Alois was here

Several of my students joined me and my colleague Prof. Martin Delp today for a tour of the Landsampt für Digitalisierung, Breitband un Vermessung, the Bavarian office for digitization and surveying. Here, the government creates maps, collects and distributes digital geographical data, and prints maps, charts and various related things for data analysis, mapping software (including cell phone mapping) and aviation “sectional” charts. for the state of Bavaria.

Alois Senefelder, discoverer of the lithographic printing process. Born in the Czech Republic, he brought his invention of planographic printing to Munich and the Western world.

This facility is also houses the Bavarian archive of lithographic stones created between the early 1800s and the late 1900s for mapping the state. There are 26,000 slabs of Solnhofen Limestone stored underground here in a vault that is a designated national treasure of the people of Germany.

Bavaria is mapped on litho stones at a scale of 1:5000. There are 18,000 stones (each one a “plate” for lithographic printing) at this scale, and many more at double scale of 1:2,500. Every square meter of Bavaria is written on stone, and curiously, not a single stone is missing or broken, this despite the building being bombed at the end of World War II by the Allies. They are all still intact.

Professor Delp and Sebastian Söckler explore the operation of a 150-year-old lithographic press in the Landsampt for Digitalisierung office.

On the street level of the same building are a few hand presses, each capable of printing images from letterpress, intaglio (copper engraved plates), or lithographic plates (either limestone or aluminum). We were given an opportunity to see these presses, and to touch and explore several lithographic stones on display there.

Our host was Sebastian Söckler, a graduate of the Hochschule München, who is now a printing engineer at the facility, and who is very knowledgeable about lithographic printing, platemaking and imagery. He was an extraordinary host who explained how images are imparted to stone, how the stones are prepared for printing, and how the presses work.

The collection of lithographic stones is stored below ground in a special warehouse that protects this priceless archive of original images for lithographic printing.

The Landsampt für Digitalisierung has printed and scanned all 26,000 lithographic stones, and the archive is a public resource. It’s possible to order a print of the scan of your neighborhood anywhere in Bavaria.

Invented, or more correctly, discovered by Alois Senefelder in the late 18th century, the lithographic process does not use a raised or recessed image, but instead uses a polished limestone surface with an image made by either chemical or mechanical etching on the surface. The image is made to accept ink (the oleophilic component) while the non-image area of the stone (the hydrophilic area) is left to hold water in its microscopic pores (about 250 grains per cm. or 1,200 per inch “resolution”). It is the balance of ink and water that makes lithography work.

This is a typical image on a stone – this one is of Moosburg – that shows the detail of these beautiful maps. I reversed the imge in Photoshop to make it legible; lithographic stones are imaged backwards.

To print from a litho stone, one sponges water onto the surface, then follows that with a roller covered with oil-based printing ink. The water and ink are kept in balance by adding more water or more ink to the surface. Once the image is inked, paper is positioned on top of the plate (directly in contact with the stone) and pressure is applied with a bar that forces down on the paper as the carriage holding the stone is moved underneath.

After impression, the paper is removed with its image (and a considerable amount of water) on it. Allowed to dry, the water evaporates and the ink dries in place, making a printed work of tremendous quality.

The office runs their antique presses for occasional public events. We were able to dampen the plate today, but not to print, as the press was not set up for printing.

Martin Hämmerle, one of my students from Hochschule München, waves the hand-fan over the litho stone to dry it. The press is a 100-year-old machine in the collection of the state agency.

We were then taken to the underground storage of the slabs of limestone, each one weighing over 400 lbs. On the wall is a chart showing the state of Bavaria and its mathematical coordinates that correspond to a specific limestone slab. Those slabs are stored in rolling storage shelves that have the stones placed vertically in rows. Over 200 square meters of space house the collection which is kept cool and dry to preserve the images on the stones.

It was interesting to think that the inventor of lithography, Alois Senefelder, once worked on the stones in the archive. That Senefelder himself made some of those images gave me an awesome feeling. He was here! Well, perhaps he was not not here exactly (this is a modern building), but his hands made the images on these stones. these are not replicas; these are the real thing.

It was another day of discovery for me and for my students. We stood at the place where lithographic printing was first developed. It will leave a lasting impression on all of us.

 

 

Posted in Adventures, Art, History, Printing and Printing Processes, Scanning, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take the Ten Fonts Survey

Greetings, Blognosticator readers,

I am launching a survey about popular type fonts.

