It felt like cheating…

It really did.

I felt as if I were cheating when I took those pictures. How could I be doing this? It wasn’t right. No. It couldn’t be. But I had a hard time arguing with the results.

Sure… there were some of the usual issues. The falling snow interfering with the auto-focus system. The lack of sunshine meaning slower shutter speeds for lower ISOs (thank the Maker for Image Stabilization). But this was different. No freezing fingers, but having to look for cleaner spots through which to shoot.

Still….. the results….

See…. about two and a half weeks ago I ventured out to Aullwood Audubon Center & Farm to take advantage of the rarely sighted sun and do some bird photography. It was, to the say the least, a poor excursion. Not so many birds, but worse, the vantage points from which to shoot around the building almost always lead to the building figuring prominently in the background. Not quite ideal. Not by a long shot.

Dejected I returned home, but found myself back at Aullwood about two-weeks ago to discuss a matter with the front desk. While there I visited one of the bird watching rooms (a nice room with books and comfy chairs looking out through a large glass window upon some of the feeders) and noticed there were tonnes of birds present. Tonnes. That’s a lot of birds. But it was snowing and I remembered the poor background issue from my adventure the week before, but suddenly it struck me.

“I can shoot from inside. Through the window!” And so it was I rushed back home and back to Aullwood in the rapidly falling snow. But as soon as I arrived back at the room I realized how this entire idea felt like cheating. Cheating because I wasn’t outdoors in the snow and cold. Cheating because I wasn’t carefully stalking my prey. Cheating because I’d be snug and warm.

Again though…. I cannot argue with the results.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and bunnies. While the glass window had very recently been cleaned it doesn’t take long for it to get a bit messy, which meant being careful as to where I shot through. And I’m fairly certain the addition of this layer of glass between me and my subjects matter only softened the focus of many of the images.

Yet here I am with about 20 or so real keepers of cardinals, finches, & woodpeckers. It was one of the very few outings where I came home and had a devil of a time selecting the very best as so many were that good. And while it still feels like I cheated I’m not going to argue with the results. Maybe in this instance the ends did justify the means.

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I Don’t Like Printing…

I really don’t. I’ve had nothing but trouble printing most anything larger than a 6×4-inch print. And 6×4-inch prints are made much easier for me because I have a dedicated 6×4 printer in the guise of the Epson PictureMate Snap 240. Which, I must say, is one wonderful little printer. Consumables aren’t too much and the image quality is very, very close to that of my local camera shop’s printing.

But when it comes to printing 5×7’s or 8×10’s please dear Jesus fucking shoot me.

Of course, part of the problem has been my own. For the longest time I wasn’t making the connection between the aspect ratio of my images as they come off the camera and the aspect ratios of the prints I wished to make. Our modern dSLRs aspect ratio is very similar to that of a 6×4-inch printed picture, but not that of 5×7 or 8×10.

I would frequently be trying to print one of my images as… say…. an 8×10 only to find it would be cropped in weird ways. I know this sounds really basic, but my brain only made this connection very recently. It’s likely just as much a part of how I almost never printed anything but 6×4’s in the past so my brain wasn’t trained to think in other aspect ratios. But this isn’t the complete problem for me.

Look at this for a second…

Pretty nice, eh? I thought so.

This is an image which had remained stuck in my head since I took it in February 2010. I think I’ve had this low-level thought the image could use some sort of processing and so it was the other day I elected to go back to it and fiddle around for awhile. And this is what I came up with. I’m actually very pleased with it. So pleased I decided I wanted to print an 8×10 version and frame it.

And so it was I remembered I would need to recrop the original image to the 8×10 aspect ratio. And so it was done. Easy enough, right? Certainly! And so it was I used Lightroom to export the image as a JPEG and then from within Apple’s Preview programme I printed the image. Now you may ask why I didn’t print directly from Lightroom, but that’s a discussion for another day.

And so Preview was opened, the image loaded and the process of printing commenced. I selected all the various printing attributes necessary to work with my HP Photosmart printer, loaded the 8.5×11 photo stock and printed. I then grabbed my wheeled cutting board (very handy) and trimmed away the excess white stuff. Easy. And today I went out and purchased a frame which I believed would look really nice with the image.

Upon returning home I cleaned the new frame’s glass and inserted the picture into said frame. Or I should say ‘tried’ to insert the picture. My printed and trimmed picture was too large for the frame’s insert area. A quick check with the ruler showed the frame opening to be correctly sized, which left only my so-called 8×10-inch print. A quick check of its dimensions left me with something closer to 8.35×10.6.

(sigh)

Why? What part of the process failed to produce the required 8×10 image upon an 8.5×11 sheet of photography paper? I selected an 8×10 aspect ratio for cropping. I selected 8×10 (without any scaling) in the Page Setup and Printer Setup sections. There wasn’t a single fucking thing to indicate to me I hadn’t done absolutely everything correctly. Nothing. Nada.

And while this personal disappointment and setback is bad enough, what’s worse is that I just finished printing a series of 8×10’s for family and friends of other images and mailed them the other day. This means when they get their prints they will quickly find they are not 8×10 and will need to be trimmed to fit. What a cluster fuck. And I’m so embarrassed. Every time I think I have it figured out I’m only proven wrong.

And while I’ve been discussing the option of picking up a dedicated picture printer (Canon’s PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II or the 9500 version), thanks to the largess of my mother and father, I’m concerned I won’t get better results there either. Either I am doing something fundamentally wrong or there is some sort of weird disconnect between my software and the HP printer. I’d love to say it’s the printer, but I’m afraid it’s me and that’s rather worrisome.