2016 11 - A Passion for Printing

06th November 2016
Retford & District Photographic Society - Press Release - Joy Allison
29th September 2016
Images by Derek Doar

A Passion for Printing

Retford welcomed Derek Doar from Nottingham and Notts Camera Club to share his Passion for Printing. This was an all print talk - and what prints! In addition to a comprehensive selection illustrating his points, Derek had a beautiful set of A2 prints for us to look at - something we rarely see.

Derek shared with us not just prints he had taken, but something of the story behind them and the techniques used to achieve the results. His first comments related to how to get good blacks when printing digitally. This is notoriously tricky and often black comes out as dark grey or has a colour cast. This was certainly not the case with the photos we saw.

A feature of Derek's images was a narrow white border between the edge of the printed area and the mount board. He explained that this served two purposes. Firstly it benefits the overall presentation, but, and perhaps more importantly, it defines the edge of the printed area. The first set of images was largely black and white and featured snowy landscapes. It is easy for a judge to look at a very pale area and dismiss it as burned out. The white border shows that there is in fact colour and detail in these pale areas. Furthermore, because you can see the grey tone in the snow, it makes it possible to brighten the image quite considerably while still differentiating between the white border and the palest image elements.

In earlier images Derek had used a very fine back like to define the edge of his images, but the white border serves the same purpose and he no longer uses the line.

A feature of the presentation was that Derek showed sets of images to illustrate a point rather than single images. As he moved to coloured images, he showed a shot of tree trunks taken specifically to show the range of colours which occurs naturally. He then went on to show how moving the camera while taking images of such a subject could produce interesting abstract effects.

The majority of Derek's images were on art paper, which has a matte, slightly textured finish. He explained that this type of paper suits pastel images but is less effective with higher contrast images and those with a lot of darker shades. These are better suited to a semi-gloss effect. By showing the same image on both types of paper Derek enabled us to see for ourselves which we preferred and to see the difference the paper makes.

We heard about some more advanced processing techniques which could be applied to enhance detail in images and to ensure the print quality and effects are maximised. Derek has a helpful web site where we were directed for specific instructions.

Derek went into considerable detail describing the techniques he has developed for creating a punchy black and white image from a colour shot. He discussed the tonal range he was aiming for and showed the stages he might go through changing the colours of the original radically to produce a tone of grey which enhanced his monochrome image. We learned that in such cases it is important to decide if the sky is a main feature of the image, as it can tend to take over if it is not managed. It was certainly bizarre to view the colour image which eventually produced the best shades of grey.

In describing techniques to enhance an image, Derek discussed the tools and software which have become available since digital printing began and he showed one image which had had its final tweaks some fifteen years after it was taken when a new digital tool was introduced. He now feels able to achieve results as good or better than those he used to get working with many years of darkroom experience.

We saw some images taken on the Farne Islands, where we have been as a group for two years and coincidentally they were followed with a set from Bass Rock, where we plan to go in 2017. Derek also showed images taken in Skye and Harris as well as others closer to homes including Wollaton House, Holme Pierrepont and Derbyshire.

Infra-red is a technique which is occasionally mentioned, but Derek devoted some time to showing what could be achieved and the effects this technique produces. As it is effectively a temperature map of the scene, an infra-red image looks different to a conventional image. Mid-day scenes with the sun overhead render grass burned out while side lighting is ideal giving 'shadows' in the areas shielded from the sun. To work with infra-red images it is necessary to either use a specific filter, or more simply, to have a camera converted to capture the rays emitted by the subject. We learned that one advantage is that the best lenses have coatings which allow the rays to be reflected internally leading to focussing issues, while cheap lenses lack the coating and perform excellently for infra-red work.

Derek concluded with some beautiful shots taken on the sea shore. Again he drew attention to the colours which appear naturally. Daylight shots of rough seas showed greens and blues while towards sunset different effects and colours become evident as the tide comes in. The finale of a fascinating talk was a series of sunset skies showing the difference between the depth of colour picked up by the camera and the greater tonal range discerned by the eye when the image is manipulated to compensate for the shortcomings of the technology.