HUGE Photo-Poster and Flywheel Sports

Brooklyn Bridge, Nightscape #1. New York City, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge, Nightscape #1. New York City, 2015


I am very excited that I just licensed one of my images (above) to Flywheel Sports of New York City and, rather than on a typical website page, they used it in a most unusual way.

First, who is Flywheel Sports, you ask? Lets get that out of the way first.

Well, they are an up-and-coming sports-exercise company with a unique take on the more traditional stationary cycling classes you have probably already sweated, groaned, and screamed your way through. Flywheel has group cycling classes on high performance bikes that track exactly how hard you are working on a big “TorqBoard” for all to see (or not–your, and the instructor’s, prerogative). Looking at the numbers thus displayed, you can compete just with yourself, adjust your workout to your personal specific fitness goals, or you can compete against others. Groups can even compete against other groups…one Flywheel class versus another class…friends v. friends…enemies v. enemies. Upper body exercises can also be woven into the session. The competitive and motivational possibilities are limitless. And all of this accompanied by a super high-energy, pulsing, pounding musical sound track and top-notch super-fit instructors to keep you focused and majorly motivated.

For more on this…Slate Magazine did a nice report a few years ago on what this latest craze is all about and you can read it here: Flywheel: SoulCycling for the Truly Sadistic, April 10, 2013.

And here is a very recent (yesterday!) article/press release about their expansion plans: Flywheel Sports Announces Plan to Extend Studio Cycling Experience Into the Home, May 17, 2017.

It all sounds like a seriously fun and strenuous challenge (“Sounds dangerous. Count me in.” –Alan Shepard, in Top Gun). And since it may be coming to Denver soon, I just might get a chance to give it a whirl, so to speak.

Now, to the commercial use of the above abstract image of the Brooklyn Bridge…

They took my full file from the D800, which measures 7360 x 4912 pixels at 300 ppi (that’s a 24″ x 16″ print at 300dpi), and they blew it up…and  up…and up… and UP! They eventually stretched it into what looks like a 10-foot by 30-foot giant wall poster. Pretty impressive! Kudos to their art folks for recognizing the possibilities here–it’s all about depicting motion, movement, energy, and so on.

Of course, the fact that it was an abstract image gives the printer a lot of leeway when it comes to going BIG. A tack-sharp landscape might not look quite as good at this size (although up on a highway billboard, with a viewing distance measured in the hundreds of feet, it just might).

Here are a couple of snaps of the finished product, as it now appears in the new Flywheel building in Brooklyn:

Flywheel, #1. NY, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)
Flywheel, #1. Brooklyn, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)


Flywheel, #2. NY, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)
Flywheel, #2. Brooklyn, NY, 2017 (Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports)

Tone Issues with Black & White Photographs

As I continue to print my monochrome images on the wonderful Epson 3880 printer using Exhibition Fiber paper, I am finding that I have needed to make a very slight toning adjustment to get them to come out according to my vision.

What prompted this change was seeing one of my photographs hanging on a wall alongside several other monochrome prints at the Louisville show this past summer. It was quite easy to see which images were truly black and white and which had a slight blue or brown tint to them. Mine was one of the “brown” ones.

Now, you may want to tint your pictures for a certain effect, mood, or personal style (say, sepia, for instance), but I was looking for something fairly neutral with good, deep blacks. My photograph, when set in contrast with the others, just didn’t have it. This is something that can’t really be seen when looking at an image in isolation (yes, even with a calibrated monitor) as the eye tends to adjust, but it is obvious in comparison. (Another way of checking for this would be to examine the info numbers in your red, green and blue channels. More on this sometime in the future.)

So what was my toning adjustment? (For the moment, we’ll set aside the effect a different paper might have on the image.) Using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, I added just a tad bit of selenium toning, starting with their number 4 option on their Toning pull-down menu. The difference was very subtle, but very noticeable, when doing a side-by-side comparison.

Image display: Printing versus the web

There is a huge difference between the two forms of presentation–web display and a large print on a wall.

You can get away with a lot if all you do is post 72ppi images to Facebook, SnivelPics, or whatever is the latest social site. When you start printing, though, you’ll find that the physical thing that is a real photograph can look spectacular–and some images simply print better than others. A 13×19 print at 360 dpi will quickly reveal the weaknesses in your capture and post-processing techniques. I now have a special folder for finished, full-sized TIFFs of my best images that also print well.

I also need to emphasize that a computer monitor image simply does not compare to the tactile experience of holding in your white-gloved paws a fresh, 13×19 (or larger!) monochrome print on Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. The very tangible weight of the paper…the richness of the tones…the smell of the paper itself… It is all a much more fulfilling experience than staring at a small, quivering, backlit picture on an old, bread crumb-covered Dell laptop.

Here is an image from 2011 that I liked but just couldn’t get to print very well. Finally, I changed my vision a bit and turned it into a complete silhouette. I like this variation–and it prints a lot better than my original attempt. Can you find the third pigeon?

