Bertha Been Down So Long It Looks Like OUT to Me


Two or three months ago, not a lot of social contact, a quiet phone, adrift on the World Wide Web, albeit with a kind of anchorage on Facebook and habit in the area of “conflict, culture, language, and psychology” in the form of a blog, BackChannels, I just couldn’t take another of Bertha’s rumbling ink fixes without knowing — not gambling — that I would sell, say, 20 fine art prints at above $100 each to cover the costs of what the big hulk of a now old HP B9180 unit would drink in Vivera inks.

I pulled the plug.

May Bertha rest in peace.

Unless a B9180 enthusiast catches this post on the web and sweeps in to rescue Bertha in the very near future from an ignominious end at the local landfill’s electronics shed — to be followed perhaps by a glorious resurrection associated with precious or toxic metal recovery in an enterprise somewhere close by a southeast Asian circuit board recycling junk pile — I’m done with printing.

Could I get in another printer of same or better quality?


Do I wish to?

If my wallet felt thick and my future with the same felt secured, I would, but I’m hedging today.

It would take the assurance of a $5,000 commission or project to resume printing.

Bertha, I’m Sorry — Times Change

Not only have I unplugged the printer, the best commercial print shop in my town, First Look Photo, is closing its doors at the end of the month.

A Canon retailer, First Look lost out to B&H for my silly spending on Nikon gear, but it got some money for the fine art papers on which I enjoyed printing.  Still, what has happened to The Print?

Those stacks of 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 inch prints that used to make the rounds of hands at kitchen tables worldwide have been transformed into cloud-delivered images on smart phones and so many other gadgets with screens.

Look, Ma — no film, no paper, no wait for processing, and just as good as the big camera’s picture!

And no photography store down the boulevard either.

However, I do have in mind an alternative camera shop two towns or so up the highway.  Even so, everything one might want may be shipped in from an online store, the friendly chit-chat with the sales staff excepted.

If the print is really the thing and my signature on it worthless, I can resume posting at Fine Art America. On that venue, I cringe to place a value on a print that would fall below the cost of the printing and framing as charged by the establishment.

Aye, ‘Tis the End of an Era

There may be more to this story than laying to rest a fine old bitch of a printer and witnessing the passing of the place you could go into with dreams and a credit card (be careful, be very careful) and emerge with a nifty chunk of glass and a thick semi-technical manual filled with pages on composition, light theory, films, developers, and curves.

The good news: I’ve left a Nikons D200 and D2x, a complete “lens library” AND a field that on even the eve of its invention — think Talbot a little more than Daguerre — longed for the classical past or, also, maximized the value of a soft paper negative with romantically printed Greek tableaux.

Indeed, in photography, the exploitation of fine old methods turns out . . . kind of cool.

On my last visit to the local camera shop, the other guy at the counter was looking at the stock of RC papers (those who know, know) for his basement darkroom.

He asked.

I answered, “No ferrotyping needed for that”.

Kind of cool all of that back there in yesterday.

# # #

In Inventory 3-25-13

I don’t know if I like defects.

I know I don’t like discovering them.

This afternoon’s story unfolded this way:

1. HP’s inks arrived about an hour ago, and, indeed, “Bertha” (infamous behemoth of a B9180 ink jet unit) needed her cyan; powered her up; fed her a full ink cartridge; deleted from the printer’s memory the two earlier jobs on which she stopped for want of her cyan; and started a simple, small job, i.e., the second snow snapshot from the latest post on the more personal blog.

2. Out of paper!  Where did I put the remainder of the Ink Press?  For a while, I couldn’t  find the box, so I rummaged out of the back of a closet a few damaged sheets of Epson Pearl, 11 x 17, and cut that down to 11 x 12, removing some bent corners . . . only to learn that Bertha’s instructions (software) didn’t seem to want me to load an odd-sized paper — and then: the missing package? on top of the printer . . . .

3. Loaded 11 x 14 and ran a print.  Not bad.  A little reddish for a near monotone piece.  So I ran another, an old leaf heavily back lit.

Leaf, Backlit, C&O Canal, Maryland, December 29, 2006

That above came out of the printer noticeably striped.

It made me wonder if I had looked hard enough at my latest prints.

I use a 5,000K CFL for editing (Lacie 320 monitor; Macbeth color charts and other guides; plus I’m “tuned down” about 10 percent or so, and somewhat compromised between ambient interior brightness and print impact — I need a slightly brighter edited “print” to get a good looking real space print for indoor display), but (reminder: I was talking about my office light source), I have it aimed at the ceiling for indirect and dim room lighting (the monitor is everything).

Well . . .

I reversed the CFL bulb (it’s in a workshop reflector), put on the “readers” (1.5x) and looked again.

What I found: light striping and perhaps, in the last few prints, what looks like magenta cartridge misalignment.

One has to really look, up close, magnified, to see this stuff.

Very light, or what I call “faint” artifacts may be ignored — the image impact is such that such have to be pointed out to be “seen”.

And some things may add charm the way a nub or two might a sweater.

Still, I’m not one to send out work with industrial-strength grooves in it.

For the moment, I have half a dozen prints — should they be called “seconds”? — set aside and unlisted.

Of the listed: fine for the wall, but . . . Bertha’s tiring me out.

I’m going to align Bertha’s print heads, run some proofs, and come to a decision about sending her on to my county’s recycling program.

