If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you will know that it’s not usual to find a restaurant review here (heck, it’s not usual to find a new post here at all these days, it seems). Let me start something new, therefore, and mention a restaurant that Nikki and I stumbled upon in Austin tonight while looking for a new Friday date night venue. Recently, we’ve been making a habit of trying new places and tonight’s choice, courtesy of Apple Maps and Yelp, was a small restaurant on South Lamar by the name of Barley Swine. The name may not be inspiring but the 380, overwhelmingly positive, reviews encouraged us to give it a try and we were most certainly not disappointed.
First off, if you are someone whose impression of a restaurant’s quality is based on the portion size, Barley Swine is probably not for you. This is not your “3 courses, soup, meat vegetable, dessert” kind of place. Individual dishes are small but guests are encouraged to order many and share. Think upscale tapas or the Japanese model.
If, however, you like new culinary experiences and expect a high quality dinner out to challenge your tastebuds and offer new flavour combinations that you’ve never imagined before, you’ll love Barley Swine. Food highlights for us included “Scrambled egg, shiitake dumplings, smoked roe, almond”, “Wagyu flank steak, piquillo pepper, potato, salsa verde” (shown in the photo below) and “Eggplant fritters, grilled okra, feta tofu, sesame, peanut salsa”. Each offered a remarkable texture and taste combination that neither of us had experienced before.
The wine and beer list also challenges convention. My first tipple, for example, seemed rather appropriate but tasted unlike any beer I’ve ever tried before. Excellent and strange:
As far as price goes, Barley Swine isn’t cheap – our bill came to about $100 for two – but it’s worth every penny for the fascinating diversity offered. If you have a fancy date planned, give this place a try.
Until 4 years ago, if you mentioned photographs on canvas to me, I immediately thought of cheesy, over-retouched family portraits in wildly ostentatious frames – photographs faked to look like old master paintings. I never took the medium seriously until our local photography group did a print comparison evening and someone brought a modern canvas print along. Unlike the horrid portraits of old, however, this one was beautifully saturated, vibrant and crisp. I was sold at that point and have been printing large pieces on canvas for exhibition use and for clients ever since. Aside from the superb colours and finish, the canvas also provides a wonderfully forgiving medium allowing larger-than-normal prints that still look fabulous. I’ve printed 6MP originals (albeit carefully upscaled) 5 feet wide on canvas and they look wonderfully sharp and not at all pixelated. Although I’ve printed the same images on paper at up to 50″, I’m generally not happy to take them above 36″ wide due to worries about obvious pixelation.
Another of my reasons for liking canvas so much stems from cost. People often complain about the cost of printing on canvas but if you factor in the cost of framing a 36″x24″ print, the canvas is easily $30 to $50 cheaper, even when using a simple black gallery frame. A gallery wrapped canvas can be hung as-is without any framing at all so the printing cost is the whole cost.
So why am I talking about canvas this weekend? Recently, I was contacted by a new company based in Austin called Easy Canvas Prints offering me a trial 16″x20″ canvas for review. I’m very happy with my current canvas supplier, Canvas Press but reckoned that this would give me a great opportunity to compare the two, especially since I had just created a new Pro account at Canvas Press and had a free 16″x20″ print to use from them too. For the sake of comparison, I ordered prints from each company’s web site using exactly the same 16″x20″ JPEG image with an embedded sRGB profile. So what did I find?
Before I start, you have probably noticed that I have a Canvas Press banner on this site already but, although I’ve been their customer for several years, I have tried very hard to be completely unbiased in my assessment of these two products. If you feel I’ve been unfair (or if you don’t but you just have more information to add), please leave comments with your own experiences for the benefit of others reading this post.
