Major Milestone: Proof Edition of Thebaid Book Ordered!

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All,

The photographer at All Merciful Saviour, Vashon Island WA

I am very happy and energized to report that we met our internal deadline last week for submitting our pre-proof photo and text edits, and after a couple of lengthy phone conferences and numerous last minute stylistic improvements, St Tikhon’s Press has sent the file to their U.S. printer for the first physical proof copies to be printed.

These will be full size (13×10 inches, 26″ wide when opened fully), approximately 200 pages, paperback (perfect bound), with full color printing inside and out, and our prototype cover design. We will be able to make an accurate assessment of the status of the book based on the proof edition.

The Press will keep a copy and circulate it at their end as part of the pre-flight process before going to press, and I will receive a copy here and be doing the same intensive review. The text sections will be professionally proofread, and every stylistic detail, from font usage to headers and page number placement, Table of Contents formatting, and so on, will be confirmed, checked off, and locked in before we send the final files to the offset printer.

I’ve been reviewing since yesterday the PDF file which was sent to the printer, and love how it looks. I am visiting family, and we excitedly put it on the wide-screen TV last night to go through. Certain photographs convey a positively cinematic impact, while others could stand alone as fine art photographs. I’m very proud of the image quality, the flow of this visual pilgrimage, and the inclusion of the special articles, which help complete the mission of the book and will help make it a useful as well as beautiful keepsake.

It will take about three weeks for the proof editions to be delivered before we can begin our final pre-flight review. In the meantime, watch for more updates, as I have some things to share coming up soon.

FOR A LIMITED TIME, we are still accepting pre-orders for both the Standard Edition (hard cover, cloth bound, with French fold dust jacket) and the Deluxe Limited Edition with Leather cover and ribbon marker. Both versions when ordered from our pre-order store will come signed by the photographer, and will include a signed and matted fine-art print (8×10 gallery quality print, in an 11×14 archival, museum mat) ready for framing.†

As always, my heartfelt thanks for your support, and your patient endurance as we persevered through the lengthy Covid lockdown and our subsequent pre-press work.

Wishing you good strength as we begin the Pre-Lent period this weekend!

~ Ralph Sidway

† Notes:

  • As a reminder, the Deluxe Limited Edition is available only by pre-order for a limited time. Once we go to print, we will close the pre-order Thebaid Store.
  • The signed and matted 8×10 prints are also only available by pre-order in a bundle with the book, and will not be available separately either before we go to print, or afterwards. There are currently no plans to offer Thebaid prints for sale.
  • Pre-orders will be shipped before retail channels receive their copies for resale.
  • Upon publication, the Standard Edition will be available through the STM Press Bookstore, and through other online and ‘brick and mortar’ resellers.
  • Contact STM Press with queries about discounts for resellers and church bookstores.

Nativity Update and New Year News

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All,

Greetings for the Nativity Season, whether you are celebrating this weekend, or in a couple of weeks! I’m thrilled to be able to provide a hefty report on our pre-press progress this past Autumn, and sketch out what the coming weeks look like for the publication of the North American Thebaid book.

My weekly production meetings with St Tikhon’s Monastery Press, publishers of the Thebaid book, have continued throughout the Autumn, and we have made enormous progress perfecting the layout and book design, such that we are very close to ordering our first physical proof of the book. (More on that below!)

The pre-press procedure for us has been analogous to that of a lapidary, woodcarver, or any fine craftsman: we had the basic layout and design in place this time last year, and then began the more detailed work of writing and inserting texts for each monastery, reviewing and refining the image selection and sequencing, and making final decisions on layout parameters such as margins, fonts, and other page styles. Each pass through the book since then has finalized more and more elements, and clarified our fewer and fewer remaining tasks.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect for me personally has been revisiting the images themselves. The initial photographs which we inserted into the layout last year were, for the most part, “quick edits,” and in no way ready for print. Except for the fourteen or so images included in the 2019 St Tikhon’s Liturgical Calendar, the remainder were only minimally edited, and were intended merely as placeholders for our work on the book design. (Almost all the image galleries posted here on the Thebaid website use versions of these early “quick edits.”)