Boutique printing — very limited edition, totally hands-on, also at the mercy of technology or involving some struggle between the artist and the unruliness of the machinery — is not high output lithography.  For some barely visible qualities, some “small shop” artifacts may add to charm.  Such become indicative of a period in a shop’s history.

On the other hand:


Enough said.

* * *

In the order signed:

Black Eyed Susans: 1 – 11×14 Ink Press Luster, 10-1/6 x 12-3/4

Black Eyed Susans:  1- 11×14 Ink Press Luster, 6-1/4×10

Three Susans: 1 – 11×14 Ink Press Luster, 13-11/16 x 9-5/8 slightest banding, invisible head-on

Mumma Farm Outbuilding 1- 11×14 Ink Press Luster 6-3/8 x 9-5/8

Peeling Paint, Mumma Farm Building (first of the three at URL location)- 2 – 11×14 Ink Press Luster, nominal 1/8-inch border, soft

Peeling Paint, Mumma Farm Building (first of the three at URL location) – 2 – 11×14 Ink Press Luster, 8-1/8 x 5-1/16 (soft)

Blue Treetops – 1 – 11 x 14 Ink Press Luster, off-centered 6 x 10-11/16, blurred and textured (very arty)

American Farm Girl: 1 – 11 x 14 Ink Press Luster, no border, slightly stripped, ink droplet, left side.

American Farm Girl: 7 – 11 x 14 Ink Press Luster, bordered 3/4-inch nominal, faint striping, high impact print; some borders smudged.

American Farm Girl: 1 – 11 x 14 Epson Glossy, bordered 3/4-inch nominal, faint striping, some borders smudged.

Ms. Epson . . . .

No sooner do I think I have “Bertha” figured out — page controls good; ink supply fine; color fidelity and clarity marvelous — then she reports, more or less, “Cannot print.  Need Cyan.”

How about some Light Gray to chase that Cyan?

Nothing comes easily, so all adults know, and ordering ink proved no exception: I expect HP’s computer failed to recognize and vet mine on the way to online checkout.

On Skype, sez I!

The computer-phone call to call center worked, but “next business day” might be Monday, so push Bertha’s off button and, oh no, she hangs and orders her power supply unplugged.

Good grief!

Well she ain’t shakin’,  guzzlin’, spittin’, or checkin’ herself out now, but even quiet, dormant, sleeping, I wonder what the hell HP put in that moon unit so attractive to eclectic physicians and artists.

I’ve a mind to triple the prices of sales I’m not seeing and pretend to consign the print business to my old custom shop, which always got its share of Washington’s museum work.  Resuming that relationship would not be a bad idea, but as in the olden days, I get a kick out of seeing what I do — in photography, have done — printed for viewing in real space.  And then too, as now and then it happens, a few of these things have made it on to walls owned by people I know but a little bit or not at all.

Totally cool.

“Jim — We are recycling a few printers, and I wanted to know if you had any interest. They are Epson Stylus Pro 9880, eight color 48″ roll fed ink jets.”

Don’t think I’m not tempted!

On the other hand, I believe I’m suffering enough.

Next episode of “Photography with Bertha”: Monday morning or early afternoon.

Printing from Mumma Farm Snaps

Antietam National Battlefield Park, March 10, 2013


Window, Outbuilding, Mumma Farm, Antietam National Battlefield P

Ah sweah “Bertha” — HPB9180 — has a mind o’ her own and won’t do nothin’ consistent apart from swillin’ ink around suppertime, just pumpin’ it through her system, spittin’ it out in a little cup, keepin’ track o’ which micropores are open which are clogged.

For all that, she’s pretty good!

Should anyone buy a print, and it arrives off-centered, my permission is hereby given to cut and mat according to taste.

“Giclée” print makers of a certain masochistic bent know how well HP’s expensive dinosaur and headache print — and what I get are technically gorgeous and flawless archival prints — and how badly, how tortuously, how hanged and damnable its software has been to make up for its mechanical prowess.

And just to make sure photographers owning the B9180 suffer on their own, HP, by and large, has supported the absolute worst, most aggressively sabotaging customer service in the world: in one naive episode, the “tech” (overseas) got me to download and load the software for a related machine, which provided me with minimum utility on the unit at hand.


There is a Yahoo user’s group.

I haven’t followed it too closely, but I think I might go to it as one may got to any number of social help groups for victims of one sort of abuse or another.

I’ll tell them, “My name is Jim, and I’ve been beaten up really good by Bertha, my printer!”

The fact is I’d replace here if she didn’t turn out prints like a pro.

You just got to treat her right, I guess.

Lord knows the other models in printing have their problems too, but I doubt any drive their owners as crazy as “B” (9180).

Saving “Bertha” — The Printer

I’ve allowed my printer, an HP-B9180, to run through hundreds of dollars of archival “Vivera” inks without printing a sheet!

I suppose a narcissist needs a narcissistic printer, for she does this to me by way of checking herself out once every 24 hours and keeping tabs on the functioning of her microscopic ink-spitting nozzles.  Printing with such a touchy behemoth scares me, and yet, every time out, with some allowance for cleaning the jets, she prints a brilliant and precise photograph.  That’s why I don’t trade her in, but given the expense of  her breathing just once a day, I hold out hope for serious art sales, either in volume or by the production run.

Starter bid: per 13×19-inch print: $95 plus shipping; Maryland residents pay 6 percent sales tax; cleared check or Paypal transaction.

Editions: open unless stated closed.

Licensing: priced according to usage.

Third-Party Publishing: negotiable.