Archive for the Photography Category

Karel Vaclav Klíč (Klietsch): 1841 – 1926

Posted in Photography, Print Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2013 by multimediaman

Everyone is familiar with National Geographic magazine. Published monthly and now celebrating its 125th year, National Geographic has a worldwide circulation of more than 8 million copies and appears in thirty-six languages. Widely known for the yellow rectangular border of its cover and the use of dramatic color photographs of world geography, history and culture, it is one the most popular magazines ever printed.

National Geographic

The name National Geographic is used occasionally as a printing industry euphemism. Someone might say, “It’s not National Geographic” when speaking of color reproduction expectations of other projects. What most are unaware of, however, is that National Geographic achieves such beautiful and spectacular color printing largely because of the gravure method used in the printing of its editorial pages.

The gravure printing process

The gravure printing process

Although less common in publication printing than offset lithography, gravure printing is typically associated with magazines that have very large circulation. According to Hans Wegner, VP of Production Services at National Geographic, gravure printing provides superior color saturation and consistency, a more photographic look as well as cost advantages.

The gravure process—a form of intaglio printing—involves engraving an image carrier, typically a metal cylinder, with recessed cells. The cylinder is immersed and rotates in fluid ink. As the cylinder turns, ink fills the imaging cells and, before making contact with the paper, a doctor blade scrapes the excess ink off the cylinder in the non-image area. The paper is brought into contact with the inked cylinder by an impression roller and the ink is drawn out of the cells onto the paper by capillary action.

The high quality reproduction of gravure printing is the result of the following attributes:

  1. Very fine halftone dot sizes that emulate the grain of continuous tone photography and can reproduce greater image detail than offset printing.
  2. A CMYK color gamut than that is often wider than that of offset printing because a greater amount of ink pigment is transferred the surface of the paper.

The history of gravure printing is complex and poorly documented. Dealing with the lack of reliable historical information in his History of Industrial Gravure Printing up to 1920, Otto M. Lilien wrote, “More and more of the technical development is described with only sketchy details and it is noticeable that the references are often missing. Frequently the information contradicts itself regarding the person credited with inventions and technical improvements.”

The manual gravure printing process was created and perfected in the nineteenth century and the earliest inventions are associated with photography. In 1826, Joseph-Niécephore Niépce developed the first photomechanically etched printing plate that was made of zinc and used to print portraits. In 1852, William Henry Fox Talbot developed a method for making gravure printing plates that could transform a continuous tone picture into a halftone.

According to Lilien, Paris publisher Auguste Godchaux took out the first patent for a gravure printing press that used cylinders and printed on a web of paper in France, in 1860. Godchaux built the press and it ran for 80 years in a printing facility in Paris on Boulevard Charonne until the Nazi’s occupied the city in 1940.

Karel Klíč

Karel Klíč (also known as Karl Klietsch), May 31, 1841 – November 16, 1926

Karel Klíč (Karl Klietsch) is the recognized inventor of modern gravure printing. Although it is sometime stated that Klíč developed all of the complex gravure processes without knowledge of the work of others, he was actually the first to bring all of them together. According to Lilien, Klíč brought together the crossline screen and the transfer of gelatine pictures to metal plates for cylinder production.

Karel Vaclav Klíč was born on May 31, 1841 in Hostinne, in the foothills of the Krkonose Mountains in the present-day Czech Republic and about 35 Kilometers from the border with Poland. The town has been known as a center of papermaking.

Klíč showed interest in the arts and at the age of fourteen was admitted to the Art Academy in Prague where he was expelled for nonconformance in 1855. He later returned to complete his studies. As a young man, Klíč worked as a draughtsman, a painter, illustrator and cartoonist. With his latter skills he worked at newspapers in Prague, Brno (Moravia) and Budapest before opening a photographic studio in Vienna, Austria in 1883.

While in Austria, Klíč joined the Photographic Society of Vienna and was exposed to many of the new developments in reproduction methods. His early attempts at photogravure techniques were exhibited with much acclaim at the annual society exhibitions in 1879 and 1880. During these years, Klíč did not reveal anything publicly about his methods. Recognizing the monetary value of the process he had perfected, Klíč sold the process to others in Vienna and London.

In 1880 and 1881, several of Klíč’s photos were published in an Austrian journal Photography Correspondence. In 1882 a heliogravure portrait of Mungo Ponton—a Scottish pioneer in photographic techniques and an amateur scientist—was reproduced as a special insert to the British The Yearbook of Photography and Photographic News Almanac.

Mungo Ponton

Klíč’s heliogravure photo of Mungo Ponton published as a special insert in the “Yearbook of Photography and Photographic News Almanac in 1882”

Writing about the significance of the image of Ponton, the editor of the almanac wrote, “We ought to say a word about our portrait of Mungo-Ponton, an Englishman who may well be termed the discoverer of permanent photographic printing, for he it was who proposed, in 1839, the employment of bichromate in photography. Klic’s is an etching process upon copper, an imprint from a carbon diapositive being secured upon that metal. The mode of preparing the copper is a secret, but we may mention that the process is so quick, that within four or five days an engraved plate may be produced of considerable dimensions. Of the quality of the printing our readers can judge for themselves. Suffice it to say, the process is an inexpensive one, and that during the past year alone, no less than three hundred photo-engravings were produced.”

