Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Canvas Prints Redux

Okay, so I told you of my saga with Staples and their canvas prints and how the image I wanted didn't turn out as I planned, but that the staff was so accommodating and polite that the experience of getting it wrong was good enough for me to say, "Try it." Then I promised to get back to you with the result and went away...forever.

Then when at long last I came back to the story I had bad news, the cameras I have insist on getting the color right and not like it actually is which is wrong, but they don't know that and so they make it right when what I really wanted was for them to do it like it actually is which is to say wrong and that way I could show you what had happened and why I wasn't happy, but after having a chance to look at it for a while I decided that it wasn't half bad for not being what I had intended in the first place, but then since I tweaked it to start with I shouldn't be all that surprised when it comes back looking like something else entirely.

Okay, okay yes, when you take a file to the printer it should come back exactly as you requested it or it has been done wrong. But sometimes doing it wrong can be the right thing for some occasions.

.So this is the image I started out with, you may remember it from my dissertation on Grayscapes. I thought it turned out rather well and I've used it on several projects and they have turned out rather well too so I was pretty sure I wanted this to be my canvas printing experimental test subject.

Looking back on the project I shouldn't have selected this image for a first test. It has a very thin color palette and tonal range and that isn't something which makes for an easy reproduction so I set the bar too high to begin with and then was disappointed with the results.

To create a fair test I should have selected a more neutral subject with a normal color range and let Staples have a go at getting that right. I didn't and they didn't, but then that happens when you don't know what to expect which is why they call it experimenting and not certaining.

When I tried to rephotograph the image for this article, guess what?

Two cameras and my scanner corrected the color right back to where it should be, just like it was in the original image. Not helpful.

And when I tried to figure out what was happening I spent several days reading up on modern image capturing technology.

Seems most cameras and scanners produced in the last four or five years have a thing called a "White Balance" adjustment.

Go and read the article, but the Cliff Notes version is, if you get the white part of the picture right it makes all of the other colors right. Very handy for not getting the dramatic color shifts we used to get when the best way to avoid color casts was to shoot in broad daylight at high noon on a cloudless day.

I know, it was limiting so some of us, The Ole Trawler goes back a long, long time, by trial and error, lots of error, learned the basic color balance of all of the film stock we were going to use. Kodakchrome was red, Ektachrome was green, so was Fujichrome, Sakurachrome was yellow and Agfachrome was brown and when you wanted to capture something with the best color possible you matched the film stock to the subject. You think all of those lush jungles in National Geographic were that way when you and your camera were getting eaten alive by bugs? No sir, not a chance! But spool up a roll of Ektachrome and the greens popped out like a spring rain had just touched up that jungle set.

Suzy Parker a wonderful model long before everyone who ever worked as a model was a Super Model, had lush auburn hair and when Peter Gowland shot her with a roll of Agfachrome in the camera he made her a superstar. That brown-based film made all those red highlights shine and dance and Suzy was never the same.

(Aside* You do know there is and was only one Super Model? Cheryl Tiegs, still enchanting in her sixties and never out of demand to this day, was the first model to appear on the cover of Time. She did it twice and no one else has ever done that and she has been the only model to appear in Sports Irritating Swimsiut Issue every decade since the sixties, she has her own clothing line, make up endorsement and Home Shopping program and that is why she is the only one entitled to be called a Super Model.)

So back in the olden days you matched the film stock to the subject and hoped the developer didn't overcook it.

Now those clever little cameras have eliminated all of the research by having a White Balance adjustment and so there is no color shift problem anymore. Except when you want it for the purposes of illustration, it is harder than hello to get.

But once again through hard work, research and blind luck the Ole Trawler has found the way to get the camera to let me shoot the shot the way I want it and not the way it thinks the shot should be shot and so I am able to bring you the image I got back from the canvas printing experiment.

And now its been so long that you've forgotten what the original file looked like. I can fix that so you won't have to scroll back through the post to find the original image.

Yeppers there was quite a shift. And I'm pretty sure I like the image the way I did it originally. But I've looked at the green image for a while now and I am not as horrified about it as I was when I first opened the package.

In fact I can live with it and like it enough that I wouldn't hesitate to show it if I had the right opportunity.

That is the story and you'll have to make up your own mind. I'll try a less challenging image for my next experiment and when I do you can expect to be annoyed with the results.

I spent far too much time learning why things went wrong to let it go now.

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