black and white

Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 by Laura Daly

Up to this point, my experiences with black and white film had been purely with Ilford stock.  HP5+ and the different Deltas were what I started with, but many people regularly recommended Fuji Acros.  Silverprint UK is usually my go-to site in the UK for film, and once again their price for 120 rolls of Acros was too tempting.  Being a 100 speed film, Acros is generally known for shaprness, fine grain and great detail.  It is also of course best used in bright conditions.  During my visit to Wimpole (see also Kodak Portra 400 and Fujifilm Pro 400H) I tested out a roll of Acros to see what it could do.  Of course, being a test I did take some images in less than ideal conditions (think dark pig sheds) to see if you could still have this film in your camera for a general, versatile walk-about film. acros-124acros-123

Shooting into the sun, the film still retains a great amount of shadow detail, but the sky also still retains texture - it's not blown out as it likely would be in a digital file.  (Note - doing this did lead to some light leak onto the following frame. Not a big deal but definitely noticeable...)

Heading indoors, I had to deal with some pedestrian shutter speeds with my Yashica, which only has a maximum aperture of f/3.5.  Luckily, the design of a TLR means it is relatively straightforward to brace the camera against your body and take a shot with a shutter speed less than 1/15 (the main time to look out for in terms of technique is pressing the shutter).  In some shots I got the exposure a little bit wrong, with one or two images being a little dark - this is recoverable in Lightroom though.

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With more unusual lighting, the contrast of Acros can be amazing.  For this image I shot into a barn, waiting for the goat to pass by the little door into their outside area.  Even in this extreme dark (metering for the highlights of course) there is still detail on the barn wall - the edges of the planks are clearly visible.  This is pretty incredible, considering how bright the goat is (there is also detail here too, it is not blown out).

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So, what are my impressions?  As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of this film.  The latitude, contrast (in the right conditions), great detail, sharpness, pleasing but unobtrusive grain makes this a fantastic film for a wide range of settings.  I wouldn't hesitate to put this film in my camera when on the street or at a location such as Wimpole.  I would perhaps stay away from it in indoor settings (unless brightly lit), but this is as much to do with the slow film speed as it is to do with the aperture that can be achieved by my Yashica.

There wasn't much information out there in terms of development.  I used this method (Ming Thein blog) - Ilford DD-X, 6.5 minutes at 24 degress water temperature, then standard 1 minute of Ilfostop and 6 minutes of Ilford Rapid Fixer.  Seemed to work very well, so I ill be sticking with this in the future.

Go on, get some.  You won't regret it...

 

3 rolls by Laura Daly

Over Christmas I spent quite a lot of time with my film camera - trying to learn more about exposure, composition, contrast, and just how to work more smartly.  Because of course, every image costs in the film world.  This post contains some images from the first three rolls of film I have ever shot - I can't say how satisfying (and exciting) it was to see these images on the roll of plastic as I pulled out the developed film from the tank for the first time...

Roll 1 - Ilford HP5+

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I decided for my first roll to be a film classic; Ilford HP5+.  So many people had recommended this film as either their go-to, or a great beginner's film to experiment with.  It has a really nice grain that I personally think compliments black and white portraits.  It isn't too oppressive, but is noticeable, and it adds a nice mood to the images.  This film also had a reasonably pleasing contrast - the images above were not really corrected for exposure or contrast in Lightroom (dust and marks were removed).  If there was one thing hindering me when shooting that roll, it was getting used to the split prism-type lens focusing that the old Nikon lenses had.  Some images I thought would be nice and sharp just weren't (although, this might be due to the fact I was shooting pretty wide open because of the low level of available light!), but this hopefully will begin to sort itself as I get used to shooting this medium with this gear.

Roll 2 - Ilford Delta 3200

This was the roll I was really looking forward to shooting.  Some people hate it (too grainy), but I love the roughness of it, coupled with the quite strong contrast (...at least, heavier than the HP5).

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Perhaps counter-intuitively (or at least going against the grain of what people normally do with this film), I decided to shoot some candid portraits of my new nephew with my mother.  I actually found that the lovely contrasty tones made the highlights pop, giving the images some nice soft, dreamy character.  This worked well coupled with the bokeh being produced by the Nikon 105mm - I was pretty pleased with the results.

Also, I was onto my second roll and I hadn't messed up the developing yet...I'm not sure exactly how contrast and general film characteristics can be affected by the development temperatures and times used; perhaps something for me to look into in the future...

Roll 3 - Ilford Delta 400

My last roll over the christmas period I shot was a roll of Delta 400.  Delta is generally considered the Rolls Royce of pro films, so I was interested to see how this (more expensive) film compared to the cheaper, but identical ISO, HP5+.  I did shoot some more portraits with this roll, but I also took it with me when I was shooting in Snowdonia over New Years (see my previous blog post) as I was keen to see its potential and performance shooting landscapes.

