Eric G. Rose – Where It's At

Archive for October, 2012

Print on Demand – Dammit Janet, let’s get published!

by on Oct.31, 2012, under Commerce, Darkroom, Developing, Digital, Film, Location, Photographers, Scanning

As the affable Brad said in Rocky Horror Picture Show - "The future is ours so let's plan it, Janet "

I don't know about you but I've always wanted to get a book of my images published by a respected publisher.  For my generation it was the holy grail.  You had arrived once you could thump a 20 pound photographic tome of your images on the dining room table. There were only five or six publishers doing credible photographic table books 15 or 20 years ago.  Not having Weston's talent nor being anointed as today's (or yesterday's) flavour of the month photographically speaking has relegated my dreams to the dustbin.  Alas my delusions of grandeur were trimmed back to the odd appearance in photography magazines.  Fine art print sales were always as strong as I could handle.  Some years I would neither have the time nor inclination to produce museum quality fine art black and white prints.  I'm a temperamental artist, what can I say.

My creative juices are feeling rather frisky these days and part of this new found energy is due to my ability to produce quality print on demand (POD) books at a reasonable cost.  Years back I flirted with Lulu but the results were quite dismal.  From what I've seen they have improved somewhat but are still not up to the minimum standards I would be happy with.  Blurb  on the other hand has made tremendous strides.  Recently I have seen books published by photographers I respect and must admit I was feeling a little jealous.

As fortune would have it our local camera emporium The Camera Store organized an information session on self publishing.  Dan Milnor was the featured speaker.  Check out his website for his bio.  You will see he has extensive experience in both photography and publishing his own material.  Rather than a dry how-to session Milnor offered up a spirited discourse on photojournalism, the photography market and publishing trends.  Dan has published so many Blurb books and pushed Blurb's processes to the extreme and got away with it, they decided to hire him as a type of "artist in residence".  Good move on Blurb's part.  A more enthusiastic pitchman Blurb couldn't find.  Along with Dan's audio/visual presentation, Blurb brought at least 30 different books showcasing their papers, bindings, colour and black and white printing.  I was impressed with the quality and paper options to say the least.  Colour images were reproduced very faithfully but more importantly to me the black and white reproduction was VERY good.  Not LensWork good, but darn good.  I was hooked.

The only Blurb book I had been impressed with in the past was produced by Frank Petronio.  In all fairness I had only seen early examples of POD books.  To say POD production standards have come a long way in just a few short years would be an understatement.

In my years of conversing with Frank either directly or via various photography forums I developed a deep respect for his vision and artistic integrity.  Petronio is uncompromising when it comes to the quality of his imagery.  I have several of his fine art prints in addition to his Blurb book.  All are very well done.  Over the years Frank has reinvented himself photographically.  Whatever the genre, Frank pushes his vision to the boundaries.  His extensive experience in publishing and as a professional photographer  prompted me to ask him to share his thoughts and experiences on POD with you.

Blurb has made it very easy and cost effective for short run editions to produce your own photographic publication.  Maybe too easy.  Rather than unleashing a Flickr type avalanche of images in book form, it would be best to seek an education in the fundamentals of book design from the likes of Frank Petronio.

I asked Frank to share some of his experiences with you on POD publishing.  Naturally his sense of humour also shows through.  If you want to learn more about POD, layout and graphic design I encourage you to contact Frank directly.  Some of Frank's more recent images are included.

 

POD Experiences by Frank Petronio

Eric asked me to write a little about my print-on-demand (POD) book publishing experiences. I'll remind everyone that I grew up doing farm and construction work and somehow managed to avoid getting a PHD so I'm worthy of a quick skim (ed. - a subtle reference to my last blog) .

