The Soles of Breckenridge Photography and Printing

Photography gallery with inkjet prints
The Gary Soles Gallery: Wilderness Exposed, in Breckenridge, Colo. The gallery obviously features Gary Soles' photography, but some of the work of renowned Colorado photographer John Fielder as well (one of Fielder's Colorado winter photos is shown here in the foreground, rendered in large format by Gary Soles on LexJet Sunset photo paper).

Sure, the title is a terrible pun, but in many respects it’s true. Gary Soles captures the soul of Breckenridge, Colo., and America’s West through amazing large-format photography displayed at his gallery: The Gary Soles Gallery, Wilderness Exposed. And, his soles took him from Wisconsin to Breckenridge as he exchanged his Midwestern footwear for (arguably) the best footwear of all: ski boots.

Resort community photographySoles admits to being a ski bum when he first moved to Breckenridge in the late ’70s, but something larger tugged at him as he plowed through the divine Colorado powder in those early years. Drawn to art in college, Soles found his way into photography by first working at a Breckenridge photo lab in the early ’80s, eventually owning it a few years later.

“In college I gravitated toward the art department; it was the only thing that really did it for me. I wouldn’t dare tell my dad that I wanted to be an art major, but it was that background that helped with color and composition in photography,” says Soles. “It was an almost brutally slow process, and in hindsight I wish I had gotten more formal training because it would have taken me to a higher level sooner. I tend to be so critical of my own work, which motivated me to get better because I would see everything that was wrong with my work, rather than what was right.”

Mountain and landscape photography and printingAs he developed his photography skills, photo technology was also developing, to use another bad pun. The unusual aspect of his business’s evolution was that he retained much of the earlier processes while moving to the latest processes, like large-format inkjet printing. His photography, meanwhile, evolved from mainly commercial photography for magazines, brochures and ads, plus studio work, to the Colorado and Western landscape photography for which he’s become well known.

“I still use all large-format film cameras for my original transparencies. Those are then drum scanned and printed with a large format inkjet printer. We’re still a full service lab, so we’re still doing C-41 and E-6 film processes. We still process black-and-white and have the old-school stuff, but at the same time we have digital imaging kiosks for customers who want to print from their digital cameras, and offer all the digital imaging, enlarging and custom framing for other photographers as well. We kept going with everything we’ve always done, but it also evolved into a place for my own work.”

Shooting landscapes and wildlifeHis own work, featuring the spectacular scenery of the Western states, needs the space necessary for equally spectacular prints that go up to 4′ x 12′. A small home on Breckenridge’s Main Street housed Sole’s operation for years, but as his photography went large, the historical barn built in the late 1800s attached to the home was remodeled to accommodate his gallery.

“I always enjoyed landscape and wildlife photography and the venue finally opened up to display this work; you need a lot of space to display the large images we’re producing,” says Soles.

Everything for the gallery is produced in-house, from the photography and film processing to the printing, mounting, laminating and chopping and joining the molding for the picture frames. Doing so, says Soles, has been a real boon to his business.

“Our costs are kept very low by doing everything here; the profit margins in the gallery are huge by keeping everything in-house. We’re able to control quality, minimize turnaround times and offer customers a lot of size and frame options,” explains Soles. “Customers can order anything from 4″ x 12″ to a 4′ x 12′ print and everything in between. I also do a lot of work consulting with people as far as measuring for wall space, frame options that would look great with both the image and their décor, and the installation. People really appreciate that personalized service. They can get a custom-fit piece for their home.”

Outdoor photography and inkjet printingLiving in a resort community also helps as customers come from far and wide and stop at his gallery on Main Street. The big, beautiful prints are hard to resist and Soles reports that he not only ships prints across the U.S., but worldwide, mainly to the UK, Australia and Europe, with a smattering of customers in South America and Canada.

“Even in a down economy, photography is still affordable if you compare it to an oil painting. Clients will often find a certain connection to a particular photographic piece: a place they have been or a season or moment they have experienced. They can get a good sized, framed panoramic piece for $2,000-$3,000, whereas something from a fine art gallery can cost $20,000-$30,000 for that same size. You get a lot of area covered with photography for a better price,” says Soles.

