Fine Art Printing Workshops
I have said it before, and I will keep saying it: “You don’t have a photograph until you can hold it in your hands.”
I have always been surprised when I meet up with photographers who have been in my workshops and find out that they still haven’t made a print from the previous workshop. It boggles my mind when I hear this. All the great locations and the moments in time are tucked away on a hard drive, most likely never to see the light of day.
I am astounded when I see photographers who have spent thousands of dollars to buy the latest and greatest cameras and have never made a print. I see so many great images on social media, and these images are seen for just a few seconds, and in a swipe, they are gone forever.
Printing, for me, is the be-all and end-all for the photographic process. It’s a tangible piece of you that will be there long after you are gone.
A Short Story
I fell in love with photography when I was about 13 years old. My friend Richard and I were riding bikes, and he said I should come over to his house on Saturday because his dad was going to make some prints in the darkroom. Prints in the darkroom. That sounded a bit strange. I was completely ignorant as to what that meant.
Richard went on to explain that his dad liked to take pictures of things. In their basement, his dad had built this room, and he would develop film and then make prints from the negatives he liked. There was another strange word: “negative.” Richard said, “It’s really cool. The film is a negative, and then my dad puts the film in an enlarger and shines light through it onto a piece of paper and then puts this paper into a few trays of chemicals and makes a print,” which he pointed out was a positive of the negative.
To me, it sounded like magic, and frankly, I was a bit confused, so I agreed to watch. Richard’s dad was really cool, and Richard was pretty cool too. His father first had to develop the film. He asked Richard and me to wait outside the darkroom while he loaded the film onto reels, which he would put into these shiny steel tanks so that he could develop the film.
After the film was safely inside these tanks, he asked us to come into the darkroom, and he explained that he would pour the developer into the tanks and then fixer and then water to rinse off the film. We hung around for half an hour or so as he did this. He explained that the chemicals all had to be a certain temperature. After the rinse was done, he lifted the reels out and unwound them, and there were these rectangular images on the films. He explained that these were the negatives. Wow! Magic! He hung the film up and squeezed it off, and said that it needed to dry. This was amazing. He offered to make us grilled cheese sandwiches and said we would come down after lunch and make prints. At this point, I was getting really curious.
After lunch, we headed back to the darkroom. I had no idea what to expect. I was truly a newbie, but I was totally fascinated. Richard’s dad put a negative he had selected into a special holder and placed it in an enlarger. My vocabulary was expanding a lot that afternoon. He then flipped out the darkroom lights, and the lighting was replaced with a soft, amber glow that he called a safe light. There was another new vocabulary word.
He turned the enlarger light on and cranked the enlarger up and down until the photo-filled the frame in the enlarger easel (another word), and then he put a device on the enlarger and looked through it. He explained that he was using a grain focuser and was focusing on the grain of the film. (Another word.) Once he was satisfied, he turned the enlarger light out. From a drawer under the enlarger, he pulled out a piece of blank paper and placed it in the easel. He also slipped what he called a contrast filter in front of the lens. It was a kind of purple color. He said we were using a polycontrast paper (another new word). I knew that when I got home, I could impress my parents with all the new words I had learned.
There was a timer on the counter next to the enlarger, and he set the time for around 15 seconds, and then he said that he stopped down the lens. Another new term for me. Geeezzz! This was pretty cool, but it was like sailing, as it had its own vocabulary.
After the timer went off, he took the paper out of the easel and placed it in one of the three trays of liquid. We gathered around the darkroom sink. (Did you know there are sinks, especially for the darkroom?) After about 15 seconds, a faint image began to appear on the paper. Over the next minute or so, the image kept getting darker as it developed further. Wow, this was black magic! Finally, there was a point when the print didn’t process any further. He used bamboo tongs to pull the paper, which was now a print, out of the tray and slid it into the second tray, which he called a stop bath—another word. I should have brought a notebook with me.
After a few seconds in the stop bath, which apparently stopped the print from processing any further, he used another set of tongs to pull the print out of the tray and then slid it into the third tray. This tray was filled with fixer—another word. Apparently, the fixer would make the print more permanent and allow you to turn the room light on after a short time.
I looked in awe as I watched Richard’s dad perform magic. He took a blank piece of paper and shined an odd-color light on it, and then in a few minutes, he had a print with a scene on it. I was hooked! We spent the next few hours making more prints, washing them, and then running them through the dryer, and when we were finished, we had a stack of prints. To me, a know-nothing 13-year-old, it was mind-blowing. I had just seen something I wanted to do, and I wanted to learn more about it. I wanted to be a photographer.
My Life Was Forever Changed
Since that day, my passion for photography has grown, and even now, 56 years later, I wake up every day with enthusiasm for life and photography. I am still learning and feel blessed to be part of the analog-to-digital revolution. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and to be part of the revolution that has led to where we are today in the digital imaging world.
I adopted digital capture very early on and did the same with digital printing. It was hard being on the bleeding edge and also super frustrating at times. However, I feel lucky to be where we are today. Now, making prints from digital images is not subjective. It can be looked at as qualitative. Results are repeatable, and the quality of the images we are making is superb. They have so much more detail than we could have ever achieved from analog captures.