First off, for about 15 years I worked as a graphic designer, art director, and pre-press monkey, progressing through the industry at the same time that Macintoshes, Photoshop, and QuarkXpress started to take over and revolutionize the industry. While I was never a full-time book designer, I did do several fairly successful coffee-table books and a few smaller corporate and vanity publications. If you're reading Eric's blog, chances are you're a large-format photographer "of a certain age" and that means you probably see publishing a nice quality book as a sign of success, an important part of being recognized as a serious photographic artist. And for good reason, since even 20-30 years ago, publishing a quality art book easily cost several tens of thousands of dollars. Getting a publisher to invest serious money into your work is impressive in its own right. However the sad fact is that most artistic photo art books have been self-published using grants or the photographer's own capital - and unfortunately, many of these books end up on the remainder shelves or in attics... unless your work is truly popular, it's almost impossible to break even, much less profit, with a photo book. I once did a nice book for a university photo professor - he needed to publish or perish (as in getting tenure) so we slaved away for a about a month one summer. He printed 2000 books at a unit price of about $12 each, $24000. I doubt he sold more than 50 but he got tenure. That's how it went. Ironic that so many photographers call themselves environmentalists.... Around the Turn of the Century, once people got over the Y2K jitters, some of the digital printing technologies matured enough that printing-on-demand became a reality. At first these were little different than simple black and white xerographic copies with customized covers and a slightly better binding than what Kinkos offered. The photos were a bit coarse and quality control was lacking. The early vendors using proprietary layout applications and their online interfaces were not robust - the whole process was clumsy. It was about 2005-06 before there was a really solid, reliable online platform for print-on-demand available for consumers and that was http://www.lulu.com. They are still around, using Xerox toner based printers and do a credible job with text book quality projects. Their pricing is fairly reasonable but they are not geared towards printing fine photography so the old adage that you get what you pay for comes into play. But... finally you could publish your own book for less than $50. To hold something in your hands, condensing your life's work into a real book... well if you do it right you could fool your Mom and the tenure committee into thinking you're a famous photographer! Once the potential was pioneered by lulu, up popped competitors. Several companies started to produce photo books of varying quality using proprietary software - Apple makes creating a nice "consumer" quality color book pretty easy using iPhoto for example, see http://www.apple.com/ilife/print-products.html. And some fine art studios also came in on the high end - my friends at http://www.booksmartstudio.com - using professional fine art quality inkjets to produce short run artists books costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars. But let's talk about the most popular POD printing service with serious photographers - Blurb http://www.blurb.com. Blurb hits a sweet spot in the tradeoff of price versus quality. For $35 you can get a decent softcover book that actually feels like a store bought book, albeit you might only pay $20 for it retail. They also will make a lovely "imagewrap" hardcover book for between $50 to $150, about two or three times what you might pay for a mass market retail book. The quality, to my eye is remarkable, in large part because they use the ink-on-paper digital presses like the HP Indigo as opposed to the less expensive toner-based printers that most POD vendors use to keep the costs down. They can also run a slightly heavier, more opaque paper through the HPs, although the paper will still be on the thin side compared to a top-quality book printed with traditional offset lithography. Color images look punchy and vibrant, I can not fault them. Black and whites (or greyscales) are more problematic, although they have made significant progress in getting them to appear more neutral. In 2007 my greyscale images would print strongly green or magenta ~ but for the last couple of years they've been looking neutral... except they they are plagued by metarism. Slightly green under incandescent, purple out in the sun. But better than before and showing signs of improvement... I am not sure if the problem can be licked or not? In any event, you need to be cautious and follow Blurb's directions for image prep to the T and accept that these will never quite be perfect in the real world. You get what you pay for. If you shoot color, Blurb can reproduce your photos quite nicely, with a little extra contrast and deep blacks. You may want to open up the quarter (shadows) and mid-tones 5 to 10% in addition to the recommended image prep. As a designer comfortable with Adobe InDesign, I like that Blurb lets you submit press-ready PDFs. I haven't used their proprietary online book design Booksmart app in years but I image it has improved over time and is more responsive with a fast internet connection. With all of this, read and follow the instructions, which in Blurb's case are extremely well-done compared to their competition and a big reason why photographers have developed a loyalty towards them. Chances are you aren't a book designer.... here is some advice: Start looking at photo books from a design point of view. Do you like photos on facing pages? How much margin is comfortable? If you do a full-bleed (running the photo off the page) you get a larger image but your thumbprints are also going to be on the image. Spreads give up half-an-inch or more into the gutter's nether regions. It isn't ridiculous to use a ruler and take notes. Look at sizes, page counts, flow and feel. Notice the type and where they put it. Captions? How far are the captions from the image? Measure it! Even deciding where and how to do page numbers can be a huge topic. Once you start designing, start with a master page and, at the least, a "grid" so that you are laying images and text boxes out in a consistent manner. Run a few prints off your desktop printer and trim them out, then set them into an existing book. Do they make sense, can you read the captions, is the photo in the best place on the page? Editing and sequencing is challenging, few people are good at it. Some people can do it on-screen but most of us like to print out small prints, trim them out, and shuffle them around on a large table (or better yet, a wall). Think in terms of side-by-side pages and how images may "point" visually inside or outside the book - experiment to see if an image is better on the right or left page, especially in relationship to another image. Also, while some are inclined to square and center everything, once you start measuring well-designed books you'll be surprised to find that they often cheat images a fraction up and out away from the book's spine. What looks fine on a flat 2-D computer screen is not the same as a physical object with bound pages, and that bindings will soak up page area. If you simply center an image on the page, depending on the binding it will not look balanced and centered. And so on... there are a jillion considerations and in the end please realize that book design is - or was - a profession, just like photography used to be. You're going to screw up. Accept this as a cheap education and reiterate. That's the beauty of POD, you can tweak it and do it over. Also, I would avoid attempting to do a 200-page hardcover magnum opus as your first project. Not only will it be more expensive, but it will be tedious and crushing. Also stick to the standard sizes and pay attention to price versus page counts - sometimes dropping two pages can save you a bundle. And you probably have too many mediocre photos anyway so shorter and simpler is almost always better. Make the first few books cheap, without all the extra options like fancy endpapers or premium anything. Maybe by the third or fourth book you'll have something worthwhile... and what do you expect? Were your first few photos and prints all that great? A book is much more complex! I have to say that getting the Blurb package a week or two later is great excitement every time. Sometimes they mess up, in which case you contact their customer service and they rectify things very quickly.  Sometimes they want a cell phone picture of the problem or ask you to send the book back on their dime, but they always make good on their mistakes. Don't abuse this, try to think it through rationally as to whether you failed to follow the instructions properly or otherwise messed up - ask questions on the Blurb community forums and you'll learn a lot. I'll also mention that as a man of the earth, if you want to pick my brain or have me help you, that time is money and it is perfectly fine to pay me to advise you and the quality of my paid advice is much superior to the free stuff. OK it's late, I am sure Eric will edit this perfectly and clean up all my misteaks (sic) 😉  Good luck self-publishers! I hope you got some valuable information from Frank's piece. Blurb has come through with a special offer for readers of this blog!  Here are the details: 20% off (no minimum purchase required) Code: ERICTHANKS   (I receive no compensation from this, it's a special thank you from both Blurb and myself) Expiration:  12/10/12 Link to:  blurb.ca Fine Print: *Offer valid until 10 December 2012 (11:59 p.m local time). A 20% discount is applied to your product total. Maximum value of $150 CA / US.  Valid for printed books only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.
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The solution is at the end of a shovel