Both company’s sites offer a very easy user interface allowing you to upload pictures, select the print size you are interested in, pick various wrapping options, crop your image, pay for the print and send it for printing. In both cases, the interface is very easy to use, very clean and very nicely designed. Of the two, Easy Canvas Prints probably offers the most intuitive interface in that the controls required to start creating your canvas (selecting size and wrap option) are there right on the home page. Canvas Press, on the other hand, requires you to click an additional link to start the creation process. After this, however, both sites offer essentially the same functionality and do it very well. I really can’t fault either and have no real preference.
In terms of options offered, both sites offer similar wrap and retouching options. Both companies offer various print sizes, frame depths and three wrap choices, “Gallery Wrap” which wraps the existing image edges around the wooden frame, “Mirror Wrap” which mirrors the edge sections as the image wraps around the frame or “Color Wrap” which allows you to select a flat colour for the wrapped sides of the canvas. Easy Canvas Prints offers two frame depths, 0.75″ and 1.5″ and prints up to 40″x40″. Canvas Press offers a third frame depth, 2″, and supports any print size up to 96″x54″.
For me, the 40″ print size at Easy Canvas Prints is a serious limitation since most of the canvases I want to print are larger than this, typically panoramic images that may be 48″+ wide and 20″ or so deep. For most people, however, I suspect that the size limitation is unlikely to pose a problem and they certainly cover all the major sizes up to 36″x24″ and any custom size you may want within the overall 40″ limitation.
One other web site feature offered by Canvas Press but not by Easy Canvas Prints is a clincher for me. On Canvas Press, your uploaded images and canvas creation selections are saved allowing you to very easily reorder the same canvas or create another canvas based on an image you have previously ordered. On Easy Canvas Prints, however, I need to upload the image each time I want to order a print. Given that these images can be 25MB or so for large panoramas, the upload can take a significant amount of time so only having to do it on the first order is a real plus to me. Again, though, for people ordering an occasional print, this is unlikely to pose a problem since they are probably not going to be ordering multiple copies of the same image at different times.
I can forgive a terrible web interface (not that either of these are at all terrible, of course) if a company produces fantastic prints. To me, the quality of the final print is a lot more important than the usability of the upload and ordering system (as an aside, I use Nations Photo Lab for a lot of my paper printing because their prints are great but their user interface is truly horrible!). So how did the two companies fare?
The photo below shows the two canvases I compared. The top one is from Canvas Press and the bottom from Easy Canvas Prints. This was taken in mixed tungsten/daylight with a bounced flash so can’t really be used for colour comparison. I also suspect that it is slightly underexposed since, although the Easy Canvas Prints canvas looks closer to the original image (above) here, in better lighting, the Canvas Press one actually matched the image on my calibrated display significantly better.
Both images look great and I would have no problem hanging either one. The Easy Canvas Prints print is slightly cooler, brighter and less saturated than the original and is printed on a slightly lighter-weight canvas with a more distinct surface texture. The print looks more neutral compared to the slightly warm tones of the original image. Canvas Press’ print is closer to the original with better colour saturation and a more pleasing surface texture (to me at least). The colour temperature also more faithfully replicates the warmth of the original image. The print finish (coating?) is somewhat more glossy and results in a surface that I prefer. In case I was being overcritical, I asked my wife which she preferred and she also picked the Canvas Press print without knowing which was which. Seen in isolation, however, the Easy Canvas Prints print is still a lovely print but the Canvas Press one is definitely more impressive.
Mounting and Stretching
I have to admit that I broke my rule about ordering identical prints here slightly since I ordered the Canvas Press print with a 1.5″ mirror wrap compared to the 0.75″ gallery wrap I ordered from Easy Canvas Prints. Both prints arrived nicely stretched with no obvious bulges or bad corner folds. The images below show the backs of the two canvases.
The Canvas Press print definitely looks more “hand crafted” with the framing staples less regularly placed. The Easy Canvas Prints print is more regular and appears to have been printed on precut sheet canvas since the boundary markers, barcode and company name is visible on the rear canvas edges.