Here are the rules:

You are stranded on a deserted island. You have with you a computer and the complete Adobe Creative Suite (not the Creative Cloud, as that requires Internet access). You have numerous island residents nearby who have decided that it’s time to publish a newspaper and some tourist information in case you are ever rescued from the island.

You have power (solar, of course), a printer of some kind, and supplies to print your publications.

You only had time to upload ten type fonts when you left on this journey. With care and deliberation you chose those ten, and they must last you for the duration of your stay on the island.

Please tell me which ten you would take with you, and I will eventually tally them and write a blog about the results. There are nearly a quarter million of you readers out there, so I know that this will be fruitful.

Thank you for participating. This will not result in any response from me until the survey is complete. I will not use your contact information for anything other than to tell you the results of the survey.

Please enter font families. Helvetica is a font family that includes numerous weights and widths. Garamond in a family with numerous weights. I’m most interested in the font families than the specific faces. An exception might be something like Times Italic, which (in my onion) is a really lovely font that is significantly nicer than Times Roman. I’ll sort out the details as the submissions come in. Thank you!

Ten Type Fonts Survey
You can enter font families here. Helvetica, for example, would include numerous weights and widths. Neue Helvetica is a different family.
Font 1
Font 2
Font 3
Font 4
Font 5
Font 6
Font 7
Font 8
Font 9
Font 10
Your name (optional):
Your e-mail (optional):
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Ink is a terrible thing to waste

I’m teaching this semester in Munich, Germany, at the Hochschule München, or more correctly, Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften München. It’s just a few blocks from the city center on Tram route 20. We have about 20,000 students on several campuses.

It’s a technical university where they teach in the same proud tradition as we do at Cal Poly – Learn by Doing. It’s all hands-on, all the time, and that shows in the many interesting projects that one sees on campus and off.

My classes are one in photography, one in advanced typography, and one called Projekt. It’s a senior-level course in project planning and execution. My students are dedicated, respectful and eager. I’m having a great time here.

This is the gamut comparison between the Epson on Tuesday afternoon and the FOGRA 39 standard. The Epson is slightly larger, but I expected more.

In the photo class I needed to print panoramic photos, and there is an Epson 9900 Stylus Pro printer in the lab (along with three smaller Epson 4800 printers). The 9900 features more base colors of ink than the others, and it is wider, so I wanted to use it for my course. Unfortunately, the printer had not been used for quite a while.

And, as everyone knows, an ink-jet printer sitting idle is the Devil’s paradise. I started it up and immediately learned that the ink was low on the light-light-black channel, the cyan channel, the orange channel and the green channel. Fortunately an inventory of inks was on-hand and soon I was running. But then the waste cartridge on the right side was filled and the machine stopped. A day later another was found and I was back in the game.

This, again, is Epson (Monday) vs. FOGRA. It was acceptable, but not at all what I would have expected from an ink-jet printer with CMYK plus orange and green base colors. The hardest thing for me to accept was that there would be more cyan in FOGRA than on the Epson; that was illogical.

The quality was marginal. I was getting streaks and breaks in horizontal lines. I own an Epson of this same size at home, so I am experienced in the troubles that ink-jet printers can have. I have used that printer continuously for many years and have had almost no trouble with image quality of head clogging. The more you use an Epson, the better it works. This one, however, was sitting and some of the ink-jet nozzles were clogged.

I ran a cleaning cycle on the Hochschule München Epson. It ran better. Then I ran an ICC profile patch set and profiled the printer. The resulting gamut of colors was OK, but I suspected that something was amiss. My printer at home is a 9600, which has “only” seven inks, and an amazing gamut of colors, one which encircles all CMYK printing devices and makes really beautiful photo prints.

This is Epson Wednesday afternoon – after several cleaning cycles – compared to the same printer the day before. It was definitely getting better.

This printer in Munich has an even larger gamut I suspected because of the presence of Orange and Green inks in the 12-ink stable (only 11 are used, as there are two exclusive dark black inks).

On Tuesday I ran out of Cyan altogether, so I headed to the very impressive Calumet Photo store in downtown Munich and bought a new cartridge of Cyan (€143.55 with VAT) and took it back to the university. Soon I was running on all 11 cylinders again. I ran another ICC profile, and this time the gamut looked better.