Samuel Fawcett

Samuel Fawcett, a process worker at Storey Brothers, was co-inventor with Klíč of the industrial gravure printing method in 1895.

After one of his business associates by the name of Leonard published the details of his process in an Austrian technical journal in March 1886, Klíč left the country in frustration and traveled to England. It was during this trip that Klíč came into contact with Samuel Fawcett, a process worker at the Storey Brothers, a calico-printing firm located in Lancaster.

It is known that Klíč’s vision for gravure reproduction extended beyond single sheet photographic prints. Fawcett had been working independently in 1890 on a series of gravure experiments and his contact with Klíč was the catalyst for the development of entirely new industrial printing system.

Klíč and Fawcett, beginning in 1895 with formation of the Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Company, jointly developed the rotogravure process—modern gravure printing. The men experimented with screens of 150 and 175 lines per inch and printing on paper with machines owned by Storey Brothers and designed for printing on textiles.

The process developed by the Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Company remained secret for ten years, giving the firm lucrative monopoly on the process before any competitors emerged in the market. In 1897, while technical director of the company, Klíč left England and returned to Vienna to continue with further experimentation and invention. He came back for a short time in 1906 after he perfected a method for three-color gravure process with fine halftone screens. Karel Klíč died in Vienna on November 16, 1926.

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Digital trends: Where’s your camera?

Posted in Digital Media, Mobile, Photography with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by multimediaman

In June 1994, I bought my first digital camera: an Apple QuickTake 100. It was the first consumer-level digital camera and cost about $695. Developed jointly by Apple and Kodak, it was a fascinating breakthrough device.

On the day I bought the camera, I connected it via serial cable to my Mac, installed the QuickTake 1.0 software (from a floppy disk) and downloaded the first digital photos I had ever taken. I brought the pictures into Photoshop and started editing them; these were images that did not come from film and did not require scanning. Wow, I thought, how much time am I going to save with this nifty little camera.

Well, not so fast. The images had a resolution of 640×480 pixels (about one third of a megapixel in today’s terms) and were not very useful for print reproduction. But they were perfect for standard definition video display and I could see how they could be used in presentations and slide shows.

Over the next few years, while I was fiddling around with the novelty of digital photography, I continued using my Canon 35mm SLR to shoot film negatives and transparencies. I’d shoot rolls of film and drop them off at the local camera store for processing and print making and continued to do this for many more years. It wasn’t until 2000 that I made the transition permanently to digital photography.

Fast forward to 2012 … Last weekend, for the first time I deposited a check into my bank account using the mobile banking app on my iPhone. I also shot a video and took photos of a family picnic in my back yard and posted the photos and video to my Facebook page immediately. I was even able to assemble and edit my video clips using the iMovie app on my iPhone.

And, on the same weekend, I saw someone using an iPad to shoot video of a football scrimmage … they were using the iPad screen as a viewfinder as they followed the players down the football field.

Needless to say, in the 18 years between these different experiences, camera technology has undergone a transformation. The last two decades have seen the replacement of conventional film photography with digital photos, but also more recently, the displacement of single purpose digital cameras (both video and still) by smartphones.

The pace and magnitude of these dual transformations are seen clearly in the answers to the following questions:

When did digital photography eclipse film photography?
In 1990 100% of photography was analog/film based. Ten years later, in 2000, just 99% of photography was still analog while 1% was digital. The big change took place over the past decade. By 2011, 99% of photography was digital and 1% film.

How many photos are being taken?
It has been estimated (by 1000memories blog) that since photography was first invented in 1838, there have been 3.5 trillion pictures taken. Today, every two minutes, we snap as many photos as were taken by all of humanity in the entire 19th century. In 1990 there were 57 billion photos taken, in 2000 there were 86 billion taken and in 2011 there were 380 billion taken.

Are mobile and smartphones replacing cameras and camcorders?
It has been estimated (by NPD Group) that in 2010 camera phones accounted for 17% of all images while point and shoot and camcorders accounted for 52%. In just one year, these numbers changed to 27% by camera phones and 44% by point and shoot and camcorders. The balance of the imagery is still dominated by higher end digital photographic and video equipment.

Where are all the digital photos being stored?
The biggest library of online photos is Facebook. It has been estimated (by pixable blog) that over 100 billion photos have been uploaded into Facebook its by users. The following is a list of the top photo sharing sites and their image volumes:

  • Photobucket: 10 billion photos
  • Picasa: 7 billion photos
  • Flickr: 6 billion photos
  • Instagram: 400 million

Instagram is the fastest growing online photo sharing technology and it was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for $1 billion.

