The Spark / How it started

A short background about me, and then the story of how I acquired a 212-lb printer.

Although I work as a web developer and have aspirations to become a commercial pilot (almost there!), I have tendencies towards right-brained-ness. As a young child, I was inseparable from my drawing kit (which was a laptop case packed with paper, pencils, markers, etc). I’ve always had a love of photography as well, and dabbled in it quite frequently but never really understood how the camera worked. I’d simply get lucky with a nice photo here and there.

In 2014, I went on a business trip with a colleague to a client’s wedding (which we had done designs for) in Arizona. We decided to take a few days prior to stay in Las Vegas and have some fun. While there, we toured most of the well-known areas. In one hotel, we saw a photography exhibit and so I stopped in. It happened to be one by Peter Lik. I was instantly in love. The images were breathtaking. I couldn’t wait to get back home to Ohio and start learning to really take photos.

Once back, I dusted off my old Nikon D40X and started at it. I noticed almost immediately that there were some spots on every image, in the same place. I cleaned everything, even the sensor, but they wouldn’t go away. My dad and I took it to Dodd Camera, where they told us it was mold between the high-pass filter and actual sensor. Rare, but it happens. The repairs were $300 for a camera body that I could purchase (used) for roughly $140.

I decided to get a new camera.

 

After looking around, I found a used D5200 body relatively inexpensive on Amazon. Fast-forward a bit, and I have a basic understanding of the 3 elements of exposure – Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Things are going well. I have a (somewhat) popular facebook album where I challenged myself to take one good photo a day.

Throughout my entire endeavor, I was taking pictures of my cats (and other peoples’ pets) – one thing I’d love to do is donate time and work to an animal shelter. I happened to take one photo that I really liked, so I had it printed at a relatively-cheap place (leaving names out). They took one of my favorite photos and basically killed it. All of the colors were muted, the reds were over-saturated – it was a mess. I decided I could do it better.

I start looking for printers that can take canvas as a medium. I quickly find myself looking at $8,000 large-format printers – something I could not afford. I hop on eBay and take a look around, and see a Canon iPF8000 for $500 / OBO. I’ve seen this printer retail for roughly $6,000 (give or take a few hundred). The caveat being it was pick-up only (a 13-hour drive for me, one way), and needed new print heads. Still a great deal.

I made an offer of $400, which was countered with $450 (don’t quote me on the actual number). I messaged the seller explaining that I would have to make a trip to pick it up and that it definitely needed a decent amount of money invested into it, and I’d accept if they offered it for $400. Within 10 minutes, I had an offer for $400 come through.

I started pacing around the office (for some reason I was the only one there that day), and made a few phone calls to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. I accepted within the hour.

 

The rest of the story is somewhat mundane; I rented a van (Chrysler Town & Country – it was the most comfortable drive I’ve ever made), took a friend to help with the driving & moving, and made a weekend trip (Left Saturday morning, stayed in a Massachusetts hotel, picked up the printer Sunday morning, got back to Cincinnati Sunday evening).

The printer and stand weigh 212 lbs combined. It was not fun to pick up at all. Despite the fact that I should have had about 2′ of extra space, it just fit in the back of the van. By the time we got back, I had logged over 1700 miles and 28 hours in the van, over a single weekend.

Top: Odometer Bottom: Printer with glasses for scale
Top: Odometer
Bottom: Printer with glasses for scale

Over the next few weeks, I ordered new print heads, new ink cartridges, a new maintenance cartridge – it was about a month before I was able to print anything. I had at least 30 videos on my phone of it starting up, running a check, and then coming to a halt with a beep and error message. I’m pretty sure I missed the first time it actually printed.

After purchasing new materials and printing a few of my own photos, I realized it was not something I could afford to do simply for fun. I made a few posts on Facebook offering services, but only had one order go through. I had no intention of selling my own photos just yet, but after re-evaluating and starting my own Etsy shop, I think it’s time (although I’ll still print other peoples’ things if they want!). I still have a lot to learn and a lot of room to improve, but I’ll never make any money by keeping my photos on my computer.

I’ve found that I really enjoy printing in general, although seeing my own photos come to life is an unbeatable feeling. It makes me feel like having a gallery like Peter Lik isn’t so far off, after all.