But I was still troubled by the fact that the overall gamut of colors was only slightly larger than the gamut of FOGRA 39, a CMYK gamut for printing presses. So, I ran diagnostics and discovered that I was getting significant cut-outs on various color nozzles: green, orange, cyan. The streaks persisted. I ran another cleaning cycle, which uses a tremendous amount of ink (which is about €1250 per liter). Things got better, but I was still getting errors of clogged nozzles, so I ran another cleaning cycle. This was starting to hurt.

…and this is the Epson Wednesday afternoon compared to FOGRA 39. This is much better than when I started. I suspect that there may still be more color possible on this machine, but that may take another day of cleaning and printing.

I ran the nozzle alignment test, which seemed to work perfectly, so I moved back to the cleaning cycles and test prints.

By Wednesday afternoon I had the machine performing nearly perfectly. The streaks were almost gone, and prints were starting to look quite good. I decided that my next cleaning cycles would be to run some of my student work. Rather than just pump ink through the nozzles and into the waste cartridge, I wanted to put that ink onto photo paper.

I ran three panoramic images, and they looked good. Another round of profiling revealed what my eyes were telling me earlier: the gamut of colors was just not good enough for that machine. Analysis of the new gamut showed that I was finally using all the colors on the printer – strong cyans were showing, much more green and considerably more red and orange were finally showing up in the charts.

Today I will run some more work through the machine in hopes that that few misfiring nozzles in cyan, orange and green will clear up and give me the results for which the Epson 9900 printer is so famous.

It has taken three days of solid effort, probably €500 worth of ink, and a good part of a roll of GMG proofing paper to get the machine running well again. It has been worth the effort in seeing the results.

 

Posted in Color Management, Photography, Printing and Printing Processes, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Bishop Peak Portrait Project – complete!

Thank you all for your patience while I built the Bishop Peak Portrait Project, a series of thousands of photos of San Luis Obispo’s most prominent mountain. I started the project in November, 2015 with the construction of a weatherproof box for the camera and electronics, and then started shooting the photos in March, 2016.

The photography continued for a year to the end of February, 2017 when I turned it off and removed the equipment from the roof of the Kennedy Library at Cal Poly.

In the end, 365 of those photos were prepared and built into a large display for the Baker building at Cal Poly.

During the months between the beginning and the end, I machined the panels from an aluminum laminate material called AluPanel, developed a system for machining the individual photos for the display, and cut those to fit. Then we put it together.

The story starts here if you want to go back to read all the details.

This week Cal Poly Facilities workers put the panels up in the Baker Science Center at Cal Poly, and my colleague Rob Brewster (one of the technicians on the project) sent me photos.

I hereby present the completed Bishop Peak Portrait Project:

More photos will follow of course, but I’ve never seen it, and will not be able to see it until late August when I return from my teaching post in Germany.

I am very proud to see the results, and once again thank those who helped make the project happen:

Dr. Phil Bailey, Emeritus Dean, College of Science and Mathematics
Dr. Derek Gragson, Associate Dean, College of Science and Mathematics
Rachel Henry, Communications, College of Science and Mathematics
Rob Brewster, Technician, College of Science and Mathematics
Doug Brewster, Technician, College of Science and Mathematics
Emma Wilson, Graphic Communication student and project assistant
Patrick Kammermeyer, Kennedy Library communications specialist
Catherine Trujillo, Kennedy Library, and campus art coordinator
Eric Johnson, Graphic Communication Dept. IT consultant
Tim Hastings, Facilities Department
Sarah Sayeed, Kennedy Library Information Technologies lead
Dale Kohler, Kennedy Library and Cal Poly ITS lead
Jim Eckford, Rancho Burro technical support
Ashala Lawler, technical support
Bryn Forbes, CNC support and assistance

 

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Street Art provides an opportunity for repositioned panoramas

My wife and I traveled today to see a neighborhood in Munich that is famous for its street art. It’s called the Tumblingerstraße area, and it features some very sophisticated works of graffiti – much better than graffiti – that shows some amazing talent and creativity.

I am not a fan of graffiti; I prefer that artists not paint on buildings and train cars, etc. However, this neighborhood has become the canvas for some talented artists who use the urban landscape as their palette. Though there is a municipal sign at the edge of the neighborhood prohibiting graffiti and spray-painting (itself defaced by spray paint), the street artists who do this work must use scissor lifts, or at least ladders, to reach their canvases, and one does not do that kind of art in the middle of the night unseen by the Polizei. This work must be at least condoned by the authorities.

This example is over 20 yards wide, about 12 feet tall. I took seven horizontal images to make the complete image, and stitched them together using Photomerge as described here.

