It was a Saturday. A Facebook group I belong to had a photo Friday contest. Most likes wins first place. Naming rights only. As I scrolled down the page looking at all the wonderful pictures, I thought, What a bloody waste of Maritime talent. If you think of a social media news feed, it's one long, gigantic linear thread through time. Once your image goes down the news feed and ceases to become new, it no longer exists. It may sit as a file on a computer, where somewhere, someday someone may stumble across it or like it on Facebook, thus breathing a bit of life into a otherwise dead image. Like the Monty Python parrot skit, "It's a Ex Parrot" - it's pushing up daises!
So I decided to reach out to one particular photographer whose images of Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore I thought really stood out. I grew up in that region, so I could identify and appreciate the great interpretation he delivered in those images. Keith Jollymore was the name of the photographer. We had only met once, but I had seen his images all over Facebook. My goal was to show his work in print to the public, and to show some Atlantic talent. I called it my Signature Artist project.
The first thing I have to say is that Keith Jollymore totally embraced the concept. His primary profession was in the PR field, which included some photography. He lives on and loves the Eastern Shore and the images we would see were his hobby or pastime. I sent him a Facebook message as he was on his way to B.C., he immediately replied and we met the following week. He brought his laptop and a collection of his images he liked. We looked through them and chose 16. From there the project grew legs. We had a venue at the Dresden Row Market in Halifax to display them. We had the ability to produce a wide range of different media for the show and my co-workers jumped on board and worked on the various products. All along Keith provided a Bio and captions or titles for all the images. In a period of 35 days, we produced a small art show that had everything from fine art watercolour, framed and un- framed canvas , metal prints, metallic prints, images on slate, acrylic stand outs, calendars, post cards, licence plates, and an 8 foot banner. It was a lot of fun, and Keith and his wife Melanie were so appreciative and supportive. When the show went up, Keith was there to talk to the many folks who dropped by. The best part is that he sold products. Everything from post cards to fine art prints. He and Atlantic Photo donated the proceeds of the profit to The Children's Wish Foundation. The bottom line to this story is that there was and is a demand for all his images in one form of product or another, and his canvases and prints and fine art have found good homes on Haligonians' walls.
The final chapter of this has yet to be written. I will post about that at a later date, and in the meantime Keith and Melanie have set up a website and with my assistance are working on a marketing plan as well as search engine optimization. For me this was a exercise in the concept of "if you build it, they will come". Many people the idea of printing their files in some ways daunting or incomprehensible, but the alternative of only having electronic version of our life story is insane. Discussions and debate on the web from photographers like Mike Webb, verify the concerns on a entire generations photographs fading down the news feed. In the meantime my project will continue, and I will prove that a photographer who wants to can sell their work in print as it should be. Photographers should be able to deliver the final experience. What will be your legacy? Will your images be around in 50 years or will the get sucked under in the digital Tsunami?
When the big bosses told me I could borrow a Nexstar 6SE telescope, I was super excited. I checked the Stargazing forecasts: snow, clouds, blizzard, freezing rain, more blizzards, and more clouds. Finally, after a couple of weeks of hateful temperatures and precpitation, there appeared to be a clear yet bitterly cold weekend coming so I packed the Nexstar up and we headed home.
I am not a professional astronomer. I am not an amateur astronomer. I had to use spell check to spell astronomer. I know three constellations by sight; Orion, The Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper, otherwise I barely know any of those little white dots in the sky from another, so if anyone can attest to the ease of use of these scopes by a complete beginner, it is me.
I should also point out that I am pretty impatient and despise reading manuals and instructions, which has led to some horrific disasters in the past, so I usually allow extra time (about a day and a half) for putting together any given item incorrectly, disassembling said item and then having to grudgingly refer to the manual to put it together correctly. The Nexstar goes together quite easily the first time without the need for time consuming re-do's: tripod goes up, optical tube goes on, insert star diagonal, insert eyepiece, look through eyepiece.
The Nexstars all come with an Alt-Azimuth mount, a fancy term that means Altitude-Azimuth or for people like me, up and down and side to side. This mount will find, identify and track pretty much any object from its database of over 40,000 objects. To do this, the telescope must first be aligned properly. There are several methods to align the scope that vary in their accuracy and the amount of time required. I had every intention of actually sitting down and reading the manual before my first use but two of my daughters were already up past their bedtimes waiting with unbridaled anticpation and unrealistic expectations of seeing to the outer edges of both space AND time so every minute spent reading manuals meant one minute closer to the emotional meltdown of a 6 year old. Reading was out of the question.
