Printing the History of Golf from Scotland to the U.S.

Printing historical golf photography

Photography and the modern game of golf developed around the same time. Coincidence? Probably, but it was a fortuitous coincidence since we’ve been left with at least some photographic history of those early years.

Preserving and printing historical golf photography
From the Masterworks Golf Collection: Old Tom Morris and S. Muir Ferguson, St. Andrews, 1891.

It’s likely that the largest and highest-quality collection of early golf photography is in the hands of Howard Schickler of Sarasota, Fla., who has been slowly building the collection for the past ten years.

An avid golfer since he was a teenager in New York City and later a collector and exhibitor of historical fine art photography, the two avocations will culminate in the launch of a website dedicated to golf’s history and the sale of museum-quality prints. The website’s launch is set to coincide with the British Open in late July.

Currently, you can see part of the collection at We’ll update you here at the LexJet Blog when the new site, which will have a slightly different URL, is up and running.

“I started buying historical golf photography with a museum curator’s eye of building a collection that was museum quality and meaningful. What I decided to do from the beginning was only collect photos related to the major champions of golf. I also added golf courses of extraordinary quality by great photographers,” says Schickler. “I’m always in pursuit of the very earliest pieces which date mostly from the 1850s, but they’re extremely difficult to find. I’m able to count on one hand how many photos I have from the 1850s.”

Prints of historical golf photographySchickler was recently invited to exhibit some of his collection at a festival at St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of modern golf. He chose 13 images to print for the festival, which were exhibited in two different venues. Schickler brought 26 prints (13 for each venue) to the festival. The images were printed by Schickler and his son, who’s studying digital photography at the Ringling College of Art and Design, at 13″ x 19″ on LexJet Sunset Hot Press Rag on Schickler’s Canon iPF8300.

“We originally tried five different papers, all of which we had experience with before. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go with fine art paper, fiber paper or a matte or gloss finish, so we would take one image and print it on the five different papers,” explains Schickler. “We found we were getting the best results from Sunset Hot Press Rag and Sunset Fibre Matte. We chose Hot Press Rag as our main paper because it really brings out the details of the images and provides the same feel as if they were printed in the 19th Century.”

The goal of each print is to stay as true to the original image as possible. Very little is done to the images, other than cleaning up a blemish here and there.

Prints of historical golf photos
From the Masterworks Golf collection: Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen at the US Open in 1922.

“For us, the important thing was to bring out the exact tones of the originals, which have some sort of sepia tone to various degrees,” says Schickler. “The new printers are great because they make it a lot easier to be faithful to the original tone of the image.”

Schickler left goodwill behind him after the event at St. Andrews, donating the prints to the festival organizers, all the while building relationships with venerable St. Andrews institutions, such as St. Andrews University, which houses more than 700,000 photographs in its library, many of which are from the early development of photography and modern golf.

The collection has been the proverbial (but literal) labor of love, and the website being developed right now will reflect that. In addition to an eCommerce component, which will feature a portfolio of about 60 historical images from a collection of over 1,000,  there will be blogs that focus on blending historical and contemporary golf (golf fashion then and now, golf courses then and now, and so forth), and a documentary video section.

“We plan to produce 18-24 video vignettes. Each one will tell the story of great golfer from the 1850s to the 1930s. Collectively, the videos will become an important documentary film on the history of golf, which has never been done before. And, we’ll go beyond Scottish golf to ladies golf in the UK and U.S., and American golf, which post-dates Scottish and UK golf by about 40 years,” explains Schickler. “We’re also planning to create an iPhone app that reproduces a historical golf timeline with content links to images and videos from our collection. I want the site to be an aggregation of interesting, high-quality, intellectually stimulating information about golf and its history.”

Print your Fibre: The Evolution of Gallery Quality Photographic Inkjet Printing

When photo printing first began moving toward inkjet, the only gloss or satin products available were RC (resin coated) photo papers. These papers were by far the biggest selling traditional photo papers and were typically used for portraits and consumer-oriented photographic output. But high-end professional photographers never used RC papers for gallery output and did not accept RC papers as a viable alternative to their coveted fibre papers.

Gallery quality work by Clyde Butcher on a Sunset Fibre paper for the launch of his book, America the Beautiful: The Monumental Landscape.

What’s an RC Paper?
Paper, being porous and susceptible to absorbing moisture, does not provide a stable surface for the “wet” processing of silver halide photo emulsions. For over 100 years papers have been treated with materials to seal the surface and create a stable platform for silver halide.

