Tag Archives: black and white

D800 Diary – Water Tank Quartet

This is an early D800 shot I took back in May. I was walking along the West Side waterfront and spotted these nicely weathered water tanks. I am finding myself wanting to use only prime lenses with the D800. The shot was taken with the old Nikon 300mm f/4 ED-IF. This is a crop near the center of the image :

Crop near center of image

The 300mm ED-IF is an example of an extremely good lens that can be found at bargain prices used. I just picked up it’s little brother, the 180mm 2.8 ED-IF which I found for $300 at Camera Mart USA. They don’t have focusing motors or VR, which probably why they live for so long. If you are on the fence about a D800 because you think you *must* buy the latest new lens for $1500, you might want to consider taking a look at some of the great used Nikon lenses that are available. Cameras like the D800 and D600 will deliver the best results with the best lenses… but that doesn’t mean you can’t be frugal.

– Sean

Lake George, NY

Lake George, NY

We took the kids up to Lake George to give them a little fun before school starts. This is another place that I had been to as a kid over 30 years ago. Some things I remembered seeing back then are still there like the House of Frankenstein Wax Museum. Storytown USA is now a Six Flags park, but parts of the original park are still there… I took a picture of my kids in front of the Little Old Ladies Shoe where I had been posed by my parents. My only regret is that the foliage was still green… the views in the fall must be spectacular. The shot above was taken fairly early in the morning while everyone else was still sleeping. I took it with the D800 and 85mm 1.8G. I wish I had brought a tripod and an ND Filter… but I like the way this came out after some Lightroom Graduated filters and some B&W tweaking. I might have to go back by myself in October… with a tripod and ND filter!

My journey into dedicated B&W printing Part II

In my original post about setting up a dedicated B&W printer, I had already picked the printer (Epson Stylus 1400) and ink (MIS EB6). I still had a few questions about paper and setting up a workflow. I now have everything up and running, so I thought I would follow up with my results.

Q) What paper should I use?

A) Originally I was going to use Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308. After doing some more research, I decided to stay away from papers with Optical Brightners (OBA’s). OBA’s are used in many papers to give them a very white appearance… in a manner similar to the way certain laundry detergents “brighten” your clothes. While they can add a certain punch to a photographic print, their longevity is questionable. In light of this, I decided to go with a OBA free, lignin free 100% cotton rag paper. The paper I have selected is PremierArt Smooth Fine Art Paper 325gsm. I was concerned about running a paper with this thickness through the 1400, but after a few reassuring forum replies, I went ahead and made the purchase. I’d like to give an unsolicited shout out to Atlex for their good prices and excellent service.

Q) Do I need to use Quad Tone Rip or not?

A) After experimenting with several options, I decided that Option 2 – Epson Driver – ICC in Print Preview, on page 4 of Paul Roark’s Eboni-6 guide works the best for me. Since I am getting great results from one of Paul’s profiles, the complexity of setting up Quad Tone Rip is not necessary in my case. If I was printing of a variety of papers, things might be different.

I wanted to add a few notes about the full EB6 ink / Epson 1400 / PremierArt Smooth Fine Art experience…

Cart Refills
The refill process of the MIS cartridges was straightforward, and not too messy. You can find the instructions here. The carts have a very nice “auto reset” feature where the cart resets to 100% all by itself (see the notes in the refill instructions above).

Head Clogs
The Epson 1400 sat for long periods of time (I’m talking over 4 weeks) with the EB6 ink carts installed and primed. My fears of head clogs have gone mostly unwarranted so far. I did have a minor clog in one of the colors that showed up as some missing lines in the head test pattern. It showed up after I made a 13×19 print with a lot of black coverage. For now, I will be doing a pattern check before each print.

Paper Issues
My first print on the 13×19 PremierArt Smooth had some white specks, and some odd pattern changes in the deep black areas. I had already known from my research that other users of the paper were brushing it down before using it because of this issue…. but in my excitement to make a print, I forgot to actually do it. On the second try, I used a wide camel hair paintbrush to lightly clean the paper before printing. This print came out speck/defect free. I had no issues feeding single sheets of the 325gsm 18mil paper through the Epson even though they specify the max paper thickness as 11.8 mil.

The End Result
The combination of the EB6 ink, PremierArt paper, and the Epson 1400 seem to be delivering everything I hoped they would. The OBA free paper and carbon ink gives the prints a nice warm tone. The smoothness of the ink in the deep blacks is hard to describe… and gives a very unique look on the matte paper.

