.

Repeatability

One of the essential problems with this kind of printing is the repeatability of the printed images. The results are very much subject to how much sleep the printing lab technician had the night before, what kind of day they’re having and the mood they are in. The results can vary to such a degree that it’s sometimes difficult to pick them as the same photo!  This really becomes a problem when somebody sees an image on the wall and orders a print a different size or on a different media type, sometimes it takes 4 or 6 print attempts to get the image right.  This is further exacerbated the bigger the image gets, due to the difficulty in handling huge pieces of photographic paper in the dark, and the light fall off as the distance between the enlarger and the paper platform grows.  Printing huge images in a traditional darkroom with light sensitive paper really is a nightmare, in fact, prior to the advent of digital printers it was very rare indeed to see a 2m photograph, whereas i regularly print images that big and often much bigger.

Imacon 848 scanner, Eizo calibrated monitor and mac pro computer workstation

A 617 transparency being scanned on the 848 scanner

Digital Printing

The difference for me with digital printing is to add a step in-between the film  and the paper image by scanning the 6×17 transparency into a very high-resolution digital file (980mb to begin with, a finished image will end up about 2.9Gb) on a high end Imacon 848 film scanner.  All colour balancing contrast and densities are then handled digitally,  the same processes as the manual darkroom but done using Photoshop and a high end computer (a Mac of course) with a colour-calibrated screen. Once the file is complete to my my satisfaction, i would then save the layered image into an archive and then flatten, resize and sharpen a version to be sent to the printer, usually as a smaller test print first for a hard copy confirmation.  I have had various large format digital printers over the years, from an Epson 4000, to an Epson 7600, an Epson 9600 and now the latest model Epson 9900 (as of December 2010).  These  are technically inkjet printers, though that is a bit like calling a formula One race car simply “a car”.  The Epson 9900 uses an inkset of 11 colours, including 3 varying shades of black (grey really), each ink cartridge contains 750Ml of pure pigment based ink and a full set of inks currently costs AU$4,000.

Epson 9900 large format printer in action printing 2.5m canvas

Epson 9900 in action. Image is 1m wide

Contrary to a popular belief, the process of colour correcting an image digitally is not easy, nor is it fake. The job of digital technician is easily as skilled and demanding as a darkroom technician. In fact I would say considerably more so, speaking from the experience of having done both extensively.

I do all the digital colour correction of  my own images and when out shooting I will spend many hours, sometimes days, waiting for the perfect light. I spend many months every year getting to these beautiful places  and I spend many hours and many miles of walking finding just the right spot that conveys just the right feel so that the final photo will carry just the right impact. When I return I will then spend many more hours in front of the computer to ensure that what you see is exactly as it should be, every time.

Digital Manipulation?

So how then does this differ from digital manipulation? Definitions can be a little tricky, but lets say digital manipulation is the fundamental altering of a photographic image such that the final result does not truly reflect the original state, i think thats a pretty fair summary. We’ve all seen it or read about it in one form or another. An easy example is the fashion industry where models can be made to look slimmer, curvier, longer legs, bigger breasts even different coloured eyes! Yes that is all possible, but is it necessary or even desirable?

Thankfully I need to do none of that, nature is amazing enough just as it is. You just have to stop and look sometimes, look a different way. Stick around a bit longer wait for that special time of day, take a deep breath and open your eyes a bit wider. Get up earlier when it’s still cold and a little bit dark. Or stay till after the sun has set for the magic of twilight, the magic of the pre-dawn. At these times of day the light is soft, it allows the subtle colours to come through, the colours that are normally swept away by the intensity of sunlight. Then all you have to do is stand in the right place, point the camera the right way,  don’t forget to focus- and push the button. Let God do the rest, whatever God you believe in, you want to see proof, watch a sunset in the Kimberley!

Sunrise over the Pentecost river in the North Kimberley region of WA

Sunrise on the Pentecost River in the Kimberley

I don’t create the scenes you see here, I only record them. I couldn’t possibly take the credit for something so awesome, so overpoweringly amazing. Something that has been millions of years in the making, that would be ridiculous. The art of photography, my job, is to be able to see the infinite of nature and translate it to the finite of a photograph and still transmit the splendour of the original, to create a window out of a fragment that contains the essence of the whole.

Long Exposure Techniques

Many of my images are made using long exposure photography. That is leaving the shutter open for long periods sometimes hours at a time. I’ve been told on several occasions that this in fact is image manipulation because the result doesn’t truly reflect the original! I would argue that this is not the case; in fact the opposite is true. Long exposure photography more truly reflects the reality than an instant snapshot. These are not still life images, bowls of fruit on a table. Nature is fundamentally dynamic, it is constantly moving. Wind blows through the branches of the trees rustling the leaves, clouds skate across the sky, water flows ever downwards, oceans are never still even on the most tranquil day. I would say that an image that stops all this is more of a manipulation than the one that allows the flow of nature to be visible. Perhaps it’s not the way you are used to seeing it? Take another look, if I can help you see things a different way, a new way then I’ve achieved my goal.

A really BIG Photographic Canvas print!

March 8th, 2011
4m canvas print laid out at Monk Art Photography Gallery

Freshly arrived…

I have mentioned this 4m Photographic canvas image a few times in previous posts, but i wanted it to be up on the wall before putting it on the blog,  it seemed only fair that the client should see it first, especially since it has been so long in the making.

Nigel Stretching the 4m canvas onto the custom made frame

Into it… a slightly dreaded job

I was pretty excited when i got an order for a 4m image, a vertical one at that, i’d never printed anything so big and i was very keen to try it.  I was confident the image would would print up well, it was shot on a large format panoramic camera, a Fuji GX 617 on a 6 x 17 cm piece of transparency film (Fuji Velvia), like most of the images in my gallery.  It was then scanned at 3200 dpi and 16 bit on an Imacon 848 scanner to over 900Mb, so there was tons of fine detail and information to work with.  The finished layered file came in at 2.9Gb… Thats a lot of hard drive space for one image.

My printer is an Epson 9900, which is 111cm wide (44″), so i can print an image of this format (3:1 ratio) to about 3m long… not big enough for this one.  So i called my friend Paul Parin from Studio Red Dust, who has an Epson 11880, the big brother to my printer.  The Epson 11880 can print to 152cm wide (60″) and with the right software and the right person driving it, for as long an image as you could want.  Paul is very proffesional and really knows how to drive his printer, so the results were spectacular.

The 4m canvas photographic image by Adam Monk takes shape

Thats pretty big…

The timber for the stretcher frame had to be custom made, and Nigel from Bitches Brew Picture Framers, who shares the gallery space with me, had  a few sleepless nights worrying about stretching this monster before clearing a space on the gallery floor and tackling the job.

Hanging the 4m canvas image in its final spot

Rob carefully measuring

My delivery van has a maximum  length of 3m it can  fit in the cargo area, so last Saturday i hired a truck and delivered this 4m long image to its new home, where Rob, from Master Art Display and myself put it into its final location.

The 4m vertical photographic image on the wall at last

The final result.

Each of these images of the stretching and hanging of the 4m photographic canvas print were taken on the Canon 5D Mk II with the 17mm f4L tilt shift lens to keep the perspective and gain some unusual focal planes (click on the images for a closer look).  The last image was not taken by me, since i am in the shot, but by Rob the Picture hanging expert, who also happens to be pretty handy with a camera.

Epson 9900 printer in action

February 24th, 2011

Today i printed a 2.5m print of one of the Hasselblad XPan images that featured in a previous post, A Garota de Ipanema-The Girl From Ipanema.  It was quite a stressful event, as 2.5m of image allows a lot of room for things to go wrong.  Nothing went wrong, it looks awesome.

Epson 9900 large format printer 1

The Epson 9900, a formidable beast

I have an Epson 9900 printer, a formidable beast indeed, it can print 110cm, or 44 inches wide and this 2.5m print is the biggest image i’ve ever printed in one go.  The 4m canvas previously mentioned was printed by Paul Parin, from Studio Red Dust on a bigger printer, an Epson 11880, which is 152cm, or 60 inches wide.  There will be a blog post about that 4m image once it is installed in its proper place.

As you look through these photos (click to enlarge) you can see the progress of the print.  Its difficult to imagine scale from a small photo, but just remember that the canvas this image is being printed on is 1.1m wide…

Epson 9900 large format Printer 2

Half way there

I’ve printed many 2.2m images before, there are usually 2 or 3 hanging in the gallery at any one time, and 2.5m is only 30cm bigger after all… so whats the big deal?  Well, the software driver of the Epson 9900, as with all past models, is supposed to be limited to a total print length of 2.28m, unless you are using a RIP (Raster Image Processing), which is an expensive bit of additional software.  If you try printing an image longer than this through Photoshop, which uses the Epson printer driver software to run the printer, you get some bizarre and annoying results, including wasting a lot of canvas.

I dont have a RIP, at a starting cost of $2000 for a reasonable one that would do the job i never saw the need for it when the vast majority of my printing is well below the 2.28m limit.  So how did i print this image?

Epson 9900 large format printer 3

Three quarters of the way there…

Well, i rang Paul from Studio Red Dust, who also doesn’t use a RIP, and he told me a little trick he’s discovered for getting around the limit. Save the image as a high resolution printing pdf from Photoshop, then print it out of Adobe Acrobat…  It works perfectly.  It shouldn’t, Acrobat should still be using the Epson driver software to run the printer, but it works anyway.  Go figure…

Epson 9900 large format printer 4

Ah, Safe and sound.

Perfect Printing Photography Workshop Part 1

October 27th, 2010

The first day of the Perfect Printing photography workshop for 2010 was last Sunday at the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club,  it was the most concentrated day of the three, packed with explanations and printing terminology definitions.  There were a few confused looks during the talks, especially during my presentations on colour management theory (what the %#$@ is a Rendering Intent?), but most of those had changed to comprehension by the end.

The test of all of this will come  next weekend at Margaret River when the second component will be run;  it will be more relaxed and more fun with everyone working on their own images and making prints on the Epson 3880 printer, supplied by Team Digital.  We will soon find out who has done their colour management homework…

Perfect Printing Photography Workshop

September 8th, 2010

I spent the day playing with my Epson 9900 large format printer… no, honestly, I was working… What an awesome piece of technology it is.  I was thinking of all those years ago when I used to work in the dark room printing black and white images for hours and hours on end.  Enlargers, negative holders, paper processors, drying cabinets and chemicals, chemicals, chemicals.  I’m pretty sure I used to stink of fixer all the time, no wonder nobody wanted to sit next to me!

I used to love printing black and white images like that.  I would make my own concocted negative developers that would mature like a fine wine over many months, producing beautiful smooth tonal results, playing around with water baths and dilutions at different temperatures to slow down or speed up development to modify the resulting negative still further.

Often I would be running two enlargers at once, concurrently printing two different images, exposing one, dodging and burning with my  hands or small pieces of cardboard to get the exposure just right, then dropping it in the dilute developer tray to soak while moving onto the second negative and repeating the process…  Everything was an experiment, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, i’ve still got boxes and boxes of those meticulously printed images at home, great experience and great memories.  Do I miss it?  No.

I still do exactly the same thing now, just with a Mac Pro computer (with lots and lots of RAM!) and the Epson 9900 large format printer.  Oh, and without the chemical stink, which is a bonus for the environment and my friends.

So, if any of this sounds good to you, you should come along to the latest photography workshop I’m doing with Greg Hocking, Perfect Printing, this October.  There will be no chemicals and no stink, but there will be loads of invaluable information and tips learned from a combined knowledge gained in over 35 years of photographic printing on how to make your prints perfect, every time.  To read more click this link… about the upcoming Perfect Printing Photography Workshop, there are still a few places left.

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