In the 1970s, the process of sandwiching a paper base between layers of extruded resin was perfected and RC papers were born. This combination of materials provided an excellent base for a photo emulsion that was super-smooth and very economical to produce. The industry soon shifted away from baryta-based fibre papers, choosing to standardize on less expensive RC papers.

What’s a Baryta Paper?
Baryta is an industry term that applies to base papers that are coated with barium sulfate, which provided a stable base for photo emulsions, made the paper whiter, and created a very smooth surface.

These materials were available in a range of color tones and surfaces, providing the artist with a wide assortment of choices. Everyone learned to print “air dried” fibre papers in photo schools and could vary the finished surface from a semi-matte to a high gloss depending on the process they used in the darkroom.

What’s so Bad about RC Paper?
The quick answer is nothing, but the pro photographer who shoots for gallery and exhibition prints has a problem with the “plastic” feel and look of the material itself. It lacks character and is only available in a limited number of color tones and surfaces… gloss, satin and pearl.

The original fibre papers were available in a wide range of surfaces and color tones. There was an art associated with printing this way and it was greatly appreciated as highest standard for photo output.

While most photo companies concentrated on reducing costs and increasing efficiencies, the “gallery” output stayed with the fibre-based papers and darkroom processing.

What’s up with Inkjet?
When inkjet printing entered the photo field, the printer OEMs looked at the photo market and studied the consumer market. All consumer prints were made using RC papers, so they quickly developed RC inkjet papers using the exact same base materials as Kodak, Ilford, Agfa, and other manufacturers.

While these papers addressed the consumer and graphic arts markets, the gallery-quality photographers stayed away because they did not consider RC output “gallery quality”.

Ahead of inkjet photo printing, fine art was being printed on inkjet technology by a small but growing segment of the market. Inkjet was replacing various traditional printing methods for limited edition prints.

At first, the printers used traditional art materials. Soon, the specialty paper companies started coating the traditional art papers to optimize the materials for inkjet printing.

As the inkjet printer quality improved to photo quality, gallery photographers looked for a “non-plastic” photo paper to replace baryta base papers. With nothing available, they turned to the only other option available: high-quality cotton and art papers with matte coatings. Photographers that never made matte prints in their lives were now hooked on the look and feel of art papers.

LexJet, printer OEMs, and paper manufacturers convinced gallery photographers that matte art papers were the only inkjet solution to their problem. As they adapted to the digital capture technology and workflow, they also gravitated to inkjet printing because they had more control and flexibility with their work. Printing on matte art papers was part of this evolution.

After years of convincing photographers to use matte art papers, the air dried gloss and satin products finally became available a few years ago. Photographers can now achieve better print quality at a lower cost than using the traditional materials and processing.

To test the theory at a trade show, we had a 20 in. x 30 in. silver print made on Ilford Multigrade. The file was sent to a New York lab on a rush basis. Total cost for the print was $475.

A comparable print on Sunset Fibre Elite had a paper cost of approximately $8, with ink costing an equal amount. The total material cost was $16, and the print was available within an hour. Given this, if you make one print per month the ROI for a new printer is less than six months, and something tells me you’ll make more than one print per month.

When placed side by side with LexJet’s Sunset Fibre Elite, professional photographers at the trade show could only tell the difference because the shadow detail and Dmax were better on the inkjet print. The pros knew they could never get that level of detail in the darkroom.

The question then to ask yourself is, “Do I really love the matte papers or did I just become accustomed to printing with them?” As tastes and styles change over the years, trends toward different print techniques and looks will come and go. The classic look and feel of fibre-based papers will withstand the test of time.

The LexJet Sunset series of fibre papers provides a wide variety of surfaces, taking photographers back to the choices they had in the darkroom days. This is much more than simple nostalgia as both photographers who grew up in a darkroom with fibre-based paper and photographers who have only seen a darkroom in a museum will both benefit from the stunning look and feel that cannot be replicated by an amateur. It simply elevates the value of your work.

Sunset Fibre Elite is a second generation fibre-based gloss inkjet printable material that is ultra smooth and ultra glossy. The Elite surface was developed in response to requests from photographers for a smoother, glossier surface than that of the Sunset Fibre Gloss. Here’s a quick synopsis of the basic qualities of the Sunset Fibre line: