Statuesque Images and Perfected Prints
EigerPhoto turns 3-D sculptures into 2-D prints.
As an art form, sculpture is generally viewed in 360?, and often is made of durable materials such as stone and bronze. This is indeed the case with sculptor Osprey Orielle Lake’s art. Her Cheemah Monument, for instance, is an 18-ft tall bronze statue in Oakland, CA, dedicated to "world unity, cultural diversity, and care for the Earth." The International Cheemah Monument Project (www.cheemahproject.org), which she founded, intends to place eight such monuments around the world (in addition to the Oakland monument, other monuments have already been installed in Spain and Germany).
But Lake also wanted to produce versions of her work that would allow for two-dimensional representation. The sheer size and weight of the sculptures often limit the ability to exhibit her art in many venues, not to mention that crating and shipping costs are prohibitive for all but the largest museums. Prints, of course, can travel more easily, and will make her work accessible to many.
All of these details became even more pertinent with her upcoming exhibit, "Images in Celebration of Life: A 20 Year Survey by Osprey Orielle Lake," at the Saginaw Art Museum in Michigan, which will open this spring. In preparation for the retrospective, Lake turned to Lenny Eiger, her friend and fellow artist, and owner of Petaluma, CA-based EigerPhoto. She asked him to produce the images of her sculptures that will premier at the exhibit.
Images of Lake’s sculptures were delivered to EigerPhoto as 4x5-in. and 6x7-cm transparencies, and then scanned in using the shop’s Aztek Premier scanner with Aztek Digital PhotoLab software. "We take extra care-and whatever time we need-in our capture step, because it’s always best to do it right the first time," says Eiger. "Since a drum scanner, unlike a flatbed scanner, reads one sample at a time, versus an entire row, it gets its dpi for every inch of the film. A 4x5 scanned at 4000 dpi yields 20,000 pxl." The Aztek Premier scans a 4x5 in about 20 minutes, and Eiger’s staff spends another 20 minutes prep time to mount the images on the drum and tune each one before the scan.
In addition, Lake wanted all of the images to have a white background. Because most of the delivered images had backgrounds, these needed to be removed without having the sculptures look as if they were "cut out" from the background. This added about 4 to 10 hours per photo to the process. "While there are numerous techniques to remove a background, when making large prints, the only way is to do it perfectly-the long way around," says Eiger. "This involves creating a layer mask on the background layer and painting a mask around the image, often at 200%."
Plus, Eiger and his crew needed to create the spill effect that happens when an image is photographed against a white background, where a little light "bends" around the edges, or spills through. So, in addition to removing the background, the staff had to simulate the lightening of the edge without creating a halo effect.
The staff also did any spotting that was necessary and used channel masks to select each part of the file that might need to be adjusted. This took hours, depending on the image. After all the masking selections have been prepared, Eiger made the final image adjustments. "We use only curves, and occasionally hue/saturation, to make color adjustments. We never pull up the levels dialog, filters, or any other destructive techniques," says Eiger.
In this project, "We were faced with attempting to create as much of a third dimension as possible with the printing style. The artist used bronze with many different colors and patterns of patina. We added a small amount of saturation to bring these out," notes Eiger.
The images were flattened against the white background, but still needed shadows. Andromeda Software’s Shadow Plug-in was used to create the shadows, which were added to most images.
Perfecting the print
At Eiger’s shop, output is not as simple as hitting the "print" button and shipping the finished product to the client. He has a slightly different business model: Because Eiger is a professional photographer himself with 40 years experience and he’s worked with many high-end artists, his company’s emphasis is on quality. Eiger’s staff prints each image one-at-a-time until it is museum quality-with no compromises. "We’ll use as much paper, ink, and time as it takes," he says.
Of course, this means he needs to choose his clients carefully. "We work with people who understand and appreciate our workflow process-as well as satisfying the artist inside of us. The best work is the only thing we want to deliver."
The trick, he says, is to print it the way the artist wants it: "The person at the controls has to study the art being worked on, understand it, and ultimately intuit and deliver what the artist intended." The process involves an in-person meeting with the artist, approval of image corrections, initial prints tweaked by staff, and then approval of the final output by the client. "Once the artist shows up for the final approval, there is rarely more than one additional print made."
In Lake’s exhibit, 20 images (36 x 48- in. to 14 x 14-in. matted images) required more than 150 sq ft of printed graphics. EigerPhoto presented a number of samples to her printed on smooth papers, toothy papers, and canvas; Lake decided on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.
In addition, Eiger also created an 88-in. x 15-ft tall banner for the opening of the museum show at the Saginaw Art Museum in Michigan. The banner began as a 4x5 transparency and was output onto two 44-in. wide strips of Roland banner media.
EigerPhoto turned to its 54-in. Roland Hi-Fi Jet Pro II FJ-540, a 12-color machine to produce the prints. Its RIP-of-choice: the ErgoSoft d’Vinci, an extension of ErgoSoft’s PosterPrint software that allows control of each of the 12 inks individually. Color-management software (ColorGPS by ErgoSoft) is a module built into the RIP. Eiger also notes that his shop uses GretagMacbeth Eye-One and iO automated scanning table to read in the 2000 patches to "dial in" the colors-"It’s dead-on accurate."
The d’Vinci system uses a combination of Roland ink and Cone Editions’ PiezoTone ink. The Roland inks supply the first 8 colors-CMYKcm plus orange and green; the other four slots are filled with a four dilution set of black ink from Cone Editions.
After the images were printed and approved, they were then shipped to another company for matting and framing.
One print at a time
Every shop strives to make their best print possible and meet the client’s needs. But at EigerPhoto, that is its only goal. "Not unlike making prints in a darkroom, we make one print at a time, then look at it and determine whether or not it could be better. If we think it can be improved, we [tweak the file and] make another print."
The staff uses all the digital hardware and software at their disposal to best reproduce the artwork. "Many people use calibration systems to attempt to faithfully reproduce on their printer what they see on their screen. While we certainly calibrate everything, we feel that a transmissive medium (the monitor) will never match a reflective one, and so the final product is where the richness and color get judged. "