In both cases, the frames came fitted with a sawtooth hanger. Personally, I really dislike these and my first job on receiving a canvas is to install rings and picture wire to allow it to be hung using a picture hook rather than a nail. For larger canvases, I know that Canvas Press provide Beehive Hangars which I love since they make hanging large prints very easy indeed. Not having ordered a large print from Easy Canvas Prints, I don’t know what hanging solution they offer when the size gets into the 36″ wide range.
I have no complaints about the mounting of either canvas at all and both will look excellent hung. As an artist who typically resells canvas prints to clients, however, I would likely be unhappy to use Easy Canvas Prints due to the back-printing they have on the canvas. Canvas Press typically put a sticker on the back of their canvases advertising the company and this can be easily removed. In this case, I ordered the print via their Canvas Press Pro service and this automatically removes all Canvas Press markings from the back of the print. Easy Canvas Prints may offer the option to remove the back printing but I can see nothing on their site to indicate whether this option is available.
I have a lot more experience of Canvas Press customer service than I do with Easy Canvas Prints so any comparison I make is unlikely to be completely fair. That said, in the email dealings I’ve had with Easy Canvas Prints, I’ve been treated very well and all my questions have been answered promptly and accurately.
As for Canvas Press, I know they are fanatical about service. They have keen photographers on staff who can offer great advice and I know that they are determined to do what it takes to make their customers happy. On one occasion a couple of years ago, for example, they reprinted a 48″ canvas for me after it was stretched about 0.25″ off-centre. This is the only mistake I’ve ever seen in an order for them and they did the right thing to correct it.
In both cases, these orders were printed within a couple of days of the order being placed. I collected the Easy Canvas Prints image in person but had Canvas Press ship their canvas to me (for the first time – I usually collect my prints from them too).
By this time, you have probably realised that I’m still more favourable towards the Canvas Press product than Easy Canvas Prints. The one area where Easy Canvas Prints currently beats Canvas Press hands down, however, is on cost. For comparison, I looked at the price of a 16″x20″ 1.5″ gallery wrap and a 24″x36″ 1.5″ gallery wrap on both sites. Here’s how they stacked up:
|Easy Canvas Prints||Canvas Press|
Easy Canvas Prints is currently offering an across-the-board 25% discount on all its canvases along with free shipping (which costs $15 from Canvas Press) and these amount to a very substantial discount compared to the Canvas Press price. It is worth noting, however, that there is no indication how long this offer will last and that Canvas Press frequently offer limited time discounts of a similar size. Comparing the prices without any discounts applied, we see that they are pretty much identical.
Overall, I would say that both companies do a good job. Easy Canvas Prints strikes me as aiming at the mass market – families ordering an occasional print to hang at home or give as a gift – whereas Canvas Press is geared more towards the professional photographer looking for large prints and making repeat orders. Since I fall into the second category, I will be sticking with Canvas Press but, given the current price difference, I would be quite happy to recommend Easy Canvas Prints to others who fall into the first category. Regardless of which company you use, you will end up with a lovely print and will receive excellent service.
Photos on Canvas
Each year, San Francisco-based photographer and blogger Jim Goldstein compiles a list of photographers’ annual “Best Of” posts. Here’s this year’s list. From the sites I’ve looked at so far, it’s been a good year. You can see Jim’s original post here.
- Best Photos of 2010 by Jim M. Goldstein – JMG-Galleries
- Best Photos of 2010 by Matthias Wassermann – Mawpix.com
- Exploring Light -Top Photos 2010 – Chris Moore
- My Top Ten Photos for 2010 – Tom Varden
- My Top Ten Photos of 2010 | Craig’s Musings – Craig Vitter
- Top 10 Photos for 2010 | Dobson Central – Ken Dobson
- Best Photos of 2010 – Carol Bauer
- My Best photos from 2010 – Janis Janums
- My Best Photos of 2010 – David Daylor | SixtyOneNorth.com
- 2010 – Year In Review – Jon McCormack Photography – Jon McCormack
- S Zacharias: Best of 2010 – Stephen Zacharias
- 2010 Photos – David Hernandez
- Iceman Photography – Top 10 in 2010
- Best of 2010 – Dave Wilson
- Skolai Images – Bears of 2010 – Carl Donohue
- My Best Photos From 2010 – Art Kuntz
- 2010 in Review – Jay Goodrich
- My Favourite Images of 2010 – Sven Seebeck
- Lunchisoptional: Favorites of Year: 2010 Edition — Ken Trout
- My ten favorite photos of 2010 – Stefan Bäurle
- Top 10 of 2010 – Behind The Clicks – Mohammad Noman
- Top Ten Photos Of 2010 – Jed Link
- 2010 in Review – kRiZ cPEc Photo Blog
- Chuqui.com- Best Photos 2010 – Chuq Von Rospach
- My Favorite Photos of 2010 – Ed Rosack
- 2010 Favorites – Pat Ulrich | Pat Ulrich Photography
- Favorites of 2010 – Kevin Moore
- Top 10 of 2010 from BlazingB Photography – Bill Pennington
- My Favorite Photos of 2010 – Mike Criss
- My faves from 2010 – Matt Smith
- My favourite shots of 2010 – Catalin Marin | Momentary Awe
- 2010 a Year in Review, My Top 10 Memorable/Favorite shots – Mike Criswell
- Craig Ferguson Images – A Year In Photos – Craig Ferguson
- Top 50 Images from 2010 and Goal Setting – Mike Cavaroc
- Jim’s Photography – Jim Wheeler
- Sharpimage.net – The best of 2010 – David Sharp
- StephenWeaver Photography/Earth Systems Imaging-Stephen G. Weaver
- Best of 2010 – Changing Perspectives – Jenni Brehm
- katzekotz.de – best of 2010 – Thomas Kneppeck
- 2010 Favorite Images – Alpenglow Images – Greg Russell
- Best Images of 2010 – Peter Cox Photography – Peter Cox
- Best of 2010| Simon Says – Simon Ponder
- My Favorites Shots of 2010 – Fine Art Prints – Jeff Colburn
- Mountain and Climbing Photography – Alexandre Buisse
- Siam In Contrast 2010 – Adrian Young
- 2010 in review (colour)– Olivier Du Tré
- John Dunne Photography | My Top 10 Favourite Images of 2010 – John Dunne
- Best of 2010 Flickr Set – Tony Rath
- Top 10 from 2010 – Behind-the-lens-lukey – Luke Weymark
- Evan Gearing Photography’s Top 10 of 2010 – Evan Gearing
- 2010 Photos in Review: Water – Rebecca R Jackrel
- Justin Korn [dot] com – Best of 2010 – Justin Korn
- My Best Photos of 2010: Learning and Growing> – D. Travis North
- Uncommon Depth – Roberta Murray
- Organic Light Photography Best of 2010 – Youssef Ismail / Organic Light Photography
- The Best of 2010 – blackandwhite.ie – Neil McShane
- My Best of 2010 – Larry Rosenstein
- Will Wohler Photography: 2010 A Year in Review – Will Wohler
- digitizedchaos – best of 2010 – rian castillo
- My Top 10 from 2010 – Chaz Curry Photography
- – Suzy Walker
- Favorite Photographs From 2010 – Fine Art Landscape Photography of Seung Kye Lee
- Best photos from 2010 – Amanda Herbert
- Wrapping Up 2010: My Favorite Photographs – Ivan Makarov Photography
- Graf Nature Photography | Reflections on 2010 photographs – MARK GRAF
- VACANT SHOP IN DOWNTOWN SANTA BARBARA – G. Kaltenbrun
- Pat O’Brien Photography – A Look Back at 2010 – Pat O’Brien
- G Dan Mitchell – 2010 Favorites – G Dan Mitchell
- Favorite Photo of 2010 – Naturalvision-photo.com –Derek Griggs
- Crest, Cliff & Canyon – Jackson Frishman
- 2010 In Review – Photoimagery.net – Peter McCabe
- Favorite Photos from 2010 – In the Field Photo Blog – Richard Wong
- Year in Review Best Photos of 2010 – Matt Graham Photo Blog – Matt Graham
- Elizabeth Brown Photography PhotoBlog: Ten Favorite Photos of 2010 – Elizabeth Brown
- My Top Photos of 2010 – Jonesblog – Bryan William Jones
- latoga photograph: My Favorite Photos of 2010 – Greg A. Lato
- Best of 2010 Images – Rob Tilley
- Living Wilderness: 12 Best from 2010 – Kevin Ebi
- Highlights of 2010 – TO KNOW MORE WEB JOURNAL – KENT MEARIG
- Michael Russell Photography
- Best Photographs of 2010 – Chuck Goolsbee
- Favourite Photos from 2010 – Tim Smalley
- My Best 10 Photos 2010 – A Reconnection to Nature – Mark Fenwick
- Best of 2010 – Quotidian Photography – Jessica Sweeney
- My Top Images of 2010 – ANDREW KEE
- A Photo A Day… Done! – WelliverPhotography – Beth Welliver
- Batsto Village – Louis Dallara Photo Blog – Louis Dallara
- Best 10 of 2010 – John Wall’s Natural California
- 10 from 2010 on the Ann-alog – Ann Torrence
- Favorite Photos from 2010 – My Photo Blog – Ron Niebrugge
- My favorite photos 2010 on Flickr – Markus Heinisch
- My best photos of 2010 – Mike Hellers
- Dave Reichert’s Best Of 2010 – Dave Reichert
- Photographs: 2010 Revisited – Joseph Szymanski
- Best Pics 2010 on Flickr – Michael Rubin
- My 10 Best Shots of 2010 – ROBIN BLACK PHOTOGRAPHY – ROBIN BLACK
- Top 10 from 2010 – Anne McKinnell
- Vanilla Days – Best of 2010 – Pete Carr
- Top Photos of 2010 – Gary Crabbe / Enlightened Images
- Top Images from 2010 – Russ Bishop | Nature Photo Blog
- Favourite photos from 2010 – Bryn Tassell
- 10 Best Photos of 2010 by Scott Thompson – Scott Thompson
- My Top 10 photos of 2010 – Alexander S. Kunz
- My 10 Best for 2010 – Dan Baumbach
- Unified Photography – Best Photos of 2010 – Ken Snyder
- 5 From 2010 – Contemporary Wildlife Photography – David Lloyd
- Top 10 Photos of 2010 – Steven Bourelle Digital Arts
- 2010 Top Ten Photos – Andrew S Gibson
- 2010 Reflections – Dru Stefan Stone – Dru-Color My World
- Best of 2010 – Dave Hammaker
- Top 20 of 2010 – Jenna Stirling
- LandLopers.com Top Travel Photos of 2010 – Matt Long
- Best of 2010 – Stephen Davey
- Landscape Photography Blogger My Favorite Photos of 2010 – David Leland Hyde
- Views Infinitum – Best of 2010 – Scott Thomas
- One Per Trip – Favorite Travel Photos From 2010 – The Carey Adventures – PETER WEST CAREY
- I Love It, SF – Kara Murphy
- My top 10 pictures from 2010 – Duffy Knox
- Burrard-Lucas Photography – Will & Matt Burrard-Lucas
- Hank Christensen Photography Top 10 2010 – Hank Christensen
- My Best Photos from 2010 – 365-1/4 Sra
- Top Ten Images of 2010 – Michael Frye
- Jono Hey’s Best of 2010 on Flickr – JONO HEY
- My Favorite Photographs from 2010 – Stories From Home –David Patterson
- My 2010 Best Images of California and Arizona – Steve Sieren
- My Top 10 Landscapes of 2010 – Andre Leopold
- Best of 2010 set on Flickr – Erik Turner
- This was 2010 on Flickr – Jeffrey Van Daele
- Top 10 of 2010 – Brian Mangano
- Best Photos of 2010 – KBTImages – Kevin Thornhill
- Best Photos of 2010 – The Sun Shines & The Igloo Melts
- Top 10 of 2010 – Chad Griggs
- Best Photos of 2010 – WASEEF AKHTAR
- My Favorite Images from 2010 – Outdoor Exposure Photography by Sean Bagshaw – Sean Bagshaw
