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Thoughts Before Looking

For the first time.

None. A blank mind is best.

When I see a print for the first time, usually as it emerges from the printer, I almost invariably expect to see problems. In good light that may change, but that is rarely the end.

I have learned to toss the print on a table with good light, and to forget it, for an hour, day, week or even a month or longer.

The image, whether fresh from the camera or printer has my pre-conceptions, altering my “seeing,” and so evaluation is in a sense corrupted.

A good example is to print on a wide gamut photo paper and then on a matte paper with a smaller gamut. In a side-by-side comparison the photo paper likely will appear more brilliant and I would expect to prefer it. Then come surprises.

Walking away and coming back and seeing both prints at an oblique angle is startling. With both lying on a table with an overhead light the photo paper is all glare and the image is nearly invisible while the matte paper shows the entire image clearly.

The matte surface apparently lets light contact the colorant at any angle and then reflects it back at all angles. However, there is a limitation. With modern pigmented inks, the matte papers absorb less of the colorant and so the color gamut is limited. However, some the newer paper coatings do absorb black inks well and a very deep black is possible.

The lesson is that the brilliant color may prevent you from seeing the more subtle advantages of the matte paper.

Something similar can happen with images. When I come upon a scene that affects me I begin to envision how I might compose the image and how a print might look. However, the biggest danger I run into is basing my imagination on a narrow aspect of the scene and subsequently realizing that I was wrong in how all the parts would work together, or rather not work together.

The opposite can also happen in that what I had hoped for does not happen but looking days or even years later I see new possibilities or I have evolved new techniques or have acquired new equipment or software that can handle difficult situations.

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