The process of delving back into these images has been revelatory in many ways. Bringing them up on the computer screen one by one and using the powerful tools in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop brings back to life my original vision, what I “saw” when originally making the photographs, and it is enormously satisfying to bring out various subtle elements, balance the highlights and shadows, heighten sharpness, color and detail, and generally use these tools to restore the drama, impact and “feeling” the real world scenes originally presented to me, but which were usually hidden in the unedited RAW files captured by my cameras.

For you geeks and photographers out there, this workflow description may sound familiar to you. My practice when doing digital photography since 2008 when I seriously committed to the medium and left film behind, has been to set the camera to save both a RAW file as well as a JPEG. Because of its compression, a JPEG file has only 8-bit depth by which to convey sharpness, detail, color and tonal range from shadows to highlights. The RAW file format saves the maximum amount of image data the camera sensor is capable of rendering. In the camera models I have been using for the Thebaid book, the RAW files provide either 12 or 14 bit depth, gathering from 50% to 75% greater image depth and data than a JPEG file. In a nutshell, this is part of the magic of digital photography, that one can work with those RAW files, and draw out amazing amounts of dynamic range and detail, and then save that in a smaller file for use in publication.

The excitement of seeing these images come alive as I work on these deep edits has been immensely fulfilling, and I can’t wait for you to experience them in the finished book.

What’s Next? — As I hinted above, we are now very close to ordering our first physical proof copy/copies of the book, and have set an internal deadline of January 15 to have all our remaining design, image and text edits completed so we can move forward by that date.

Obviously, this is the major milestone we have been pushing towards, and marks the culmination of the long and detailed process of book design and layout. St Tikhon’s Press and I have literally hundreds if not thousands of hours invested in preparing the Thebaid book, and are excited to be finally reaching the proofing stage. St Tikhon’s Press has been posting their own updates, and we share a growing anticipation as we get ready to go to print that this will be a very special book. Our production call today confirmed all our image edits over the last couple of weeks, and made us realize how close we are to the proofing stage. Watch for more news early in the New Year!

What else?

STILL OPEN FOR PRE-ORDERING: We continue to be deeply thankful for all those who have pre-ordered the Thebaid Book, and are still encouraging pre-orders at the Thebaid Store, as this helps us determine our initial print run, and helps offset the printing costs. 

As I posted this past Summer, all pre-orders made through the Thebaid Store will be signed by me, and will include a matted print, ready for framing, of one of the images from the Thebaid Project, signed on the mat. You can check out the specifications on the Standard Edition (Cloth Bound, Hardcover, with French-fold Dust Jacket) and place your preorders here. (Discounts available for multiple copies.)

An important reminder as we get close to the print deadline, that the Deluxe Limited Edition will only be available by pre-order. This leather-bound version, with ribbon marker, will be signed and numbered, and will be limited in quantity to the number of pre-orders (plus a few extra copies for our Thebaid Team), and will not be available through any retail or online stores. If you’re interested, head over to the Thebaid Store to check out the options, which include substantial discounts for quantity purchases.

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS AND BOOK SIGNINGSI am deeply grateful for those who have recently contacted me about scheduling a Thebaid Presentation once the book is finished and in hand. One of the joys of my travels during the project pilgrimage from 2016-2018 was the experience of visiting numerous parishes in between my monastery visits, and giving a digital slide show and talk on Orthodox monasticism in America. I look forward to similar encounters when the book arrives, and my new presentation will of course feature extensive images from my monastery travels. Contact me for details, questions and to schedule.

As always, my heartfelt thanks to all of you, our many supporters and all those who have pre-ordered. It has now been a little over six years since we launched the crowdfunding and travel for this epic photographic pilgrimage to Orthodox monasteries in America, back in September 2016! We are profoundly energized by our progress on the book. Publication draws closer every week, and we are committed to getting it into your hands as quickly as possible. Please pray for us as we finish the Thebaid Book and send the final files to print.

Nativity and Christmas Greetings to you all as we celebrate the Birth in the Flesh of the Son of God and Lord of All, Jesus Christ.

CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM!

Photo: Cross at St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina CA, overlooking the California mountains. © Ralph H. Sidway.

Thebaid Book Update: AAC News, Text Deadline, Pre-Press image proofing

The Thebaid Display at the OCA All American Council in Baltimore, July 18-22

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All,

Much news to share since mid-July, so let’s get to it:

The OCA’s All American Council, July 18-22, was a great opportunity to put The North American Thebaid Book Project in front of people for a whole week. I was invited by St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press to join their large vendor’s booth, and was given an entire table to anchor my display. STM Press had printed some handsome Thebaid Sample Booklets to share, and I brought my large (20″x 30″) canvas prints of some of the very best images to anchor the display. Two easels enabled us to have these large images facing both directions of the main aisle, and it was genuinely rewarding to talk with interested visitors about the project. We took some pre-orders for the book, and some folks donated directly to STM Press to help underwrite the printing costs, all of which helps us to the goal line. Thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth!

The new statue of St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, carved on site from a tree which had recently died.

Following the AAC, I spent a week at St. Tikhon’s Monastery working on the book, and this daily interaction between myself and press manager Fr. Mikel Hill was very productive. In addition to my week at St. Tikhon’s I made a couple of stops at other regional monasteries and in general had a very productive mid-summer as we continued to prep the book for going to print.

My weekly production calls with STM Press resumed after my week-long working visit, and I’m very pleased to announce we are on track to complete all the text by September 15, and will be having the text files proof-read after that date. This is a major milestone, which will be followed immediately by our review of the image sequencing and layout decisions. This will be our final review of the entire book to optimize the flow of the photographs and make the visual narrative as strong as it can possibly be.

There are other steps also on the agenda, including final design elements, special graphic additions, and especially generating physical pre-press proofs to ensure proper reproduction of the images, many of which have a broad dynamic range, deep shadow detail, specific color gamuts, or heightened Black & White contrast and tonality.

My thanks to all who have recently pre-ordered the Thebaid Book. (I just received notice of another pre-order this morning!) Please note that we will stop taking pre-orders for the Deluxe Limited Edition once we send the book to print. This leather-bound version, with ribbon marker, will be signed and numbered, and will be limited in quantity to the number of pre-orders (plus a few extra copies for our Thebaid Team), and will not be available through any retail or online stores. If you’re interested to learn more, head over to the Thebaid Store to check out the options, which include quantity discounts.

As always, my heartfelt thanks to all our many supporters and those who have pre-ordered. Many of you have been waiting patiently for the fulfillment of this project since we launched this epic photographic pilgrimage six years ago, in September 2016! We are absolutely thrilled to be seeing the publication of the book getting closer every week, and are dedicated to getting it into your hands as quickly as possible. Please pray for us as we labor to get the Thebaid Book over the finish line.

Watch for more updates soon as we check off these various pre-press deadlines!

PS – Also in my summer travels were trips to Jordanville and St. Gregory Palamas in Hayesville, Ohio. Here are some examples of the images I made at these two monasteries. Click to enlarge, as these thumbnails are cropped to fit into the gallery format:

Thebaid Book Layout Reaches Key First Goal

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims All!

After several weeks of layout and design work since my last post, I’m happy to tell you we have reached a real milestone now, with significant progress being made each week.

Early Prototype Thebaid Book Cover,
Entrance to St Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, Calfornia

Also, before I get started, I wish to thank our new supporters who have pre-ordered the book. Interest continues to grow in the forthcoming Thebaid coffee table book, and we are deeply appreciative of each of you who have committed up front and pre-ordered your copy (or copies). I should mention that we will continue to accept pre-orders at The Thebaid Store up until the book goes to print. This is especially critical for the Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather, which will not be available through retail outlets, but only through pre-ordering using the link above. Of course the standard hardcover edition will be available through St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press, and a range of Orthodox and other resellers.

Back to today’s update!

The heart of the pre-press process has been our weekly production meetings, and with only a couple of exceptions, St. Tikhon’s Press (STMP) and I have been locked in for our Thursday afternoon sessions since early August now, and wow, they have become increasingly substantial over the last several weeks. Even on those couple of occasions when we haven’t been able to hold our weekly meeting, we have still been communicating in detail by email, sending notes and work lists back and forth, and sharing our files by Dropbox and Google Drive. By mid-September we were getting into precise questions of image placement, layout, sizing and sequencing, specific photo edits and text edits, so that our meetings have been ranging from 60 to 90 minutes on average! Which brings me to the big news for this update.

As of the latest batch of page mockups, STMP has completed about 90% of the initial page mockups, which nearly completes the basic layout. This is really the first major pre-press goal, and enables us now to go back through each regional section and monastery to confirm everything and complete any final image editing, etc. There are some special texts to be added and other features, but the heart of the book is firming up quite nicely.

It is important to note that our design and layout work is not merely about the details, the “nuts and bolts” of setting up a photo book. We have approached the book in a way similar to “composers” of a musical piece, seeking to present the photographs in a lyrical, poetic way, with movement, rhythm, harmony, dynamics. And this is the part of the process that I look forward to entering more deeply into, as it marks a return to the start, to the heart of the original vision I had for this project.

Watch for more frequent updates as we now move into the next stages, which will include the proofing process.

Thank you for your support and prayers, and for accompanying me on this pilgrimage!

Polishing the Prologue (and Epilogue!)

Revisiting the early stages of the Thebaid Project has been the key to its successful fulfillment in the near future.

Over the last few weeks I have been revising my text contributions to the North American Thebaid photo book, at the direction of Fr Mikel Hill, manager of St Tikhon’s Monastery Press and Bookstore, and editor of the Thebaid book. Specifically, Fr Mikel gave me the task of combining two separate articles of mine into one, and provided a word count limit, which has been a welcomed but grand challenge (as those who know me can imagine!).

EquipmentBlessing-090416 - 1
Fr Steven Kostoff blesses my photo gear at the beginning of my travels, September 2016.

Part of my wordsmithing process has included revisiting other earlier blog posts here on the Thebaid website, which has been nothing short of a revelation. Looking back three and four years to my earliest expressions of the nature of the Thebaid Project, my writings on photography and monasticism, and the many articles and features which I have reposted from an array of excellent Orthodox Christian sites, monastic writers, and respected photographers, has been a joyous journey indeed, one which I think you all might enjoy as well.

Continue reading “Polishing the Prologue (and Epilogue!)”

The Book Proofing Process Begins!

At long last, a truly substantive update on the Thebaid Photo Book!

BookCover3-sm
One of the prototype cover designs. (Photos from St Michael Skete, Spruce Island, Alaska)

I recently had some wonderful news from St Tikhon’s Monastery Press, that they had set an internal deadline of the end of February for the first full virtual proof of the Thebaid photo book. Practically speaking, with Great Lent beginning on March 2, this means we are looking at the second week of March for serious work on editing based off that first digital proof.

This is the first major marker on the final stretch toward publication of the finished book, and is a thrilling accomplishment in its own right.

Who can describe the enormous amount of quiet, diligent behind the scenes labors by the design team at St Tikhon’s Press to get us to this point? They have been at it for months, and I am eager to see — and share with you! — the results!

There is so much that goes into creating a book like this. First of all the final selection of the images — the very best of the very best — from the approximately 300 images which I provided to the Press last Autumn, those culled from over 26,000 images which I made during my pilgrimage. Then the sequencing, sizing and formatting of the images, with interspersed text, to carry the viewer of the book on a visual pilgrimage across the Orthodox Monasteries of North America.

Then too there are the special articles being submitted for the book by Orthodox monastic writers in America. The whole look and feel of the book is now taking shape. Graphics and design elements, titles, headings, fonts and block quotes; it will all be there in this first proof for us to scrutinize and perfect.

There is a saying many of us use to enable us to get things done in an efficient manner: “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.” This was my motto for much of the two years of planning and three years of travel, when scheduling was done on the fly, and photos were made in ideal, and often far less than ideal, conditions. Everything seemed to move so quickly back then, and as it seemed easy to wrap up my travels, so I also felt (wrongly) that the publication would be an equally easy process.

Not at all, as I have learned. Now the motto is reversed, and we can more accurately say, “Don’t let the good be the enemy of the perfect,” or at least of the sublime. We only get one opportunity with the book to make it the landmark edition we have long hoped for it to be.

I cannot adequately express my appreciation for all of you, our supporters. You have made this 3 year pilgrimage possible through pre-ordering the book — whether Standard Hardcover Edition or Deluxe Limited Edition in Bonded Leather — and through your prayers and patience, especially during these long months when the progress has been hidden behind the scenes.

As we approach the beginning of Great Lent, I also ask your forgiveness for not providing more updates. There were so few substantive updates to provide, and rather than artificially try to “gin up” excitement over the still indefinite publishing date, I chose to be patient with the process. Some of you have kindly reached out through messages and email, and I have been only too happy to communicate with you what I did know. But now — now at last — we are entering into the final stages of the book prep, and there is cause and need for regular posts and updates as the proofing process begins in earnest.

So, with all that said, here’s what you can look forward to in the weeks ahead:

  • New galleries of images I have held back especially for this final pre-press stage. These are from the last several monasteries of my Western Pilgrimage, from Alaska to Arizona, and from Washington State to Texas, five or more monastery photo galleries in all, plus additions to some of the others;
  • Real-time updates during the proofing process, including whatever I can provide in the way of screen shots, “galley proofs” and page layouts;
  • Advance notice of the publishing timeline, with shipping dates for Thebaid Supporter Pre-Orders, online availability through St Tikhon’s Monastery Press Online Bookstore and other Orthodox online resellers, as well as Amazon and broader availability through brick & mortar bookstores in select markets;
  • Advance notice of special Thebaid presentations, exhibits and book signings at select churches, bookstores and venues;
  • And, hopefully, a few surprises I have in mind which are sure to be appreciated by many of you.

As a reminder, you can still pre-order the Thebaid Photo Book through our Online Store:

Our Online Store has all the specifications for the finished book (size, fine-art paper stock, etc.), plus beautifully rendered mockups of different prototype cover designs.

The Standard Edition will be available through all retail outlets, but the only way you can purchase the Deluxe Limited Edition is through pre-ordering it from our Thebaid Online Store. I’ll post a notice here when we are preparing to send the book to the printer, and the final deadline for pre-orders. If you’re interested in the Deluxe Limited Edition, best to pre-order right away to reserve your copy.

Thank you all again for your prayers, patience and support. I can’t wait to get the finished Thebaid Photo Book into your hands!

Watch for more updates soon and on a regular basis going forward!

Ralph Zosimas Sidway

At Long Last! – A Thebaid Book Update

Greetings for the Dormition Season!

The Platina Pilgrimage
The hand operated printing press at St Herman of Alaska Monastery in Platina CA, where Fr Seraphim Rose and Abbot Herman produced The Orthodox Word and numerous important books.

First of all, my sincere apologies for not posting any news on the Thebaid book for quite some time. We simply haven’t had any news to share, but have been in somewhat of a holding pattern. But all that is changing rapidly, thanks be to God!

Some of you have reached out to ask about the book’s progress, and I am very grateful for your contact, and happy to have some solid news to report.

Met-Leonty-Cover-500x738
St Tikhon’s Press had asked me last December to be patient, as they had new books which had been scheduled for publication in 2019 well ahead of mine. The first of these was published in conjunction with St Tikhon’s annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage Weekend (a beautiful new book on Metropolitan Leonty of blessed memory), and the other titles have been proceeding apace, meaning the Thebaid Book is next up.

This is most invigorating for me, I can assure you, and I am looking forward to making an extended working visit to St Tikhon’s in mid-September, which will enable us to make much progress. But even in advance of that, we have been fleshing out the specifics of the book sections, and image use and sequencing remotely through correspondence. Continue reading “At Long Last! – A Thebaid Book Update”

January 2019 Thebaid Update

On to publication of the Thebaid Book in Spring 2019!

This update serves as a special ‘Thank you’ to our dozens of dear supporters, for propelling the North American Thebaid Project to the threshold of its goal, the publication of the large-format, photographic coffee table book, due in Spring 2019 from St Tikhon’s Monastery Press, South Canaan PA.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be deeply engaged in photo editing and book design, sending files back and forth with the design team at St. Tikhon’s Press, and working closely with our pre-press partners at Four Colour Print Group in Louisville and FCI Digital in Dayton, as we work to fulfill our goal of creating an inspiring, museum-quality photo book. We can’t wait to get it into your hands!

St Tikhon’s Press announces the Thebaid Book to over 20,000 readers

St Tikhon’s 2019 Liturgical Calendar, featuring photographs from the North American Thebaid.

St Tikhon’s Monastery Press chose to announce their role as publisher of the Thebaid book through a statement in their 2019 Liturgical Calendar, which features fourteen full-color images from the Thebaid Project.

Covering over a dozen Orthodox monasteries across America, from several of the canonical Orthodox jurisdictions and archdioceses here, this beautiful calendar has now been distributed to hundreds of parish churches, reaching an audience of over 20,000, who began using this unique liturgical calendar on January 1 of the New Year.

We are deeply grateful for St. Tikhon’s Press and their public endorsement of the Thebaid Project. You can order the St Tikhon’s 2019 Liturgical Calendar direct from STM Press…

Continue reading “January 2019 Thebaid Update”

Thebaid Store returns online! – Now accepting pre-orders for the Thebaid Photo Book

After a period of technical difficulties following the launch of our new Thebaid Online Store, we are officially back up and running, and accepting pre-orders.

Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY, one of several prototype cover designs you can view at the Thebaid Store.

 

This large-format, fine-art “coffee table” book represents the culmination of a unique multi-year project, which has combined crowdfunding, social media, and an unprecedented photographic pilgrimage to over thirty Orthodox monasteries across the American continent, to help raise awareness of and interest in the Orthodox Church and its ancient monastic traditions, and thus contribute to the “churching” of America.

Full specifications are provided for all products. Signed copies are offered, with signed & matted fine art prints. Quantity discounts for signed bundles are also available. At a glance:

  • Quantity discounts available for signed book & print bundles.
  • Additional info and answers to frequently asked questions are provided.

Proceed to the Thebaid Store…

 

Thebaid Images featured on covers of STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics Book, Pocket Planner

The close relationship between the North American Thebaid Project and St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press continues to bear fruit, with the publication of the STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics & Calendar, and their 2019 Pocket Planner, each of which feature a stunning photograph from The North American Thebaid on the cover.

These are in addition to the publication of the 2019 St Tikhon’s Monastery Press Liturgical Calendar, which features fourteen photographs from the Thebaid Project. More info, with images from this large-format wall-calendar and links to order from STM Press are provided here.

I continue to feel deeply thankful and honored that St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press has so embraced the North American Thebaid Project, and is using more of the images for their outstanding line of liturgical calendars, books and resources, which will go out to many hundreds of Orthodox parishes and thousands of believers across the United States and Canada.

Specifications for the STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics & Calendar, and 2019 Pocket Planner follow:

Continue reading “Thebaid Images featured on covers of STM Press 2019 Liturgical Rubrics Book, Pocket Planner”