My next B&W film purchase and why?

Kodak TMAX 400 in the Rollei 35
Kodak TMAX 400 in the Rollei 35

I think I’ve reached a first milestone in my B&W film work. I’ve logged enough rolls to confidently select my next, bigger, allotment of film. I’m comfortable with my developing technique and developers.

To date, I have bought only 5 rolls at a time. I’ve tried, in roughly this order, Ilford Delta 100, Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford FP4+ 125, Kodak Tri-X 400, Fuji Neopan Acros 100, Rollei 80s, and Kodak TMAX 400. My experiences have been spread across both 35mm, medium format (120, or 2 1/4″ x 2 1/4″ / 6×6), and large format 4×5. I’m used Kodak D-76 developer, Clayton Chemicals F76+, and R09 One-Shot (a Rodinal equivalent).

I’m certain that some of my go forward preferences (or more accurately, dislikes) are as much due to my inexperience as the characteristics of the film/developer combination that I used. Never-the-less, here is where I have landed.

Developers

I’m really enjoying the results from Clayton Chemicals F76+ available from Freestyle. It is liquid, not expensive, available locally (from Freestyle), and easy for me to see how changes in my developing approach is effecting the film.

I’m also enjoying Rodinal for Fuji Acros and want to continue to experiment with it for push-processing some night-time street work.

Films

My work is falling into two main categories: Quiet Nature in medium and large format and Street in 35mm and (soon) medium format TLR

For street I’ve picked Kodak TMAX ISO 400. The choice was between TMAX and Tri-X. The ‘net is filled with forum discussions about the differences and preferences between the two. I’m going with TMAX @ 400 for most of my work because I like the whites. However, I’m ready to start evaluating Tri-X pushed to 800 and 1600 for indoors and night street work.

For 4×5 I’ve picked Ilford FP4+ ISO 125. Even with the little 4×5 work that I’ve done, I love the tones and smoothness of this film. I don’t know how to express this yet, but I love it’s whites. It could be that it just matches Clayton F76+ really well or I just like it. It is also a good price-point in 4×5.

I’ve not shot a lot of FP4+ in 120, but based on my 4×5 work, you bet I’ll be looking to exploit it in medium format too. But I also am committed to Fuji Neopan Acros ISO 100. I’ve yet to find a single person on the planet who doesn’t like this stuff. It has a completely different look than FP4+ and I still need to wrap my mind around when to use which.

The Rollei 80s is the odd man out here. I’ve actually loved the stuff I’ve done with it shooting it with a 3-stop red filter. However, it feels like an outlier film for me. For now, I’ll not be replenishing my stock, but may go back at some point.

 

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Destination: Santa Barbara – Mission: Large Format Photography

SB Mission Church(Click image for a larger version)

This past week, I took my first seriously considered shots with my newly acquired Tachihara 4×5 field camera. I recently purchased it from a good friend who does marvelous landscapes, but says that she is “too old” for film and 4×5 now. Mine is a neutral wood color with chrome fittings. The bellows are a little crumpled at the lens end, but light tight. I have two lenses. The 180mm is considered a normal lens, somewhat equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. The 90mm is a wide-angle, equivalent to a 30mm. I updated the ground glass, which is what is used to focus the image, with a hand made borosilicate glass from Steve Hopf.

My first destination was the Santa Barbara Mission. The Santa Barbara Mission is actually quite small, and not much of an opportunity, outside of the church itself. Unfortunately, the front is under some restoration and was covered with scaffolding and surrounded with ugly green fences. My sights were set on the church interior. I carefully setup and initially pulled out the wide angle, but soon realized that the normal would do. This image is the kind of image that is made for large format photography. I took two more in the courtyard, but they really just can’t compare.

I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious under the dark cloth, a little like an impostor. I recognize this feeling from when I first started doing street photography. It is a kind of I’m not good enough self-editing that will go away with a few more clicks under my belt. It was also fun to see people stop, as if they were going to wait for me to take the picture, even before I had the lens on the camera. I politely waved them through.

SB Pier(Click image for a larger version)

My second destination was the Santa Barbara Pier. It was a little later than I had anticipated and a bit of a race with the sun. With more experience I might have felt the adrenaline of Ansel Adams rushing to get his one shot of Moonrise Over Hernandez, but I just kept muttering “not the way for a novice to try large format photography”. None-the-less, I lined up a nice shot of the pier. I waited a while to avoid some people, but then the kids came into the scene. As the sun was setting, I had no real choice but to work them in, which of course makes the picture.

I’m using Ilford FP4+, rated at 125 ISO, but I’ll be honest, I just metered as if it was 100 ISO to keep things simple. I used the modern equivalent of a Polariod back to check my exposures, my Olympus OMD. It is really no larger or heavier than a spot meter and far more flexible. My developing was with Clayton F76+ using his published times and agitation method as described in a sheet he sent to me. 7 1/2 min @68 degrees; agitation for the first 10 seconds followed by 1 turn every 30 seconds. I scanned with VueScan with no adjustments. Post-processed with a little dodge and burn in LightRoom. The thing to note is that there was no overall tone curve or levels adjustments, the tonalities of the film was just right-on. The image of the pier was cropped vertically to a 16:9 aspect ratio.