Nov 132013
 

There are so many puns I could have used for the title of this blog post but I’ve been a good boy and refrained.

What you are about to read has been a long time coming. During my digital printing career, the best part of fourteen years now, there’s been one issue that’s bugged me throughout and just doesn’t want to go away.

In fact, it only seems to become more prevalent.

It occurred to me that the best thing to do in this situation would be to empower you, the art world, with the appropriate information and let you decide for yourselves.

So, here’s what’s been bugging me, along with what I know about it:

The word Giclée.

In the art world, Giclée has become a widely adopted term to describe inkjet printing of the highest quality — so much so that it’s even in my computer’s dictionary.

In galleries, websites and portfolios around the globe you’ll see it misspelled and mispronounced like no other as people try to get comfortable with this tricky word.

Even Photogravure and Daguerrotype (names for other processes) seem easier to say than Giclée.

Paul Kenny, O Hanami edition prints for Chris Beetles Fine Photographs

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — ‘O Hanami’ by Paul Kenny

A Little Bit of History…

The original intentions behind the use of giclée are totally innocent and honest.

Back in the Nineties, a famous established American printer called Jack Duganne was at the bleeding edge of digital inkjet printing technology.

In making his beautiful prints, Jack was among the very first people to offer inkjet printing commercially to the discerning fine art world.

But he needed a name for his process, a name that would sound elegant and really pop

“The French language sounds good”, thought Jack (who told me this himself many years ago), so he picked up an English-French dictionary and looked up the word for squirt or spurt — after all, that’s what happens when the printheads fire ink onto paper, right?

And, lo, Giclée was born and we’ve battled with its spelling and pronunciation ever since.

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From North Northwest Beginnings by Julian Calverley

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From ‘North Northwest Beginnings’ by Julian Calverley

What’s Wrong with Giclée…?

It sounds nice doesn’t it? And, in a way, it is.

Unfortunately, you only have to speak to a Frenchman (or, as happened recently, a Swiss friend) about your Giclée process to be sure of a drenching as a result of the coffee they’ve just spat all over you…

Why? Because, and there’s no easy way to say this, in French slang giclée means ejaculation.

In his first week working with me, Antoine (a wonderful French assistant) saw an email drop into his inbox entitled ‘Giclée Print Order’.

Through his tears of laughter, strong French accent and slightly broken English, he finally composed himself and managed to utter the now legendary words:

“Hey, Man, we’re going to be really tired after making these prints, no…?”

HP Designjet Z3200 Service Station

So, Which Name Should We Use..?

If you’ve ever worked with me or downloaded my Price List, you’ll know that I only ever use Giclée in brackets like this:

(sometimes known as Giclée)

Digital Inkjet Prints of the Highest Quality doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so I like to call them what they are:

Archival Pigment Prints (APP)

Take note, however, that I only use this name because that’s what they are — archival and made with pigment inks.

Be sure of your choice of paper and ink before you adopt the name to describe your own printing methods.

Liam Murray Caravan

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — Liam Murray’s ‘Caravan’

Spread the Word…

Once you’ve digested the information above, decide for yourself.

If, like me, you feel that Giclée should no longer be used to describe high quality inkjet printing, then spread the word — PLEASE!

Tell everybody who needs to know and, hopefully, we can make a difference…

Jan 232012
 

Last night, I received a phone call from my Aurora-chasing friend, Reed Ingram Weir.

Apparently, the facts and figures were all pointing to a stellar show by The Northern Lights.

If I was to finally witness this natural phenomenon, now would be the time to jump in the car and make the sixty five mile journey north on the A1.

It would have been all too easy to settle in for the night on a Sunday evening but I was soon experiencing an intense urge to make the trip.

Aware that digital cameras can pick up early signs of the Aurora much more easily than the human eye, I quickly nipped to the top of the house to photograph the Northern sky.

