Nothing is better for me as a photographer than tackling a must do assignment which pushes the limits of my knowledge and skill. These types of jobs force me to stretch my limits and make me grow as a photographer. The print project I share here was one of the more rewarding commissions I've taken on. After completing it I have been working to ramp up my in house capacity to complete much larger print productions than this. (But I'm getting ahead of myself; stay tuned for that story...)
Last summer my client Red Hills Acquisitions approached me about buying some fine art prints to liven up their Northwest Portland office. They had previously commissioned me to photograph and create some large prints of different properties the company owns which hang in their large conference room. Now the company wanted some natural scenery in the back wall of the main office area to improve the feel for both staff and clients.
The founder of Red Hills is a longtime friend of mine and I knew he had named the company after his love of the Red Hills of Dundee in Oregon's wine country. I pitched the idea of creating a large scale panoramic image of the Red Hills, something about fourteen feet wide by four feet high, printed in multiple panels to make the back wall look like windows into the scene; the response was to go for it. Wow, what a fantastic project I thought. Now I actually have to go out and make it a reality. I fought off just a second of self-doubt and got to work.
I spent a number of late summer and early fall mornings traipsing around the Red Hills scouting for locations. After hours of scouring the internet, talking to locals and driving miles of gravel roads, I still hadn't zeroed in on exactly the location I wanted. Finally one morning I hit the jackpot when I bumped into Martha Maresh out walking her dogs. I was worried she might not be keen on me being off the road and in the rows of grapes, but instead we hit it off and she wanted to help with my project. She gave me the inside scoop on some lovely vistas that only someone with decades of living in the area would know.
I quickly determined that the grapes were most dramatic when backlit at sunrise and that fog in the lower valley (typical in fall) would add significantly to the final composition.
When capturing the image, I used a Really Right Stuff panoramic adaptor to create the ultra-high resolution images needed to create a print so large.
In the studio I assembled the 32 individual images in Photoshop after basic RAW adjustments in Lightroom and then performed my finishing edits in onOne's Perfect Photo Suite 8.
It's very difficult on a website to convey the level of detail of one of these ultra-high resolution panoramic merger files. The crop below is still not a 100% crop. It it downrezed slightly to include the silhouette of Mt. Hood and the grapes. Let's just say that I had no idea there was another person out photographing off the main road that morning until I zoomed in on the finished panoramic in photoshop. The detail is really amazing on the big final print. You can even tell what kind of SUV the photographer is driving. Crazy.
Finishing the print in the computer was only half the battle though. Now I had to take pixels and convert them to fine art. One of the great joys of the modern digital era is the ability to create images in the field, edit them myself in the digital darkroom and then create my own prints ready for clients to hang. Things have changed so much from the days of color transparency film. Now those of us who love to work in color have the level of control that only black and white artists had in the chemical processing days.
I create large format prints on in-house Epson and Hewlett Packard roll-feed fine art printers, using only the best archival inks, papers and a fully color-managed workflow that lets me software proof my prints on screen before committing them to paper and ink.
For this project I used onOne's Perfect Resize 8 to separate the image into seven 4x2 foot tiles, printed and then archivally mounted the prints to panels custom cut from solid core Sintra for rigidity and durability. (I have since moved on to even more rigid substrates to allow even larger mounted prints, but that's another story for later...)
An attached wooden frame on the back provides further rigidity and a means to hang the print from a wire. Finally I sign the print in paint pen and apply two coats of a waterproof, UV resistant archival sealant.
The only thing that makes me happier than seeing this finished print hang is hearing my clients' outrageously positive response to it. I love it when a plan comes together. Now I can't wait to do something even larger. (Stay tuned...)