Tag Archives: Exposure

Ilford films

Ilford / Harman have asked me to shoot images to promote all ten of the films they produce. I have to create something eye-catching and inspiring for each of the ten films. Each image has to show what that particular film is capable of, or what it might be used for. The project is very exciting, but I’ve only got a month to complete it! I worked out that I will have to shoot for two days, process and contact for one day, then shoot for two days, process/contact for one day and repeat the cycle for thirty days. I have to come up with a strong shot every two days.

I’ll be shooting on a range of emulsions, from Pan-F at 50 ISO/ASA right through the mid speed range; FP4, Delta 100 and Kentmere 100, then the faster ones; HP5, Delta 400, XP2 and the fastest; Delta 3200. There is one other film in the range and that is the semi infra red film SFX. I’ll be leaving this one til last, not because it’s the least interesting, but because it needs full foliage on the trees to get the best out of it. Bare branches in weak spring sunlight will not produce a striking effect. Hopefully, by the end of the month we should have more greenery around.

When the final images have been chosen I will be required to produce fifty prints of each of the ten negatives. Quite a task, but one I’m looking forward to.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 18.13.45

7 Comments

  1. Andrea

Posted 12/04/2014 at 1:42 pm

Oh nice. Looking forward to the results of this !
All 35mm?

  1. David McCormack

Posted 14/04/2014 at 8:02 pm

Fifty hand prints from each of ten!? Look forward to seeing the images and how you match them to each of the film’s characteristics. Looking at the photo of the ten films makes me realise how good it is that we still have a great variety of films to work with. And two from Kentmere… didn’t know about that. How do they compare to FP4 and HP5? Will have to wait for your photos I guess……!

  1. Keith

Posted 19/04/2014 at 8:38 am

I don’t envy your task Andrew, especially if there is a deadline to make.

I have often wondered why Ilford only have square images on their boxes of photographic papers?

  1. David Burrows

Posted 22/04/2014 at 8:30 pm

Hi Andrew
Looks like a tough project one that I would love to do, looking forward to seeing the results
Just a thought, do you remember when I did a workshop with you one on one, one thing I remember I photographed a raindrop on a leaf you showed me how to do on film, that memory has always stuck with me. You turned me into a photographer
Regards Dave

  1. Dave V

Posted 10/05/2014 at 2:55 pm

Greetings,
I discovered your blog while doing a bit of a web-crawl. I have been pondering loading my 1955 Rolleicord V, and leaving my digital camera in the closet. I was interested in the paper negative process also, and that is what specifically led me your way.
I am grateful Ilford is still on the scene, manufacturing film and paper. I tend to be partial to FP-4.
Nice blog!
Best, Dave

  1. Thomas Binsfeld

Posted 12/05/2014 at 7:27 pm

The difficulty in this task in my oppinion is what is the difference in the certain characteristics of e.g. PAN F, Delta 100 and Kentmere 100 …. or HP-5 and Kentmere 400.
The Delta 400 stands for more fine grain, the SFX is clear.
But also the difference between Pan F and Delta 100… Hard to make this clear in a single photo!

Thomas

  1. BenSandyOscar

Posted 15/05/2014 at 11:24 am

Wow Sandy what an honour! Proud we are your customers! Can’t wait to see the results.

Spürsinn two bath developer

I was recently asked to give my professional opinion of one of a range of developers made by a company called Spürsinn. These are well known in Germany where they are produced, but I had not heard of them. Looking at the accompanying literature for the two bath developer I had been sent, known as HCD-S and HCD-2, I could see that they had done extensive testing. There were development times and detailed dilutions for 38 films and some of those had a long list of possible ratings and dilutions, -for instance there were 22 for Efke 50 alone.

They claim good results rating many of the films at a wide range of ISO settings. HP5 for instance can be rated between 25 and 25600 ISO. They also claim that these developers have excellent edge sharpness, good tonality and low chemical fog at all ratings. AND they have excellent keeping properties.  My first thoughts were that these were amazing and possibly exaggerated claims, so I began my tests hoping to be astounded, -but at the same time prepared for a disappointed thump of reality. These developers couldn’t be as good as they claim, could they? I needed to find out for myself.

