Arnold Machtinger has been blending traditional and digital techniques in his fine art images since the early 1990s. About four years ago, he began an ambitious project, Canadian Panorama: Photographic Landscape Portraits, for which he has already covered 10 provinces, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories.
Seeing jpegs of these stunning landscapes on our 17-inch monitors, we wanted a closer look, so we invited Machtinger to our offices in late summer to see the exquisite prints he had produced. As he paged slowly through his hand-bound oversized book, each color-saturated image popped off the page with stunning detail and clarity. We asked about the project and Machtinger explained . . .
“These images are a continuation of my quest to photograph the beauty of Canada, to publish these works, and to increase the awareness of Canada around the world.
“During my business and personal travels, I became aware that the locations I was in provided prime opportunities to create panoramic photographic landscape portraits—to see the images, capture them, reproduce them. I knew from the outset that I wanted the images to have maximum depth of field and the color to be as deep and rich as possible. Rather than create an unrealistic impression of what I believed the images should be, I set out to create portraits of what I was actually seeing.
“Photography is all about capturing light—the direction of light, the intensity of light, the quality of light, where shadows are, where highlights are. Just like taking portraits of people, understanding the direction and quality of light is key.”
Machtinger captured all the landscapes using a Hasselblad Xpan with Fuji Provia transparency film, selecting hyperfocal length for maximum depth of field and slow shutter speeds and auto bracketing to ensure proper exposures. For most of the images, he also used a polarizing filter for richness of color.
Machtinger still recalls vividly the emotions he experienced while capturing his images:
“For ‘Revelstoke,’ I woke up at 6:00 a.m., opened the door, and there it was: low light, under a bridge, with clouds encircling a mountain. If I stayed at that spot for six months, I may never have captured that 1/15 second. I just happened to be there. The same kind of thing happened with ‘Canmore.’ As I was leaving for another destination, I looked up and the light appeared for about 10 seconds. Fortunately, I had scouted an angle the day before, so I knew how to avoid the buildings and telephone wires.
“A private bird sanctuary at ‘ Ruby Lake’ on the north shore of Lake Superior, was becoming public. I was taken through a forest on private roadways to lean over a 500 foot cliff to shoot this magnificent area. The capture was all about composition and light. Using the rule of thirds, or in the extreme, the rule of quarters, as in ‘ Cape Spear’ and ‘Peggy’s Cove,’ I just shot from the gut, as the scene appeared to me."
With his series of images growing, Machtinger next focused on creating a dramatic presentation. He explains, “In the past, calibrating printers, monitors, and systems had take up two to three hours every day. I felt that this task was better left to the experts, such as Nash Editions.”
Mac Holbert, Nash Editions production manager, had introduced Machtinger to digital photography and digital printing in the early ‘90s, showing him what he could do by scanning then printing on an IRIS printer. Says Holbert, "It’s been interesting to watch as Machtinger has gone from completely traditional printing to predominantly digital printing. He’s really done well.”
Interesting footnote: The 3047 IRIS printer used for all his early images now resides in the Smithsonian Institution History of American Photography collection.
As technology evolved during 2004-2005, he changed his outlook. “This is my first project conceived and produced entirely in-house. I call these my ‘hybrid images’ because I captured them on film and printed them digitally.
“I calibrated my monitor with a MonacoOPTIX XR calibration system. With the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 and UltraChrome inks, I was able to achieve consistently high-quality results. I can print an image today, come back in a week or two and print exactly the same image.
Epson Canada country manager Don Saunders has been a strong supporter of Machtinger and his landscape portraits project. Says Saunders, “Machtinger takes great panoramic images and coupled with our technology, the output is spectacular.”