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Ranch Hand: Custom Leather-Bound Book Printed on Hot Press Rag

Todd Winslow Pierce and local printing partner, Photo Effects, build a leather-bound custom book for one of Colorado's final frontiers.

Located on 10,000 acres of pristine sage land surrounded by snow-capped peaks on Colorado's Western Slope, Castle Peak Ranch represents one of the state's few remaining reserves of undeveloped private land. The owner, who purchased the parcel about five years ago, decided that the ranch would be dedicated to preserving the pristine nature of its vistas, effectively protecting the fauna and flora that call the ranch home.

Todd Winslow Pierce

The owner called on Todd Winslow Pierce, a photographer based in Vail, Colo., to document the topography and ecology of the ranch and provide artwork from the photographic study to adorn the walls of his home and office.

The project would instead lead to the production of 25 extremely high-end leather-bound books printed on a custom lightweight version of Sunset Hot Press Rag.

As Pierce explored the land, he became convinced that the land deserved the intensive scrutiny and documentation that only a book could convey.

"It wasn't until my third visit that I began to see the possibilities. It's the kind of place that doesn't strike a chord immediately, but reveals itself over time. I went back in the winter, which revealed an entirely new character to the location. The spring time, summer and fall were also very distinct," explains Pierce. "I realized there was a lot of depth and I had already captured over a hundred images. I sat down and talked with the owner about it, and we decided to do something much larger and create a book that would celebrate the natural heritage of the land."

Production on the book began last summer with a goal of creating enough books to give to the ranch owner's family and friends as Christmas presents. The total run would be 25 books, which was obviously far too few to be practical for a printing press.

Todd Winslow Pierce

The book project would require something far beyond the ordinary photo album, so Pierce enlisted the help of a trusted and quality printer, Brent Bingham of Photo Effects in Vail, and the Denver Bookbinding Company.

“If it wasn’t for Brent’s extensive experience and expertise, the book would not have been nearly as successful. The time and effort he put in with setup, calibration, and overseeing the printing was significant,” says Pierce. “The project was under his roof for over four months. The printer ran for a total of about 70 hours, spread out over four to five weeks.”

The first step was to set up an efficient, economical workflow that would also ensure top-notch quality. Pierce purchased an Epson 3800 since the printer could run the 11x17 sheets of Hot Press Rag unattended.

Todd Winslow Pierce

"We couldn't possibly dream of trimming 3,000 sheets of paper from a roll, so going with sheets was the only way. My first thought was to use a double-sided paper, but after testing samples from different suppliers I found they were too thick for the book, plus the single-sided sheets would work better with the way the book would be viewed, contributing to the overall impact of the project. It was a great relief to decide on using single-sided paper. It slows the viewer down, plus we wouldn't have to worry about which photographs would go with others on each side, alignment issues, or running the paper through twice," recalls Pierce.

Pierce divided the photography into four seasons, each separated by a cover page. He laid out each page individually in Photoshop with the image on one layer and the copy on another. Then, he created a flat version of each page and brought all of the electronic pages to Photo Effects on a memory stick.

Denver Bookbinding Company

The files were sent to the printer in reverse order so the last page printed first. This allowed them to simply stack the pages, wrap them up, and drive them down to Denver for binding. Pierce says an important step was printing and binding a test book first to find any potential pitfalls in the process before they went into full production on the 25 books.

"Once we had a test book you could see how the whole thing came together, scrutinize every detail, and make sure we had everything figured out. It was certainly worth the time, effort, and money," says Pierce. "The Denver Bookbinding Company was instrumental in providing the experience and knowledge to put this together, and it's always great to work with people like Cody [Pierce's LexJet account specialist Cody Scherer] who understand what you're trying to do and can help with the process."

Volume 3  -  No. 3

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Artist Spotlight
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