The ubiquity and ease of use of cameras on smartphones—capable of shooting high quality color photos and video—combined with social networking and photo sharing have led to an explosion in digital photography. Almost anyone can capture a scene at any time and people are doing it, all the time.

As with other developments in our digital world, a transformation of one kind—the replacement of film by digital photography—is not fully completed when a transformation of another kind—the replacement of digital point-and-shoot cameras and camcorders by camera and smart phones—accelerates the entire process and evolves in an unanticipated direction.

It is these sudden and unexpected twists that make navigating the business environment such a complex task. The challenges facing Kodak, which filed for bankruptcy reorganization last January, is an expression of the way these rapid changes can impact companies and entire industries. Once the king of analog photographic equipment and supplies as well as an originator of the digital camera revolution, Kodak announced on August 23 that it was selling off its film division.

The ability to see and understand the convergence and successive waves of digital transformation, and the way these impact the behavior of our customers, is the only way to keep pace in our rapidly changing world and make plans for the future.

Frederic Eugene Ives: 1856 – 1937

Posted in People in Media History, Photography, Print Media with tags , , on May 25, 2009 by multimediaman
Frederick Eugene Ives Frederic Eugene Ives

Frederic Eugene Ives is a central figure in the history of the graphic arts. His inventions and discoveries in the field of visual communications technology—the development of the first halftone reproduction process being the most significant—span six decades and are among the greatest contributions by an individual to the industry.

The son of a farmer-turned-country storekeeper from a small town in rural Connecticut, Ives developed an interest in printing when he found a small hand press in his fathers’ shop. He left school before the age of 12 to find a job and earn a living after the early death of his father from pulmonary consumption. More than a year later, young Frederic obtained an apprenticeship in the printing offices of the Litchfield Enquirer where he earned the state-wide reputation among newspaper printers as “the natural printer.” This was by virtue of the superb quality of his work.

Lacking any formal education, Ives developed a passion for investigation and experimentation in photography and engraving while working late into the night in the attic of a building directly across the village green from the Enquirer office. After completing his apprenticeship at the age of seventeen, he became a journeyman job printer for a printing establishment in Ithaca, New York, some two hundred miles away from his hometown. This was followed a year later with an application for a job running the photographic laboratory at Cornell University. After initially being declared too young and inexperienced for the position, Ives was selected by the university administration for employment on a “trial basis.”

While Ives’ tenure at Cornell lasted just four years, it was during this time that he would go on to develop some of his most important ideas; ideas that would transform the world of printing.

His invention of the halftone photoengraving process in 1881 and later the crossline screen for direct photographic halftone reproduction stand out as a transition period in the history of printing and publishing. Ives had created for the first time the technology and method for reproducing with ink-on-paper printing processes all of the tonal values and richness of detail from an original photographic image. Prior to this discovery, imagery in print was confined to the highly skilled and time-consuming efforts of handicraft wood engravers and resembled works of art more than an actual scene as perceived by the human eye.

In its essential features, the halftone process remains in use today as the most common method for photographic reproduction in print. It is safe to say that the offset lithographic process, the predominant printing technology of the past half-century, could not exist without Ives’ invention. Each day millions upon millions of printed products — newspapers, books, magazines, brochures, calendars, wrapping paper, greeting cards, packaging materials, billboards, to name only a few — are produced by machinery that utilizes what was once known as the “Ives process.”

Simply put, the halftone is an optical illusion: small dots of various sizes that are equidistant from each other create the appearance—at an appropriate viewing distance—of continuous gradations of tone. Due to the fact that many printing processes, can only transfer a solid film of ink to a sheet of paper (or other substrate), the halftone is the most effective method for reliably simulating a continuous tone image such as a photograph. Measured in lines per inch, the halftone screen is the essential building block of the printed page upon which everything else depends.

Ives also made major contributions to the development of color photography and microscopy. Among his 70 patents were the photochromoscope camera, the chromogram and the single-objective binocular microscope. In his later years, when asked how he came to devote himself to the field of optics without what was considered the requisite mathematics and physics training, Ives quoted Robert Louis Stevenson’s remark about his father, the lighthouse engineer, who he said had a “sentiment for optics.”

An unusually gifted man, Ives wrote about himself in his “Autobiography of an Amateur Inventor,”: “… the writer belongs to a period when some of the most revolutionary inventions were made by men not specially trained for such work, but were impelled to undertake it by the possession of what Sir William Abney once termed ‘instinctive genius.’ To this class of men I would apply the term ‘amateur inventors.’ … Some men are as naturally inventors as others are poets, fiction writers, statesmen or merchants and the typical amateur inventor will pursue his course through any amount of poverty and hardship and indifference, thinking much more about his work than about any material reward which it might bring.”

Frederic Eugene Ives is without question one of the great — albeit often unappreciated and rarely recognized — pioneers of graphic and print communications technology.