Why Digital Images vs Physical Prints?
So how do I create an image? Why does it mean a lot? Many a number of people in this world click the shutter at least once, every day to capture moments they feel are special. The idea is to "freeze that special moment in time", whether the one clicking knows it or not. That image is a reminder of what was, years down the road.
There are so many ways images are seen these days. Evolution from slide projectors, paper prints to on-screen viewing (cell phones, TVs, Computers, portable viewers) has revolutionized the way images are viewed. The convenience of having all images on one tiny memory card, or ever so evolving hard drives has been tremendous for storage and access. However, in my opinion, it has come with a price.
Anyone who uses the above, and who does not, knows that it can be very tricky. Once images are taken, they have to be downloaded, organized, stored and backed up, ideally on a hard drive, internal or external, via a desktop or a laptop. Are we good at that? Most of us are not, I would imagine. I won't go any farther than to use my wife's cell phone as an example. Literally thousands of memories reside there, but not sorted out. The convenience of clicking with a cell phone (or a digital camera, for that matter) comes with a disadvantage of clicking too much, thus creating multiple images of the same moment. "I will delete the extras and organize them later". And 1 year down the road, thousands of images lay unorganized, undeleted, and hard to find. And then the risk of corruption of images, or hard drive failure is always there.
A lot of thought goes into PRINTING the images. Lack of space to store "so many images" is always a consideration, which leads to an advantage of thinking harder about which one to print, and which gets to be on the wall. You want it to belong there. You want to "experience that feeling" for number of years to come. You want to make sure it is preserved. You want to enjoy it daily. And that is why PHYSICAL PRINTS are so special. Lots of thought process goes into it before the image is printed, unlike digital pictures which, most of the times, stay out of sight and often forgotten!
In short, digital display of images is very convenient, easy and space saving. But if not organized, they are very difficult to enjoy.
Physical prints, on the other hand, are there for you to enjoy, as you have selected them exclusively to be looked at, daily. They are reminders of those important moments you experienced along this journey of life. You don't "scroll" past them. You stand there and look at them. You "feel" them. This is true for ART as a whole. There is SOMETHING about the physical art objects and prints, that, in my opinion, digital displays can not replace!
The Process From Start to Finish
Over the years, I have designed my photography process into thinking of making a very particular image, as compared to just clicking on everything that I see. That is what I used to do when I started learning about photography. Looking back at my images from then surely reminds me of how much I have grown into the photographer I am today. On the contrary, viewing them from recent years shows me how much more I have to learn. So many wonderful moments of this earth to capture, and absolutely not enough time to do it!
In order to create a specific image, I have to think a lot. The DESIRE to create that image is the starting force behind it. It leads to "dreaming" about that particular image. It could be of a particular place, time, season, subject and so on. It sounds funny, but that is how it starts. Then begins the research, which then takes me to planning. Once done with it, I chose my equipment for that particular image very carefully, like which camera/ lens/ tripod/ filters will suit the intended image. And then, the day comes!! That is when I start getting nervous. The reason for that is EVERYTHING MUST GO RIGHT for that pre-visualized image. The camera/lenses/filters have to be clean and functional, the memory cards need to work flawlessly, tripod should be in shape, and if I am travelling by air, the plane has to leave on time (Winter travel is such a pain due to delays), I have to scout the place or subject ( For the final image, I would have already scouted multiple times) and the biggest of them all, the WEATHER AND THE SUBJECT (in case of wild life) MUST COOPERATE. I can not tell you how many times I have failed to get that image simply because everything went right EXCEPT the weather or the subject! It is JUST SO PAINFUL! If that does happen, I have to plan the same process all over again! But I tell you, when everything comes together, there are very few things that rival the joy I get out of freezing that "moment". When it happens, my heart is racing, I start feeling excited/nervous (is the lens right, are camera settings right for the exposure, did I really get it? Was the focus ok, etc). In some cases, I have cried tears of joy ( experiencing Northern Lights, and photographing Polar bears and their cubs come to mind).
