To start, I make 3-4 trips through the area I want to capture. I take many photos and walk with a heightened awareness; staying open to all that is around me. I walk up and down all of the key streets to thoroughly take in the area and capture what seems to be unique to the area. Once in my studio, I start the long process of editing the photos. I hone into the images of buildings, people, signage, etc, that best represent what I want to express. I finally select a set of images and isolate them from the background so they are stand-alone objects that can be placed anywhere in a scene.
Next, the most time consuming part, I slowly compose a scene. I try many different iterations; seeing which objects fit best together visually. I focus on scale, depth, and what should stand out. This is one of the most exciting steps for me; I feel like I am solving a complex puzzle. I know I am close to done when everything seems to start falling into place.
Once I am happy with the scene, I break up the scene into different plates and print out each section onto transparency film. I am now ready to make plates. I place the transparency film on a photo-sensitive etching plate (in my case a Solarplate) and shine U.V. light through it. Then the plate is placed in water. This etches the light exposed areas and leaves grooves that match the image I want to print.
To print the image on paper, I rub ink into the plate and thoroughly wipe off the excess. Since I use multiple plates per print, I first ink and wipe all the plates to prepare them to print. Once I am done, I lay damp paper onto the plate and roll both together, under pressure, through an etching press. Most of my scenes contain at least 5 different plates so I use a registration sheet to keep the composition together. I lie the registration sheet down on the press and build the complete scene a couple plates at a time. I place the background elements first (send them through the press) and then the foreground images. A final piece can take up to four passes through the press.