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The grain is pretty similar between both films (maybe, if I squint, you could argue the Delta's is a bit finer...) but the tones across the board are in my opinion a bit more pleasing with the Delta.  This film also seemed a little sharper, and responded better to light sharpening in Lightroom.  As a film for landscape photography it worked pretty well - especially in dull conditions, it was useful to have that raised sensitivity.

I really enjoyed the whole process over the holidays.  Slowing down and properly considering a shot, then having to wait to see if I got it right, then the development steps themselves.  It is definitely something I will be continuing with, and I have already bought in some more rolls ready for my next outing.  I've even splashed out and picked up some colour negative stuff (some Portra 160), which should be pretty fun...

Snowdonia, New Years Eve by Laura Daly

Usually on a christmas break (with jobs as hectic as ours) you would normally assume lie-ins and slow days, and you would be correct, except for when we are in scenery as striking as Snowdonia, North Wales. A wake up call at 6am on New Years Eve.  We were greeted by partially cloudy skies and some light rain, which immediately screamed great potential for a decent sunrise, and a restoration of my faith in the BBC weather service.  Tryfan was our destination, meaning a 90 minute drive was ahead of us.  Luckily no one else was as stupid was out and about, so we made good time.

Leading up to Tryfan, we passed through a spectacular valley, but unfortunately there was nowhere to stop and park, but this is a definite future shooting site (on the A5 just west of Capel Curig).  Tryfan itself has a small car park which was empty, and it also contains the start of the (very well looked after) trail up the mountain.

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100 yards up the trail you will come across a bridge.  There had been a lot of rain so the stream passing over the rocky hillside and running under the bridge was in roaring good form.  The image above was actually taken on the way back down - the sun had risen and promptly hid behind heavy, threatening cloud.  This left little option for me but to convert into black and white.  However, with the long exposure and the milky white waterfall, there was a nice amount of contrast.

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The path up the mountain is maintained by the National Trust and so was in really good condition.  It also cut a beautiful path up the hillside, creating some lovely leading lines of the grey rock contrasting against the greens and browns of the vegetation.  Up to this point the UK had not seen any cold weather.  At all.  But this high in Snowdonia there was a light dusting on the peaks, helping them stand out against the rapidly evolving sky.

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At this point the sun was about to come above the horizon, and the sky was trying to work out if it wanted to show any colour.  The building clouds caught a little light, but the sunrise was not developing as nicely as early morning excited me thought it would.  However, with the promise of some great views regardless, we pressed on through the bitter winds.

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After about a 20-30 minute hike (including photography stops), we reached Llyn Idwal, the first of the lakes on the route to the mountains.  Again, a full stream was gushing out at high speed, adding a dynamic aspect to the image I managed to capture above.  All the images I shot this morning were achieved with the Nikon D750 and the 16-35mm f/4.  I continue to be mightily impressed with the amount of data the sensor can capture - this image needed a little help in Lightroom to bring out the shadow detail and the colours, but I think this really reflects our experiences of the morning.

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There's a different mountain ridge across the lake, again being cut in two by a stream running down from the lightly dusted snowy cap.  Only after I got this image back into the computer did I spot the moon cheekily placed above the left peak!

I also took my Nikon FM2n on this hike, and shot a couple of images on some Delta 400 - I will be developing this roll in the next few days and will include the images in an upcoming post about my first few rolls of film shooting...

The lake was as far as we were willing to go on this occasion - the weather was closing in and we chickened out decided to make our way back down safely.  However, a fantastic vantage point for Snowdon itself was only a 10 minute drive away, so we made our way there before the bad weather settled in for the rest of the day.

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This was one of the last images we managed to capture where the summit was actually visible (3 minutes after this image, a torrential downpour started, and didn't stop until we left the national park! Typical...).  I was in two minds about whether to keep it in colour, as the light was not producing very punchy colours.

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This last mono image was one of my favourites of the day.  The misty clouds slightly veiling the summit, along with the deeply dark foreground hills, cut through by a fast moving stream.  I think black and white works excellently in mountainous, poor weather terrain such as this, and this image rounded off a really enjoyable trip into the mountains of Wales.

Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall by Laura Daly

Day 5 - Geevor tin mine.  The weather picked up dramatically from the first few days (if you saw a previous post, we were engulfed by some murky weather), and we headed off to one of the best known tin mine museums in Cornwall.  Tin mining used to be a huge industry here, and the landscape is covered in old stacks and derelict shells of former mining outfits.  There is even a Poldark mine...Geevor tin mine is home to a fantastic wealth of information about mining, and you can even walk through a shallow mine shaft which is manned by people who used to work here.  Claustrophobic individuals might want to avoid that!  One of the best parts of the mine (especially for a photographer) are the buildings devoted to the workers themselves, where they came in in the morning, where they prepared for the long day in the dark, and where they cleaned up after a hard day mining tin.  I tried to capture the feel of the place in a photo story style, with a number of images trying to show the conditions they faced and the spirit they had while working here. At the bottom of this structure you could see the shaft this lift was using and how deep it was. Certainly not for the faint hearted.

