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Urban Luthier

Printing from Tarisio auction photos?

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Not sure if this has been covered here before, but like many, I grab photos from the Tarisio site when items come up for auction that inspire me.

For a lark, I tried to print an image today -- a Brother's Amati violin. The results are stunning. I'm a hobbyist photographer with a good printer at home. I grabbed a few of the images, dragged them into Adobe Lightroom and printed them on my Epson R2880 with Ilford Galerie Gold Silk Fibre paper (good archival stuff).

I did 2 tests: one with the front bouts image (which has enough res to be printed more that life size) on Letter paper. The second was the front image (res is lower 5 X 11in a 300 dpi) on B3 paper -- 13X19 in. Although these are JPEG files and they are not huge, virtually no artifacting can be seen with the naked eye. My monitor and printer are calibrated so the output looks identical to the screen images. I didn't try printing from a paper roll but theoretically you could print a front or back image full size! (although this would be pushing it from a resolution standpoint)

The images look better than anything you'd see in the Strad Magazine poster and I hazard to guess give the printing in some of the best violin books out there a run for their money. Unless you are using an Ezio monitor the prints look vastly better that what you'll see on screen.

How accurate is the Tarisio photography? According to the histogram, there was no dynamic clipping of the colour spectrum in either of the two photos I tried.

As an amateur maker I don't have access to great work on a regular basis and rely on photos to study and learn. This just opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me

Chris

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Chris,

We're thrilled you found our photos useful and helpful. Robert Bailey, our photographer, is really the one who executes these photos at this level and we're thankful for his work. The duty to document and present these instruments accurately is something that we take seriously.

Ethan Ladd

Executive Manager

(PS - the Brothers Amati fiddle in this sale has a special place in my heart, too. ~400 years old?!)

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"The images look better than anything you'd see in the Strad Magazine poster and I hazard to guess give the printing in some of the best violin books out there a run for their money."

I've long been critical of the Strad Poster tendency to juice the colors, but apart from looking attractive, how can you tell if the Tarisio jpegs have an accurate white balance at time of capture? If you're printing straight off the file with no manipulations you're relying entirely on the capture settings, no?

Best regards,

E

ps... Gold Fibre Silk is a wonderful paper!

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It would be interesting to see a photo "essay" some day with a celebrated instrument photographed under different light sources... give the reader a sense of the magic of the varnish.

A "north light" exposure, for example, revealing a clinical and subdued low contrast aspect; an incandescent source that lets the reds pop, and a stage light setup that almost washes away all colors entirely.

E

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If I remember correctly, about 8-10 years ago an article about David Fulton in STRAD magazine showed what I thought were very accurate photos of the Lord Wilton that he shot, himself. You can compare them to the ones in the Biddulph book. The general rule is that violins have very much less color than you see in photos, less red, and are darker. A good clue is that on old violins the edges can be grey in some places--try to find that in any published photos.

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...how can you tell if the Tarisio jpegs have an accurate white balance at time of capture? !

I'm not a professional photographer, but I suspect the Tarisio images posted online are very accurate to the studio/lighting conditions in which they were taken -- in other words I don't think they digitally enhance the image. If this is the case you do want to print with the embedded colour profile included with the iamge

What I was able to achieve was a screen/print accuracy through a color managed workflow and with resolution that is far better than what you will see in a book or magazine. (Also the best results I got were with the Harmon Gloss AB paper -- the Ilford Silk Fibre is wonderful but is too yellow)

You'd be surprised how unstunning accurate photos look. As far as I know, no one is publishing or using really accurate photographs, and I can't blame them.

I agree and disagree Michael. The photo on your home page is wonderful. However, I'm not a fan of the standard 'violin mug shot' you typically see in violin books and many sites. I understand why pictures are taken this way, but from a maker's standpoint -- these images are taken under unnatural lighting conditions that tend to make the resulting image appear flat and saturate the colours. How many of us view us normally view our violins under studio lighting conditions?

I'd rather look at pictures like the one on your home page Michael or this one on Tucker Densley's home page

I will say I do like the results of the new Ashmolean Instruments book that mixes both styles. Check out the detail photo of the Messie on p. 164-- one of the few violin photos that actually conveys a sense of what the varnish looks like to my eye. Compare it to the Strad poster of the same instrument. They look very different and there are several reasons why they shouldn't.

Chris

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Take a look at the photo on p175 of Charles Beare's Stradivari book. While I was photographing that violin in his shop, he brought down a stack of proofs from the printer of that page, and we compared them with the violin. Under my studio lights they were very similar. He said that when they were printing it, he went down with the violin, and they compared the violin and the printing, on the spot. I believe that the final version in the book is a bit oversaturated, anyway, but compare it with the rest of the illustrations in the book, and notice how lemony the others look by comparison.

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A good clue is that on old violins the edges can be grey in some places--try to find that in any published photos.

I've seen this in countless pictures in the old Strad back issues when they still printed in black and white.:)

I imagine the coloration is altered to suit the intended use of the photograph. For many of us though, we are looking for archival accuracy rather than what looks pleasing to the average eye.

A good case in point is the juicy hamburger pictures portrayed in the menus of a restaurant. The pictures always look far more appetizing than the real thing sitting on a plate in front of you. It's all marketing.

Something to consider is, once some time passes and these valuable instruments crumble to nothing, will there be any accurate images left behind, or will they all be the enhanced, glitzy versions that will misguide future students of the craft?

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Back when the first glitzy color book of violins, Stradivari in Japan, came out, I used to corner visiting makers by noting that they had a copy of it. How did I know? Garish, oversaturated antiques, with black dirt, just like in the book.

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Back when the first glitzy color book of violins, Stradivari in Japan, came out, I used to corner visiting makers by noting that they had a copy of it. How did I know? Garish, oversaturated antiques, with black dirt, just like in the book.

All the more reason to share opinions on the quality of available reference (either print or digital). For many of us who are amateurs without regular access to good instruments, good photography is critical to help train our eye. I'm exploring several resources

- The Luthier's library -- arching images in particular

- Tarisio online

- The Ashmolean book

- I hear the Strad varnish book is very good as well, but I have not personally seen this

- And last but not least, the work of good contemporary makers (many of whom post here!)-- honestly, I find your work more useful reference than the ancient stuff as I develop my own style

Chris

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I have the Stradivari varnish book, and I can confirm that the attention to detail given for the photography is outstanding. I can't verify the accuracy of the color though, as I haven't had the opportunity to see any of these instruments personally.

I think I've mentioned before about an opportunity I had to go to Washington DC for 2 weeks, all expenses covered. The one thing I was looking forward to was viewing the string instrument collection at the Smithsonian. As my luck would have it, when I got there, they were all put into storage because they were renovating the display area.

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You'd be surprised how unstunning accurate photos look. As far as I know, no one is publishing or using really accurate photographs, and I can't blame them.

That's a great insight, one I want to remember.

I wonder how that insight might apply to the recent criticism of the photos in the Thoene Stradivari volumes. I interpret that criticism to be that the instruments aren't presented attractively enough. As someone who doesn't have access to a lot of great fiddles themselves, trying to learn from photos is the best I can do. I'll settle for accurate over stunning for my purposes.

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