I began my tests with the best film in the Ilford stable for sharpness and fine grain: Delta 100 and I shot 35mm because I wanted to use maximum enlargement to evaluate the quality. The first couple of films were very dense and I thought I had done something wrong. I checked my times and dilutions, shot another couple of test films, and after processing found exactly the same results. I contacted Spürsinn and they were extremely helpful, they looked into it and let me know pretty quickly that I had been working to a misprint (which apparently, 500 previous customers had not noticed!), and they supplied me with corrected time/dilutions, which worked better. The test prints from some of these negatives looked very crisp and the mid tones were punchy –what some refer to as micro-contrast and I found that the crisp detail that this developer produced showed one of my lenses to be not as sharp as I had previously thought!

I set about processing a few other films that I had in my darkroom. Next was FP4, this too turned out with punchy tonality, -ideal for low contrast subjects, but perhaps a bit too punchy for scenes of high contrast, or overexposed frames. This punchy quality is great for showing texture in low contrast subjects, like the mid to dark areas of a scene where you have similar shades, for instance: in weathered wood , like this old block.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.14.15

Having processed a few films with the HCD-S / HCD-2 combination, I can see that these developers do produce clean shadow areas and enhanced sharpness, but with the enhanced grain that this micro contrast brings. Personally, I think this is a nice quality in 35mm photographs and one of the reasons why I shoot 35mm. In medium format negatives the grain would be much less noticeable and with even greater sharpness, so that is probably where this developer would really come into its own. I don’t know if you can see from this crop of the 35mm image above, but the detail is very good.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.14.51

Density and contrast.

I am of the belief that what is considered correct tonality in a monochrome print is not absolute, but varies from region to region. In Eastern Europe for example, there seems to be a preference for higher contrast in their images. I think that this developer is designed for that kind of approach, but for the British photographer who, I think prefers a longer, smoother tonal range, it might be a little harsh. If you are getting negatives which are of a higher contrast than you are used to, the normal technique is to reduce the development time by 20%. If your negatives are still of a higher contrast than you would prefer, try a reduction of 25%. The instructions for the two bath process here, should, if it were a conventional two bath, need adjusting only in the second bath, but the instructions say to alter both. What they recommend is that you alter your dilution (both baths) but keep the time the same. So calculating 20% off a 1-24 dilution gives roughly 1-30.

Reducing the time should bring the density in the highlights down, with very little effect on shadow detail and would produce a negative with the same sharpness, but with a longer tonal range. I put my theory to the ever helpful Michael Weyl at Spursinn and he was interested in the idea, suggesting that he is going to start work on finding different dilutions for ‘British’ tastes soon.

When I printed from the Delta 100, Delta 400 and FP4 negatives I had processed for this test and review, I found the contrast was requiring pre flash and split grade printing to get a full range out of the negative. The FP4 being the most dense. I then calculated a new dilution with a reduction of 18%, keeping all other factors unaltered. The results were much better, but they were still more dense than the sort of negatives I am used to. The next test will be with a greater reduction.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.17.53

It is important to note that this developer, and the others that Spurrsin make, are quite sensitive to dilution and agitation, so once you have established the correct time and dilution for your tastes, good processing technique is important. Working with a quality developer like this requires accuracy in exposure readings, focus and careful control of measurement/dilution/temperature and agitation in processing. Variations in local water hardness can have an effect on outcome, but methods to get around this are explained clearly in the extensive instructions. To reduce the possibility of this happening I would suggest using de-ionised water to make up your developers.

I have not had time to test a lot of films in this developer, but I shall continue to experiment with it. With the huge range of ISO ratings for so many films, there are possibilities for some quite interesting styles of photography. From (I would expect, but I’ve not tested yet) Ilford Pan F rated at 320 ISO for high contrast effects, through to Ilford HP5 rated at 25 ISO for a long, smooth tonal range. I am also interested to see if Ilford Delta 3200 rated at ISO 12800 will produce an exaggerated grain effect. I will be testing these ideas soon and will post my findings here when I have my results.

