I am fortunate in having a spare bedroom to use as my workspace. Originally set up as an office it was readily converted to a more interesting use after my retirement; that of a lightroom.
Whilst preparing this website I began to consider the equipment I’m now working with and whether a description of it would be of interest to anyone else. The answer of course is that I don’t know but since it may help someone it’s worth a page so here goes.
I consider the most important item of equipment here to be my printer, that may seem odd but without acceptable results from that I would still be making prints in my darkroom. So Epson must take the blame for allowing me to make the transition to inkjets by providing me with an Epson Stylus Photo R3000 A3+ printer; the latest version of which is the P600 and the one that I am now using following the expiration of the R3000. R.I.P.
Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, Epson does not produce a worthwhile A4 colour printer so I suggest that anyone about to purchase a printer of that size consider the Canon Pixma range of A4 printers. I have one and it produces very acceptable colour prints although monochrome output is not quite up to the standard of the R3000 however Canons A3 pro model may be.
I have owned and discarded many printers, too many, all producing excellent colour work but each failing miserably to make an acceptable monochrome print. I grant that it may have been a failure on my part to understand them fully, but I have always suffered from a short-fused mentality where equipment is concerned; either it works or it quickly feels the point of my boot as it exits just as my R3000 has done due to a breakdown that is uneconomical to fix.
There is an old Anglo Saxon saying used within the computer field that loosely translates as rubbish in equals rubbish out and is very applicable to photographic reproduction.
So lets consider the sharp end – the camera. Given that the average mobile ‘phone will provide an adequate file with which to work with to make small prints we do not need to spend a huge amount of money on a camera, but that will not deter you from succumbing to the allure of the latest advert for a new must have superzoom megapixel producer, so I will not try to convince you otherwise except to say that a quality lens is still worth paying extra for.
Since I’m not very good at following my own advice I must confess to owning a Canon 6D with a 24mm to 105mm zoom and a 24mm tilt and shift lens. I also have a Canon 40D fitted with an 18mm to 55mm lens. My excuse for the second camera is that it been converted to infrared capture by replacing the original sensor filter with a 720nm visible light blocking filter. I also own a Canon 10mm to 22mm wide-angle lens for the 40D which is of higher quality than the original 18 to 55mm; surprising given its light weight plastic construction. I have also begun to capture images on an iPhone when nothing better is to hand.
I took years to train myself to burn film on a shoot before I discovered that the frame I printed was nearly always the last one shot. That being the case it was logical to shoot more since they obviously got better further down the roll. With digital capture there is no roll, just a card to fill up; so I do. I happily take a dozen shots, machine gun style, of the same scene and then some more just to make sure. The scene has to be explored and various viewpoints experimented with.I now only shoot RAW images in the largest size my machine will provide believing that it much easier to throw pixels away than have to invent them later.
My computer is an Apple Mac, a 27-inch monitor that provides me with sufficient clarity and colour stability. It is stuffed with a fast processor and the maximum amount of memory that it will hold. I also have a second monitor attached (unfortunately not a Mac) so I can see before and after images or view websites such as this one whilst running the word processor on the second screen.
To ensure colour fidelity, which is just as important for monochrome work, I use a device called a ColorMunki to generate printer profiles for my papers to ensure my printer produces an accurate facsimile of my screen image. Not a cheap device but a worthwhile investment in frustration reduction! So far I have found the Mac screen to be colour stable and not in need of reprofiling, but I still check it with a Datacolor Spyder4 each month. The second screen, a Dell is not colour fast and drifts out of limits within days of profiling so that is not used for image colour inspection. When I can afford it I shall replace it with a second Mac monitor.
Software is important although it is very easy to try and buy everything on the market for there are many “silver bullets” for sale, one of which must surely work; if only I could find it.
I now subscribe to the Adobe Photoshop CC which gives me Lightroom as well as Photoshop software although for years I just used PS Elements since I don’t do much image manipulation, tending still to follow darkroom practices. Lightroom is an excellent cataloguing system that helps me make the most of my image storage space and copes well with almost all of the manipulation functions that I require.
Storage space is always a problem. The very best way of storing photographs is on a strip of celluloid in an album, a very space efficient system. Now though I have to store electrons in such a way that I can find them after a year or so should I wish to do so. Preparing this website has reminded me just how difficult that seemingly simple task is, for many of the images shown here exist only because I have physical prints that I have been able to scan, the original electrons having somehow evaporated and gone to wherever discarded electrons go. I wonder, do they get recycled? Lightroom is now proving a valuable assistant in arranging my photographs is a way that allows me to find any particular image.
Experience has also taught me to store my image files on an external hard drive which leaves the computers internal drive
free to cope with the demands of the software. Both the internal and external drives are backed-up on an hourly basis to a second external drive. I have lost far too many files to disk failure in the past to ever again neglect this aspect of maintenance. An expensive solution maybe, but then good insurance is never cheap. Moving them to an off-site store may also be a good idea but then again are they really of any great value?