by on Oct.04, 2012, under Cameras, Commerce, Darkroom, Developing, Digital, Film, Friends, Location, website

The solution is at the end of a shovel.  Or so I have been told. Many people are educated but not schooled.  What do I mean by that?  In my years of hiring and firing employees or sitting on committees there are always those that are very well educated but do not have a clue how things really work.  In many instances these honoured individuals arrive with an attitude.  It's easy to pick them out, they are the ones doing all the talking but not actually accomplishing anything.  I hate to say it but my many years of dealing with and working with academics has soured me to "higher" education and what is does to some people.  These individuals are book smart and people stupid.  Too many academics have a bully mentality which is probably derived from many years of being bullied themselves for being the nerds in school.  Of course there are some excellent post secondary educators out there.  Heck if you're reading this you're probably one of them.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of higher learning, just not the attitude some carry with them once they get their masters or phd's. I'm a big fan of compulsory military service.  Not that I support the war machine, I don't, but I do support the discipline that is taught and the comraderie  that is taught.  You soon learn that to achieve your goals you have to work together.  Failing military service, high school graduates should be handed a shovel and put to work alongside twenty other know-it-alls building or renewing much needed infrastructure.  Pay them a decent wage.  At the end of the day they will realize they actually earned their pay.  The blisters and aching muscles will remind them of what it takes to make a buck.  After a couple of days when the muscles gain strength and the hands harden they will look back on that ditch they dug TOGETHER and feel a sense of accomplishment.  A shared accomplishment.  After their year of "service" they will have a totally different outlook on and appreciation for post secondary education.  They also will not put up with the paper tiger ( 紙老虎) prof's at the front of the classroom. If you look back to a blog I did last October 2011 you will see that I help out on a farm during harvest.  It's my two week sanity break each year. This year a historical society asked Eric Goerzen my brother-in-law to leave around 5 acres of wheat standing.  We ended up leaving 7.5.  The historical society wanted to bring out the machinery used back in the 20's and 30's to harvest this patch of wheat. During my 3 years helping out at this farm and my years helping out at my first wife's family farm in Saskatchewan I have met some very interesting individuals.  The old timers that I met never made it through the end of high school and many did not finish junior high.  But a better "schooled" bunch you will never find.  The complexity of farming even back in the 20's and 30's just blows my mind.  To see the equipment these folks brought out to the historical harvest day was truly amazing.  Essentially nothing has changed in the basic mechanics which are the same as are being used today.  One of the old timers I just love to chat with is George Spooner.  He's 80+ years old and still has a sharp mind and keen eyes.  Eric and I (yes my brother-in-law has the same first name as I do) generally start our harvest days by going to George's for coffee.  George has been living on the same patch of dirt most if not all of his life.  His home is modest but is lit up by his twinkling eyes and quick wit.  George loves telling me stories about harvests past.  Generally there was a crew of men numbering 8 to 16 depending on how many threshing machines they had in the field.  Teams of horses were used to pull anything needing pulling.  These men worked from sunup  till sundown.  Sometimes paid only .75c an acre.  That doesn't seem like much by today's standards but it was enough to support a family.  Now Eric and I do the work with just the two of us.  That's 14 men that had to find another line of work.  Over the years most did, becoming mechanics or moving to the city.  The tragedy today is that the jobs are being transferred offshore.   Both skilled and unskilled.  Who's transferring these jobs? The educated but unschooled.  They are only thinking of themselves and the big bonuses they get.  My wife used to work for an oil company where the CEO got over $20 million in pay and bonuses.  His bonuses were tied to the bottom line.  If they were having a slow quarter, through no fault of the staff, hundreds would get laid off to ensure the quarterly results looked good for the shareholders.  Bingo - bonus time. During our historical harvest day we had at least 40 men and women working.  Working together to get the job done.  At least 20 kids were running around playing in the haystack or riding the hay wagons.  We worked together and worked hard.  At the end of the day it was a combined accomplishment.  In this case the shovel was replaced by the pitch fork. Of course the "shovel" I refer to is a symbolic thing.  