A friend of mine, Bruce Robbins writes a blog on film based photography which is very informative and has tested the Acurol-N developer from Spur. He can be found at: http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com

Currently, The Spursinn developers can be bought from:

Keyphoto –  http://www.keyphoto.com/latest-news.html?article=109

MacoDirect – http://www.macodirect.de/spur-acurol-250ml-p-2510.html?language=en&osCsid=782e362bc991eab30a270f24c72cd642 ,

Photoimpex – http://www.fotoimpex.de/shopen/chemistry/spur-acurol-n-250ml.html

and Spurrsin themselves in Europe – http://www.spuersinn-shop.de/index.php?page=product&info=681

3 Comments

  1. Andrea Ingram

Posted 05/07/2013 at 2:53 pm

Looks like something worth trying I must say

  1. Thomas Binsfeld

Posted 05/03/2014 at 2:42 pm

In the past I have tested several negative developers and always returned to ID-11 which I use since 35 years and know best. (Which is in opinion the most important thing in using negative developers.)
Regards,
Thomas

2. Andrew Sanderson

Posted 06/03/2014 at 11:36 pm

Dear Thomas, I think I am beginning to come to the same conclusion. I was trying out some other developers last week (Pyrocat, Microphen, Ilfotec DD-X) and my results were not consistent.

Reciprocity failure

Recently I have been doing a lot of pinhole photography, and due to that I have had to explain to a number of people (unfamiliar with the more technical parts of photography) what reciprocity failure is.

Reciprocity is the relationship between shutter speeds and apertures, which means that as you reduce exposure with a change in, lets say the shutter speed by one stop, then increase the exposure by one stop with the aperture, you will have exactly the same exposure. Each one-stop adjustment of the shutter speed, is equivalent to a one-stop adjustment of the aperture. This holds true throughout the normal use of the camera in most lighting situations.

This linked relationship begins to slip away with exposures longer than one second, and the longer the indicated exposure, the more of a difference there is between the indicated exposure and what is actually needed. Many years ago I included in my book on night photography, a chart for working out the amount of exposure correction you might need in situations where exposures were between 1 second and 17 minutes. I have been referring to this chart for my extended pinhole exposures, and I include a link to a word document here which shows the full chart:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/88621650/Reciprocity%20chart.doc

Print exposure using a metronome

First posted 11 July 2012

I recently gave a printing masterclass at Warwick College here in the UK. I do these quite regularly on behalf of Ilford / Harman technology and one of the things that I talked about, gave me the idea for this blog post. I was explaining how I prefer my students not to set their darkroom timers to exposures of less than five seconds when making a test strip. I insist on this because I have seen too many situations where a student’s test does not match their print.

When an enlarger is switched on it doesn’t give full illumination immediately, there is a build up of brightness -which although short in duration, can be a problem. Similarly, at the end of the exposure there is a tailing off of illumination from maximum to nil. When longer exposures are given these slight differences are not important, but if a student was to do a test strip in one second exposures and then decide that ten seconds was the correct exposure, a ten second burst of light would be quite different from ten times one second exposures. For this reason, as I already stated, I don’t like to see my students setting darkroom timers for less than five seconds.

Another method to overcome this problem and the method I prefer for my own printing, is to switch the enlarger on for a few seconds to warm up (with a piece of black card under the lens to block the light path), then uncover the lens to begin the exposure, timing the exposure with a metronome. This way, the light intensity is constant even for very short exposures. With cold cathode enlargers I leave them switched on all through the printing session, as they take longer to reach full, and consisitent brightness.

Using a metronome allows for an even, consistent light source, no matter how long, or short, the exposure is. The important thing to remember is to move the card exactly on the second. This is obviously most important when short exposures are being used, such as when burning in. For this situation, -say when a number of different exposures are needed within the one image, I don’t have to stop and re set the timer between each exposure. I just cover the lens, then uncover when I’m ready and count the appropriate time.

I have used a hand held digital metronome for a long time, but recently it gave up the ghost and refused to work. I had been promising myself for years that I would buy an old mechanical one, as I much prefer the old ticking sound to a digital beep. Instead, I asked my brother to record an old metronome and I now have the sound on my phone. I can use it in any darkroom, I have it to hand at all times and I can hear it through an earphone if I’m working in a busy teaching situation.

For those of you interested in trying this method, I have a 35 minute recording available for download;   https://dl.dropbox.com/u/88621650/tiktok.mp3

3 Comments

  1. Posted 12/07/2012 at 6:13 am

    Andrew ,
    Just wanted to say thank you for your continuous sharing of your expertise with the rest of us.
    I stumbled on your blog by chance about a year ago and since then have pretty much read it from cover to cover. What you do, your teaching and your art is very much needed this day and age.
    Looking forward for more articles from you.
    Thank you.

  2. Posted 12/07/2012 at 8:33 am

    Brilliant post. I have used a metronone for a few years now. Since I came to your day of teaching I moved up here and the damp sea air [the sea is only a few hundred yards away] played havoc with my electronic timers so I got a metronome and no more probs!

