Tuesday, July 15, 2014


(A competition print 29 years in the making)

The image below was a competition print I entered into the PPA International Annual Competition in May of 2000.  It was a National Merit Print and was one of the merit prints that helped put me over the top in earning my PPA Masters Degree. 

Title: Warped Speed - Subject: Kenny Roberts
It was a 29 year journey, waiting for future technologies, to complete my vision of what you see here.  It's the result of a blending of old analog and early digital technologies, that I manipulated, to create a new image that I could not do with traditional wet photo-technology.
I took the original photo in 1971, at the San Jose Mile, of the soon to be famous, and hence legendary, racer Kenny "The King" Roberts. Kenny Roberts went on in 1978 to become the First American to win the 500cc International (FIM) Grand Prix road racing title. And then he did it again the following two years!

The original image was done on Kodak Plus-X black and white film (ASA 125), so I could slow down my shutter speed to do pans as the racers flew down the straight on the fastest part of the track.  In the resulting image the bike and rider are nice and sharp with a really streaked background with the bike's wheels nearly empty of spokes.  But I wanted something more than just a competent action image, I wanted an artistic interpretation of Speed.

The original negative taken 43 years ago on Kodak Plus-X film (125 ASA) - Shutter speed: 1/30 sec. at f16.0
The final print as printed on Kodak Poly contrast paper.
Starting the journey in 1971, I hand printed some 8x10" and 11x14" B&W prints on fiber based paper.  Using Edwals toner I dipped my prints in Red toner using Edwals' suggested mixture ratios.  But no matter how strong I made the toner all the prints just came out a pale pink.  Not at all what I was looking for…That's where I stopped--I had no other way, at the time, to improve on what I had done.  So, I boxed-up the prints and moved on with other projects.

Fast forward to 1986 and there's still no Photoshop to come to my rescue!  Photoshop 1.0 won't be released until 1990, Damn!  However, I had a brain storm! I dug in the boxes to dig out my old prints--all I could find was one, pink-toned 8x10 print, dry mounted  onto an 11x14" mat board. I took that print to a local copy center that had the latest color copiers to see if I could enhance the color of my print.  It was so much fun! I discovered that playing with the color knobs I could really alter the color--pumping up the pink to red.  I played with contrast and exposure.  It was like a primitive Adobe Camera Raw!  And I could enlarge as well, making 11x17" prints just like that.

I finally got my color, and for the final modification I did that made my image "Warped Speed" was the discovery that this copier would stretch an image. So, I stretched the image in the long dimension warping the bike's wheels into more of an egg shape, stretching the whole bike.  Now the image was complete!  But, all I had were a bunch of 11x17" copies on flimsy paper.  Now what?  I again stored my stack of photocopies with my mounted original 8x10' print and onto other projects.

Fast forward again to January 2000.  Our professional photography business is going strong since opening in 1989, I had recently gotten my PPA Certification and I'm on the track to earn my PPA Masters Degree.  I needed a fourth print to include in my print case for the PPA International Competition….So, again I dig out the "Warped Speed" print and photo-copies.  Since we didn't yet have the capability to get these images into our computer, I sent the best photocopy to our lab to scan at their highest resolution and make us a CD.  It's finally digital!

To finish off the print for competition I asked Kathi to position the image with more space in front of the bike, slim it down and create a digital fillet.  She placed the image on a black background and enlarged to span the full 20" of the printing space (full bleed from side to side), removed some of the top and bottom of the image to create a slim-jim effect and then added a color fillet (cloned from the print itself) to create a clean edge on the top and bottom of the image area.  Looked Great!  The final file went off to the lab to make the 16x20 comp print on silver photo paper with a lacquer spray finish.  Done, and it only took 29 years…it is now on the wall in my office where I can admire it everyday.

Author:  Jerry W Venz, Master Photographer - Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

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