However it's a concept that can be applied across all fields of work whether blue, white or pink collar.  We need people who will pick up the shovel to dig ditches as much as we need people to design computers or perform surgery.  We also need people to feel a sense of community and understand that one is not any better than the other.  We are our brother's keeper, or at least we should be.  As taught by Paul in Romans - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  I am sure the same sentiment is expressed in all major faiths. The photography stuff - finally..... Recently I have gone over the tipping point with respect to digital photography.  Choking computers, large files, hard drive crashes, endless hours staring at a computer screen and file management have taken their toll on me.  For the next six months I am only going to shoot film for my personal stuff.  Clients insist on digital.  Well what they actually insist on is immediate access to finished, PhotoShopped files.  Their lack of planning is transferred to me as a looming deadline. The magic is gone.  That anticipation you had waiting for your C41 to be developed and proofed by the lab, gone.  That thrill of checking your black and white negs just as they came out of the wash, still dripping, gone.  Watching the print come alive in the developer, gone.  That special look of Tri-X, gone. I just had a power spike destroy 3 years worth of digital files.  Even my backup drives were toasted.  However negatives I shot in the 60's are still there just as good as they were back then.  The management of digital media is just too complex and time consuming.  It's a full time job.  One of the many "full time" jobs digital has created for me.  There is only one "me" but at least five full time jobs created by digital workflow.  I want my life back! The historical harvest day was a prime candidate for a film shoot.  I blew the dust off my trusty Nikon F5, bulk loaded up four rolls of Ilford XP2, took my Nikon D700 from the backpack and threw in the film stuff. I picked Ilford XP2 for two reasons.  The first being my darkroom is having some electrical challenges right now and secondly and more importantly I like the look of XP2 for people stuff.  I knew the sky was going to be blank and featureless which was another reason for choosing XP2.  With XP2 you get grain in the shadows not in the highlights like traditional silver based black and white films.  It's also wickedly sharp with a great tonal range.  Being C41 I can take it into my local drug store and get the negs developed and proofed within 1 hour. Generally when shooting in the environment I was in; bright sun, no clouds; I just take a meter reading off the northern sky and go with that.  God must like photographers because the northern sky is 18% grey.  For shadow shots I just open up 1.5 to 2 stops depending on how deep the shadow is.  No need for fancy matrix metering.  Another thing that I enjoyed was the limit on the number of photographs I could make that day.  Four times 36 equals 144.  That was it.  No changing cards, no chimping and deleting to make more room. What this did was bring me back into the mode I used to be in while doing PJ work.  Anticipate the action, be in the right place at the right time, get that one shot that summarizes the action.  I loved it!  No spray and pray!  The F5 would chew up the entire 36 exposure roll in a matter of seconds if I used that digi mentality.  This put me back in the "moment" again.  Getting the "shot" was more about skill and timing than just dumb luck and a big CF card. I used my old AI converted Nikkor 85mm f1.8 and Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lenses for 90 percent of the shoot.  The Tokina 16mm came out for some "drama" shots.  All lenses have shades on them and no filters were used.  I probably could have used a polarizer for some of them but what the heck I can burn down the sky in the darkroom.  I find so many people do not recognize the importance of using a properly designed sunshade for their lenses.  Why spend big bucks on a great lens and then kill it's colour and contrast by not using a sunshade?  It's like putting skinny retreads on a Ferrari. I always set my cameras to aperture priority if they have that feature unless the effects of subject speed become the priority.  Using depth of field (DOF) plus out of focus areas in the foreground or background is one of the creative tools missed by so many beginning photographers.  For this reason I do not use hyper focal distance techniques very much unless doing street photography. The following images are scans of the proofs obtained from the drug store.  When the snow is flying I plan on getting into my darkroom again.  Once that happens I will share some of my favorites from this shoot on my main website.  To see full size images click on the thumbnail.  This takes you to another page were again click on the image.  Kind of dumb but that's how this gallery system work.  Looking at installing a different one in the future.
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LensWork Magazine – 100 issues of greatness

