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Red River Pros: Paul Roark

Paul Roark at Red River Paper Pro Corner

Fine art photographer

The emotional and technical quality of Paul Roark's images have been compared to those of Ansel Adams and with good reason. His eye has been refined over the years to capture images whose subject matter speaks to the soul and, coupled with the impeccable control he exerts over his digital output, viewers of his prints are left breathless. He works out of Solvang, California and conducts yearly workshops at Golden Trout Camp in the High Sierras. He also designs custom black and white inks for use with Epson printers.

© Paul Roark

He managed his professional career as an antitrust and consumer protection attorney to maximize time outside with a camera, refining his skills and building a library of images.

© Paul Roark

Opting for an early retirement, Roark switched his focus to photography full-time. He quickly became an innovator in digital black and white photography and was named one of three most influential pioneers in the genre. He has developed his own inkset and printing process, achieving a saturation and tonality truly unique to his art. “It was fortuitous that my photo career coincided with the transition from the old chemical processes to the digital realm,” says Roark. “I was well situated not only to understand but also to contribute to this transition. Pushing the envelope of the new digital tools and printing processes has been something that has been very enjoyable to me, and helpful to thousands of photographers around the world.”

When asked about his eye for design and how he crafts an image, Roark responds, “I try to keep the viewer’s eye in the picture and flowing from one interesting part to another. I like a lot of information to be in the shot so there is a lot to study and play with.” He names Rembrandt’s use of light to guide the eye through his paintings as an inspiration. He also mentions Brett Weston and Ansel Adams as the more obvious influencers of his work.

Roark’s prints have been sold to collectors all over the world, including an entire small works show to a collector in Moscow. They can also be seen in select locations closer to home, including corporate headquarters and Cedars Sinai Hospital.

© Paul Roark

Technical Talk

Most prints made on Red River's 68lb. UltraPro Satin 4.0.

All inksets used to print (via Epson 9800 and 7800 printers) are my design and use the maximum carbon possible to achieve a "neutral" tone. (Carbon pigments are by far the most lightfast substance we have available to us.) The "variable tone" inkset that I use most now is described here: http://www.paulroark.com/BW-Info/7800-Glossy-Carbon-Variable-Tone-2016.pdf. As the name describes, it is glossy compatible as well as matte paper compatible.

For people who want the least expensive B&W inkset, yet most lightfast (along with the glossy compatible version, URL above), I made an inkset for matte paper only that people can mix themselves for about 1% the cost of OEM desktop cartridge ink costs. It's described here: http://www.paulroark.com/BW-Info/3880-Carbon-Variable-Tone-2015.pdf.

The Client

This image was done as a self-assignment as most of my fine arts images are.

© Paul Roark

The Assignment

"The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, with its many angles and shapes, has always fascinated me and so I decided to see what I could come up with."

The Execution

"I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon 35mm f/2 lens set to f/11 (for depth of field) at 400 ISO. I had found in experiments that four times the reciprocal of the focal length was needed for sharpness where no Image Stabilization was used so in this case I'd need a shutter speed of at least 1/140 sec. With f/11 set, the light was such that Aperture Priority automatic kept the speed high enough. So I fired away, hand held, as soon as I exited the building onto the patio of the facility.”

"This image –Disney #1– is, in fact, the very first one I took at this first outing with the camera, and at 16x20 it is tack sharp. As a result, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II became my main camera and replaced my medium format equipment which I had previously used with Kodak Pro Technical Pan film."

Post Production

"One aspect of digital that allows it to meet my quality requirements is the extent to which it can be sharpened without significant artifacts. As such, I often find that using 300% with a radius of 0.7 pixels looks good. I also find the full RGB color information to be very useful even in B&W. In particular, blue skies end up a boring gray if they are not "filtered" as I did in this image by selecting the red channel for the sky."

"To convert from RGB to Grayscale, I split the RGB channels into three Grayscale images and clone information over to my final as needed. This allows me to use the red channel for the sky, but draw on the green channel where filtering is not necessary. The color information also makes it much easier to select by color range for adjusting tone. Together, these tools allow me to match the style that I have used for years in landscape shooting with film, polarizers and red filters."

The Output

"As an independent fine art photographer and workshop instructor, I usually select what I think makes the most sense for sales or demonstrating different workflows with the B&W inksets I have designed and used. Red River has a broad range of very competitively priced papers that print well with these inksets. I have used Ultra Gloss 3.0 for promotional brochures that feature my work and also Aurora Art Natural to produce warm-toned, fine art prints."

Contact

Paul Roark's web site is at: www.paulroark.com.

Favorite Papers

UltraPro Satin

UltraPro Satin looks and feels just like traditional photo lab paper and features a medium depth luster finish.

Favorite Of: Jim DiVitale & Peter Randall


River Linen

River Linen adds a special dimension to your printed image with its premium quality linen surface paper.

Favorite Of: JVS & Helene Glassman


Aurora Art

Made using fine 100% cotton rag content, Aurora Art White and Aurora Art Natural offers the look and feel of fine art paper.

Favorite of: Marilyn Sholin, Matt Hoyle, Susan McCartney, & Kaitlin Walsh


Arctic Polar Satin

With its crisp blue white shade, Arctic Polar Satin ensures your images will project more brilliance. Its state of the art microporous coating will enhance details and color saturation.

Favorite of: Al Francekevich & Susan McCartney


Polar Gloss Metallic 255

Your images will take on a brilliant, almost luminescent quality with Polar Gloss Metallic 255. Everything from airplanes to flowers will look bolder, more saturated, and more real.

Favorite Of: Dan Shepherd