Outdoor and landscape photographyThough he’ll ship the print frame and all, and some just buy it off the wall and take it with them, most prints are rolled up for shipping. “What’s been great is shipping the un-framed print, which can be rolled and shipped very inexpensively. We looked at the way LexJet boxes its materials, and basically ship it out the same way. I guess you could say we snaked the idea from LexJet,” he says. “We’ve been batting a thousand since converting to that method. They can have their own framers do it when they get back to their hometown.”

Part of the appeal that drives sales, aside from the stunning images themselves, is in the materials he uses for printing. All of Soles’ printing is done on LexJet Sunset photo and fine art media: Sunset Photo eSatin Paper, Sunset Photo Gloss Paper, Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, Sunset Fibre Matte and Sunset Select Matte Canvas.

Soles adds that LexJet Elite Luster UV Vinyl Laminate (3.2 Mil) is used on almost 90 percent of the pieces in the gallery, providing a subtle boost that can turn someone who’s just looking into a sale.

Black and white photography and printing“The laminate is a huge selling point. They’re blown away with the luster UV laminate we use: there’s no glare or reflection from it and you really see the image. It’s optically clear and the colors in the image really come out through the laminate. In some ways it enhances the image,” explains Soles. “People are used to seeing glass or plexi over the images, and those will have some type of glare. And, with the six- and ten-footers we’re doing as panoramics, it keeps the piece relatively lightweight. There are a whole lot of people shooting digital and offering smaller prints, but I’m offering these giant panoramics, and they’re easier to deal with because they don’t have an extra 30 pounds or so of glass with all the potential problems you can have transporting, moving and installing the pieces.”

Soles adds that he’s also been using a gloss laminate over Sunset Photo Metallic, which he uses based on the image and where it will hang. “It’s just amazing because it’s almost three-dimensional; that combination looks so cool,” says Soles.

How to Apply a Print to a Substrate by Hand

How to mount a graphic to a substrateIt can be difficult to evenly apply a print to a substrate by hand. Oftentimes, lines and bubbles can result from the uneven pressure used when applying the graphic.

Simple application tools from companies like Big Squeegee can be used to effortlessly mount a printed graphic to a substrate. In conjunction with tools like these, it is recommended to print your graphic about one inch wider and longer than the size of the substrate to allow for some leeway during application. Simply trim off the excess material after applying the print.

In the video embedded below you will learn how to apply a graphic to a substrate using the Big Squeegee Rivet/Dent Tool…

How Photography Careers Evolve: Panorama Expert Dave Orbock

Each year Full Circle Photo captures panoramic group portraits of the Senate and House of Delegates of the Maryland State Legislature. To make sure he gets images of everyone in the room, Dave Orbock uses his Holcherama panorama film camera with shift lenses. Photo: Full Circle Photo Imaging,
Each year Dave Orbock captures panoramic group portraits of the Senate and House of Delegates of the Maryland State Legislature. For this job, he uses his Holcherama panorama film camera with shift lenses. Full Circle Photo Imaging,

Photography enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds often wonder if they have what it takes to “go pro.” The more you learn about the careers of successful photographers, the more you realize that people with a  passion for excellence in photography always find a way to do more of what they love. They have a vision and they pursue it.  For example, let’s look at the career path of Dave Orbock.

Fine-art photographer Dave Orbock specializes in medium and large-format panoramas of cityscapes and landscapes.  He has hiked and photographed National Parks throughout the US and Canada and photographed many US cities and the surrounding countryside. His archives also include images from most of Europe, parts of Latin and South America, Asia, and Africa. Orbock has climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro, hiked the Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, served as a guest lecturer in a cultural exchange program in China, and won first prize at the Paris Conference of the International Association of Panoramic Photographers. 

Because of the quality of his work, Orbock is represented by museums, galleries, and art consultants throughout the U.S. and his images have been purchased by individual collectors, museums, and major corporations.  He sells many photographs to stock agencies and corporate publishers and his prints are displayed in dozens of corporate office buildings, universities, hospitals, hotels, and professional offices.

Judging from this long list of travels and accomplishments, you might assume Dave has spent his entire career as a professional photographer. Not so.

Dave was a dedicated hobbyist who built a thriving photography business on the side while working in an entirely different occupation. Until retiring nine years ago, Dave Orbock was a physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  Now he is engaged in the photography business full-time.

