The Fine Art
There is a farm in North Carolina that caught Tom Fuldner's eyes as he drove to work many years ago. It is a 40-acre farm that was used to grow tobacco and raise cows, and at one time it flourished. Now, the tobacco and cows are gone and all that remains are the structures—which include a row of white buildings used for storage. This is exactly what appealed to the landscape photographer.
Landscape photography comes at a price, however. Fuldner explains that some mornings are a total bust, waiting for the red sun to rise over the hills only to find that the colors do not meet his critical eye. In this respect, he says, "It's been a real wakeup call for me, appreciating waiting for or recognizing that there's no point in waiting for a lighting change to occur."
Additionally, producing prints to show at galleries around Raleigh, North Carolina involves more than a great shot of the sun rising—it requires an effective color management workflow.
Fuldner uses the MonacoSENSOR colorimeter to calibrate his monitor. He places the colorimeter on his screen and within seconds the three-color instrument is reading light reflected from the screen, relating to a mathematical model of human vision. He didn't realize the benefit of the device until he compared his perception of the colors on the screen with those that the objective, accurate colorimeter revealed. After he calibrates his monitor, Fuldner creates a monitor profile with MonacoEZcolor 2, which will allow him to see how an image is going to look when printed. He also characterizes his Epson 2000P printer. Calibrating and profiling his monitor is done fairly frequently, as monitors often shift over time. Fuldner must profile his printer only when he changes the type of ink or medial he uses.
Fuldner prefers to shoot and scan transparencies—as opposed to scanning developed prints—because he believes they provide the most accurate results, including a stronger color. They also require more discipline, he believes, as there is less room for error than scanning prints. He uses two scanners, an Epson 1680, which was his first scanner for transparencies. His second scanner is a Nikon 4000LS for 35mm transparencies. Once the images are scanned, Fuldner moves them to Photoshop for editing.
For example, he may make adjustments to the saturation, tone, and sharpness of an image, or utilize masks, layers and curves. When he is happy with his corrections, he brings the image into the monitor profile for viewing a soft proof. The monitor and printer have been profiled and are in synch, so Fuldner is confident that he will achieve accurate color matching between the two devices.
"I knew the (Epson) 2000P would have to be the printer because I wanted to print photos that would last longer than a few years," he says. The Epson prints well to archival media, where as the printer he originally started with, the Epson 1200, was made more for short-lived photos. Fuldner spares no expenses when constructing the final product. In addition to using archival ink, he mounts his images on 100 percent cotton rag mounting board. He does his own framing and uses resistant material instead of glass.
When Fuldner started using color management, he "wondered if he'd bitten off more than he could chew." And, in fact, his success with the technology wasn't great—he had better success without it, he admitted. But as the software improved and he learned more about the workflow process, he came to the realization that he couldn't afford to not use color management.
Color management saves him both money and time because without the technology it's "hit or miss" when reproducing photographs. He is quick to talk about times when he has to bring his work to a service bureau, times when the image requires a print larger than 19 x 13 inches. With color management software, he has the option to take his output profile to a service bureau, provide them with the exact color gamut, and be certain that what he saw on his monitor is what the service bureau will print. "If I'm going to spend thirty to one hundred dollars on a photo, I need to know that what I'm seeing on my monitor is what the service bureau is going to print for me," he reasons.
At home, he knows that his soft proofs will yield accurate prints from his Epson 2000P. Photoshop is not enough, he claims. "You need the monitor profile to show you exactly what you're printing." There are subtleties that soft proofs pick up, subtleties that may make Fuldner make minor adjustments to color or lightness or both. With the cost of archival paper being between two and three dollars each, he can't afford to take the risk of printing sheet after sheet. Fuldner also went through many ink cartridges before he successfully implemented color management into his workflow.
Printing a 19x13-inch image on his Epson 2000P can take as long as 30 minutes because Fuldner prints his images at a very high resolution. This means that printing two sheets to get it right takes more than an hour. "You want to make every minute count," he says. "Any time you can save time and money makes you feel a lot better about what you've achieved. You feel like you have mastered the digital process." Combined with the time and money saved, Fuldner feels that the money he has spent on color management has been well spent.