I recently received the wonderful opportunity to display my work in a gallery at the new showroom and museum at Canon’s headquarters in Shimomaruko here in Tokyo, and today I’m going to share details including the creation of my prints, how they were treated in preparation for the show, and offer you a chance to visit the Canon campus to view the exhibit and the showroom and museum yourself.
While I was in the middle of my Japan winter tours, I received an email from a friend in Canon asking if I would be interested in working with Canon to prepare and display a selection of my fine art prints in an exhibition space in a new building with a number of floors showcasing Canon’s products. Specifically, the gallery space is on the floor where there is a camera and lens showroom, alongside a museum of Canon’s cameras and other products over the decades, including their very first camera from 1934. Yesterday I was able to take some photos which I’ll share with you shortly.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to share my work in such a prestigious location and presented a few options. I initially considered a somewhat subdued selection of winter landscapes, but that idea didn’t fly very well, so I proposed a more colorful selection of images that showed off the potential of both Canon’s camera equipment and their large format printer capabilities. Although I’d been given a blank canvas, it’s not really surprising that Canon went for the more colorful proposal.
Select Media: Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270
The idea was to not only showcase my work as a photographer but also as a fine art printer, as Canon value my ability to make high-quality prints. I was also given a free rein with regards to which print media I would use for the project, so it was not a difficult decision to go with Breathing Color’s incredible Signa Smooth 270 inkjet media. The prints were to be finished by making them into Alpolic panels, so the fact that Signa is not an incredibly heavy paper was not a problem. In fact, it probably helped, as there would be less push-back from the natural curl of heavier papers.
As we negotiated the terms of the job, I had a business decision to make. I didn’t have the go-ahead to start making the prints yet, but we were running on a tight schedule, and I didn’t have enough stock of any single media to make 10 very large format prints, which is what I was proposing. Feeling pretty confident that we could close the deal, I went ahead and contacted my friend’s at Breathing Color, and they kindly rushed my order through, and literally just three days later FedEx delivered three 44-inch rolls of Signa Smooth, one 36-inch roll, and one 24-inch roll. All the way from the US to my door in Japan, in just three days.
I was going to need two rolls of 44-inch, but I ordered an extra roll in case I had to do more than a few reprints. My proposal also included two 36-inch roll prints, and I was running short of 24-inch anyway, as Signa Smooth has become my go-to media when I just feel like printing something out for fun. Now that it’s archival certified, I’m actually leaning towards Signa for print orders as well. You may recall from my review of Signa that it has an incredibly wide color gamut, as well as performing beautifully with black and white prints.
The Printing Process
Having received the go-ahead from Canon, I started working on my prints in March and basically had five days to complete my 10 prints. As far as the actual time to make the prints is concerned, I could make that many in one long day if I had enough room to lay them all out to dry, but although I live in a relatively large apartment by Tokyo standards, using both my office space and living space, there isn’t enough room to lay out more than two 44 x 66-inch prints and give them enough time to degas before stacking them on top of earlier prints.
When I print this size for customers, so far all of my orders have been for single prints, so I extend the table in my studio to create a surface wide enough for them to sit and fully degas for a day before I roll and ship them. As you can see in this photo (below) that is pretty much all of the space that I can use for drying prints used up.
The second place that I can potentially leave prints to dry is literally in front of the printer, with half of the print still resting on the cloth basket that can be used for catching prints, but I configured it to simply feed the print away from the printer by forming a gentle slope down to the floor, as you can see in this photograph (right).
Ideally, prints should be left to degas for 24 hours being stacking or rolling them, but if necessary, especially when humidity is relatively low as it’s been for the last few weeks here, we can reduce this a little without causing problems.
I formulated a drying schedule which basically allowed me to make three prints each day. I would end the previous day with one print drying in my studio, and one drying in front of the printer. By the following morning, the print in front of the printer would have been degassed for at least 12 hours, so I took that upstairs and laid it on top of the last print in the stack.
That allowed me to then make the first print of the day. which I’d leave in front of the printer until after lunch, giving it a few hours to dry. Then, after lunch, I took that first print of the day up to the studio and laid it on top of the last print from the previous day, so that print had about 18 or 19 hours to degas.
Then after taking that first print of the day upstairs, I made the second print of the day and left that in front of the printer until around 6 pm. When I took the second print up to the studio the first print had been degassing for around 8 hours which is just about the shortest amount of time I want to give a print. I then created the third print before finishing my main working day at 7 pm. This third print then sat in front of the printer overnight, as the second print dried on top of the first print for the day until the following morning and the process started again.
Of course, if I’d done three prints per day for five days, that would give me 15 prints, but I always calculate in the time to do reprints. Although prints of this size cost quite a lot just in materials to make, there are almost always times when you have to do a reprint.
One of my biggest concerns is getting little spots on the print where there is dust on the surface of the print that falls away after it dries taking the ink with it, leaving a white spot. To help avoid this I keep the printer covered when not in use and I literally dust it off completely before printing. Also, the new design of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series printers means the media is fed into the paper upside-down, so any loose dust on the surface of the paper has a chance to fall away before it gets printed on. All of these things contributed to me having just one dust spot in over 200 square feet of print.
This led to me having to do one reprint, and the second was my fault. As I printed one of my Iceland photos I noticed something that I couldn’t quite figure out. There were a few areas of the image that looked as though it had been oversharpened, but the rest of the image looked fine. I checked all of the settings that I usually tweak and couldn’t find any reason for this, so I gave myself a pat on the back for shooting such an amazingly sharp image and sent the image to the printer anyway.
Sure enough, though, having poured over the print, I still couldn’t help thinking that something was wrong, so I went back and inspected all of the modifications that I’d made, and found that I’d cranked up the Structure slider. I had just started using Capture One when I visited Iceland in 2016 and made that photograph, and I still didn’t quite understand what the Structure slider was doing. Basically, it had made certain areas of the photograph a little too sharp and crunchy. I actually learned pretty much straight after that trip that doing this is generally not a good idea, and I’d stopped applying Structure to my images, so this one had slipped past me.
Although the print looked great, knowing that it could be better I couldn’t resist reprinting that photo. The third reprint was of the Dovercourt Lighthouse photo, as despite going over the image with a fine-toothed comb before making the first print, I found a very faint dust spot on the image that I could only see when printed at 3 x 4.5 feet. This is one reason why I love printing so much. It really helps to find imperfections in our work, and I believe that printing large like this even helps to make us better photographers. Large prints are totally unforgiving and will soon let us know about any technical imperfections in our images.
When I’m ready to print, I do go through and check each image at 100% for dust spots and any other imperfections that I ideally don’t want to find after making the print, then when making such large prints, I upsize them as a final step.
All of the images I printed were shot with my Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras, so although I could probably get away with printing the 50-megapixel images without enlarging them, to ensure that they remained as tack sharp as the originals, I use ON1 Perfect Resize to upsize each image the exact size of my prints at 300 PPI.
Here’s a screenshot of Perfect Resize to show my settings (below). The prints actually needed a 3 mm border around the edges so I set my print size for the 44-inch wide prints to 1111.6 mm wide and 1667.4 mm long, which is just the width multiplied by 1.5, as my images are all 3:2 aspect ratio. Of course, once you have your size and settings dials in, it’s a good idea to save a preset so that you can get to the same settings for the rest of the prints.
This is why I rarely use an arbitrary crop in my images too. If you don’t know the aspect ratio of your photos it takes more time to calculate print sizes and makes it difficult to create a uniform selection of images like the ones I’m presenting for this exhibition. You can see the other settings I used in ON1 Perfect Resize in the screenshot.
Once I have the image enlarged to the exact size that I want to print at, at 300 PPI I’m ready to print. I printed the first few images from Capture One Pro, but then I started to get some funky remnants appearing on the print preview, so I tried printing from Photoshop and got the same results. To avoid this, I printed that rest of the images using Canon’s Print Studio Pro from within Photoshop.
To make this process fluid, I created a Process Recipe in Capture One Pro to create a 16bit TIFF with the ProPhoto RGB color space and then just open it in Photoshop, then I launched ON1 Perfect Resize from Photoshop, and changed the settings so that Perfect Resize just modified the original layer, and not create a new one. If you create a new layer at this size it makes the file too big to save without flattening, so this helps to avoid an extra step.
As you can see from this screenshot of Print Studio Pro I also had to leave a 10 cm border on each end of the print to make handling easier facilitate the creation of the Alpolic panels. With prints this large, if you don’t leave yourself something to hold onto as you move the print around, you’ll almost certainly damage the face of the print.
Again, if you are interested in the settings, check out the screenshot of Print Studio Pro (below). One thing to note here is that although I resized to 300 PPI, I still print with the Print Quality set to Highest, which is purported to be 2400 x 1200 dpi, although it’s hard to say what actual print resolution is used.
I do like to print directly from Capture One Pro when possible, and I generally dislike printing from Photoshop, but Canon’s Print Studio Pro that comes with the PRO series printers is actually very nice, so especially as I needed to roundtrip to Photoshop to do the enlarging, this made for a very slick workflow. At the highest print quality, these 44 x 66-inch prints took 34 minutes each, which is amazingly fast for prints of such size and quality.
As I mentioned, Canon had arranged to have the prints treated to create what’s called an Alpolic panel out of them. This was to be carried out by a company here in Tokyo called Frameman. From what I can gather, Alpolic is an Aluminum Composite Material, abbreviated as ACM and Frameman are one of the few companies that can make photographic panels as large as the prints I’d made.
I had requested permission to watch the process of creating the Alpolic panels but was told that it’s performed under very strict conditions to prevent any dust getting into the system. I did arrange to go and take my dusty self to have a look at the panels after the creation, but I got stuck in Tokyo traffic and although I allowed more than double the time necessary to get there, I was still at least 30 minutes out when my arranged time arrived, and the head of the company had to leave for another appointment before I’d get there, so I lost that opportunity.
Setting Up the Exhibition Space
I was able to take some photographs as the people from Frameman hung the prints yesterday, so let’s take a look at a few of those photos. The prints were carefully packaged in individual boxes, which was nice to see (below).
There is a wooden frame attached to the back of the Alpolic Panels, as you can see in this image (below). We can also see the aluminum color here, and the print is basically fused to the front of this panel, so it retains its beautiful matte finish. I was really happy to have chosen Signa Smooth for this because it really suited the space and looked great on those panels.
It was great watching these professionals do their job hanging the panels. After I’d told them the position that each print would be hung, they conferred with me on the height of the prints and then proceeded to measure and affix a red line to the wall to mark the height of the top of each of the landscape orientation prints. I thought it was quite fitting to see a red line running across the black walls. Canon users will understand that.
The crew then screwed wooden plates to the wall at the height of the line, and each panel was hung on these plates. The Frameman people are true professionals, taking great care in the creation of the panels and the hanging, and they also adjusted the lighting in the exhibition space to ensure that each photo was evenly lit, and they hoovered the floor before they left leaving it spotless, and all this in one hour flat.
I’d decided to show off the capabilities of Canon’s large format printers and camera equipment by doing these huge prints, but the downside was that it left me with room to only display ten images. Because of this, I made my selection based on two loosely related concepts. The first is the actual title of the exhibit, which is “Silence & Life”. We created a large panel to place in the entrance to the exhibition space which explains my concept in both Japanese and English, but I’ll leave that to people that actually visit the space to read.
In short, though, I talk about how I feel alive when I’m photographing and being in the zone in the field often places me in a Silence from which I recall the work, but I also get a sense of Silence from much of this work. I also gain a heightened sense of Life through the various people and places that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience as a result of my work as a photographer, and I truly feel that much of what I’ve been able to do is to a certain degree, made possible because of the excellent equipment that Canon creates.
The other concept which is kind of responsible for the order and flow of the exhibit is that we start with my roots, in England. Here are the first two prints, shot during my December 2016 visit. The first print is Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station. This power station plays a part in pretty much every memory I have from when I played outside as a kid, because it’s visible from just about everywhere in the town where I grew up.
I proceed with a photo of the Dovercourt Low Lighthouse, which is something that I learned about from Phil Newberry, a wonderfully talented photographer, who I believe still has the best photo of this lighthouse that I’ve seen. Another loose part of my concept here is that I am kind of looping back from my roots to present day Martin doing the sort of work in England that I’d love to be doing if I’d stayed.
The second wall is three photos from Namibia. I feel so fortunate to be able to visit places like this as part of my work, and I’m eternally grateful to my friend Jeremy Woodhouse for giving me the opportunity to take make my first couple of visits there with him.
Namibia now holds a very special place in my heart as I revisit each year with my own tours and workshops, and the photographs that I make there are incredibly important to me.
The same goes for my Iceland work, and again, I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Tim Vollmer for similarly giving me the chance to work with him there for a total of four years from 2013 to 2016. The price increases in Iceland have kept me away for a while, although I’ve just started talking with a new company about setting something up again for next year. Tim has also since branched out and is doing amazing tours around the world, as does Jeremy, so do check out their websites.
The third and largest wall of the Exhibit is dedicated to Iceland work, as again Iceland is a very special place to me. I had originally wanted to do all black and white images, but this wasn’t colorful enough. My final selection for Iceland though really sums up how I feel about this beautiful country. Much of my Iceland work ends up being quite high contrast black and white, and the rest seems to be very vibrant color work. I have very little that is in-between.
If I had another two or three walls, I’d have loved to share some of my Antarctica, Greenland and Morocco work as well, but with space left for just one photo, I brought it all full circle with this last image from my new home, Japan. Having lived here for 27 years now, Japan is more home to me than England, so I wanted to finish with a Japan shot, and because I love the winter landscape so much, this was kind of my obvious choice.
The final wall next to the door has a panel with my profile on it, and two QR codes which are my digital business cards, so if you get a chance to visit while the exhibition is on, scan the codes and drop me a line to let me know what you think.
Canon Showroom and Museum
Because the exhibition is on Canon’s campus in Shimomaruko, it’s not open to the general public, but I am going to arrange a few visits over the next couple of months to enable anyone that is in Tokyo a chance to not only see the prints but also take a look at the incredible showroom and museum that Canon has put together, which are on the same floor.
Their current line-up of camera bodies are all placed around the center island that you can see in this photo (above) and all of their lenses, right up to the 1200 mm super-telephoto are on display over to the right there.
There is also a circular cabinet with pretty much every camera that Canon has made over the decades (below). It was great to find my old cameras in this cabinet, especially the ones that I’ve had to part company with to fund upgrades etc.
They also have their very first camera with the original name spelled “KWANON” from I believe 1934, and the Hansa Canon from 1936 (below).
Visit on April 16?
Because the exhibition, showroom, and museum are all at Canon’s headquarters, and because a Canon employee has to accompany us, we can only visit on a weekday. I’ve provisionally booked a slot on Monday, April 16 from 2 pm, if you are in or can get to Tokyo and of course, if you are interested in taking a look.
For security reasons, I will need your full name, your company name if you work, and the department name that you work for within your company. If you are not comfortable giving me this information to report to Canon ahead of time, you can’t come. 🙂
If you are happy to share that information though, and you can get to Shimomaruko in Tokyo by say 1:45 pm on April 16, then please drop me a line using our contact form. Just select the General Message category but clearly state that you are interested in joining us for this first visit.
The exhibit will be open until the end of June 2018, so if you will be in Tokyo after April 16 and would like to visit, let me know and I’ll see if we can get a small group together again. We can’t go too many times, maybe once or twice more, so I can’t promise to take lots of people over many days. I’ll certainly see what I can do though.
In finishing, I’d like to thank Breathing Color for making such amazing inkjet media and for rushing my order through so that I could complete this job on time. And of course a huge thank you to Canon for the opportunity to display my work in this beautiful space, and for enabling me to create that work with your camera gear and printers.
A week after this post, I released a video including footage of the setting up process and a walk around the showroom and camera museum.
Craft & Vision eBooks Now Available on MBP!
Before we wrap-up, I’d like to also announce that with Craft & Vision closing their shop doors last year, I am now able to sell my three ebooks directly. If you’d like to read my best selling printing ebook Making the Print, or my other two books Sharp Shooter and Striking Landscapes, you can now get them all here. We also have a three book bundle available with a $5 discount over the individual prices.
This week I’m honored and incredibly excited to be joined by Michael Miner, a Los Angeles based fine art photographer perhaps better known by some as the co-writer of the screenplay for the 1987 hit movie RoboCop and its sequels.
Here are some of the questions posed to Michael, and you can here his insightful and fascinating answers in the audio…
Use this audio player to listen:
We all know you for the RoboCop series of movies, but how long has still photography been an important part of your life?
You’ve lead a very creative life, including writing screenplays and cinematography, as well as producing and directing movies. Are there any parallels that can be drawn between these creative pursuits and your fine art photography?
Are you personally printing the images for your exhibition or is that all handled by the G2 Gallery?
Photography is often a solo pursuit, but you co-wrote the screenplay for the RoboCop series with Edward Neumeier. How did you find collaborating with another creative on a writing project, and do you think this experience helped your photography in any way?
I understand you’ve just opened an exhibition of your work called Nature LA at The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles where you live. How did that come about?
Can you offer any advice to other photographers that would like to find similar gallery representation?
What camera gear do you take with you on a typical shoot?
You have been chosen by the National Park Service as their Artist in Residence for 2014, and will spend a month photographing The Grand Canyon among other locations. What sort of things are you bearing in mind as you prepare for these very special assignments?
You’ve sent me five beautiful photographs to discuss, let’s look at each of them…
Issue 6 includes three portfolios and Q+As from Hal Eastman, Scott Rinckenberger, and Nathan Wirth, all of them full of breathtaking photography and thoughtful interviews about why and how they do their work.
All the regular columnists continue to write from their hearts: John Paul Caponigro, Bruce Percy, Chris Orwig, Adam Blasberg, Piet Van den Eynde, and yours truly Martin Bailey have written articles about composition, creativity, studio lighting, camera craft, printing, and post-production. As usual, I’m proud to be a contributor to this fantastic issue. 140 great ad-free pages filled with inspiration and education for creative photographers.
When I signed up for my first winter Photography Tour with Yoshiaki Kobayashi (小林 義明) to join him in Eastern Hokkaido in February 2004, there were two things that I was not aware of. The first is that it would change my life. I instantly fell in love with Eastern Hokkaido, especially in the winter, and have since traveled there at least once each winter, and for the last four years have been running my own popular photography tour and workshops there.
The other thing that I was not aware of, is that joining Kobayashi-Sensei, was the distinguished Hiroshi Yokoyama (横山 宏) or Yokoyama-Sensei. Although I had seen Kobayashi-Sensei’s work in many of the Japanese photography magazines, I have to admit that I had not heard of Yokoyama-Sensei, despite him being one of the top nature photographers in Japan today, and his help and advice during that first visit to Hokkaido had a huge effect on my own photography.
Yokoyama-Sensei isn’t online, and it’s hard to find any English information on him and his work, so here’s a brief bio.
Hiroshi Yokoyama (横山 宏) was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1939, he graduated the Tokyo College of Photography (東京綜合写真専門学校) in 1963, and after assisting at the college for two more years, went freelance in 1965. For the majority of his career he was a renowned alpine and ski photographer, which he gave up when he moved to Eastern Hokkaido some 21 years ago, to concentrate on his wonderful nature photography for which is his known today.
Since spending that wonderful week with him back in 2004, we’ve met just a few times. Twice during his exhibitions here in Tokyo, once in 2005 in Canon’s S-Tower gallery at Shinagawa, and then once again yesterday at the Canon Ginza Gallery. His work is beautiful and sensitive, and like Kobayashi-Sensei, they are both incredibly open with their knowledge of photography and the locations they shoot in. Just yesterday during our chat, Yokoyama-Sensei drew me out a map to one of the beautiful trees in his shots, which I’m hoping now to take my group to during next year’s tours, if I can get permission to do so from the local authorities.
In February during my own Eastern Hokkaido Winter Wildlife Wonderland Tour we’d been out for a dawn shoot, and after breakfast, as I waited in the lobby for my group to gather, I asked if it would be OK for me to sit at a table with some Japanese gentlemen that were chatting. I didn’t look at all of their faces as I asked, but sat down with my MacBook Pro to check my email.
Then, the person that was sitting further along from me on my side of the table spoke, with a wonderful soft voice, that I recognized instantly. Yokoyama-Sensei! I exclaimed, and as we turned to each other, he also recognized me and called me by name. It had been six year’s since we’d previously met, so I was filled with pride and happiness that he’d remembered my name, and we chatted about my move to full time photographer, and he was proud to hear that I was accompanying a 14 strong group on my own tour there. I thanked him of course, because he and Kobayashi-Sensei had played such a large part in setting me on this path.
To the right is a photo of Yokoyama-Sensei from yesterday, as he tried to overcome the his nervousness at being in front of the camera, instead of behind it. 🙂
The current exhibition at Canon Ginza runs for just a few more days, until 3pm on Tuesday the 15th of November (2011). I couldn’t find an English page with the details, but here’s the Japanese page from Canon:
Also note that the exhibition will be on display in Sapporo, Hokkaido from Dec 1st -13th, 2011, and in Umeda (Osaka) from Jan 26th to Feb 1st, 2012. Details and maps etc. are also linked to the above page.
If you can make it to any of these exhibitions, I hope you also get a chance to meet Yokoyama-Sensei. You’ll instantly recognize him from his trademark bandana, but even with your eyes closed, you’ll know him from his calm and soothing voice. His work is of course amazing, and well worth a visit if you get a chance.
Here are a few more photos from my visit yesterday.
As you’ve heard in recent months, as I kept you up to date on my preparation, I had my first solo exhibition called “The Nature of Japan” at the H.A.C. Gallery in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo, from December 23rd to the 30th.
H.A.C. Gallery (Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo)
The show went incredibly well in many respects, and not so well in others. To get the not so good things out of the way so we can talk about the good things, firstly, despite everyone that visited really seeming to enjoy the 38 pieces displayed, I sold approximately none of my prints during the show.
From a business perspective this is of course not good, especially when you consider that it cost me around $3,000 to rent the gallery and put on the opening party, and around $2,000 for the materials and frames etc. for the prints. This means I paid out around $5,000 to put on this show, without even considering the cost for my time to make the prints and do all the other preparation. In cold hard cash return, I reaped approximately no Yen, which at the current exchange rate equates to around zero dollars.
This was disappointing, especially as I believe the pricing of the pieces was pretty reasonable. I had priced the framed prints, that you saw me making in Podcast episode 271, at $380 dollars, and I priced the large 20×30 gallery wraps at $680 dollars, and the gallery owner confirmed that these prices were very reasonable if not a little low for the market. Now, I know that I might have sold more images if I’d priced the work maybe around 50% of this price, but that’s really not what my brand is about. As most of you know, I take pride in the quality of my work, from capture to the finished piece, and I feel that with all considered, the pricing was quite reasonable.
So, does that mean that I feel the exhibition was a failure? Absolutely not! Sure, it would have been nice to have sold some prints, or maybe even enough to have broken even financially, but I gained so much more from doing this exhibition than financial rewards, so let’s take a look at some of these now.
Poster and Stairs
The comments I received from almost everyone that saw the show were incredibly positive. Many people said that they thought the work displayed, and the way it was displayed was incredibly high quality. The gallery owner said that my work was higher quality with better presentation than most established pros, which I was really pleased to hear. One of the people from the head office of this chain of galleries that visited had a similar opinion, and he also told the editor of one of the major Japanese magazines about me, who in turn looked at my work, and we will hopefully be discussing ways of working together in the near future. These are exactly the kind of contacts that I was hoping to make, and could end up paying me back far more in the future than the profit from print sales. This is a different type of value, but it has business value all the same.
We had a guest book (below) for people to sign, which was quite cool actually.Most of the guest books that you can buy here in Japan are specifically for weddings, so I decided to make my own. We bought a leather loose leaf ring binder for B5 size paper, and then got some blank sheets with the holes ready-punched, and printed out the pages prompting visitors to write their name, mail address, postal address and also a comment on the show. The book looked great, but we also put the MBP Kneeling Man logo across the page at 10% gray, as a kind of watermark, which I thought was a nice touch.
Guest Book with MBP Logo
One recurring theme with many of the kind comments I received was to do with seeing the nature of Japan with the clarity of my eye, and the purity of my heart, which I found very touching. One guy that is a painter turned up one day, and I recognized him immediately, because I’d photographed him painting in a park earlier this summer, and had seen him painting twice since. He wears a large conical traditional hat while painting, so it’s easy to recognize him. I was able to quickly talk with him while he was there, and he told me that he found my images to be very “clean” which I took as a huge compliment.
Unfortunately, he came at one of the few times when the gallery full of people. There were probably around eight groups in the gallery at the time, as so I didn’t have time to really talk with him. I heard from my wife afterwards that he seems to have a bad right arm, probably from painting every day for years, and struggled to write in the guest book, but after he’d written his comment, he stood, and asked my wife if he could read it to her. She said yes, of course, and he proceeded to do so. Apparently my wife had to fight back the tears as he read his comment, but as we found later, what he read out, was slightly different to what he’d wrote, and it was pretty difficult to translate, but I found the thought behind the comment to be incredibly powerful. It translates (very poorly) to this…
“I was fulfilled by the clarity of your eye, and your heart, reflected in God’s hand, as you quietly ask permission of your own hand, to release the shutter.”
Here’s the original Japanese, with a few guessed grammatical corrections, in case you are interested.
I also had to fight back the tears as my wife told me about the scenario, and although it was pretty difficult to understand exactly what he’d meant with a few missing characters, the sentiment came across loud and clear, and that made us both very happy.
There were a lot of other people that made similar comments, as one person wrote, when they looked at my images, they felt that they could almost hear the sound of my heart beating as I released the shutter. Clean, clarity, pure and innocent were words that came up a lot in the comments, and this really, really resonated with me.
Although I love the technology that we have these days, and I do sometimes feel like getting a little more experimental with my post processing, the vast majority of my images have had very little done to them. The most time I spend on my images is when I take a few minutes to create a black and white version of an image in Silver Efex Pro. I’m proud of the fact that I usually nail my exposure in camera, and composition is usually pretty much what I intend it to be, with the exception of the odd crop necessary because I use a lot of prime lenses. I’m proud of the sharpness of my images, and it made me very happy to receive these comments from visitors of the exhibition.
It was also very easy to see which of the visitors were themselves avid photographers, because they would almost without fail walk right up to the 20×30” canvases or prints, and almost press their noses again them to check the sharpness. They all commented on how impressive the pieces looked though, even up close, so I don’t think I disappointed anyone.
In total we had a handful of people short of a hundred that visited the show during the eight days it was open. I think the fact that I had been stubborn and done the show during 2010, and so the only time I could book the gallery was the last week of the year, probably led to me getting fewer visitors from professionals such as art collectors, but I think it did help to get many people through the door that would otherwise not have been able to visit. It was great to see some of the Podcast listeners that were in Japan for their Christmas and Year End holidays, and many of the Japanese people that had visited did so using a few hours break from their year-end chores, which would not have been possible had they been working. Although there were a few days when we only had a handful of people turn up, I’m happy with the turnout overall, especially as the majority of the people that visited genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves.
You might remember that I mentioned something that I was going to tell you about later, and was keeping under wraps until the show. Well, time prevented me from doing that, but I had intended to create a batch of folio covers using my die-pressed and embossed folders that I use for my fine art folios, and then make a number of 8.5×11” prints of each of the 38 pieces to enable people to select up to 10 of their favorite pieces to create their own custom folio.
As time ran out I started to think about just creating a sample folder and 10 images, and make these custom folios available for order, rather than printing a number of each piece in advance, but it would have been too much work, and with the number of people that eventually came, I don’t think I’d have made enough money to warrant the time and material investment here either. I found that although I priced all of my pieces, I didn’t want to get all tacky trying to sell these folios to people either, so I don’t really regret not doing this, but I did think it was a pretty original idea.
I’ve kept you up to date about my reasoning for doing the show, so I won’t go into too much detail again here, but I would like to reiterate that one of the main reasons for my doing it was to put my name on the map here in Tokyo, as many people that know of me are outside of Japan, including of course all of you listeners of this Podcast. My wife and I had a laugh although we were very pleased to hear that one young lady that came to see the show said that a friend in France had told her to come by, because she lived in Tokyo. Thanks to that person for telling your friend by the way. I really appreciate that.
There were many Japanese people though that came by despite not having heard of me until they heard about the exhibition or just saw the poster as they walked by and came down the stairs out of curiosity. One guy who was just getting into photography said that he’d been searching for images of the snow monkeys, and that led him to my site, which led him to the exhibition page, and he rushed to the gallery to see it in the last few days before we closed. He was very happy to have noticed in time, and for me, again, this was another local Japanese person that now knows about me and my work, so these stories are all great to hear about.
We were also touched by one woman who spent a long time with us in the gallery and actually cried with happiness at being able to make it to see the show. There are a few people that have mentioned that they are considering buying one of the pieces, and I do still hope to sell some of them, but for me and my wife, as we settle down in the aftermath and recall the last few weeks, it will be these kind of heartwarming human moments that alone will have made it worth all the time and expense of the show.
One thing that surprised me was that despite me managing to get a nice piece in a popular photography magazine, and even getting at least one mention in a local Tokyo newspaper that we know of, none of the people that came said that they’d seen the exhibition mentioned in any of the printed media like this. It was all from seeing post cards, hearing about the show on Twitter, hearing from Friends, probably some of you, thanks again, or from just seeing the poster outside. I guess this is important information for next time, and although I will still try to get some press coverage in the future, I’m less convinced that printed media is a good way to spread the word these days.
Hanging the Prints
Anyway, let’s take a step back now, and talk a little bit about the logistics of actually setting up the exhibition. I’ve kept you up to date on most of the preparation, so I won’t repeat all that. You might remember that all of the pieces were numbered, and we had a chart of which pieces were to go on which wall, and in which order. Having written the number of each print on its box, hanging the prints went pretty smoothly. We were able to start carrying the canvases and prints into the gallery at 6:30PM on the 22nd, the night before we opened.
The gallery had prepared wires hanging from the rails along the top of all the walls, and a quick check after we had carried the pieces down the stairs showed us that we needed another six wires in place, so we had them get those ready while we hung the first few prints.
It turns out that the dimensions of the walls that the gallery published, and we’d used to plan how we’d hang the prints, including the spacing, was wrong. They’d included the width of the pillars in the wall widths, so we had to make some snap decisions as we started to set up.
The first wall (below) was the most disappointing. The published dimensions included the width of that dark pillar that you can see in along the right side of this image. There was also no wire rail on that pillar, so there was no way to hang a print on it either. This meant that the only options for hanging these first four canvases was to hang them all with virtually not space between them, or to move one to the start of the next wall. The next wall though also contained the width of the pillar in the plans, so we didn’t have any leeway to move that around, without having a knock-on effect on the rest of the walls, so we decided to hang all of the four canvases on the first wall with little space between them.
This in itself didn’t look too bad, but it meant that the first canvas of the mother and child snow monkey, which was one of the pieces that I really wanted to hit people as they came in, actually was less eye-catching than I wanted it to be. Many people came down the stairs to the gallery and then turned to say hello as they entered, and then by the time they’d swung back around, they were in front of the second gallery wrap. Granted, many went back and many really enjoyed the snow monkey photo, but I’m sure the impact was reduced by the less than smooth start.
The below photo shows the view of the interior of the H.A.C. Gallery once you swing around from viewing the first wall. You can’t see the pieces behind the partition towards the back of the gallery from here, but you can see the furthest corner on the right, and part of the fifth gallery wrap, which is the first piece on the left side wall.
H.A.C. Gallery Interior
The next problem we came across was that there was a step in the center of the middle wall on the left, because we had pulled one of the partitions out at the back of the gallery, so I had to switch the order of pieces 13 and 14, so that I portrait aspect image came as number 13, instead of a landscape aspect image. This wasn’t too tough a decision though, and I think the overall look of the wall was largely unchanged by this switch around.
Left Center Wall
The next dimension mistake was the furthest wall from the entrance. Because this wall was narrower than we thought, we had to bring my Poppy Heaven image over onto the left wall, and move the White Poppy in Red gallery wrap up onto the dark pillar to make room. This actually didn’t look too bad, and there was a wire rail on the pillar this time, so I was quite happy with the change. This also gave us the benefit of having all four flower shots on one wall, which I liked (see below).
Back Left Wall
As you swing around from here, in this next image you can see the back wall and then the start of the long straight back down the right side of the gallery, which we were able to hang according to plan.
Back and Right Side Walls
Here’s another view as you look back into the gallery past the partition which we used to give people a little bit of privacy, and also to increase the gallery wall space.
View from Back of Gallery
As we hung the first few gallery wraps and prints, we started to take measurements from the floor, so that we could get all the prints at the same height, relative to their size and aspect ratios. We hung the pieces relatively low, so that a person of around 5’2” would be able to view the prints without looking up at them. 5’2” is about the average height of a Japanese woman, and I’d rather have the larger men look down on a print than have all the women looking up at the prints too much.
A Few Visitors
Once we’d hung the prints at roughly the right height, we had to go around and ensure that the spacing was good, and the height was as it should be for each type of print. The gallery had a large heavy paper tube handy, like the center of some roll paper, which we used to knock the wires along in their rail, to adjust the gaps between the pictures. We didn’t measure the gaps, rather we just spaced them all by eye. It also took quite a lot of time to get all the images straight, as often just the tiniest movement of the hook on the string on the back of the print made it rock too far one way or the other.
Once we’d hung the prints, we stuck the captions below each image. As I intended to be at the gallery every day, I didn’t right captions on the cards as such. I just wrote the title, and the location and month and year that the image was made.
As the gallery warmed up though, the wired expanded a little, so I had to go around and adjust the height of the captions the following day. All in all it took three and a half hours to carry the pieces into the gallery, hang them, adjust the height and spacing, and post the caption cards.
The Opening Party
The opening party on the evening of the first day was a lot of fun. Some old friends came, and a number of new friends too, and we all enjoyed ourselves for a few hours. As a number of other people turned up after I shot this photo, my only regret was not being able to talk to everyone as much as I’d have liked.
It was really nice, though totally unexpected, that a number of people sent flowers, with a message of congratulations on the opening day. I was really surprised to see an old friend from my college days, who came down from way up north, as well as many of my friends from around Tokyo. I was also floored by the huge bunch of flowers that my old colleagues from the day-job that I left in September. The kindness and generosity of the people I left behind there never fails to amaze me.
Flowers from my Old Coworkers
I wasn’t much use when I got home after the opening party. Not just because I’d had my fill of beer and wine, but also because I was worn out. I’d been up until late the night before, finishing my preparation, and trying to create a slideshow of the images to post as last week’s Podcast. I ended up crashing out almost as soon as I got home, but then completed the slideshow the following evening, and released it on Christmas Day. If you subscribe by iTunes you’ll have seen the video come out, but I also posted a full sized version on the blog, which I hope you caught. If you didn’t already catch the video, I’ll embed it into the blog post for this episode as well, in case you didn’t catch this yet.
Don’t forget to hit the full-screen button in the video window to view the video player, to view the slide-show as large as possible. If scaling isn’t turned on when you start the video, turn it on with the button in the top right corner, and really fill your screen with the video.
I embedded four video clips that I’ve had stashed away on my hard drive for the last year or so, to help illustrate the background of some of the still images, and I also used video instead of the still photograph a couple of times, which I hope you enjoy. Thanks for all of the kind comments that I’ve already received, and I do hope that those of you that have not yet checked the video out will have time to take a look. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.
I also kept the video running on my laptop during the exhibition, to allow people to see the movement in the Sun Pillar shot, which doesn’t really come across fully in a still image, and many people stopped to watch the entire slide-show even after looking at the 38 pieces displayed, which shows how captivating a multimedia presentation can be.
Breaking It Down
I think I overdid it on the first few days though, as I ended up coming down with some sort of a bug that really knocked the wind out of me for the next five days of the exhibition. Although it wasn’t enough to stop me from really enjoying the time that people were visiting the exhibition, I was so tired each evening that I wasn’t able to do much more than eat dinner, take a shower then crash-out for the night.
Luckily, by the last day I had just about gotten back to normal, which was good, because we had to break the exhibition down and load the car up to take the pieces home again that evening. There was no one left in the gallery after 6:30PM, so from around 6:45 we started to take the caption cards off, then turned the music off at 7PM and started to take the canvases and prints down from the wall. Initially I took the prints down, and just put them on the floor below their wires, as my wife started to put the prints into their respective numbered boxes.
We then wrapped the gallery wraps in the paper that they were in when we brought them out here, and then I went to get my car from the car park. We’d come by train for all other days, but on this last day, I came by car to take the work back home. With most people now on holiday, the roads were clear, so we were home and had everything unpacked from the car by 9PM.
I have to tell you, I was worn out. Not only did the bug I’d caught knock the wind out of me, but the whole thing was quite tiring, probably because I was doing stuff that I don’t normally do. I also have to tell you though, that I wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world. It was amazing to meet many people that have been listening to the Podcast for a long time, and people that I’ve known only from Twitter (there’s a list of these people below) and also meeting lots of people for the first time at the gallery.
Financially it might not have flown as I’d have liked to, but I have some precious memories, that I won’t forget in a hurry.
I also wanted to let you know that we’ve recently dropped the price of the MBP Podcast Companion iPhone App to $2.99. Despite that, we’ve updated the app with high resolution images for the iPhone 4 Retina Display, and added additional video support, as well as better buffering of audio in the Podcast player.
I still honestly think that our app has the best Depth-of-Field Calculator in any photography related app, and now, with the new low price, it’s probably worth it just for this calculator. You also get access to the Podcast without syncing with iTunes, as well as being able to keep up with latest MBP news via Twitter, and there are links to all of the Web sites in the MBP community, as well as a couple of ways to contact me directly from your iPhone.
Remember too that this app is also a way to donate a little back to help keep this Podcast going, so do consider picking up a copy, even if it’s just your way of making a contribution.
Now that my ten gallery wraps for my December show “The Nature of Japan” are finished, I have started to work on the 28 standard fine art prints that make up the total of 38 pieces. Over the last few days though, I realized that I’ve figured out a number of ways to make printing in large quantities for an exhibition smoother, so today I have put together a video to take you through the printing and framing process from start to finish.
Note that there is an iPod/iPhone version of this video in iTunes, which is good for portability, but if you’re watching on a computer, the video above is better.