Charles Cramer is a photographer who
revels in exploration and craftsmanship. A masterful artist, his career
broadly parallels that of Ansel Adams: an early focus on music, finding
inspiration in Yosemite National Park, and exploring the developing
medium of photography. Charles has worked in the darkroom for many
years, mastering the complex Dye Transfer process. He was also one of
the first landscape photographers to work with the "digital darkroom",
recognizing the computer as an unparalleled means to control color and
realize his artistic interpretation of the scene.
"I studied piano for 20 years, ending up
with a degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
This conservatory was endowed by George Eastman, who also founded the
Eastman Kodak Company. This connection between music and photography can
be seen in the lives of many photographers. I gradually turned to
full-time photography by 1980. The end goal of my photography has always
been to make beautiful prints. I have spent a large part of the last 30
years refining my skills not just photographing the natural scene, but
learning how to make the best possible prints from these images.
"When venturing out into the field, I am
drawn to photograph primarily by the 'light' and only secondarily by the
subject. I search for that special kind of light that can transform the
ordinary into the extraordinary. This brings me out at seemingly odd
times---sunrise, sunset, during storms and snowstorms. The weather can
be onerous. But when everything comes together for a photograph, all
that is quickly forgotten. Many of my photographs are from the
Southwest. The light here is unique, especially when bouncing off canyon
walls and enveloping a scene in glowing, warm light. Another favorite
canyon is Yosemite Valley."
"For many years, I made my own
photographic prints in the darkroom with the Kodak Dye Transfer process.
This was a very difficult, expensive, and time-consuming process---but I
felt the results were worth all the work. In 1997, I started working
with processes that I feel can now rival and even surpass the beauty of a
dye transfer print. I scan my original 4x5 inch transparencies at very
high resolution, and using Photoshop as a digital darkroom, I can adjust
the image with more subtlety than I had with the dye transfer process. I
do all of the final color and contrast adjustments, and then print my
image using either the Lightjet, or a Large Format Epson 9600.
"The Lightjet is a 'digital enlarger'.
Since this recent breakthrough eliminates the use of the enlarging lens,
the prints are astoundingly sharp. Real photographic paper---Fuji
Crystal Archive---is exposed with red, green, and blue lasers, and then
processed like a traditional print. The Epson 9600 large-format printer
uses pigmented inks on specially coated papers. These prints also
exhibit incredible sharpness, along with great resistance to fading.
Previously, dye transfer prints were considered the gold-standard for
archiving important images---but both these methods now exceed that by
two to three times. I am thrilled to be able to make prints of a quality
I could only imagine six years ago. And, these processes allow me to
make very large prints, with no loss of quality!"