Film Friday


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Film Friday

17 Jul 2020 10:22AM   Views : 341 Unique : 245


I’m not sure quite how long ago this started, but it’s something I’ve embraced. Every Friday, I aim to post an image from the darkroom, either from 50-plus years of negative files, or from recent work. Being disorganised, I sometimes post rather late, after developing a film or two while boiling the kettle for the first cuppa of the day. This then needs washing and drying, which takes an hour or two. (Don’t listen to the people who say you can dry film with a hairdryer: it’ll end up dry, but VERY dusty. It’s much better hung up and left in a room, so that the dust round it is undisturbed…)

Today, there are two rolls of Ilford Pan F in the Paterson tank. The film was part of a job lot given to me by a friend who had made the decision to go all digital – unfortunately, he has a weakness for chromogenic film (to be developed in colour print chemicals), and colour negative emulsion: promise dates go back, in some cases, to the Nineties.

I don’t use Pan F much: 50 ISO is a bit on the slow side, and I found the contrast was high when I first used it – so I tended to stick to faster films. And it’s always tricky to know how to treat a couple of rolls of a film one isn’t used to. Going strictly by the book usually gets somewhere near: but more precision is often a Good Idea in photography.

Pan F was one of the films favoured by the ‘no grain is good grain’ brigade, along with Kodak’s 32 ISO Panatomic-X and their arcane Technical Pan copying film, which could, on a good day, be coaxed into near-grainlessness with the right developer. So they say: the fact that it gave an effective speed of around 6 ISO put me off a bit, as did Barry Thornton’s assessment that while there was more detail if you looked hard, FP4 looked sharper.

Barry wrote two books that I consider to be the definitive classics about using and processing darkroom images: Elements and Edge of Darkness. He tested, he experimented, he perfected technique, and explained it – to my mind – more clearly than Ansel Adams ever did.

And I’m left musing about the various ideas that I’m aware of that may be more or less toxic for the modern photographer. Some of them are undoubtedly right, within limits: of course the most technically-perfect image is best for printing large when the subject has loads of detail in it, and the detail is material to the image. But think of some of the classic images from the past, and ask yourself how many of these depended on technical perfection… And how many depended on the creative eye and the readiness of the photographer.

We need ‘rules’ and structures for all human activity, but there is always room for experiment, for the idea that it is better to apologise than to ask permission (though there are occasions when that can go wrong: but innovators run risks!)

But just as there’s now a rule that ‘digital is better’ and I happily break it every week or two, there may be a rule or two waiting for you to bend a bit: if you never shoot portraits, give it a go this weekend. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good at still life, shoot what’s on the corner of your kitchen table this evening…

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Jul 2020 10:23AM
The picture is of Vivian Blue, photographed on T-Max P3200 with an Exakta VX1000.
PaulCox Avatar
17 Jul 2020 10:49AM
Used to like Pan F in the Camera Club in the 70’s, for there in-door photo shoots, because of the very fine grain. However most of my photos were taken on HP4 HP5 or Tri X all pushed to 800ASA minimum as most of what I was taking in those days were Rally Cars or Track Cars. The Photo on today’s Blog, must be your signature type, High ASA and high grain which I always admire in your photos.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Jul 2020 11:14AM
Thanks, Paul! The only missing element of my 'signature' is a really wide aperture, because I find that I need glasses to see the microprisms in the Exakta really clearly in low light...

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