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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Embrace Change


Sometimes it takes staying home to leave your comfort zone

I shot with my D90 or D300S, and a variety of zoom and prime Nikkors.

For me, walking a few blocks to “work,” grabbing a coffee and opening up “the studio” was a blessed change from lugging bags of gear in and out of airports and hotels...hmm, could I get used to this?

Once the sessions were over, the editing and file preparation began.

I shot in RAW and used ACR to make the best color output I could. But in keeping with the Penn theme, all but two of these shots would be in black-and-white. I’m an okay printer, but we were talking about 60 prints ranging from 20x30 inches to 30x45 inches. In an ideal world (i.e., one with a bigger budget), what I would ordinarily do for an exhibit print is give the RAW files to a master printer at my lab (West Coast Imaging) and let him work his magic on rich fiber paper.

But I was on a shoestring budget, and I decided to use WCI’s consumer branch, Aspen Creek Photo, to do the prints to save money. The only hitch was that now I had to make the files, because in order to get the discounted prices, the files had to be ready to print.

Now it’s no secret to regular readers of this column that I’m no Photoshop expert. I’m a skilled field operative, an old slide shooter who does as much of the work as possible at the time of capture to minimize anything I have to do at the computer. But in this case, I had no choice. I had to make my own conversions.

There are a million and one ways to convert to black-and-white in Photoshop. Everybody has their favorite recipe. But I needed something that was easy, reliable, repeatable and able to make gorgeous conversions. That’s where Nik Silver Efex Pro came in. This plug-in is a godsend for making black-and-white conversions, and it did the trick for me.

I uploaded the files and had test 8x10s made by Aspen Creek. Most of them were right on the money (it’s good to work in a color-calibrated environment, even in black-and-white!), and the few that weren’t were easy fixes. The big prints, flush-mounted on FomCor, looked great. The show was a smash hit, with the opening garnering a larger attendance than any exhibit the Arts Center had previously run. It was a big buzz in town, and folks are still talking about it.

Does this mean I’m hanging up my frequent flier card and hanging out my portrait shingle? Not on your life. There’s still a lot of world to see. But the energy and creativity that the project generated in me is something you can’t put a price on, and something I can take into my work in the field. Yes, there’s nothing like a little change to keep the juices flowing!

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the “Teach and Talk” heading.

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