Someday My Prints Will Come

Gary Hart Photography: First Light, Yosemite Valley

First Light, Yosemite Valley
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III
Canon 24-105L
1/3 second
ISO 100

Someday is now…

The dilemma

I’ve been selling prints of my images for about fifteen years. I started at weekend art shows and in art galleries, and soon added a modest online store. The art shows in particular were very successful, but as much as I enjoyed them (I truly did), the shows required so much work that I stopped because they detracted from my primary bread and butter, the photo workshops.

Despite my workshop emphasis, I have maintained a small gallery presence, and continue to offer my prints for sale on my website (which I’ve upgraded significantly). While I still sell prints fairly regularly, I know there are many more people who don’t purchase them because they’re just too expensive.

I can explain

Though printing is a pretty labor intensive process, I’ve always insisted on doing it myself, largely because I’ve never trusted anyone else to create the print to my satisfaction. But the amount of work that goes into each print (even after it’s been processed and sized)—from constant maintenance (clearing clogged print heads, monitor calibration, paper and ink management, and so on) to careful packaging and shipping—results in pricing that’s prohibitive for many people.

Finally, a solution

For a long time I’ve sought a solution that would cut me out of the printing and shipping side of the transaction while still yielding quality prints, and think I’ve finally found one. I’ve spent the last few weeks creating a SmugMug website exclusively for showcasing my prints for sale: On this new site, instead of coming to me, your print orders will go to the much acclaimed Bay Photo Labs, my longtime lab of choice for jobs my own printer can’t handle (such as prints too large, or paper I don’t offer).

Though these prints won’t have my personal signature, each print has been photographed, processed, copyrighted, and digitally signed by me. I can also vouch for the quality, which will be at least as good as what I can offer. By taking the printing process out of my hands and putting it in the hands of people who do this exclusively, you get more choices, including multiple papers (lustre, glossy, metallic, and gicleé watercolor) and many matting and framing options—all at a much lower price than I can offer by printing directly.

Check it out*

*This site is brand new, so the images you see here are by no means a complete representation of all that’s available. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just send me message.

About this image

In a post announcing a new print sale website, I thought it appropriate to re-share my most requested image, captured on a chilly April morning in 2009. As with many of my images, it was captured during a workshop. And also like many of my images, it almost didn’t happen.

My workshop group was at Tunnel View overlooking Yosemite Valley, wrapping up our first sunrise shoot. A storm had moved through overnight, dusting the granite walls with snow down to about 5,000 feet (Yosemite Valley is at about 4,000 feet), and soaking the lower elevations with a light rain. With no wind to mix the chilly atmosphere, the coldest air dropped all the way to the saturated valley floor, where it found the dew point and condensed into a ground-hugging fog.

Overhead, the parting storm’s cloudy vestiges covered the scene with a dull, gray blanket of homogenous clouds, so our attention all morning had been on the wispy valley fog below. The dynamic range at Tunnel View is pretty unmanageable when the morning sun arrives, so I was about to move the group on to greener pastures when I noticed a golden glow expanding behind Sentinel Dome. As the color spread, it was apparent that the uniform clouds above were far more translucent than I’d imagined and I put a hold on our exit. Soon I was so mesmerized by the buttery veneer stretch from rim to rim , reflecting softly on the fog below, that I almost forgot about my camera.

I raced to the car to get my gear and sprinted back to set up far faster than I like. By the time I was ready, the sun was just about to crest the ridge behind Sentinel Dome. I worked quickly, using a 2-stop hard graduated neutral density filter to subdue the bright sky. I stopped down to f16 thinking a sunstar might be possible, but the sunlight was too diffused by the clouds.

Of all the pictures of Yosemite that I’ve taken, this is the one that makes it easiest for me to imagine how this heavenly location might have looked before human interference.

America the Beautiful

A gallery of favorites (coming to a wall near you)

Click an image for a closer look and slide show. Refresh the window to reorder the display.


12 Comments on “Someday My Prints Will Come

  1. Last I knew, SmugMug was limited to 8-bit sRGB jpeg images, which conceptually seems limiting in our world of 14+ bit RAW images in large color spaces. Since you have selected SmugMug, do I gather that you have found that in real-world printing a properly finalized 8-bit sRGB image is plenty to make a print to your standards (which I consider quite high)?

    Thanks for any insight here.

    • Honestly, I think too many photographers make too much noise over minutia that sounds important but has no perceivable value in real world application. Printing is a perfect example. Have you ever been to Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery in Bishop? If you look closely at Rowell’s large prints, you’ll see that they’re a mess (grainy, soft)——not through any fault of Rowell’s, or the printing process, but because they’ve been enlarged beyond 35mm slides’ ability to hold information. But at standard viewing distance they’re beautiful, and I wouldn’t hesitate purchasing one.

      Even as 8-bit jpegs, today’s digitally captured prints blow away anything printed from 35mm film or transparencies. For example, another of my top selling prints is wet dogwood flower with Bridalveil Fall soft in the background: I’ve sold prints of this image up to 24×36 without apology (and no complaints) even though it’s a jpeg capture from a 6 megapixel Canon 10D. It’s entirely possible (or not) that someone with a magnifying glass could point out flaws in 8-bit jpeg prints, but I doubt the average viewer would discern any difference, even if they stuck their nose right into it.

  2. Awesome to see so many of your images all together. Brilliant idea to off load the printing and free up some of your time. The header image is magnificent, it really does pay to “know your own backyard”.

  3. I’d be interested in a follow up on this post in a few months, to see how well it all works. Mostly, I’m interested in doing something like this myself to help offset the costs of trips and equipment.

    • Sure, Brad, check in with me in a few months. My general experience with print sales is that the “If you build it they will come approach” doesn’t work for prints. Starting with the assumption that you (not just you personally, I’m speaking to anyone interested in selling prints) have images that are much better than really good (there are many, many really good photographers—the ones who sell prints are the ones who have something that’s both really good and unique), the harder you work at it, the more prints you’ll sell. Art shows are great, but they’re also the most work.

      My online print sales are a direct product of my online exposure: lots of Facebook fans (120,000+), an active blog (once or twice a week) with loyal followers, and a solid website that I keep current. Making fairly regular contributions to “Outdoor Photographer” magazine doesn’t hurt either. In other words, the more you can get your name out there, the more success you’ll have.

  4. Never tire of looking at your images Gary. My wife asks “why do you keep going back to Yosemite?”, your pictures clearly show why. So beautiful and hope to capture just a bit of it. I love Bay Photo, and their customer service is also really good. They stand behind their work if there are ever issues. An interesting topic would be how you insure correct exposure when you have a service do it. I use calibrated, back lit apple monitor but still struggle getting the print to match accurately. I always have them (bay) check it, which gives up a bit of my own control. (maybe you already have posted on this…..)
    Hope to cross paths soon,

    • I’ve been so many times, my Yosemite trips are now mostly driven by the hope that I can capture it in unique conditions, usually meteorological or astronomical.

      I’ve been happy with Bay Photo’s prints so far, but we’ll see how this printing thing goes. Stay tuned….

  5. Thank you for making prints readily available from Bay Photo.

  6. Good Morning I have been thinking about what you said in your email about allowing Bay Photo to handle your Printing and shipping side of the Business. I too was debating on this concept. My question is: did you enter into some kind of agreement with Bay Photo that protects you and your list of clients? I love Bay Photo they did a nice job for me, however by giving all of your leads over to another source, no matter what company it is, concerns me somewhat. Just interested in your thoughts about this issue. Getting off the Business for a moment, I love all of your images!

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