My objective today was to capture some photos of this work, so I took my trusty Canon 5D Mark III camera and my “street lens” (16-35 f2.8) with me to make the images. Tumblingerstraße is a moderately-trafficked street bordering an industrial neighborhood and the Isar river. A huge brewery is located just off the street, and there is a lot of train traffic that passes overhead.

There are cars parked everywhere along the street, making it difficult to step far enough away from the art to photograph each piece in one frame; the sidewalks are wide enough for people and bicycles, and barely wide enough for me to make multiple-exposure “panoramic” images of the art. The term “panoramic” infers that the camera is in one position, and that it turns on its own axis to make a long horizontal photo. In this case, the camera does not stand still and turn. Instead, the camera moves horizontally in increments, making a series of square photos that are later stitched into a large, seamless image that represents the original art in its entirety. I will call these repositioned panoramas.

They are quite difficult to capture and to stitch, and there is only one way I know to get them to come out correctly – straight and undistorted – and that is to use Adobe Photoshop’s Photomerge feature to assemble them into whole images.

Photomerge is very good at this. I used it extensively four years ago to assemble section-scanned film negatives of Kodak Cirkut panoramic camera film. These negatives measured about ten inches tall by over four feet in length. I scanned them on an Epson scanner using its transparency function, and then assembled the sections in Photoshop using this technique. It worked flawlessly. I had an advantage on that project though – the film had no perspective, and the scanning bed stayed absolutely flat and square for each scanned section. Assembling these into coherent images was relatively easy for Photoshop, and the resulting photos were extraordinary.

This is my shooting pattern. I stand square to the wall, find a horizontal reference  in the shot (edge of the wall in this case), then take a series of images with careful horizontal indexing – I take three steps between each frame.

Today’s adventure was unaided by a tripod. I have one, but I did not take it with me to Tumblingerstraße. Instead I hand-held the camera and made very careful series of photos of each image I wanted to capture. I checked focus and exposure, then attempted to find something straight to use as a reference. Typically, I used the edge of the wall at the sidewalk for a horizontal reference in each frame. Then I took a photo, stepped three measured steps to the right, took another, and repeated this until I had a series of images that covered the art with significant overlaps.

Four sequential horizontal images taken today to capture one work of art. Notice the overlap in the images – this is critical to the success of merging the photos into one.

Back in my apartment I assembled the photos in Photoshop using one of the techniques that Photomerge will practice to get sequential images to match and merge into one.

To get this to work, one must first be extremely careful to take effective photos. Unless you can go back and take the photos again, it’s best to get it right the first time. Check square, check focus, use manual exposure (and don’t change it!), don’t change the distance between the art and the camera (this can be challenging). The process does allow for some error, but it must be minimal.

I try for about 20 percent overlap between the photos. Photoshop needs a lot to find common areas and to blend the images successfully. I open all of the contributing images for a single work of art, then choose File>Automate>Photomerge to reach the Photomerge pane. Then, in that pane, I choose the technique that works best for this type of work: Reposition. The other six options will generally not work to assemble rectangular images correctly. A couple of them won’t work at all for this kind of photo.

Photomerge in Adobe Photoshop, showing the selection of the Reposition mode, and the selection of the Open Files in the center. This is the most effective way to accomplish the task of making these images.

Choose Add Open Files then select them all: click, shift-click on the list to include them. Then click OK. It takes several minutes at the resolution at which I work (63 MB per image), but the result can be spectacular.

This is the composite image from the four source images shown above. Once completed, it needed only to be cropped to finish the image.

Note that the most visible difference between a true panorama and a sequential, repositioned panoramic image, is that these photos are straight, and do not display the arcs of a normal single-point-perspective panoramic photo. Photomerge has two modes that will do that, but then your straight lines become arcs, and that is unattractive for this kind of work. Notice in these images that the rows of bricks are straight from left to right.

In the end I recorded a faithful photo of each of the major works on display in the neighborhood. I am very pleased with the results. As with all of my panoramic images, the greatest amount of time is spent in front of the computer, as opposed to the relatively small amount of time spent on the scene.

I found myself enchanted by the street art today, and I applaud the creative people who make this work.

Please don’t do it on my apartment building!!

 

Posted in Adventures, Art, Panoramic Photography, People, Photography, Photoshop techniques, Software | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Van Gogh’s Père Tanguy in perspective

Museums often have no-photography rules, depending on their policy about allowing visitors to take photos, or the legal arrangements they have with art owners, copyright holders and other things that go beyond my pay grade.