I used to keep these images to myself. But going to Churchill, Canada changed almost everything about my images for me. I, since then, have focused not only on "getting the image" but more so on sharing those with the world around me. The reason? I want every one to see what a beautiful place we have, called Earth! I want everyone to "feel" the pleasure of experiencing what I experience, which in turn just might lead to a small effort towards protecting our planet!
Why Churchill, you ask? Well, I saw the impact of climate change first hand there. The ice is forming in later months than before due to the warming climate (the locals told me that the Hudson Bay, where Polar bears hunt to survive, used to freeze in early August and September, but now sometimes it does not, till October and November. The frozen bay gives the Polar Bears the ability to go out on ice, to hunt the seals, who by then are bearing their pups in dens made in thick ice of the bay.) The whole circle of life gets disturbed.
I could go on about it but the story is not my goal. I just feel that we should care about our home, and try to keep it intact, so our generations to come will enjoy it just like we are.
Oops, I got side tracked!
Once images are created in camera to my liking, they have to get home safely, onto my computer, live on my hard drive, where back ups of those images are made, just in case I lose the originals. Then comes deletion of the duplicated images, which is the hardest part. More often than not, I have to go through thousands of images and select the ones to be deleted. Then images worthy of viewing are reviewed. Minor edits are made with software. I DO NOT LIKE TO ADD OBJECTS (moon, sun, beautiful sky, important landmarks, to name a few) artificially into my images.
Once all that is done, the IMAGES ARE READY for digital display and physical prints, which is the best part of it all. All my hard work has finally come together!
The Mediums My Images Are Offered In
Did I say that very few things match the joy of photographing what was pre-visualized? Well, to think that SOMEONE else, who does not even know me, feels my images are worthy of hanging in their home, or office, or a working place, is just unparalleled! And that drives me to produce the best prints that I can!
I use three different kind of papers for my LARGE PRINTS (larger than 13 inches up to 24 inches on the shorter side) in general, as printed by me
a- Red River Ultra Pro Luster which is a 300 gsm paper which gives saturated colors, neutral B&W, and very smooth tonal transitions. It works very nicely with color images but B&W also does not look bad either!
b- Moab Juniper Baryta which is a 100% cotton fiber base, 305 gsm paper, with semi glossy surface. I have found this one to work with B&W images beautifully
c- Moab Slickrock Metallic Silver which is a 300 gsm paper with beautiful sheen and rich colors saturation. I have found it best suited for vibrant colored images or rich contrast B&W images
Smaller prints (up to 13x19 inches) are printed on Canon Photo Pro Luster paper. Another quality paper may replace this from time to time, depending on the "mood" of the image I want to print. Believe it or not, the choice of paper does change the look of a print!
If larger prints than 24x36 OR framed prints are desired, Or if I am away and not have the luxury to print on my beautiful Canon image Prograf Pro-2100 printer, they are outsourced to reputable printing labs who may use different papers but the quality remains at its finest.
All the papers MUST be handled with care in order to avoid fingerprints, damage to them, by myself or the customers.
All the papers used are archival, ensuring they last for many years to come.
The general process involves infusing dyes directly into specially coated aluminum panels, thus creating images with vibrant color, and a specific mood to B&W images. The coating makes a barrier against dirt, and harmful UV rays, thus eliminating the need for protective glass.
These are outsourced to very reputable printing labs
These prints do not exhibit any glare or reflections, can be displayed frameless or framed, and create somewhat of a painterly effect to the images
These are also outsourced to very reputable printing labs
On paper, a combination of inks are combined producing an illusion of a full range of colors. By comparison, monitors can display millions of colors, producing a richness of color, and the display illuminates the images, as the colored light shines out from the screen, which in turn delivers a much greater range of contrast and color intensity than images printed on opaque paper, which depends on reflected light for its look.