The giveaway green haze hovering above the Newcastle horizon convinced me that it was time to go and meet Reed on the Holy Island causeway:

aurora borealis, northern lights, newcastle upon tyne, north east england

No apologies for the coarse quality of this hurried photograph, it was the moment I knew I had to drive North!

I grabbed a friend who I knew would also cherish the experience, though neither of us could ever have been prepared for the scene that greeted us.

Nearing the turn-off for Holy Island, the sky had become alive with huge columns of light, folding and weaving like waves of fabric.

Words can barely describe the emotion that overcame me — it was all I could do to keep the car on the road with such a spectacle taking place in the cold air above us.

Vast slabs of vertical green light gave the Northumberland night sky an epic cathedral-like appearance and all for a fleeting fifteen minutes or so…

As we arrived on the dark causeway, I must confess to feeling a little jittery.

The light show was beginning to fade already but it still looked sensational as it receded.  I managed to capture these images while the performance played out:

aurora borealis, northern lights, northumberland, holy island, north east england

Gentle scenes from the Holy Island causeway as we arrived...

aurora borealis, northern lights, northumberland, holy island, north east england

Vertical shafts of light began to appear once more...

aurora borealis, northern lights, northumberland, holy island, north east england

...and the sky appeared to fold and crease like fabric above the glow of Berwick upon Tweed.

In all honesty, the intensity of green captured by my camera surprised me.  However, it seemed to match up with the photographs of others.

When watching this beautiful show, I didn’t see green, I saw a bluey-silvery-grey. I thought that reciprocity failure might have come into play, so I tried some very short exposures.

Yes, the images were very under-exposed but the green colour still prevailed.  Even the ‘quick and dirty’ capture made at ISO 3200 (the image at the top of this post) immediately showed the Aurora-green piercing through the urban haze.

It seems that more intense displays further north, in and around locations such as Tromsø, literally drench the surroundings in a glorious green light.

Thankfully, at times, we were able to see the green for ourselves during pinpricks of higher intensity.

Indeed, as we were arriving, I’ve already mentioned the great slabs of green light standing tall like huge, futuristic, architectural pillars in the sky.

So, this sparked a further spine-tingling question in my mind: When the intensity levels of the Aurora are reduced further South, why is that we observe a bluey-silvery-grey colour, yet we point a digital camera at the Aurora and the intense green prevails?

Is the camera able to render information that we cannot perceive at these lower intensities?  I’m sure there will be answers to this but I simply enjoyed pondering them while standing in that icy cold theatre.

I expect Professor Brian Cox would know the answer. If you know, feel free to enlighten us by leaving a comment in the box at the end of this post!

And so, the curtain gradually fell on the performance. The graceful, pulsing light faded away yet still lingered, maintaining a hold on us and making it very difficult to set off home.

aurora borealis, northern lights, northumberland, holy island, north east england

The performance draws to a close with one last needle of brilliant light.

And let’s not forget the beautiful sky to the South, so dense that Orion (often obvious at this time of year) is almost lost among its neighbours:

night sky, stars, orion, northumberland, holy island, north east england

Looking South, the stunning Northumberland night sky with Orion standing tall in the centre of the image.

Some say that viewing the Aurora Borealis is life-changing.

Would I agree? Yes, without a doubt.

I haven’t been able to shake the experiences of last night from my mind, not that I’ve wanted to.

Furthermore, it’s taken me most of the day in grabbed moments here and there to attempt to put those experiences into words.

I’m still not sure that I’ve succeeded.

As I put my boys to bed this evening, I peered North from the window once more. Nothing.

The Aurora Borealis was gone for the moment but I shall never look at the sky in the same way again, day or night.

Keen followers of this blog and my Twitter feed will know that I am very keen on the video clip below, the Aurora Borealis and Australis as seen from the International Space Station.

It seems appropriate to sign off from this post by leaving you with this beautiful footage…

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

Sep 242011
 

One day all too soon, we’ll look back at the styles that fashioned photography (both still and moving) in and around ‘The Noughties’.