My next goal is to actually offer some prints for sale. I’m trying to keep the prices very reasonable… and keeping shipping costs low (I don’t want to roll the prints in a tube). I’m looking at Print Pads from Masterpak, but they are quite heavy and expensive. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

My journey into dedicated B&W printing

With the recent fall in prices on the Epson 1400 printer, I decided it was a good time to take the opportunity to set up a dedicated B&W printer. I’ve been using an Epson 870 for years to do color and B&W toned prints using only Epson inks. Being a dye ink printer, the 870 has a ton of issues with the papers, and the archival properties of the inks.

*** Disclaimer : I am only providing this information to help those that may find it useful. Epson will not warranty any printer when it is modified or used with 3rd party inks or cartridges, or CIS systems. I am not making any recommendations or endorsing any products here. I am just sharing my experience with these products.

Before diving into the world of 3rd party inks and papers there were some questions I needed to resolve, so I’ll take you through my decision making process…

Q) Which printer should I buy?

A) For me, this question was answered buy the price drop and rebates offered on the Epson 1400. This printer is capable of print sizes up to 13×19 Sheets. It has an ink dot resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi. It also features an ink droplet size of 1.5 picoliters, which is extremely fine. Because the printer features a piezo style print head, pigment inks should not cause a clogging problem. I managed to get my printer for $150 (assuming the rebate goes through), which seems to be quite a bargain.

Q) Do i need to get a CIS?

A) I struggled with this question for a while. I may only turn my printer on every few weeks. My printing volume is not going to be very large. A CIS may have problems with clogging if it sits around not moving ink. I’ve also read about ink pooling on the printer sponges. Due to these 2 issues, I decided to start out by using refillable cartridges from Michigan Ink Supply (aka MIS). I’ve never used refillable cartridges before. I haven’t had to refill yet, so I’m not sure how easy, messy, or reliable they are going to be. I’ll post again when I refill them.

Q) Which ink should I use?

A) My goal is to print high quality, archival prints on matte paper. I was originally set to purchase the Ultratone UT14 ink set from MIS. This ink set caught my eye for a few reasons. It contains a black ink, 2 warm gray inks, 2 cool gray inks, and a gloss optimizer (aka glop) for glossy papers. It allows you to tone your prints by tweaking the driver from warm to cool. This also gives you the ability to make a neutral print on papers that may normally introduce their own tone when the ink is laid down.

But wait! I was about to push the “Buy” button on the UT14 inks, when I discovered something that seemed to be an even better fit for me. Tucked away under some pages on the MIS site is information about an inkset called EB-6. This ink set is based on the highly regarded MIS Eboni black ink. The 6 in the EB-6 refers to the 6 dilutions of black that will go in each ink position, providing varying shades from black to very light gray . The inks contain no additional toning compounds like the Ultratone inks do. According to ink and printing guru Paul Roark, this ink will produce neutral to warm tone depending on the paper used. I have a personal preference for warm toned B&W, so I am good to go there. Finally, this ink set is not really intended for glossy printing. It does not contain a “Glop” position, and while glossy paper may be used, the prints must be sprayed with sealer to protect them. Again, perfect for me, since I am going to be using matte paper only. I suggest reading this pdf from Paul Roark if you want very detailed info about this ink set. MIS offers refillable cartridges filled with EB-6 ink for the Epson 1400 printer on this page.

Q) What paper should I use?

A) My goal is to have archival quality prints on matte paper. I found a lot of information around the web, especially on Clayton Jones’ site. He has a specific page about his findings on papers with the Eboni inks here. Based on my goals, I’m going to give the Photo Rag 308 by Hahnemuhle a try. I’ll be using Epson Enhanced Matte for proofing as it will be cheaper, and provide similar results (but not longevity). I have not purchased the Photo Rag yet, and I have some concerns about it’s thickness with the 1400, but from what I have read, it will feed through in single sheets just fine. I will follow up when I have some results to report.

Q) Do I need to use Quad Tone Rip or not?

A) I’m still working on that question. I’d prefer to avoid an additional work flow step, but it may be needed to get the ultimate quality from the ink set. I’ll follow up with more info as I make come to a conclusion.

Where I am at right now

The 1400 is working fine so far with the MIS Carts and EB-6 inks. I have only done some proof prints on some old Epson Matte Heavyweight stock, but the results so far are very nice. I think this paper is the old version of the Epson Enhanced Matte. The results are just to the warm side of neutral. The deep blacks are very smooth, with no sign of any banding. I need to experiment with the Quad Tone Rip program to see if the results warrant the extra work flow steps required over using the Epson drivers.

I plan on some follow up posts as I progress with this set up and gain some experience with it. I hope you find this post helpful if you are exploring any of these topics.

— Sean