Wings. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2011
Wings. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2011

The Workflow

Geometry. Denver, Colorado, 2013
Geometry. Denver, Colorado, 2013

It’s all starting to come together. Here is the flow:

D800 image capture – Lightroom – Photoshop (with Nik Plugins) – NEC monitor/Epson 3880 to print – Seal 210 press for dry mount – final matting – clear archival bag

This fits my style. Each of those steps, of course, has its own individual learning curve. Mastering them all will be a never-ending journey.

[UPDATE: Yes, it’s a journey, and things change along the way. For example, nix on the dry mounting as stated above. See my blog entry on Matting and Mounting, dated October 4, 2013.]

The Print

Pony Island. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2013
Pony Island. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2013

These days, probably 99% of the photographs made in this world are destined for:

1) the memory card in the camera in which they were taken, never to see the light of day, or

2) a brief 30-second display on the LCD of the camera or phone involved as folks all lean their craniums together to see, or

3) an attachment on an e-mail to friend or friends, or

4) a quick upload with inane comment (I’m guilty, too!) to Flickr or Facebook, or

5) display on a personal website, or…

…or, whatever other digital media display environment you might imagine.

Chances are, though, very few end up as physical prints that you can actually pick up in your hands (white gloves, please!) and admire at close range. To me, though, it is the print that really has me fascinated. To see an actual print, up close…to touch it, to note the heaviness, texture, and quality of the paper…the fineness of the colors and tones…well, that, to me is what photography is all about. The computer screen is nice, and it can even be pretty, but it just doesn’t quite do it. (As an added bonus, note that prints will even survive power outages!)

Ansel Adams famously said that “the print is the performance.” I and many others would agree with that. He even published a famous trilogy of books of which the third is called The Print–a tome with principles still relevant today even though some of the chemical and darkroom-related techniques may have moved into the digital darkroom.

A friend pointed me to a John Paul Caponigro essay on this topic–the print–and it is worth reading if you are interested in What Printing Can Do For You. [NOTE, as of October, 2016: This article may no longer be available online. Try Googling, though, just in case it might have made a reappearance.]

Yes, when you decide to present your work as finished prints, a whole host of decisions need to be made–paper (weight, color, luminescence, texture, thickness, etc.), size, matting, mounting, framing, hanging, lighting, expected viewing distance, and so on. What you choose at each turn of the road will eventually define your vision and style.

What camera made this image? (MP vs image size)

Ice and Fog #1. Joder Arabian Ranch, 2011
Ice and Fog #1. Joder Arabian Ranch, 2011 (Canon S95)

Why, it was just a little 10mp Canon point-and-shoot I can carry in my shirt pocket! My point? No need for a fancy multi-gagillion megapixel camera if all you are going to do is post to the web–even your iPhone can handle that kind of resolution.

The megapixel vs image size equation can be complex (“It all depends…”), but here is a very general, quick and dirty guide to get you in the mall parking lot…er, uh, ballpark:

2MP on up – Great for the web

10-12MP – You should be able to get great 8x10s and pretty good 13x19s

16MP – Great up to 11x14s and excellent to 13×19

21MP – No problem with 13x19s and excellent 16x20s

36MPs – Hey, you have one of these cameras and you have to ask…???

There are some assumptions here…This assumes 300dpi prints, a well-exposed capture, appropriately sharp but no oversharpening, minimal cropping, an appropriate photo paper, and some sort of normal viewing distance. Since this topic has been rehashed so many times, I’ll refer you to this older, but still quite relevant article by Thom Hogan here. He goes into those fine details that might interest you.

Oh, and I also post this image because the forecast says that sometime tomorrow the Ranch will look a lot like this–or, with luck, with an even more impressive white blanket–rather than the drab brown it has been all fall. Finally!

So I leave you with the most oft-repeated farmer/rancher phrase these days: “Dad nabbit, Jim Bob, we need some moss-chur in them thar fields!”

Nov 2012 CNCC Meeting: Lessons Learned (Chris Brown)

Grand Old Cottonwood Tree. Denver, Colorado, 2012
Grand Old Cottonwood Tree. Denver, Colorado, 2012

This past week (on Thursday) was the monthly Colorado Nature Camera Club (CNCC) meeting. It’s a small, laid back and friendly group, and I always walk away with a few lessons learned–which I’ll pass on.

The format of the meeting is this…During the first few minutes, a member will give a very brief presentation about a particular animal, insect, place or theme (nature related, of course). Then, for the rest of that first hour we have a guest speaker, usually a photographer of some note from the local area. During the second hour, members present their images (either projected or in print form) and the guest speaker turns into the judge, giving a critique of each image along with a score.

The guest speaker for this meeting was Chris Brown, an accomplished nature photographer from Boulder. Chris has created images all over the West and has many, many years of experience hiking and river running in the Grand Canyon. You can check out his wonderful portfolio and extensive credentials at his web site here.

Chris, in his presentation and later during the critique session, had many interesting things to say, but there were four that stood out as great advice and/or reaffirmations of ideas that have been stewing in my mind for some time. To wit: Click here to read what they are!