Nikon D700 + Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 17 mm — 1/40 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1600 — full exif
brightened up with a bit of art on the wall
The room I use as my office at home has a layout not good for much of anything but the bedroom it was designed to be, but space is always tight in Japan, so one makes do as best one can. In this case, my desk is “floating” (not up against a wall as I used to have it when I used a different room for my office) and faces a set of floor-to-ceiling closet doors. This unorthodox arrangement allows the rest of the room to be gainfully employed with bookshelves, exercise stuff, and a bigger-than-most-Japanese-houses La-Z-Boy we brought with us from The States.
The down side is that I face a bland wall of floor-to-ceiling closet doors, but that has recently been remedied with some artwork.
An Idea Presents Itself
A friend recently got a very nice printer (an Epson Stylus Pro 3880), and kindly offered to let me use it. It can print paper up to 17″ wide, which means it can handle A2 paper, about like a medium-sized poster. It can produce very nice results, but it's pricey: one set of ink cartridges (just the ink!) costs 3× what my own consumer all-in-one printer/scanner/copier cost in the first place.
The printer I already have can print photos, of course, but I rarely print anything because I seem to have a huge mental block about the commitment of rendering to a physical medium. I don't quite understand this silly mental limitation, but it's hard to overcome; this opportunity to use large paper with a nice printer gives me a chance to try (to overcome) in a meaningful way.
I did a test, printing this shot of Anthony, fitting it into a frame we already had with a green mat that matches the new photo perfectly.
A Solution Unfolds
I got particularly excited about the prospects when I realized that the floor-to-ceiling closet doors that my desk faces would make a perfect place to display some prints. After some testing, I decided that the fairly tall/narrow “A3+” paper size (“A3 nobi” in Japanese, about 13″ × 19″) would fit very nicely.
I found some excellent frames at a local shop.... simple black metal frames by Hakuba that are quite heavy duty and very well constructed. I'd have easily paid $50 for them, but happily they were less than $15 each! I chose black because I figured that a thin black border would nicely set off the print from the off-white color of the closet doors. I would put something on the four middle doors, keeping balance by leaving the edge doors blank. To mount the frames, I used 3M “Command Mini Hooks” Strips (sort of like Velcro™, but better for this kind of application).
I've got 100,000+ photos in my Lightroom catalog, and have published a lot of nice ones on my blog over the years (2,559 photos total last year alone, of which at least some can be considered nice). So when I sat down to consider which few photos to print and display, I suddenly felt overwhelmed.
As I got into it, I started to realize that my bar for what might make a good print was much higher than what might make a good photo online. Part of this is my aforementioned mental block about printing, but part is also an extension of what one naturally notices. An ugly utility pole among fall foliage, for example, like this, sticks out in a photo like a sore thumb because one sees the entire scene in focus at once, whereas in real life most people's attention is drawn elsewhere (the foliage) and the wires and such are not even noticed. (That a photographer does notice them, and proactively considers them during composition, is part of what makes a good photographer good.) So, with that idea extended to a print hung on a wall, suddenly any little imperfection jumps out.
Also, a photo on screen is generally seen in just one general environment (on screen right in front of the viewer), but a print on a wall must look good from across the room where fine detail is lost, yet withstand up-close inspection where little imperfections become big.
I eventually realized that I could hide imperfections, as well as lend a less sterile look to the prints, by giving them a “painted look” with Corel Painter Essentials. I'd played with before, as I described several years ago. I think I have higher artistic standards now, but to a geek like me, “artistic standards” is always an oxymoron. You can get some really wonderful results from Corel Painter Essentials, but it's quite an ordeal because Corel's software design is ridiculously bad. This will all be the subject of a later post.
Oh, and the hiding of imperfections also meant that I could blow up from a smaller crop, using only a portion of a photo. This gave me more options, since the prints were to be tall and narrow, but my tendency in taking pictures has been toward the landscape orientation that presents itself better in a blog setting.
It took the better part of a week (the “busy with a project” mentioned last month on “Feeding Frenzy on the Kamo River”), but I finally came up with a dozen or so items to print. The selection process was an emotionally anguishing task... it's really hard to choose which treatment to give which photo, from among the infinite possibilities to be found in 100,000 photos! I'll eventually print more than I can display at once so that I can cycle them in sync with the seasons, but for now here are the ones I've printed...
(But note that I generated these for print, so even clicking through to the larger version gives only an imperfect sense of the printed result.)
( I would have really liked to use the originally-posted photo, but it wouldn't fit the tall/narrow format I needed here )
I also did an A2-sized print (about 24″ × 17″) in portrait mode for a side wall...
... and another A3+ print as well...
I printed them on Epson professional “Velvet Fine Art” paper, which is very matte (that is, not glossy or shiny like common photo paper). Combined with the professional printer and inks, the quality is much better than consumer-level stuff like my own printer. I put them in frames without any glass cover, so reflections don't mar the view.
You'll notice that these were all prepared so that they don't require a mat. A straight-up photo generally looks better with a mat, so the ability to generate good faux matting is an ongoing project.
Anyway, I'm really happy with the results, and they make the room so much more alive and balanced.
It took a week to produce the images for print, but it took a month to prepare this post up because it took that long before I got around to cleaning my room enough to hazard a photo of it. In the end, I got sick of the delay so just shoved all the clutter to the back of the room (because, you know, if it's not in frame, it doesn't exist).
The desktop backgrounds seen on the monitors in the home-office photo above are the ones that just happened to be showing when I snapped the photo. I've got them configured to cycle every so often, via images from the RSS feeds on my widescreen desktop-background photostream and my vertical desktop-background photostream. The ones showing in the photo are from this post and this post.