by on Oct.03, 2012, under Darkroom, Film, Location, Photographers, Vision

In the pantheon of photographic publications I believe LensWork initially found its place as a niche magazine mainly aimed at an older demographic.  It probably identified with and found influence from Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and others that were part of the west coast photographic movement of the 1930's.  Over the years this has changed with LensWork showcasing very divergent photographic styles. What sets LensWork magazine apart from the other more mainstream photographic magazines are its exquisite black and white reproductions.  Many of the photographers featured have commented that the images in LensWork are the equal of those they could produce in their own darkrooms.  Each publication is like being given a miniature gallery print from artists you could never afford an original from.  Brooks Jensen, owner and editor, features lesser known artists along with familiar names such as Kenna, Barnbaum, Witherill and Shelby Adams.  Getting your images published in LensWork is a real boost to a struggling artist not to mention the honour. I have been a big fan of Brooks Jensen's LensWork Magazine since it's inception.  Even when times were tough I would always make sure I had enough scratch to buy the latest copy from my local book store.  Funny thing was this "local bookstore" was this sketchy shop that had a large number of what I guess is referred to as gentlemen's magazines at the back.  I hated going in there lest someone I knew saw me or even worse saw me coming out with a magazine in a plain brown bag.  I can honestly say it was worth the angst and I have not been disappointed with any edition.  Do I enjoy all contributions?  No but there are always some images, words of wisdom from Brooks or interviews to keep me turning pages.  "End Notes" by Bill Jay was always a favorite of mine but sadly he passed away several years ago. The past several years has seen LensWork recognize that the paper format may be coming to an end, either due to lack of demand or cost.  To Jensen's credit he has embraced digital publishing using Adobe Acrobat.  With the reduced cost of production Jensen has published what he calls LensWork Extended.  This is a digital version of the paper magazine in pdf format plus extra folios in both black and white and colour.  Additional video and audio clips are added in the form of in-depth interviews.  I receive both versions.  The reason I get both is because I find even with a high quality calibrated monitor I still do not enjoy the richness and luminosity the printed magazine gives me.  I want to see photographic images on paper.  I guess I'm old fashioned. A short time ago LensWork Magazine reached the 100 issue milestone.  I have to admit I have an entire shelf devoted to back issues.  Those I don't have a printed copy of I have on a CD.  When I am in a photographic funk I grab six or seven issues and sit down on the couch immersing myself in the rich creativity contained within.  It's not to learn new techniques because LensWork does not publish "how-to" articles.  That's one of its strong points in my opinion.  My revelry is merely to lose myself in the wonderful diverse creativity LensWork showcases.  It's like watching a great game of football to get psyched up before your own game.   Somehow gets my photographic endorphins going and beats artificial stimulants. Some of my favorite artists and a representation of their images follow.  As you can see, even with jpg compression, Brooks sets the bar high when reproducing photographers' images.  I feel it's just not a desire to satisfy his readers but a respect for the artists he is showcasing.  To see full size images click on the thumbnail.  This takes you to another page were again click on the image.  Kind of dumb but that's how this gallery system work.  Looking at installing a different one in the future. If you are serious about photography and have moved beyond the "gear" phase I strongly suggest you buy a subscription to LensWork in whatever format suits you.  You will not be disappointed.  The images will inspire you, the interviews entertain you and Brooks will challenge you with his always thought provoking articles.

Here is the link to LensWork:  http://www.lenswork.com/

Do not miss Brooks Jensen's personal work:  http://www.brooksjensenarts.com/

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