Big News from the Small House…

I traded in a futon for a printer and I’m reprinting my book!

Grinnell prints ready for sale
Matted prints of Grinnell College ready for sale, as well as a couple ready to be mounted in the catch basket, Durham, N.C.

Of Prints and Re-prints:

I’ve hinted for a couple weeks that big changes are happening at our little house in Durham, North Carolina.  For the past two weeks I’ve been furiously printing some of my best photographs of Grinnell College in anticipation of commencement and my five-year reunion.  I’ve gone through a box of Ilford Gold Fibre Silk as well as my ever-reliable roll of Epson Luster.  So lately I’ve been dusting off my skills at cutting down matte and foam board to matte 24 8×10″ prints, 12 11×14″ prints, as well as some 12×18″ and panoramic photographs.  And before sending it all out, I’m trying to give them all SKU codes as I learn Quickbooks Pro‘s inventory system on-the-fly for my new business.  Gotta keep it legit for the IRS…it is that time of year after all!

What’s that about a new business?  Well, it’s not completely off the ground yet, but I’m becoming a limited liability company in the state of North Carolina.  I’ve been a sole proprietor since 2006 and while it has been fun, it was time for a change.  When it takes effect, this Web site will go through a few changes, and a new domain name will become the primary, although I have no intention to give up

A Portrait of Grinnell Dust Jacket
The dust jacket for the reprint of A Portrait of Grinnell

Furthermore, I contacted Regent Published Services, Ltd., the company that printed A Portrait of Grinnell: The Architecture and Landscape of Grinnell College in 2006, to get a quote for printing 2,000 copies.  The book has been out of print since 2008, but will be back on the shelves by the end of May 2011.  I’m frustrated because I’ll miss commencement by only two weeks, but the book will be stocked in time for reunion.  I’ll have information for those interested in pre-ordering soon.

A futon became a printer
A futon became a printer: back when my office was Elizabeth’s guest bedroom, this futon made a little more sense. It’s for sale if anyone in the Triangle is in the market!

I’ve ramped up production of prints because I finally have a photo printer at my home office.  Choosing a printer was a key business decision: while making prints is something I enjoy and am quite skilled at, I know many talented photographers who find the art of printing to be more than vexing.  Making prints for other photographers will be part of my business model, so I needed something fairly large.  Unfortunately, this meant that the futon in my office (that was a good “guest bed”) simply had to go!

In my custom print store I plan to offer a variety of gloss and matte papers that most online printers simply don’t carry, like Gold Fibre Silk and Entrada Rag.  I don’t intend to be the next Mpix–I won’t make prints on the side of coffee mugs or canvas wraps.  Nor will I even attempt to compete with FedEx Office and make signage or banners.  Instead, I’ll cater to serious photographers who would like to have direct contact with the person making the prints either for their clients or their personal portfolios. And as of March 17, 2011, when I looked out the front door to see FedEx Freight show up in our narrow street, I’ll be able to make those prints on rolls of paper up to 44 inches wide using a Hewlett-Packard Designjet Z3200 Photo printer!

Photos after the jump!

Photo series: setting up an HP Designjet Z3200 Photo printer in a small house

FedEx Freight pulls up in front of our driveway
FedEx Freight pulls up in front of our driveway, March 17, 2011, Durham, N.C.
Pulling the pallet up the driveway
Pulling the pallet up the driveway: this is about when I realized we were never going to get this thing into the house through the front door.
Unpacking the printer in the driveway
We removed all of the packaging in the driveway and carried the stand, ink cartridges and heads into the house. This left only the printer on its Styrofoam ends on the pallet. It was far less difficult to carry this way and there was an easy surface to grip: we lifted the whole pallet and carried it around to the back door!
HP Designjet Z3200 Photo in the office
My new HP Designjet Z3200 Photo print rests on the floor of my office. It could not have made it into the house without help both from Elizabeth and our next door neighbor, Natasha!
Setting up the Z3200's Stand - 1 of 2
Setting up the Z3200’s Stand: the Styrofoam that keeps the stand from rattling around in shipping doubles as a support for holding the stand above your floor (so it doesn’t scratch) while you assemble it!
Setting up the Z3200's Stand - 2 of 2
Setting up the Z3200’s Stand part two: topping it off with casters. Overall, the instructions for putting the printer together were remarkably straight-forward and well-written.
The printer after being mated with the stand
The printer waits for ink and print heads after being mated with the stand.
Twelve inks and six print heads
Twelve inks and six print heads: you have to shake each one like a Polaroid picture before installing it! Except you didn’t really have to shake Polaroids…
Installing the print heads
Installing the print heads: unlike Epson printers, the print heads are user-replaceable. Each print head handles two inks, so there are six in total. Initially I thought to myself “oh, great, another thing to buy,” but after running this printer for a few weeks I have yet to need to run a head cleaning or print a nozzle-test pattern. So maybe there’s something to this design after all!
Six of the ink tanks
Six of the 12 ink tanks: Light Magenta, Light Cyan, Photo Black, Light Grey, Matte Black, and Red
The first prints from my HP Designjet Z3200 Photo
The first 16×24″ prints from my HP Designjet Z3200 Photo came from my master’s project about the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal as a vector for Asian carp to colonize the Great Lakes.

The proof is in the prints

So far, the HP Designjet Z3200 has proven to be a remarkable machine.  Yes, it’s a couple years old and uses a gloss enhancer “ink” to mitigate gloss differential (Epson dealt with gloss differential by coming out with “Ultrachrome K3 with Vivid Magenta” inks), but the prints it makes are amazingly crisp.  On some papers, the images seem almost alive.

Before I placed my order, I read Michael Reichmann’s review of this machine’s predecessor, the Z3100, on The Luminous Landscape.  That review, combined with Wilhelm Imaging Research‘s print longevity tests, gave me the confidence to leave my “Epson comfort zone” and so far I have not been disappointed at all.  The onboard i1 spectrophotometer is the icing on the cake: I can profile a paper from any manufacturer and then review the color gamut possible with each paper for a better understanding of which papers best suit a photograph.  I’ll post more about my experiences with the HP Designjet Z3200 in the months to come.  Look for a storefront for ordering custom prints of your images soon!

5 thoughts

    1. Hey, Scott!
      While I have no experience with them personally, I have heard very good things about Canon’s wide format printers. My understanding is that the top three brands are Epson, HP, and Canon (and I’m not sure there’s really any kind of hierarchy–they all make good machines). While a few years old, Michael Reichmann’s review of the Canon iPF5000 17″ printer makes for good reading. So if you’re thinking seriously about a Canon printer, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I know I was worried about leaving Epson (and I haven’t, really…I plan to acquire either a 13″ or 17″ Epson printer within the year for printing on sheets) but it’s actually not that scary: other companies know how to play the game, too, and they do it just as well!

      1. Thanks! I’ve worked a lot with HP large format printers (mostly through the people that have to work with those printers, but all the size you now have) and have known a bit of frustration with their reliability and colors. As for Epson, I’ve only worked with the table-top large format printers and have known them to be nothing short of a constant headache. Unfortunately I have not had nearly as much experience with larger Canon printers.

        Erin asked for me to mention she misses you. 🙁

        1. So far I love the color that I’m getting out of the Z3200. And most important, it matches the colors of prints I’ve made with Epson printers in the past (I wouldn’t want people in Grinnell, Iowa to think that the print for sale now is any different than the one they may already have purchased or seen before!). And I’m really enjoying the onboard spectro. As for its reliability, well, I’ll let you know in a couple years if I still love this machine or if I’m ready to kick it to the curb!!!

          You’re right that Epson’s printers can be a headache; the clogged heads kill me, particularly on the smaller printers that have tiny (but pricey!) ink cartridges. The wide-format printers aren’t as bad, but they still require their share of head cleanings. Is there a particular Canon printer you have in mind?

          We all need to get together in D.C. some time soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *