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Dual Landscape

Combining a passion for fine-art landscape photography with a thriving digital imaging business… Find out how VectorPoint/ScenicVisions continues to refine its printing processes, and the hard-earned printing lessons learned along the way.

Kirk Kennedy says that the ability to create larger versions of his landscape photography was necessary to accurately and vividly portray the panoramas he was shooting and printing.

The point of Kennedy’s fine-art photography ― much of it taken in and around his company’s headquarters near picturesque Monterrey, in Salinas, Calif. ― is to absorb the viewer into the scenery. But the increased ability and versatility of wide-format imaging brought its own set of challenges, namely getting the print to match the monitor, and vice-versa.

Low Tide at Sunset
Printed on Sunset Hot Press Rag at 36 in. x 76 in. using a LexJet profile, Kirk Kennedy’s photograph of a Pacific Grove Sunset is on display at a dental practice in Monterey, and has sold as a retail piece several times. When it’s printed on a cotton rag paper, Kennedy uses Transfer settings of 95:96 and 50:43 in Photoshop. In the Print dialog box, Kennedy chooses the appropriate printer profile for Sunset Hot Press Rag, which is available along with a number of other profiles at LexJet’s website. Then, under Output, Kennedy tweaks the Transfer Functions to maximize the fidelity of the print. © ScenicVisions

Kennedy and Carl Twisselman own the dual art and imaging businesses VectorPoint and ScenicVisions. VectorPoint specializes in wide-format reproduction, such as trade-show graphics and giclee printing for other photographers and artists. The ScenicVisions portion of the business prints the stunning landscape scenes shot by Kennedy for use in a variety of venues, like banks, offices, and hospitals.

Consistent Contrast

“When we first started about six years ago, the learning curve was hair-tearing,” says Kennedy, but the increasingly wider availability of profiles from media manufacturers has helped ease and refine his processes. It also took a lot of experimenting, particularly when working with rag-type papers.

Fireworks by ScenicVisions
Several businesses on the Monterey Peninsula display this outstanding fireworks scene that Kennedy photographed. It’s printed at 24 in. x 76 in. on Sunset Hot Press Rag using a LexJet profile and Transfer settings of 95:93 and 50:45. © ScenicVisions

Kennedy found that controlling the way ink spreads into this particular type of material was crucial to reaching the perfection he was seeking in the final printed piece. Though the dot gain in a cotton rag is imperceptible to the naked eye, and thus just microscopically more prevalent than in another type of coated photo paper, it will tend to manifest itself as a slightly duller appearance.

Kennedy is seeking printed perfection – or at least as close to perfection as possible – so he was determined to find a way to reach it with this type of material. Fortunately, he did, and agreed to reveal his revelation. It’s a method that can also be used to tweak printing on other materials.

Barn on Moffett Street
Barn on Moffett Street, Salinas, Calif., printed on Sunset Hot Press Rag at 20 in. x 30 in. using a LexJet profile and Transfer settings of 95:98 and 50:43. © ScenicVisions

He uses the Transfer function in Photoshop, found under Print Preview, to find the right balance. After choosing the correct paper profile, go to Print Preview, choose Output, and use the transfer curve to control the printer’s black ink.

Kennedy says he “pinches back the midtones very carefully” to reach the right ink balance, though he cautions that it may require any number of test prints to find the right spot in the curve.

“Because of dot gain, the image will muddy up, and the contrast diminishes. When you’re doing high-end artwork, this is very critical. But if you get that curve right, it’s pretty remarkable how you can sharpen the image. You can bump it up or back it out just a smidge, depending on what look you’re trying to achieve,” explains Kennedy. “I’ve switched to LexJet Sunset Hot Press Rag, so I’m using the LexJet paper profile and further tweaking it with the Transfer curve to dial in exactly what I want. It’s not so much color, as it is the density of the black. You can hit the colors with the profile, but it’s the shadowing and tonality of the image that’s most difficult. In the 95 box, I usually go between 93 and 98, and in the 50 box, between 42 and 45. That’s mainly for a cotton rag, but it also works pretty well on matte canvas.”

Other media Kennedy uses frequently, such as LexJet Instant Dry Satin Canvas, are more forgiving than rag papers, simply because contrast and tones are easier to match to the exacting tolerances required for his photographs.

Garrapata Rock
This is the first public viewing of an image Kirk Kennedy shot of Garrapata Rock at Big Sur that’s currently on display in his gallery. The image size is 20 in. x 30 in., printed on Sunset Hot Press Rag using a LexJet profile and Transfer settings of 95:95 and 50:45. © ScenicVisions

Even more forgiving, says Kennedy, are the display graphics the VectorPoint side of the business prints for trade shows and other advertising-oriented venues. Even so, whether fine-art print or trade-show graphics, on-screen flaws are certain to magnify to unforgivable levels once printed.

“What you get with a larger print is drama. But every little flaw in that image will begin to show. A spectral highlight that’s imperceptible at 16 in. x 20 in. can become a distracting spot on a larger image. Say you’ve manipulated the image, and you’ve been too aggressive bringing up the highs, you can have blown-out spots in the image that are not that visible at 16 x 20, but can ruin the image at 43 x 80. You have to know that going in, and be very careful as you manipulate an image in Photoshop. It’s amazing how much stuff will jump out when it’s printed large that you don’t see on-screen,” says Kennedy.

Paraiso Vineyard
Kennedy’s photograph of the Paraiso Vineyard in the hills above Soledad, Calif., will soon be displayed in the vineyard’s tasting room at 68 in. x 42 in. The image is printed on Premium Luster Photo Paper using an Atkinson Profile available on Epson’s website. © ScenicVisions

Kennedy adds that you can make it easier on yourself when you super-size images by printing at 100 ppi, instead of 300 ppi. Reducing the pixel density reduces the computer’s brain strain, freeing up memory and computing power. Instead of, “Danger Will Robinson. My arms are flailing wildly,” you’re more likely to have an even-keeled hard drive, which becomes more important as image size and fidelity increases.

“We created a 40 in. x 60 in. photo of Yosemite Valley printed at 100 ppi. You can get six inches away from it and it looks sensational. I have not found a case where I need to go higher than 100-180 ppi when printing more than 20 in. x 30 in.,” says Kennedy.

Learn more about VectorPoint/ScenicVisions at www.vectorpoint.ws. For help with technical issues, color management, and finding the right product combination for your work, a LexJet personal account specialist is available.

Carmel Mission Bougainvillea This stunning shot illustrates the need for perfect printing tonality. In this case, the 22 in. x 28 in. image is printed on Sunset Hot Press Rag using a LexJet profile and Transfer settings of 95:94 and 50:42. The image has been repeatedly sold at retail. © ScenicVisions
Volume 1  -  No. 7


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