In the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy, a few years ago I noticed that the museum had finally given up on its prohibition of photography of the statue of David. On my prior visit they played a continuous recording in numerous languages saying that photography was prohibited. My guess is that the museum staff threatened to quit if management didn’t stop playing the recording.

Here I am, having a close photographic experience with Vincent Van Gogh at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2008. This gallery allows photos, but does not allow tripods. This painting does not have glass in its frame, making the relief of the brushstrokes visible.

Since the tourists ignored the prohibition anyway, the museum acquiesced to the ubiquity of cell phone cameras. They just gave up. It probably doesn’t matter anyway because the value of a photo of the statue is exactly nothing. These photos are just mementos, photos that people show to others saying, “Look – I took a photo of the David!”

The fact that millions of people have taken (previously illicit) photos of that statue does not diminish the value of the original in any way. Michelangelo would be proud.

(I know that most museums prohibit flash photography, and I know that the powerful ultraviolet light emitted by some strobe flash tubes can potentially damage the colors in works of art. That is a topic for another day.)

Taking photos of fine art in ambient light does no harm to the originals, nor does it hurt the marketing opportunities that museums have to sell postcards. I buy them too, and just like you, I never send them to anyone. They end up in boxes in my storage locker with postcards from other trips to other lands.

This is my off-axis photo of Van Gogh’s Père Tanguy portrait in the Rodin Museum in Paris. I was able to eliminate all but three pinpoint reflections in the glass that protects the image.

I suppose that an unscrupulous photographer could take an illicit photo of a painting, then print postcards to sell on the sidewalk outside the museum to take business away from the museum. That scenario is unlikely, but in case you are considering this as a career, following is my technique for making a darn good reproduction photo of a masterpiece in a museum.

This is the same image, squared-up in Adobe Photoshop. I use the Distort tool to align the image with a grid of guidelines I put into the image frame. The blue was set as the background color so you can see how much distortion was needed to get the image square.

There are two Van Gogh paintings on display at the Rodin Museum in Paris. On my first visit to that museum, nine years ago, I noticed that the paintings were not secured to the wall, only hung on a cable like the paintings that hang in my home. I also noticed that the two paintings were not covered with glass, making the three dimensional brush strokes easily visible. To me, that is what makes Van Gogh’s work so fun to see in person.

On my visit to the Rodin this week I was pleased to see that they have now secured the frames to the wall with very sturdy connectors. I was disappointed to see that they now have glass in front of the paintings (this is good, really, because it protects them from people and the environment). The problem with the glass is that it hides the paint strokes from the viewer, and it increases the reflections on the painting.

This is the reproduction of the Père Tanguy portrait that is available for free download from the Musée Rodin. The museum had the advantage of taking this image in a carefully controlled photo studio.

This is my Père Tanguy portrait reproduction after correcting the distortion in the top image. It started as a 62 MB image, and ended up being cropped to about 18 MB. That is enough resolution to reproduce the image on postcard-size works. Note that my image missed a little bit of the right-hand vertical.

I wanted to photograph the image of Père Tanguy, the art supply dealer Van Gogh painted in lieu of payment for pigments and canvas. Mssr. Tanguy was, according to the information at the Rodin Museum, a nice fellow who supported starving artists, and willingly posed when they wanted to trade a painting for the raw materials of their craft. The indoor lighting at the museum shone down from the ceiling in pinpoints of light that reflected off the new glass. It was impossible to take a good photo with the reflections in it.

Instead, I took the photo from an angle that provided the fewest reflections. And, as cinematographers say, I left the rest for “post” (this means that I’ll leave it to the next guy to fix it.)

It turns out that I am that next guy, so it was up to me to fix the photo. I shoot in camera Raw, and then I convert as I import into my computer into DNG format (this is my insurance against obsolescence). I opened the DNG, then made some small tonal adjustments and opened the image in Photoshop. There, I dragged guidelines to the edges of the image as I would like it to be.

Then, using the Marquee tool, I selected a rectangular area of the photo large enough to expand it to fit the space and square the photo to these guidelines. Choosing the Distort tool under Image>Transform>Distort. I usually compress rather than expand the corners when I do this, meaning that one corner (the upper-right in this example) should be brought inward rather than taking the upper-left corner and dragging it upward. This results in a reduction of pixels in the image, and that might be better than an interpolation of new pixels caused by stretching the image. As I pull or push the corners of the image, I add the Shift key to keep the control point from wandering vertically while I am pushing it horizontally (or vice versa).