In addition to producing and selling his own photography, he runs Full Circle Photo Imaging, a lab he founded in 1987 in Baltimore, MD. Full Circle not only lets him oversee how his own photography is printed and framed, but it also enables him to help other photographers and artists produce exhibition-quality work.  

Full Circle provides expert assistance in a wide range of services, including scanning, fine-art reproduction, photo restoration, and printing, mounting, laminating and custom-framing of large-format and panorama photographs. 

Camera Equipment: Dave Orbock first became seriously interested in panorama photography in the 1970s when he traveled out west to National Parks such as Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the Badlands.  He regarded panoramic photography as the only format that would enable him to truly capture the sweeping grandeur of the scenery.  He began showing and selling images in the 1980s. 

The first panorama images Orbock shot were captured with a Kodak Cirkut camera, a rotating camera designed to capture long, continuous exposures on rolls of film that were anywhere from 5 to 16 in. high.  Orbock used a Cirkut model that used film that was 10 in. high and around six feet long. Although the camera captured wonderful images, it was impractical to transport to remote shooting locations. Not only was the camera itself big, but it also required lugging along a heavy tripod and cumbersome canisters for rolls of film that were 10 in. high.

So in 1981, Orbock switched to a Hulcherama, a motorized film camera that could shoot a continuous exposure while rotating 360 degrees. This camera used medium-format 120 or 220 film to create negatives or transparencies 2.25 x 9 inches long. Today, along with the “Hulch,” Orbock uses the Seitz Roundshot panoramic camera which operates much like the Hulcherama.

From a Basement Darkroom to His Own Lab: Like many pro photographers who began as serious hobbyists, Orbock started developing film in a basement darkroom in his home. He bought a small color processor and enlarging equipment that could handle film sizes up to 12 x 15 in. He also rigged a set-up so that his enlarger projected images on an easel over his wife’s washer and dryer and was able to print pictures up to 8 ft. long.

But when he started selling more of his work, he moved his enlarging and processing equipment into two joined row houses in midtown Baltimore and hired a small staff of dedicated professionals to  ensure the utmost in quality when his work was printed and framed.  Operating as Full Circle Photo Imaging, this team offers a wide range of analog and digital printing services to other photographers.

Full Circle can produce black-and-white prints up to 20 inches wide and chromogenic prints up to 30 inches wide from film. Using an Epson Stylus Pro 9800 purchased from LexJet, they can also output photographic prints and art reproductions up to 44 inches wide. Full Circle can also design flyers, cards, and calendars on which photographers and artists can display their images.

Pam Brumbley, who received a BFA in photography at the Savannah College of Art and Design, oversees the studio’s digital services and provides personalized consultations on print, scanning, and retouching jobs.  Full Circle also handles many types of framing jobs, primarily on archival materials. In addition to mounting on archival foamboard , the staff, led by Ruth Nuhn, will mount images up to 48 in. wide on any mountable surface.  

Meanwhile, Orbock continues to travel frequently, shoot, and sell more of his own images. He is a charter member of the International Association of Panoramic Photographers (IAPP), which was formed in 1984. The IAPP promotes education and idea-sharing and expands public awareness and appreciation for panoramic photography and immersive imaging.  Full Circle has helped print, mount, and laminate images for some of the IAPP’s exhibitions.

When the International Association of Panoramic Photographers held an exhibition at Prince George’s Community College, Dave Orbock’s team at Full Circle Photo matted and mounted many of the works displayed at the show. They also printed some of the exhibited images. Photo: Full Circle Photo Imaging,
When the International Association of Panoramic Photographers held an exhibition at Prince George’s Community College, Dave Orbock’s team at Full Circle Photo matted and mounted many of the works displayed at the show. They also printed some of the exhibited images. Photo: Full Circle Photo Imaging,

Orbock is pleased that interest in panoramic photography is booming. He feels this is due mainly to innovative stitching software that enables photographers with standard DSLRs to combine multiple frames into one continuous image. However, he believes that motorized, rotating cameras are still faster and more efficient for professional jobs – especially when capturing group portraits or images in which the motion of people or objects might require additional editing time during the stitching process.

 You can see examples of Orbock’s images in the gallery on Full Circle Photo’s website:

If you are interested in learning more about panorama photography, visit the website of the IAPP:

More details about Full Circle Photo Imaging will be published in the next  issue of LexJet’s In Focus newsletter.

