Welcome to my blog.
This blog is planned as an occasional series of mini articles on topics that concern, confuse or delight me as a photographer. It definitely won’t be updated daily with new and exciting revelations as I don’t really have all that much to say. I promise to address some of the insights that inevitably come from spending a great deal of time trying to make pictures which give me real satisfaction and which I hope will excite a few other people. In this process I am aided by my painter wife Julie who shares many of my interests and who tackles subjects very closely related to the ones I tackle. We do very similar things but in a totally different medium. The frustrations and disappointments (and occasional elations) of that enigmatic collection of activities which are called “The Art World” concern both of us greatly. This blog will cover just a few of our discussions which we think might be worth sharing.
Three Creek Lakes
Brinsley Burbidge, 2013
Like all photographers I hate signing prints. It’s not modesty it’s just that once a print is made why disfigure it with a signature? What happens if I mess up my signature and ruin an expensive print? What ink doesn’t smear when used on photographic paper? (A very fine “Sharpie” works on most but my current favorite is a three color ballpoint we received as a free gift from Jerry’s Artarama.)
Signing the matte is silly as the matte can easily be changed and therefore doesn’t prove authenticity. My latest solution is to leave a wide white margin around the print and to sign and number the print in that margin. A buyer can mask it out with a matte but it is still there.
Giving titles to pictures is even more frustrating. Just how exciting is “Winter Snow 2”? Probably a little more exciting than “Untitled 2”.
I love language and wish I could invent short descriptive titles for every picture but so far I’m failing miserably. Ice on Alders is evocative and Abandoned Chair works but other subjects have no easily named feature I often search a thesaurus and try to get get closer to a memorable and descriptive title. Which would you choose for an early morning photo? Daybreak? First Light? Crack of Dawn? Cock Crow? Sun Up? And then what happens when you make another print of a similar subject? Daybreak 2.
Unfortunately, if names are not particularly memorable then even I can’t remember what I called them, so that if someone says “Where did you take Winter Snow 2? I have no clue what Winter Snow 2 looks like.
My only conclusion - Anything is better than Untitled.
February Snow 2
Brinsley Burbidge, 2013
Prints on aluminum have been around for a couple of years. The results look good (high gloss and high contrast) and we are told that they have tremendous permanence and scratch resistance. The technique involves the heat transfer (sublimation) of special inks into a sheet of coated aluminum and all the materials (including ink cartridges compatible with my printer) are available. Several labs also advertise that they use the process.
The main deterrent is the awfulness of most metal prints I’ve seen for sale and on display. The subjects have been unimaginative and the images oversaturated. They looked like badly designed cheap jewelry, or a passing fashion that we would not miss when it went away.
I decided to give it a try using using one of my favorite pictures from this year (Ice on Alders) and printing at a size which would be good for wall display (30”x40”) even though the overall cost - print, float hanging system, crate and shipping – it all adds up was way above what we could afford.
I was truly blown away by the result. It looks stunning. The mount works beautifully with only one hook and once hung in our living room and lit using our track lights it looks like an “art object”.
Ice on Alders
Brinsley Burbidge, 2013
The first image I had printed on aluminum, 30" x 40".
I am a print maker and print making is what attracted me to photography from my earliest experimenting using “printing out paper” (anyone else remember that?) around 1950. I did my own neg/pos b&w and color printing and then for many years used the Cibachrome process which allows me to print directly from positive originals. The arrival digital imaging and inkjet printing opened a whole new world but the quality and permanence did not approach what I could get using “conventional” printing.
Very rapidly though printer makers gave us pigment inks, 8 or 12 colors and archival quality paper. Everything changed. I worked on color profiles, calibrated my monitor and suddenly I could stop describing my prints as “experiments’ and show them as products which could be even better than the old system. Printing, however, remained an art. Proficiency with the complexities of Adobe Photoshop, dealing with color space, meticulous print-file preparation, printer calibration, paper choice, lots of mistakes and long experience of how prints would look when displayed made all the difference. So in the last ten years or so I’ve derived huge satisfaction from making “good prints” and thought of myself as a good printmaker. I hated the thought of anyone else printing my pictures, somehow I felt I would lose control.
But then I tried letting go just a little. After all, almost all the creative decisions are made by the time you press the “print” button. The print file has almost everything already encoded so working with a professional printing lab seemed like a way to avoid buying yet another printer. I was so nervous when my first lab-made prints arrived. I don’t know why because I found myself saying, with reluctance but complete conviction “those prints are better than I could have made myself”.
Fishing at Dawn
Brinsley Burbidge, 2013
The first print I asked someone else to print large (30" x 40".)
At the beginning of this year Julie and I embarked on a long term joint project which involved walking eight miles almost every day at dawn. Julie was gathering ideas for paintings and I was working on making a series of photographs. We are both fascinated by the challenge of portraying the wet, cold, mud, fog, snow, wind, reflections and occasionally the sunlight that make up first winter and spring light in rural Oregon.
Originally I took with me a full photography backpack and tripod, probably with a total weight of around 25lbs but gradually this became tiresome and I set about reducing my gear. The only item I could not lose was the camera body, a full frame Canon 5D Mark II. I checked back over my past photography and was a little surprised to find that the lens most frequently used for a landscape photo which I regarded as successful was not a wide or standard lens or a tilt/shift but a 70-200 f2.8 zoom which I had originally bought exclusively for portrait photos. It is heavy and, coupled with the full frame body is a cumbersome piece of kit for someone trying to be lightweight but it delivers the goods. I especially welcome the f 2.8 aperture in the dim light of dawn. Tripod? Yes I’ve always carried one but now I leave it behind. A tree trunk or branch or Julie’s shoulder are all I now use even when the product will be a 30” x 40” print.