Sunday, February 22, 2009

Shout-out to Associated Photo

Last week they had the Grand Opening of the Murray Nelson Government Center here in Key Largo. I was fortunate enough to be commissioned for a major photo installation on a prominent wall in the lobby, 33 feet long by 7 feet high. I've written about this before, see

But, on the day I took this photo I was accompanied to the Grand Opening by Larry Apple, long-time friend and colleague, and owner of Associated Photo in Miami, the lab that did the printing and installation.

Long, long ago, in a different time and almost a different galaxy, I was a color printer in a commercial lab too. My days were spent at Ward Photo in Denver making custom C-prints with a dichroic head color enlarger, shooting tungsten light through an array of yellow, magenta, and possibly cyan filters, through a focused enlarging lens, and onto a paper coated with photo-sensitive emulsion, which then ran through a Kreonite roller transport processing machine. This was state-of-the-art in 1977, but the state-of-the-custom-lab-art is much different today.

To achieve the ultra high resolution of these prints (the largest were 40x60 and the smaller shots were 32x48 inches) Associated Photo took my high res digital images (6 of the 7 were shot with Canon 16.7 or 21MP digital SLR cameras ... only the manta ray shot was from film originally, and that was drum-scanned at the highest resolution and therefore became digital media as well) and used a Durst Lambda to print.

Unlike my experience in the analog days, the Lambda prints utilize lasers directly to the paper. How it does so is a mystery to me, but to achieve that level of enlargement at that resolution without visible pixels is a testament to both the quality of the capture device and the print machine and media.

The background is also a wonder of digital technology. NOAA sent me a JPG of their navigational charts of the Upper Keys. Actually, this background is a combination of 2 chart sections, merged in Photoshop by Associated Photo. They then blew them up to 7 vertical sections, printed on an adhesive vinyl display material, and then applied them in registration to the wall to provide the background. Pretty amazing that a digital file that was e-mailed to me by NOAA could then be enlarged to 7-feet x 33-feet, and hold the kind of detail this did, without pixelation. Also amazing that I could FTP my large digital files to Associated and have them so nicely integrated into the final project.

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