Making prints was a challenge in the early days, with lots of sliders and variables that made printing your own digital files intimidating and complicated. I equate it to the early days of color TV. If you are old enough to remember, there was a day when our dads brought home the first family color TV. It had to be hooked up to an antenna, most likely on the roof. We had knobs for brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. It was up to us to determine the color and brightness of our TVs. I used to think I was pretty good at making good colors. But I would visit friends’ homes, and they had blue-, green-, and even purple-tinted TV screens.
Nowadays, we can go to Costco, buy a television, bring it home, hook up the cable, and turn it on, and bingo, we have good color coming right out of the box. That’s a great OBE (out-of-box experience). With the newest inkjet printers, we are getting pretty close to the Costco TV experience. Today’s printers are more affordable and less frustrating than in the past.
And that is what we will show you at the Fine Art Printing Workshops.
New Workshop Series Is Now Live
I am so happy to announce a new series of workshops that will show you how to make prints and help you understand digital printing. I have wanted to do this for years, and I have never been in a better position to do this than now.
As you may have read previously, last fall, I was asked to leave the studio that I had been in for the last nine years. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but a silver lining presented itself. The Indianapolis Art Center generously offered me an opportunity to become an artist in residence there. I moved my printing gear to the center and integrated it into the digital imaging curriculum. In addition, I was granted the opportunity to run my printing workshops there and to help with other programs related to photography.
Over the last few months, I have been working with a number of people to put together a workshop on digital printing. I am happy to announce that this workshop is now live and will be held several times this year. You can learn about these workshops on my Rockhopper Workshops site.
The workshop will take place over one evening (an introductory event) and three days. It will be fun and educational as well as eye-opening. This is your opportunity to learn hands-on just how easy it can be to make your own digital prints. We will cover a lot in these workshops but also keep it simple. You will be making your own prints throughout the workshop.
You’ll learn all the basics, such as color management, monitor calibration, color profiles, paper surfaces, and what printers are the best for your needs. In addition, we will cover how to soft proof and hard proof and how to adjust your files for maximum quality output.
We will look at various software options you can use, including printing from your mobile devices. All the sliders and settings that were so intimidating many years ago are a thing of the past.
I’m sure that, if you are like me, you have many files sitting on your drives, just begging to be revisited and printed. We will look at printing projects and wall display prints. We’ll look at how different papers can affect your print.
If you are a photographer doing events, portraits, weddings, or any other kind of job where multiple prints are needed, we will show you how to do those. We will even demonstrate an automated print cutter that you need to see to believe.
We will hold these workshops over the weekend. You’ll begin your three-day workshop with a visit to my home for a welcome reception. We’ll have time to introduce ourselves, talk about photography, and set goals for what you’d like to get out of the workshop. You’ll get to visit my man cave, meet my dog Maggie and four cats, and relax before we start the next three days of intense, non-stop learning. We will then all go out to dinner together.
At 9:30 the next morning, we will begin our workshop with a morning of learning, and we’ll even make some prints before lunch. After lunch, we will move into soft proofing and making hard proofs of your selected images. These prints will then be evaluated so you can make changes to the files to take them to the next level. At the end of the day, we will decide where to meet for dinner and eat as a group, continuing our learning experience. (Meal costs are your responsibility except for Sunday night when we will host the dinner at our expense.)
On Sunday morning, we return to work and dive deeper into our printing workshop. This will be an intensive day during which we will make prints and show you how the automated Cut It Out cutter works. Make sure you bring plenty of files. Since we have two print stations, everyone will make prints and rotate through using an Epson and Canon printer. Using ImagePrint software, we will show you how the same file looks after being printed on these different papers. We will continue to work throughout the day, finishing up around 5 PM. We will meet for dinner on Sunday, and Rockhopper Workshops will pay for the dinner.
By Monday morning, you should be pretty familiar with the printers and software, and you will get a chance to continue your printing projects. Around 11 AM, we will head out for a field trip. We’ll visit Roberts Camera and have a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the finest camera stores in America. Bring your credit card, as you may find something special there. You’ll also get to experience their used camera department, and what they’re doing may blow you away.
After a quick lunch, we will visit Petrov Frame Atelier, where you will get to see how a frame for an exhibition is made. Petrov’s is one of the finest framers in the city. This is always fun to see in person.
We then head back by midafternoon to finish our projects at the studio. We conclude our day around 4:45, when we will say our goodbyes.
Time to Head Home
I know you are going to enjoy this experience. You’ll take home your own prints. You’ll understand just what it takes to make your own prints. We will help you develop a workflow that works for you. You’ll make new friends, and you might find a new addiction as if photography wasn’t addictive enough.
I can’t wait to share my passion with you. You will have at least a few aha moments. Please head on over to the Rockhopper Website, where there is more detailed information, and register today. We have three workshop dates posted and will post a series of additional workshops in the fall.
Remember, it’s not a photograph until you can hold it in your hands.
Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.