  3. Posted 16/10/2012 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve had an old fashioned mechanical metronome in my darkroom for years! I never reaslised anyone else would be timing their exposures by the same method!

Using light meters intelligently

First posted 21 April 2011

Looking at an analogue or digital hand meter for the first time can be very confusing, there are many options and often an overload of information. There are multi metering modes on advanced modern digital types which I find confusing even after using meters for thirty years, so I thought I might write a little about how to simplify matters and ensure consistent results.
Firstly, whatever you point a light meter at is read by the meter as a mid grey. It does this so that the whites are white and the blacks are black and to do that, it puts the exposure in the middle. To make this work, there must either be a range of brightness in the scene, or something which is already a mid grey.

Any and all light meters do this, and this is why when shooting in snow the hurried metering method often gives grey and underexposed areas where white should be the predominant tone. Another common mistake amongst beginners is to take shots looking up at trees or buildings without thinking of how bright the sky is. This causes the meter to read far too much brightness in the scene and the subjects end up as silhouettes against a grey sky. Even when a hand meter is used, false readings can arise from simple mistakes, such as having your shadow over the meter.

So let’s look at the different ways of metering; Reflected, Incident, Spot and Average.

Reflected is simply pointing a meter at something and seeing how bright it is, how much light is reflected from it. The problem though, is that if you point it at something rather dark, you will get an overexposed shot and pointing it at something light will give an underexposed shot.

Incident is a method which reads how much light is falling ON THE METER. This avoids the problems above. When using a hand meter, taking an incident reading will produce an excellent negative 99% of the time (it’s not much good with backlit subjects).
An incident reading is when a white plastic cone is fitted over the light cell allowing the meter to read light falling on the meter, rather than light reflected off the subject. The important thing is that the meter should be pointed towards the camera from the position of the subject, not pointed at the light source. If you are unable to stand in the position of the subject then simply point the meter in the same direction, but from a manageable position. As long as the direction of the light is the same where you take the reading and in the scene, the exposure will be the same.

One of the most reliable methods is spot metering. Not for taking a number of readings to average out the exposure as some meters permit you to do, as this can often lead to an incorrect reading (Because the important brightness is always two stops up from deep shadow, not half way between deep shadow and bright white). Finding the all important deep shadow tone, ( Zone III ) takes practice. If you can identify this tone in a scene and read it, you then underexpose that reading by two stops, which gives you zone V – which is two zones along. This may seem confusing, as the explanation is more complicated than the doing.

A simpler method is to set the spot meter to a film speed two stops higher than you are actually using, take a reading from deep shadow, set the camera accordingly and shoot. The film rating is not actually changed, so no alteration of dev time is necessary.

Because the meter is set two stops higher, it reads the shadows brighter than they are, the meter then suggests a faster shutter speed/smaller aperture. Shooting at this exposure causes the deep shadows to be two stops underexposed (from mid grey) which is exactly where you want them.

The explanation as I say often seems complicated, but in practice it is quite easy. give all methods a go and see which works best for you.

5 Comments

  1. Posted 02/05/2011 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for this explanation. Although I’ve been using an old-fashioned hand-held meter for years, I did not really understand all the implications of this, and I guess I’ve just been lucky with my shots (though it does explain a few overexposed anomalies now), or fortunate to have been using film with a wide exposure latitude. My recent move into shooting slide film will probably be more telling!
    As my meter is so old, I’m guessing it’s measuring reflected light rather than incidental light – it doesn’t have one of those cones. Maybe I’ll have to start thinking about an upgrade to my kit.

  2. mark lacey
    Posted 06/07/2011 at 12:49 am

    For black and white your technique of spot meter deep shadow and open two stops is dead right, I’ve been doing that for 30 years and my negs have always been really easy to print, which to me is the point of the exercise. Don’t know anout colour, I don’t use the stuff! All good advice, it’s nice to see it expressed simply, some people turn the zone system into rocket science and I suspect in the process forget to take a good photograph.

  3. Posted 07/10/2011 at 9:35 pm

    I read Mark’s comment, and I had to stop and think about it for a moment. You wouldn’t OPEN two stops from the meter reading if you’re metering a deep shadow. The meter would look at that shadow and (as you explain so succinctly) give a reading to render it a middle gray – which would require either a slower shutter speed or wider aperture. Either way, in order to properly render the deep shadows properly using the spot meter technique described, you would STOP DOWN two stops – not open up… Your explanation of “underexpose that reading by two stops” is the same way of looking at the situation.

    I just wanted to clear it up because I put up a link to this great article, and then some questions as to whether the proper thing to do is OPEN the aperture – or stop down…

  4. Posted 05/04/2012 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you. These are some good insights.

  5. Philp Toal
    Posted 15/08/2012 at 5:29 pm

    I usually take a spot reading of the shadow area and over expose by 1-2 stops and develop N-1/-2 (depending upon the shadow area I want to show up), and then print down to Z3 because Z´s 1 – 3 expose as black on any paper unlike the the wider Zone range of say 1-18 of all films. Paper in general, barely goes beyond Z10 and with N development Z3 would render only black as well.

Bellows factor

First posted 5 August 2010

One of the problems that arise when using large format cameras, is the difficulty in determining exposure when the bellows are extended beyond normal ‘landscape’ use. By that I mean, when you are shooting anything from say, 10ft away to infinity, your exposure will be whatever your meter indicates, but if you decide to shoot something close-up, say a flower, the lens will be much further from the film plane and light will be lost.
There is a calculation which can be employed to work out the extra exposure needed for a given lens and extension, (Measure the film to lens nodal point distance, then use the formula; bellows extension over focal length equals compensation factor) but for me, doing maths out in the field takes away a lot of the pleasure of photography. If only there was a simple way of working out the exposure difference……….

2254 bent nail
Well there is! There is a simple device called ‘Quickdisc’ available online. It is a handy (and free) download from http://www.salzgeber.at/disc/
Once the page has been downloaded and printed, the shapes are cut out and stuck to a piece of thin card.
The disc is placed in the scene at the distance to be photographed and the card with the scale is held on the camera screen. If the longest dimension of the disc image on the screen is compared to the scale on the measuring strip then the exposure correction scale will indicate the amount by which the exposure needs to be altered. The disc is unlikely to be absolutely square on to the lens, so using the longest dimension overcomes the problem of having a distorted shape on screen.
I have used one for years and it has been really useful.

 

Looking at shadows

First posted 30 January 2010

As photographers we are primarily concerned with light, but often the most interesting shapes come from the absence of light – the shadows. We are usually instructed as photographers, that our exposures should be worked out accurately to ensure that we have plenty of shadow detail, but I often find that having a deep shadow, or even a solid black, can give a stronger picture. Using shadows creatively can impart a powerful compositional element, -the black areas give strength to the image.

1297 amaryllis and shadow

The way shadows become distorted as they spread over an uneven surface is also very interesting to me and has been a very important element in many of my shots. In this shot of the Amaryllis, the wall was uneven so the shadow took on a more fluid shape.

1428 vase and shadows

In this shot, the light source was held close to the dried flowers and this gave large, exaggerated shadows.

1439 plant shadows

Here I have used silhouette and shadows to cause crossed over, abstract shapes.

Getting a deep black in the shadow area with film could be achieved by underexposing slightly, though I would prefer to expose normally and to increase the blacks during printing by giving a little extra Grade 5 after the ‘normal’ exposure. This would gradually deepen the shadow detail, depending on how much extra exposure you gave it.

I’m planning on covering this printing method in the next blog post on Split Grade Printing.

Boosting up the blacks in Photoshop is a simple matter of moving the left hand slider in ‘levels’ until the chosen density is achieved.

So to be able to spot this king of image, you need to be more aware of the shadows rather than the scene itself. To do this I find that whilst looking at a potential scene, squinting really helps. When you half close your eyes you reduce the light intensity to the point where the darker tones don’t register and appear black. You can then assess the strength of those shapes as regards the composition of the image. Here the shadow falling across the wall from a bay window gives a false perspective to the interior of this shop.

shop shadows

Here are some other examples of pictures where I have employed shadow as a compositional element.

table shadows

railings

1733 pear and shadow

One Comment

  1. Posted 07/11/2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I must admit, most photographers talk an awful lot about cameras, equipment, lenses and filters etc, but not so much about actually taking photographs.
    I like the shadows series shown here, which shows a variety of subjects taken in interesting lighting conditions. It’s nice to see traditional methods used here for a change instead of digital imaging .
    Another blog on exposure meters and how to use them correctly would be nice.