Contact Sheet Poster: An Alternative to Vacation Photo Prints

japanPosterWall A few years ago, my partner and I went to Japan for a couple of weeks. I shot about 20 rolls of film on my Hasselblad 501cm over the course of the trip which meant I came home with about 250 images. Not a lot for most photographers over days, but in my opinion, just enough.

When I got back I scanned and printed the best of the images and had a little show at a cafe near my house. Most of those prints have been given away to family and friends (my sister for one has a number of them including a shot of fish heads from Tsukiji market in her office at the Smithsonian) but I had been meaning to do something different for a while now. I wanted to create a contact sheet of all of the pictures, have it printed as a poster, and then stick it on the wall for people to peruse when they come to visit.

Today my 30x48" print arrived from El-Co Color (Love those guys) and it's on the wall. Pretty neat in my opinion and definitely something different from the handful of small or medium size prints most people would create. Next I've got to try it with my Italy pictures.


Red River Paper - San Gabriel Semigloss Fiber Review

If you read this site or listen to the On Taking Pictures podcast, you'll know that I'm a big proponent of printing your photographs. I try to print out a master set of prints for each of my projects.  It is expensive to do this and you need some storage space, but it is worth it. There's something about viewing an image as a physical object which is entirely differentfrom seeing it backlit on a screen. For one, your perception of the print differs just by looking at it without all the light noise of your monitor (or iphone or ipad).  Not to mention that the print will still be there when your power goes out for a week during a hurricane (as long as your house didn't flood). You may also remember that I'm a big fan of Red River Paper. I've been using their paper for years now, long before we had them as a friend of the show. In fact, the only paper on my shelf is from their shop. They make excellent products at great prices. Recently, they released a new paper called San Gabriel Semigloss Fiber. Just from the name I knew it would be interesting, because fiber papers were always under the purview of the darkroom. Traditional fiber paper is an old technology. Basically, a heavy paper with a natural mineral coating (as opposed to a plastic one), though it tends to be little harder to work with. It's more fragile and picks up dirt easily. It also tends to curl like the dickens when wet. However, it is very archival. High-end darkroom prints, especially black and white, are typically made on fiber-based papers. I typically use more heavily-coated luster papers because I like the saturation of colors and the depth of the blacks that normal matte papers can't match, but those coated papers don't 'feel' like a traditional darkroom print.

So when I saw that RR announced this San Gabriel stuff, I wrote our friend Drew and asked him to send me a small box to try out. He kindly agreed, and after much anticipation, my paper finally arrived in storm-tossed NYC a couple of days ago.

It's a thick and somewhat heavy paper, acid-free with no optical brighteners and coated with bartya; just like the old school papers were. It  basically looks like a dark room paper without the photosensitive coating, which is just delightful.

Since I'm most interested in using the paper for B&W printing, I pulled out a photograph I took a couple of years ago of the ancient bristle cone pines in the Methuselah Grove (Inyo National Forest, CA).

It's a scraggly bit of tree in a pile of the rocky stuff they call soil out there. Huge tonal range and perfect for testing purposes. Printed on a sheet of 11x14 from my Epson R3000 printer with no profile (Printer Managed Colors) and the results were amazing.  This is the B&W paper I've been searching for. Looks just like prints I've made in a traditional darkroom.

Here's a straight macro shot of the printed surface so you can how the ink falls on it. I will say that you can see none of the dots and mottling with your naked eye.

And here's an edge on macro shot to show the texture of the paper. I'm focused on the tip of the corner of the image.

Finally, a backlit shot to show reflectivity. As you can see it has a little glare, but that's because it's coated and not a raw paper. I will say that in person the quality of  reflection is really nice and organic if that makes any sense at all. Sort of a waxy sheen.

I'm going to do some more tests, but so far this looks to be my new fine art paper of choice. Well done guys. Be sure to go over to and get a sample pack or a box to try out. Use the coupon code OTP and you'll get 10% off your order.


Everett and Ralph on Provia

During two of my One Shot sessions last week I also took a frame of Fuji Provia slide film. I don't shoot regular film in the 4x5 very much because it involves going into Chelsea to get processed and then picked up and the scanned, etc. But I wanted to remind myself of the quality.  The answer is that the quality is stunning, if your technique is perfect. Also below is a little phone snapshot of a 13x19" print of Everett (Looks dark in the picture, but it's just because my desk is not well lit). And I can tell you that the results look pretty amazing. That much better than if I had taken the shot with my 5D3?  I'm not sure. Maybe I'll do a little test at some point.