This was part of the lift construction to transport miners and their equipment underground.

Next to this structure was the building complex for the miners.  You could see the company had tried to provide some home comforts for them considering the difficult working conditions, but it did seem quite bleak.  The whole area was called "the dry", purely because the miners would dry their overalls here, and have a shower to get clean and dry.  There was a very clear sense of hierarchy in the dry, with separate mess areas and shower areas for the bosses.  The more interesting part was the mass locker room for the "grunts" of the mine, the workers.  So much of their stuff had just been left when the mine was suddenly closed in 1986, and the museum has left many of these items, dust and all, to give a sense of what it was like.

Shirts, pants, socks, jackets, so many items were left behind.

The personality of the miners shone through. A few bikers' lockers were grouped together, showing a shared love of machinery.

Some of these men also seemed pretty good at riding, with some stickers from competitions they had entered.

Photographically this area was quite challenging.  The light was both low level and of varying quality, including a mixture of different light sources.  It took a little while to recognise the white balance that was needed (although granted, shooting in RAW meant this could be corrected in Lightroom).  Also, I had to open the lenses and shoot at a higher ISO - ISO is less of a problem with the Fuji X system as it produces pleasing film-like grain, but the wide aperture meant that I missed good focus sometimes.

Clocking in for the last time in '84.

The sense of humour of the miners was clear to see.

Alongside the items left by the workers were photographs of themselves, along with some stories of times in the mine.  It was eerie to read these in the quiet calm of the empty dry, especially with their property hung up around you.

Shower time in the Dry. This shower was for the normal shift workers. There was little privacy.

Abandoned tokens, for the abandoned possessions.

Mono conversions are fantastic with the files from the Fuji X-Pro1.  The RAW files have such nice tones directly out of the camera, it takes little work in Lightroom to bring out a little more contrast.  The more I use this camera, the more it seems the files take less work than with the Nikon D750.  The files don't react well to sharpening, but if you get it right when taking the image (i.e. minimising camera shake), you don't need to add sharpening in post-production as the files are that good.  Particularly with the 35mm f/1.4 and the 18mm f/2.

The workshop.

This was a nice break of routine for me, as it allowed me to consider a set of images to convey a sense of a place full of history.  Normally I'm more accustomed to finding the "one" image with landscapes, but I really enjoyed our day at the mine.  As I would relish the chance to photograph a wedding in the future, this kind of storytelling is great practice, except for the lack of people of course...

Photo Restoration Part 4 by Laura Daly

Previously on Photo Restoration:Import and conversion to black and white? Done. Spot repair on the damage to the lower half of the image? Relatively simple thanks to the spot healing brush, an extremely powerful tool from Adobe. Minimising the impact of the tear across the scanned photo? Surprisingly straightforward, using the techniques discussed before...

12 Curves before

And now...curves adjustment.

For me (a relative newbie in terms of Photoshop ability) getting the top and bottom halves of the image to match up in terms of tones was was always going to be the biggest challenge. But hey, why bother doing a project like this if you aren't going to learn from it?

13 Curves first adjustment

A simple curves adjustment layer was applied to a selection of the top half of the image. This part was kinda struggling with a lack of sharpness, contrast and clarity, along with it being a (seemingly, because of the glass adhesion issue) different brightness. So, I bumped up the blacks and shadows, while also trying to make the whites a bit more white, but not having it look blown out. I'll admit, it took a LOT of tweaking, deleting, re-doing to get an effect that started to look OK. Of course, the issue with doing this is that more noise and damage was brought out in the paler upper section. Hmmm...

13 Curves first adjustment

It also seemed to have an effect on the part of the picture stuck most to the glass, making it an even darker shade! (In hindsight, seems like an issue with my selection tool. Something to look out for in the future.) So bearing this in mind, a bit of painting with a feathered brush to change the area with the curves adjustment applied and hey presto, the effect was gone.

14 Curves second adjustment

Completing this adjustment at this stage was actually pretty useful, as it did show up a lot of the damage to the top, lighter half of the image (a lot of this was not visible before). So, just like I did before (see Part 2) I corrected these spots using the trusty spot healing tool.

15 Top damage before

16 Top damage after

I have to say, the effect was pretty transformative. I was, and continue to be, extremely impressed with what Photoshop CC can do. One thing to note - clearly, the sharpness and clarity of the details on her face are not amazing. However this image, as I have said before, was taken in the 1930s AND was scanned through slightly frosted glass. Pretty impressive the file retains as much detail as it does! Anyway, there was more work to be done, such as bumping contrast, further work on the tones of the top half, and a little more damage repair. But, it was getting there. More to come...