My Favorite Tool: Curtis Essen

Curtis next to one of his stunning photographs

My camera is my favorite tool because it takes me into my studio, which has been the Central California Coast landscape for the past 30+ years.

Right now my camera is a Canon 5D MK II which has incredible resolution for great large format photographs. I evolved into Canon by accumulating some of their lenses.  Over the years I have shot with a Kodak Brownie with 127 film, and some old plastic drug store 620 cameras that had great resolution for a kid with a dark room, a Maimiya Sekor Twin lens, and Pentax’s for a couple of decades. But right now I am never happier than when I am firing my Canon, because that’s when I am out in my studio.

Edna Valley Wheat fixed

I whole heartedly embrace the new digital dark room because it allows a vast array of tools to bring photography closer to what our eyes and brain perceive in a scene. They say reality bites, but not here where I live.  The great landscape photographer Ansel Adams embraced all the tools at his disposal to achieve some of the best photographs of his era. I believe he would have loved and mastered the tools we have now.

Autumn Oak Edna Valley

I have recently acquired a dream digital enlarger; a 44” wide Epson 9600 printer which uses pigment based archival inks that will show no fading for over 75 years. This was designed to be a professional photo printer and it now gives me total control of the process. Many of my photographs span over 200 megapixels combining over 100 exposures and have been as large as 6+ gigabytes.   I calibrate my monitor and paper/ink combinations myself.  All of this is a time consuming but satisfying endeavor.   The best part though is still when I fire my Canon, because that’s when I am out in my studio. Visit my website to view more images.

The print transcends the video screen. I invite you to view my studio, which is what I have seen and captured.   It will be displayed in our historic 1919 California Bungalow in The Arroyo Grande Village during The Open Studios Art Tour (catalog #9) at 529 Allen St. on October 15, 16, 29 & 30 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.


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