It’s my guess that the phenomenon known as drop-focus, tilt and shift or perspective control will be seen as one of the main signifiers of the current era.

The Waterfall Project by Olivo Barbieri is a classic contemporary example.

Implemented well, this is an approach I happen to like; I enjoy the feel of the model village often achieved with this method of capture.

For me, at least, it tugs at the childhood heartstrings and seems to instil utopian, feel-good emotions.

So, I thought you might like to share in this particularly fine example—a French ad made to celebrate their improvements and progress on the railways over recent years:

RESEAU FERRE DE FRANCE from W & CIE on Vimeo.

If you fancy seeing big cameras strapped to the front of trains,  a bit of green screening (and your French is up to scratch), you might like to see this ‘making of’ video too…

RÉSEAU FERRÉ DE FRANCE – MAKING OF from W & CIE on Vimeo.

Feb 162011
 

Welcome to Blog Post 75.

How appropriate that one small milestone should be used as a vehicle to describe another small milestone—the servicing of my main workhorse, the 44″ HP Designjet Z3200.

During the overhaul, I couldn’t resist capturing some of it for posterity.

I love these artifacts, as I can’t help but think of the story they tell.  Without its aesthetic cloak, the printer looks like some out-of-action robot awaiting new limbs.

The ink-soaked parts and surfaces are almost documentations or, indeed, artworks in themselves.

Anyway, I enjoyed looking, so I thought you might too…

HP Designjet Z3200 during a full service

My HP Designjet Z3200 looking not so useful!

HP Designjet Z3200 Service Station

The ink-soaked Service Station...

HP Designjet Z3200 Service Station

...now decommissioned and replaced.

HP Designjet Z3200 Carriage Drive Belt

Finally, the decommissioned carriage drive belt.

Nov 282010
 

You may have noticed a quirk of life—initial disappointments invariably turn out to be suppliers of the best possible outcomes…

As part of my research into alternative printing processes using Digital Negatives, it has been on my list for a while to visit Bradford’s National Media Museum and, in particular, to see the work of Frederick H. Evans.

Frederick H. Evans

The press coverage has been widespread but alarm bells rang when the exhibition was nowhere to be seen on the NMM’s website.

A quick phone call confirmed that the tour wouldn’t reach the gallery after all. On the face of it, one of life’s disappointments.

Instead, however, the very helpful Ruth Kitchin at Insight, the Research Centre within the NMM, suggested an appointment to spend a couple of hours viewing the prints in the flesh.

What a treat this turned out to be, a very special afternoon…

Frederick H. Evans, 'Lincoln Cathedral: Stairway in the South West Turret'

Frederick H. Evans, 'Lincoln Cathedral: Stairway in the South West Turret'

Frederick H. Evans, 'Sea of Steps'

Perhaps the most famous image by Frederick H. Evans, 'Sea of Steps'

The beauty of Evans’ Platinum/Palladium and Photogravure prints verges on the indescribable. They command extraordinary depth, space and timelessness.

And then? A trolley brought forward carrying prints by Peter Henry Emerson, famous for his beautiful imagery depiciting working life in and around The Fens.

Peter Henry Emerson, "Setting the Bow Net"

Peter Henry Emerson, 'Setting the Bow Net'

To anyone working within the photographic industry, particularly in the digital era of instant gratification, this is surely an invaluable experience—to be reminded of the roots of our trade. Not only the recognition of a beautiful photographic print but also the understanding and realisation of true craftsmanship.

In appreciating this art-form, very little compares to seeing the fountain pen signature of a famous photographer accompanied by a date in the 1800’s…

Anybody can visit Insight by appointment and view works form their huge collection. Of course, most museums around the country have this facility too and, if you haven’t already, it’s one that you must try some time…

Richard Freestone with a print by Frederick H. Evans

Richard Freestone with a print by Frederick H. Evans

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