In the end, I have a nice, square image of Pere Tanguy, free of reflections (mostly) and ready for contrast adjustment and finishing. The Rodin Museum provides the dimensions of the original on their web site, figures which make it possible to return the image to its proper proportions. I set my canvas to these proportions, then scale the image non-proportionally until it fits (with Snap turned on).

I downloaded the Museum’s low-res version of the original image (they no doubt have a photo studio for this work), opened it in Photoshop next to mine, and then I adjusted mine to match better in contrast, color saturation, and black values. The final product is over 18MB, and at that size I could print postcards with good enough quality to set up outside the museum and sell my wares. But I’m too busy for that, and they own the original. It is an interesting exercise, one that is useful for photographing highly reflective art (I used this technique once for photographing badges).

I appreciate the fact that Musée Rodin does not mind when techies like me come to visit, carrying professional cameras and intent on making nice images of their masterpieces. They are generous with their originals, and I am grateful that they seem to have no cares about my taking photos in their beautiful museum.

Posted in Art, History, Photography, Photoshop techniques, Printing and Printing Processes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Der Druck ist nicht tot

At least in Germany it’s not.

As I stepped off the train in Heidelberg last Monday afternoon an American asked me for directions. At this I was not very helpful because he and I had been in Heidelberg exactly the same length of time – about ten seconds.

We chatted as we walked into the station. He mentioned that he was visiting the city where his parents met 60 years ago. I told him I was there to visit the printing press manufacturer named after the city we were visiting.

He lamented that publishing is dead. So sorry, he said. He, himself once helped out on a press. Did I know that the press operators used to know just how much ink to add to a unit to get the color right? Yes, I admitted that I knew that, and I had done that very thing myself.

We said our pleasantries and parted ways, he to find the place of his parents’ meeting, and I to the Schnellpressenfabrik to see multimillion-dollar printing machines assembled and prepared for their new owners around the world.

This is a small selection of the many, many magazines for sale at the bookstore located in the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. There were another five racks this size in the store. This is eye-candy for printers!

A few minutes later my wife and I visited a nice magazine store in the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof; we were both looking for something to read – an English language magazine perhaps. As we wandered the aisles in the store I realized that I was standing in the middle of a well-stocked example of the fact that publishing is not dead. I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, while admiring the retail end of the publishing industry.

I am going to take a guess that this single store had over 1,000 magazines for sale. In the photo section where I was standing, there were 49 magazines in German on the subject of photography. There were several in other languages also, but they were in the foreign languages section, which featured another 150 titles.

I walked around and picked a beautiful tourist magazine about the city of Heidelberg. I picked that up and decided to buy it. I also grabbed a copy of the week’s Economist, printed in England (I think) for the European market. I get this magazine back home, and I think that the American edition is printed in the U.S.

I reflected on the man’s comments just minutes earlier on the train platform. So sorry. And I realized that he is absolutely wrong. Ill-informed is probably the better term.

I wondered to myself where he had read that publishing is dead.

Probably in a magazine.

The next morning my wife and I were treated to a tour of the huge Heidelberg printing press factory in Wiesloch-Walldorf just outside Heidelberg. There we saw presses large and small – even the small presses are large these days. We were taken to a building 620 meters in length and 120 meters in width where the presses are assembled. It’s a combination assembly line and individual assembly facility where 4,000 printing units are made each year and shipped around the world.

Ralph Schönfeld and Clarence Penge, our wonderful hosts at the Heidelberg plant in Wiesloch, outside of Heidelberg, Germany. They are standing on a press with eight printing units and four coaters. The machine is 93 feet long. It will be used in a packaging plant.

We visited the gear-making building and saw the production area where cast steel components are machined to a precise size, then measured for quality-control on their way to final assembly in a huge multi-color Heidelberg press.

We walked through and over a printing press so large that the feeder is way over my head. This one is destined for a packaging printer in North America. It is over 90 feet in length. The press sheet it prints is 63 inches in width. I suspect that some of the magazines I saw in the bookstore are printed on machines like this (actually it’s more likely they are printed on the smaller 40-inch machines).

My wife Ashala stands at the delivery of one of the huge Heidelberg presses in the demonstration room in Wiesloch. This machine prints on sheets of paper over five feet in width. It is also the fastest press made by Heidelberg – it prints up to 18,000 sheets per hour, which translates to five sheets per second. The amazing thing about this press is that it’s designed to be operated by only two people.