- My Best Shots of 2010 – Annika Ruohonen Photography – Annika Ruohonen
- Top sights from 2010 – Mariana Travieso Bassi
- Year 2010 in Korwel Photography – Iza Korwel
- WISCONSIN SUMMER – Jarrod Erbe
- Best Photos of 2010 – Jim Stamates
- Top 10 of 2010 – Younes Bounhar
- Light on the Landscape Photoblog/My Favorite Images of 2010 – WILLIAM NEILL
- My Best Photos of 2010 – Itsa a greyt day for a photo – Terri Jacobson
- Listening to Nature Photography Blog by Rhoda Maurer – RHODA MAURER
- My favorites of 2010 – David Richter
- Best of 2010 – View from the Little Red Tent – Edie Howe
- tmophoto best of 2010 – Thomas O’Brien
- Best Photos Of 2010 – Dawnstar Australis – Daniel McNamara
- Top 10 of 2010 – Cranial Aperture – Jeffrey Yen
- 10 Best Favorites of 2010 – Sudheendra Kadri
- Flickr – Best of 2010 – Chris Arts
- Flickr: Best of 2010 – Heidi Donat
- Best Photo of 2010 – Anton Huo
- Best of 2010 – Travel & Landscape – Eugene Cheng
- Preetalina Photography: 2010 Favorites – Preeti Desai
- Hidden Light Photography 2010 Favorites – Alan Williams
- 5Mae 2010 Favourites Flickr Set – Sarah-Mae
- Best Photos of 2010 – John Fujimagari
- Best of 2010 – Paavani Bishnoi
- Best Photos of 2010 – Phil Colla
- 100 Favorites from 2010 – Patrick J. Endres
- Top Ten Of 2010 – Steve Cole Photography
- Some of My Favorite Images From 2010 – Clark Crenshaw Photography
If you are in the market for a new lens, the web is a fabulous place to do your research. I’ve long been a fan of the lens reviews at DPReview. They are detailed, technical and extremely helpful for the analytical types out there who really want all the data on sharpness at all possible apertures and zoom settings. Their graphical displays are superb but figuring them out initially can be rather daunting and, unless you are a real techie, the information they provide may not mean a whole lot to you. Aside from the technical nature of the data (which I consider a major plus), the one real downside to the DPReview lens review site is that they only cover a fairly small number of the available lenses out there (currently 66 by my count) and I frequently find that they have no data on lenses I am trying to compare.
This week, however, a new site offering a similar service appeared. LensHero offers a simpler-to-use alternative and already boasts data on 639 lenses covering all the major camera and third party lens manufacturers. The user interface is very clean and easy to use and the data provided, although a lot less detailed than the DPReview results, is easy to understand and allows straightforward side-by-side comparison of the different lenses.
The site allows you to query lenses based on your answers to a series of questions – Which camera do you use? What is your budget? What kind of lens are you looking for – wide angle, telephoto? What kind of photography do you want to do – sport, portraiture, landscape, etc?
Overall, the experience of using LensHero is a lot less daunting than many other review sites which assume you understand (and are even interested in) the technicalities. For the beginner photographer, the site offers a great way to compare lenses they may be interested in adding to their gear collection and for the seasoned professional or serious amateur, the breadth of reviews makes this a great place to start when shopping for new glass. Take a look and see what you think.