I have just had the value of making prints brought home to me in a vivid fashion.
While I never completely lost interest in prints, I had become quite distracted by the web experience and had formed the habit of rushing from one photo outing to the next and skipping the printing step. There are, after all, only so many walls to fill; and paper, as well as ink, are expensive. In my situation—months of preparing to move, moving, and not being certain now whether we will be able to stay in this house—putting holes in walls to display prints and creating more things that may have to be packed and moved again didn’t seem like a smart plan.
Besides, there is plenty to be learned from viewing images only on a monitor. What I see on my screen is a harsh enough reminder that I continue to struggle mightily with all the technical elements of photography. Lately, I have been most frustrated over my weaknesses in composition. Furthermore, while I am getting far more consistent in the exposure department with fewer and fewer outright losers, I haven’t begun to master exposures that fully capture what I felt when I saw the image in my mind. Even though I am improving in my ability to control depth of field, I continue to come up short of my goals. I experiment more frequently now with point of view, but I haven’t come close to pushing boundaries.
On a regular basis, I ask myself how is it that I can feel so passionate about what I am doing, yet that passion is not fully translated into the images I make? How long will I face this the great chasm between my intent and the execution. When Paul Butzi wrote recently that he considers himself "a Photographer of Very Little Ability", I was floored. “Holy cow,” I thought. "If Paul Butzi has ‘very little ability’, where the heck does that put me!?”
To complicate matters, I added a bright, shiny, new monitor. Next, I added the Eye One Display 2 to my list of technological challenges. Having calibrated my previous monitors using the by-eye method, and being of almost zero ability when it comes to learning new software, I was destined for trouble from the beginning. Sure the software offers an “Easy Method”, but that would have been admitting defeat, wouldn’t it? Yes, I know that the intelligent thing to have done would have been to live with my limitations and opt for the easy path. No, not my style.
I dug into the “Advanced Method”, whimpered for help from The Husband and Paul Lester when I was completely stuck and plugged away at it. The Husband was there for me and helped even though he knows nothing about color management; Paul generously shared the benefit of his experience and both of them made a difference. To put my limitations with software into perspective, let’s just say that I could swear that divine intervention powered me through the experience of learning Photoshop. Since, I often compensate for lack of talent and smarts with determination—that’s old-fashioned stubbornness, if we are being blunt—my health and sanity were spared with a few key breakthroughs and I now enjoy using Adobe’s mind-bending program. So far, no such intervention with Eye One Display. I’m still not satisfied with my calibration. A couple of days ago, I was so discouraged that I began thinking I had probably never had anything vaguely resembling decent calibration and that meant that I couldn’t possibly ever have produced any decent photographs. Everything I had ever done was garbage and a person with so little intelligence should never, ever tackle color management. (A dental appointment and the beginnings of a cold didn’t help my frame of mind.) I was ready to raise the white flag.
But, that’s where prints come into the story. Before beginning one last ditch effort calibrating the new gorgeous, but virtually useless monitor, I searched for the calibration prints I had ordered from Smugmug—they had proven invaluable in my previous by-eye calibration. Early in the search, I ran across a few envelopes of prints made over the last couple of years. Some of those prints had hung on the walls and when I ran out of walls, some had been stuck on the insides of cabinet doors in our old house. The prints all around me inspired me, challenged me, and helped to keep me on track. Looking at my failures was just as important as viewing the successes. (The stinker were inside cabinets that no one else looked in—my ugly little secrets.) Next, I opened some of the framed prints that had hung on the walls in our old house, but have languished in boxes waiting for a certainty that these walls will be ours. Too many of the prints reminded me of how much I still have to learn, but there were a few that succeeded in capturing moments of consequence to me and some reminded me that others had been happy to purchase copies of those prints. Furthermore, the prints showed that, although it might once again have taken divine intervention, I had managed to get some of my impressions on paper.
Since that day of discovery, I have shot with enthusiasm and a confidence that eventually, I will get close to calibrating this monitor and once again making prints that please me. If only momentarily. I was reenergized. By the way, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I require reenergizing about two or three times per month. It’s a herky-jerky journey, but I can only move at my own pace.