Book Presents Tips for New Sellers of Art Photography

By Eileen Fritsch

RyderBigBookCompared to the number of books that have been published on digital photography and Photoshop, relatively few books have been written on inkjet photo printing. Even fewer guides have been published about how to mat, mount, and frame inkjet prints for display in an exhibition or gallery.

That’s why I was intrigued by a self-published book entitled: The Big Picture: Taking Your Photography to the Next Level. Many of the mounting, framing, and marketing tips featured in the book will be well-known to photography pros who have been selling their work for a long time.

But this book was written by Eric Zachary Ryder, a self-taught photographer in California who recently spent thousands of dollars and hours making the journey from hobbyist to professional photographer. He now sells his work for a solid profit and has a permanent presence in a well-regarded gallery in the Napa Valley and several other venues.  

He admits that he wasted a lot of money because “I didn’t understand the business. I invested in the wrong frames, mats, glass, etc. I also took forays that I shouldn’t have: shortcuts, cheaper materials, and paying someone else to do work that I could have done myself if I’d only known how.”

“It’s funny how you don’t think of ‘production’ when you think of selling your work, but it’s extremely important,” observes Ryder. “It’s not just a matter of simply having nice images; it’s presenting them in a way that is appealing, yet inexpensive to produce.”

Until he was invited to sell his prints in the gift shop of a local winery, he says he hadn’t ever given much thought to issues such as matting, mounting, framing, and marketing.  The information he found from various online sources was confusing at best.

So now that he’s successfully selling his work, Ryder decided to publish the techniques that have worked best for him.  He explains how to mat, mount, and frame 8 x 10 and 16 x 20 prints and discusses topics such as finding your style, creating title cards, pricing your prints, buying print racks, and transporting your work.  The book includes links to sources of the products he has used, including mats, gallery description card holders, art cases, print racks, and shipping tubes.

Ryder says some of the biggest mistakes he made were in choosing the wrong frames and mats: “Getting the whitest mat is critical—at least for my work. But there are a zillion ‘whites’ out there.” Here are a few of his tips on matting the framing: 

Try to standardize on a few print sizes so you can buy mats in volume and at a discount.

Use a mat width (border) that is appropriate for your print size.  “Any prints bigger than 11 x 14 in. should have a mat width of 4-1/2 to 5 in. on all sides,” advises Ryder.  “Prints smaller than 11 x 14 should have a mat width of 2-1/2 in. or less.  I use a 1-1/2 in. mat width for 5 x 7 in. prints, and 2-3/4 in. for 11 x 14-in. prints.”

For black-and-white prints, use black frames with white mats. “When I experimented with other options, the frames looked great, but too many people already had walls full of black-and-white prints with black frames and white mats,” says Ryder. “Adding one of my framed prints to their collection would mess things up.”

Sign the mats—in pencil. “I tried all kinds of things to avoid ruining the clean lines of an unsigned mat,” says Ryder. “ It turns out that people like signatures on the mats. I tried putting a white border on the photo itself and digitally titling and numbering the picture in Photoshop. This wasn’t good for large pictures, because as one client said it looked like a poster.  But I found that it was actually good for 11 x 14-in. prints in a 16 x 20-in. mat.”

Consider using metal frames instead of wood. “Metal frames these days are quite nice, and hold up very well,” says Ryder. “They don’t require any special equipment to assemble and you save quite a bit of money by doing the frames yourself.”

You can view sample pages and a table of contents on Ryder’s website and order it as either a printed book or an e-book.

I don’t know if Ryder ever came to LexJet for advice during his journey from hobbyist to professional. But if he had, a LexJet account specialist could have helped him save time and money. In addition to setting him up with a great pro-model inkjet printer and efficient, cost-effective workflow, LexJet could have shown him some of the products in the Framing Made Easy collection.

LexJet’s community of customers includes hundreds of self-taught photographers who print their own work and sell it at art fairs and galleries.  When a LexJet account specialist learns about something that worked well for one customer, they take note of it and recommend it to other customers who may be facing similar issues.  We also routinely publish artwork-production, display, and marketing tips in LexJet’s In Focus newsletter.

To talk to an account specialist, call LexJet at 888-873-7553. Or, subscribe to LexJet’s In Focus newsletter.