I leafed quickly through the manual and came upon the words, "Solar System Align is designed to provide excellent tracking and GoTo performance by using solar system objects (Sun, Moon and Planets).....". "The MOON!", I thought to myself, "That is one of the few objects I know!". I slammed the manual shut and headed outside. I pressed the directional buttons on the handset and amidst the whirring and churning of tiny gears I got the Nexstar's orange tube pointed at the biggest, easiest to find object and pressed "Align". BOOM! I had done the impossible, a successful Solar System Align.
From there, we checked out craters on the moon , Jupiter and three of it's bright, little moons, Mars and then put the happy kids to bed. Once the feeling returned to my fingers and face I headed back into the cold and used the Star Tour to select objects from the database and let the scope find everything for me+
I know what you're thinking. "Yeah, but I don't work at Atlantic Photo Supply where they just give out free telescopes so how do I know how these things work?" Well, if you want to see what one of these Nexstars can do, if you're interested in astronomy, or if you want to get a lot of useful information from the members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Nova Scotia, you should seriously consider visiting the Brownlow Avenue location for our Star Party on March 27, 2015 at 8:30. It's a great way to see Atlantic Photo Supply's line up of telescopes at work, see what certain telescopes can and can't do, and talk to alot of experienced and passionate stargazers. The pictures in the slide show below were taken with a telescope exactly like the one I used.
If you take pictures casually or you have a friend whose pictures you admire, the thought has probably crossed your mind to get one of your photos printed in a larger format to put on the wall. Photos make excellent art, especially if it has meaning to you or it is a picture you have taken yourself. The execution of this seems relatively straightforward: find a picture you like and print it in the size of the space on the wall that you are trying to fill. For prints about 8x10 and smaller, this is as simple as it gets, but once you get into the territory of 11x14 and larger, a few challenges present themselves.
One of the reasons larger pictures present more of a challenge is that they are physically heavier than smaller prints, and when they sit in a frame for a longer period of time, they tend to sag and bow unless they are secured to either the glass or the frame itself. The other issue that can arise comes when you want to take the picture out of the frame for any reason. When you live in a climate where the temperature fluctuates the way that we do, humidity can be a factor. The glass in the frame can get a small amount of condensation or moisture, and your picture is now stuck to the frame.
There is a section of our website called “Mounting and Lamination”. We can mount and laminate any size photo you order from us, but the benefits are greater for the larger sizes. When we mount your photo, you
Lamination adds a protective layer to the print, which will help in the problem of the print sticking to the glass. This also reduces shine and reflection from the print, creating a smooth surface. This is beneficial for some metallic prints as you can retain the unique colour effects that metallic prints give you while reducing the amount of shine and reflection they can create, and protecting the surface from fingerprints. It also makes the print easier to clean, and if you decide not to frame it for any reason, you can just wipe it down with a damp cloth.
If you have been wanting to order metallic, now is a good time, as they are 50% off until March 31. Go to our Facebook page for more details and to claim this offer. Don't forget to add mounting and lamination!
If you are anything like me, you have thousands of pictures living on your phone without a hope of manifesting into a physical print. And if your reasons for this are the same as mine, they are simple; the quantity of pictures I take is not equal to the quality. It takes time to sift through the ones that I really like, and there are only so many pictures of my cat that are worth printing. There are many solutions to this problem (as evidenced by our previous blog post from November 13th), but today, I'll showcase one of them.
My favourite way to display phone pictures in particular, is to put them into a collage. The main reason that collages lend themselves well to a picture taken on a phone is that the resolution on phones doesn't tend to be the best. You can make a large print with several low resolution images without worrying about whether you will have a blurry mess at the end. A collage is a good way to tell a story with your pictures, as well. You can create a dynamic gallery in one print, which also saves your wall space.
This time of year, the most common story to tell is that of the last 12 months of pictures, and memories that you've made. In my case, Instagram made the perfect way to filter through my pictures, because I was only posting pictures that I wanted to showcase, anyway. Other options might be sorting through pictures of a trip, or choosing some family pictures from the holidays. Other great collages can be made from wedding pictures as well.
On our website, there are many pre-made collages to choose from, but if you are feeling creative, or if you like to scrapbook (or if you have more or less pictures than the pre-made collages), you can make your own freestyle collage with the tool provided. You can choose to print from a 4x6 up to a 20x30, and there are mounting options for each if you decide that you'd like to make the print thicker and more durable as either a substitute or an additive to a frame. The first thing you'll do after you decide on a size is to choose how many pictures you'll want to add. One useful tip to start is to decide whether you want a colour or a picture in the background. If you choose a picture, you can decide to make it a focus, or choose a picture without too much detail so as not to be distracting. Next, drag in your pictures from the side, and place them where you want them. Depending on the size of print you choose, make sure you resize your images by dragging the corner of the box around picture as they'll be quite small to start out with. Mix it up by making them different sizes and add text if you'd like.
We think that printing your photos is important, and gives you a physical backup if your phone or computer fails. It also allows you to get creative in decorating your home, and collages are an easy and good looking way to do that.
Everyday, people upload their digital images or bring film to our lab and few understand what it takes to produce a quality print product. The process is not so much magic, but the practice of due diligence. The first thing I would like to point out is that as some of our equipment is state of the art, the procedures or fundamentals behind maintaining proper workflow or best procedures go back to 19th century photographic theory and the study of sensitometry. So just like the concepts in capturing the the perfect moment and having the best exposure with your camera, film or digital, the same backbone in theory resides in the modern photo lab. I would like to tell you about the basic steps and procedures that make your prints look as good as they can be; a story of magic of printing in a modern digital lab.
OUR "WET LAB"
The term "wet lab" is a recent label for a photo lab that uses traditional silver halide process that involves chemistry that has a developer and a bleach and a fixer as well as a wash system. The paper is light sensitive and must be exposed in absolute darkness. We have 4 processors that we have to maintain on a daily basis. One of them is a film processor that develops colour negative film. The other 3 are printers that expose and develop RA4 colour paper. Two of the machines are lasers and one - the Chromira - exposes with LED technology.
The first step to the quality control process is to balance the chemistry itself. I like to compare the chemical process to that of a human body, and specifically to that of a person with diabetes. The developer is an alkaline and is the key to optimizing the exposure made by the printer. It is kept in balance by being replenished by fresh developer (food) from separate replenisher tanks. When the paper or film goes into the developer, an oxidation process begins. Similar to how water and air make a nail rust, the developer reacts with the silver creating the beginning of the latent image. A developer that is too weak will result in flat, muddy images and too strong will result in darker contrast ones. We use a tool called a control strip that process before the start of everyday. It is read by a densitometer that shines a light through the strip and reads the red green and blue layers. The industry is standardized thanks to Ansel Adams and the Zone System. We have a standard process control strip to compare to and the difference between the two is plotted and graphed to allow our technicians to take action where and when required. If the developer is too active then the machine requires starter, like insulin to a diabetic, to bring the process in control. In a nutshell, it's the balance of acid and bases, and if you're a good wine maker you would catch on fast.
The next step is to balance the printer to the chemistry status. That involves yet again a standard print with grey patches (again the zone system) that are read on the densitometer. In the case of our chromira 20 zones or shades from complete black to pure white including 18% grey are read and graphed. The process can take a hour or more to meet the target before a single print is made.
Once we have a perfectly balanced machine, we when then can create custom profiles for every paper we use. This involves a similar process to balancing, except we use different software and read 1800 patches to define the profile, allowing you to have the widest colour space and best print quality from your images. Important point - if we are not balanced to true Black and White then your colour or B&W photos won't look as good as they should.
The "Dry Lab"
The dry lab is another term coined by the industry that is basically any process not wet. Our Dry lab consists of Epson 11880's and Rioch printers that are Giclee or Ink jet. Since no chemistry is involved the procedures are strictly on product specific custom profiles. Our Dry Lab in many ways sets standards for our quality control. Although it is a collaborative effort, Geraldine has a true touch when it comes to tweaking the profiles for canvas, watercolour and any other print product we wish to use. This, in a nutshell, is what we believe separates us from the rest. We adhere to procedures and set our own standards. Box stores and many Pro labs don't drill this deep as it takes experience and resolve to stick to what can be a time consuming, but ultimately rewarding process. Would you want us to trade off quality for speed?