In Final Form
I don't know about you but the photographs I make need some time to gestate, some looking at and thinking about them to understand what to do with them. Very seldom is the first impression the final outcome.
Where the "rubber meets the road" is in making decisions as to how to print what I've shot. This will go through perhaps a few experiments. I might try a couple of different sizes or pushing prints darker or lighter to see what that looks like. Or play with the color palette or tonality, amount of sharpening, type of paper (this is a big consideration for me) or even if I am adding any color to a black and white image. In darkroom days I used Kodak's Rapid Selenium Toner for every print. I did that to remove the slightly olive cast of many papers, particularly Ilford's Miulitgrade paper. In Silver Effex's Pro 2, a plugin I use often to make the conversion of my files to black and white, there is a toning setting for Selenium that I sometimes use.
At any rate, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a day I had kayaking along the Connecticut River in New Hampshire (River Paddle). I liked very much some of the pictures I made as I walked up stream from the river to sit on a log and have my lunch. The stream was in late summer mode, lazy and with water trickling down it, much of its stream bed exposed. As I tried printing different approaches: conversion to black and white, a mat surface paper, adding some color back in, I tried to resolve whether I had a full series or not. A series for me is a sequential body of work, usually from as few as 11 to as many as 30 or so. I didn't think that I did, although I could construct a rational around the actual "walk upstream" I took, wading through shallow water holding my camera at shoulder height so as not to get it wet. It wasn't and presently isn't so much a full series but perhaps a few pictures with a single point: what mankind leaves behind, the detritus I found on the stream bed. I had tried to contrast these pictures with the real purity of the untouched landscape in front of me but to be truthful this was a place that was not nature untouched at all. This was about as "pure" as it got:
Not so interesting perhaps and certainly a little passive or even generic, never what one wants of one's own pictures.So, what have I done? I've abandoned the precept of the contrast between untouched and polluted in favor of these three:
Mankind's effect upon environment, clear and simple. Junk thrown away or left behind and a wall of granite blocks holding up a bridge over the steam.
There is loss and gain, of course. The loss is that most of the pictures I made that day (some of which I like very much) will likely never be seen or printed. Losing 40 or so breaks my heart a little. But what I gain is three photographs that have impact and punch, not diluted or compromised by others that may serve as only support around them. And yes, impact? Ah, what present day digital capture can do. The prints are 37 by 25 inches. One is printing behind me as I write this.
They will be framed 45 by 34 inches. Hung side by side, the three in a row with the granite wall in the center? Killer. Epic.
A final caveat from someone who frequently prints quite large. When you print big, the print becomes very difficult to look at unless it is pinned up on a wall or framed. Sitting next to your printer, rolled up, is not a good way to determine if you have a good print or not.
I print at home but will frequently take big prints to my studio to lay them out on a big table to view them.
If you don't have a big printer and are going to have someone else print your files for you, try to work locally, meaning choose a printer that will allow you to print out a few test strips to see how your file will look when printed large. Does it hold? Are you pushing it too large? Has your sharpening strategy and file management been effective? Or are you just making an image larger with little consideration of how much more you are asking of everything you use: your camera, its ISO, the lens, the aperture and shutter speed, use of a tripod or not, the DOF and so on.
Printing large is like this:
it's the bottom of the ninth
your team is 2 runs behind
bases are loaded
there are 2 outs
the count is 3 and 2