I came away from this experience knowing that printing (and publishing) are doing pretty well. After some lean years fighting our way through the recession, the industry is on the go – especially packaging, and the printers of the world are buying new printing machines to fill the stores in all the Hauptbahnhofs in all the world with beautiful colorful magazines.

And I hope the man from the train found the place where his parents met. I also hope he bought a magazine from the store in the station as he was leaving town.

 

Posted in Adventures, New technology, People, Printing and Printing Processes, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learning letterpress in a 14th century town

One of the three classes I am teaching in Munich is Advanced Typography.

The students are in their third year in the Print Media program at Munich University of Applied Sciences. Five of my students are exchange students from my home university, Cal Poly.

At Cal Poly I have access to the Shakespeare Press Museum, a delightful collection of 19th and early 20th century letterpress equipment and type. When I teach this course at Cal Poly we just walk down the stairs to the museum so that I can show the students how to set type and print with the letterpress equipment in the museum. At Munich there is no museum, and only one letterpress.

My colleague Martin Delp, who spent last spring quarter teaching at Cal Poly, suggested that when I wanted to teach the students about letterpress printing, we should visit his friend Oskar Bernhard, a letterpress printer in the town of Nördlingen, Germany. That town, which was founded in the early 14th century, is about two hours from Munich by train.

Oskar Bernhard explains the marks on a letterpress proof for my Advanced Typography students. From left to right: Emily Hoehenrieder, Shauna Rinaldi-El Abd and Christine Wiechers.

Last Thursday, my students joined Prof. Delp and me at the Munich central train station and we boarded a train headed for Nördlingen. When we arrived in that city, we walked over to Herr Bernhard’s atelier and began a most impressive day in a working letterpress shop.

This is a look from the balcony of Oskar’s workshop. On the left is his offset proofer. At center is the Heidelberg K-series cylinder press. At the lower-right is his Heidelberg “Tiegel” press. The students are gathered at the back of the shop setting type for their projects.

Bernhard, a veteran of the typographic industry, has an impressive collection of machines – several letterpress proofers, one Heidelberg “Tiegel” (in America these are called the “Windmill”), a large Heidelberg cylinder press, and a very large offset proofing press. He uses these machines to produce limited edition letterpress books, specialty cards and booklets, and a variety of commercial jobs.

Shauna Rinaldi El-Abd and Ashley Boehmer, both Cal Poly students in the exchange program at Munich, operate the letterpress proofer in Mr. Bernhard’s shop. They are positioning a sheet of paper to be printed on the press.

He has a Monotype machine – a typecasting machine from about the 1950s. The keyboard is still in working condition, but his caster is in need of repair. The rest of his type is foundry type and some wood type in sizes up to about three inches. It’s a beautiful shop, very neat and orderly. And, unlike many letterpress shops, there are not very many orphaned projects sitting on the counters. He is meticulous about putting type away.

The students learned how to use a composing stick, how to add (real) leading to increase the space between lines, and how to quad-out their lines to properly center them. They chose their type from the many drawers of hand-set type in Mr. Bernhard’s collection. He was most gracious in allowing the students to invade his workshop and use his precious equipment.

With Oskar Bernhard’s historic building in the background, my students gather for a group photo in Nördlingen. In back are me, Franz Eder, Martin Hämmerle, Christine Wiechers and Oskar Bernhard. Second row: Antonia Schaefer, Jessica Dimulias, Skyler Ulep, Front row: Sophie Wegenknecht, Ashley Boehmer, Shauna Rinaldi El-Abd, Emily Hoehenrieder and Prof. Martin Delp. Photo by Ashala Lawler

It was fun and highly educational. Each student had a chance to set type, to position it on the press and to print several sheets of finished work on Mr. Bernhard’s proofing press. They had an experience that one cannot get in a textbook, nor from a PowerPoint presentation.

After our day in Oskar Bernhard’s workshop, we had a pizza, then took a guided tour of the town, the only city in Germany that still features a wall around the city to keep marauders out. At the end of the day, we sent the students back to Munich on the train, and we stayed behind for a nice dinner and a second day in the historic city.

At Cal Poly we have the motto “Learn By Doing.” One of the reasons that Munich’s program is such a good fit for our exchange program is that its system is also based on hands-on learning. With our visit to Nördlingen and to Oskar Bernhard’s workshop, the students had a worthwhile learn-by-doing experience that they will long remember.

