Annual absolutely EPIC Christmas Calendar Extravaganza!

Every year since 2005, I’ve embarked upon a MONSTER end-of-year project – a calendar featuring 12 prints from the preceding year of photography, reproduced for family as presents for Christmas. When I first started, the calendar was all scanned and inkjet printed,

An inkjet printed page!

but that wasn’t my thing, so in 2008 I switched to an entirely handprinted (darkroom) calendar – whereupon even the printed calendar dates were darkroom printed in an epic undertaking of double exposures for every single print (through acetate reversal transparencies).
Another inkjet-printed page from 2006's calendar

That was some serious hard work – I was making about 14 calendars, which equated to 364 exposures, not including tests, errors, changes-of-mind and so on. They were nice though – but I was binding them in a very traditional calendar style – commercially wire bound, in a style I thought wasn’t very sympathetic to the prints. Plus, the calendars were on 8×10″ paper, which with room for binding, date info and a compositionally nice border, made for a rather small print indeed – by 2010, I was ready for change!!
An entirely darkroom printed page - dual exposures for the photo and the text!!

And so, for the last two years, I’ve been making a calendar I’m really satisfied with – here’s the workflow:
1. Throughout the year, I make photos – and all the stuff I shoot on film & in b&w is up for consideration. In November(ish), I revisit all the negatives, making a list of twenty or so I reckon would be nice calendar pics – if I haven’t scanned the negs already, I do so, to make a mockup I can test various crops on, and see if I still like the pic after staring at it for a while
2. In Adobe InDesign – I mockup the printed calendar layout detail – based on a nice template I setup (with credit for the overall excellent design idea to family) last year – this will all be inkjet-printed on a slightly longer sheet of paper (from K.W. Doggett!) so that lifting up the 8×10″ darkroom print for any given month reveals the camera used and other interesting info, and the month/date info is visible always.

3. Having pondered the pictures, I narrow it down to 12 (and assign them to months) and start printing – with test prints, and fussiness – I am often only getting one print done in an evening (15 copies) – but as I get into the swing of things, I can get as efficient as two or three. Things slow down if it’s a difficult negative in terms of exposure/contrast, or I radically change my mind about composition. Throughout this – I jot very specific notes about each print in my ‘darkroom book’ just in case I have to do reprints – what contrast/lens/aperture/exposure/enlarger height etc. I try to print in a sensible order (like all the same size negatives together) rather than chronologically, so that I don’t make foolish errors (as much). That said – the last couple of calendars have only featured a few formats. This year’s was only 4×5″, 6×6 & 6×4.5cm – so I only used three enlarger lenses.
4. Around this activity, I’ve edited the InDesign doc to include specific detail for each print chosen for each month, and printed out a few drafts for proofing. I also do a bit of a digital (bah!) photo shoot of each of the cameras used for the pictures in the calendar (to include) – because I reckon that’s interesting!
The longer page underneath the print - with print info and the camera used!

5. When everything’s printed – then comes the tedious part of assembly, with family assistance(!!) – lots of ouchy hole-punching and careful assembly – then wrapping up in jolly christmas paper and gleeful distribution.
The cover page for this year and last year!

What do I enjoy about all this? Well – all my extended family now have my photos hanging up in their homes – with the print changing every month. Additionally, having done seven of them now, they are really evolving into an interesting sort of ‘personal retrospective’, whereupon I can reflect back on, not just the previous year of life and photography, but the previous seven years – it’s very interesting, and I’ve already done the hard work of sorting out the good stuff! Even looking back through them to write up this blog entry, I’m rediscovering stuff. I hope I have the motivation and content to keep churning them out for many years to come!

6 thoughts on “Annual absolutely EPIC Christmas Calendar Extravaganza!

  1. I’m with Shane – I feel incredibly lazy now! I did one of these for ONE person only… and they were digital pics printed out at the local Officeworks 😦 I did have the thought of doing a completely analogue one this year; but here it is at the end of January and, until seeing your post, forgot all about it. Now you have me incredibly enthused to get started on this (maybe it will be done by 2013!)
    If you ever think of selling one of these, Marc, let me know. The photos and information about the camera used, etc. really appeals to my desperate need for obsessive organisation and I think you’ve done a superb job. Very impressed, well done!

    Molli (via APUG)

  2. They look great Marc. I do an annual calendar too, but have done the reverse of your process, I used to print them by hand, but then the job got too big, and my amount of free time got too small, so I outsource printing now too 😦 They look great, I love your simple calendar grid layout too, nicey done.


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