Note added May 10, 2017:
My students and I created a thank you poster to send to Herr Bernhard. We included hand lettering by Sophie Wagenknecht and a translated version of This is a Printing Office by Beatrice Ward. Each student signed the poster and we mailed it to Oskar Bernhard.

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The Poster-Paster

In my collection of books related to printing and publishing is a delightful edition from Dover of line art engravings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I wrote about reproducing these illustrations in a series of blogs I wrote in January and February of this year. They are surprisingly challenging to reproduce with digital technologies. I use that book occasionally as a source of early graphic arts illustrations.

Today, while out on a journey to buy some chain lubricant for my bicycle, I encountered a 19th century event here in Munich. I passed a man putting up advertising posters using a long-handled brush with paste on it. First he brushed the paste on the wall, then he applied a poster, then followed by painting paste on the front surface of the poster with his brush.

I suppose that the paste works its way through the poster and helps to hold it in place when the paste dries.

I have never seen this done before. It was amusing to me, as one of my favorite engravings is of a poster-paster putting up a poster by this technique.

What made it even more amusing was that as the man worked, the wind picked up a couple of the posters he was hanging, and they blew down the street. The poster-paster’s assistant took chase and brought them back. The illustration above, drawn in 1836 by British cartoonist Robert Seymour, came to mind.

Today’s poster-pasting experience was an eye-opener for me. Techniques used in previous centuries are still at work today.

Above, the poster-paster with his long-handled brush applies white paste to the wall, then to the posters after he has applied them.

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270° of the Alps in one panoramic photo

Yesterday my wife and I ventured south from our temporary home in Munich to the German Alps. We traveled by Deutschbahn trains, and a bus (construction on the rails required this) and then another train to the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there we took yet another train to the Grainau station where we boarded a cog-wheel train that travels up, and then through Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.

This is the Zugspitzbahn train at the Garmisch station. This one does not use the cog-wheel drive mechanism. We changed trains further up the canyon to get that train.

The cog-wheel train, run by electricity from overhead catenary cables, uses a pinion gear in the center of the trucks that engages fixed rack gear teeth in the center of the rails. The gear drives the train up and down the tracks, and prevents it from slipping on the rails (normal trains cannot climb more than a few degrees). This train climbs on grades as steep at 25 percent, meaning that it climbs 2.5 feet for every ten feet of horizontal travel, which is extraordinary.

This is an actual rack-and-pinion gear/track mechanism on display at the Zugspitze building at the top of the mountain. The teeth of the pinion gear hold the train on the rails, and provide motive power to drive the train cars up and down the tracks.

At the end of the cog-wheel train trip, which travels for about an hour through a tunnel dug through the rock, we emerged at the ski lodge near the top of the mountain. Then we boarded a cable car which took us to the very top.

At 9,717.82833 feet elevation I took panoramic photos and regular photos of the Alps in a spread that seems to go on forever. I had my tripod and panoramic mount with me, and I used that for what I consider to be a “normal” panorama – 12 frames with my wide angle lens of the view. It’s breathtaking.

Then I decided to take a high-resolution panorama of the entire spread of the Alps before me. For that I used my telephoto lens, shooting 32 photos to capture a sweep of 270 degrees at the southern-most point on the building at the top of the mountain. I use a Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod and ball-head as my travel tripod, and it has degree markings on the base of the ball head. I planned my shot carefully and took a series of carefully-indexed images of the view from the balcony of the building.

Then, back in Munich, I stitched the 32 images together (I use PTGUI Pro for stitching) to make a 270-degree panorama of the German/Austrian Alps looking (mostly) south from the Zugspitze.

This panorama was taken from the top of the Zugspitze in southern Germany. It takes in the Alps from the German border, and looks southward into Austria. Click to see a larger version which is 3636 × 190 pixels, and then click on it again for the largest view. At the extreme left edge is the gilded cross that stands on the very peak of the mountain: 2,962 meters above sea level.

The resulting panorama is very nice. It is just under a gigabyte in size, and measures 24 feet x about 12 inches at 300 ppi at final resolution. I present it here in a reduced size to fit the web. It’s an interesting image, and I plan to print it out 24 feet long, as that will be an even more interesting image.

Note from April 10, 2017: The full resolution file, which is 72,612 x 3,788 pixels in size is available for interactive viewing at gigapan.com.

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