Best BW film/developer combo for shadow detail?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by roger_urban|3, Aug 11, 1998.

  1. [I did a SEARCH and found several threads, but nothing that concisely answers the question I posed.]

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    I have a shoot coming up and I have Tech Pan available to use, but I'm not sure I should use TECHNIDOL. Perhaps another developer or dilutoni would be better to pull the shadow details out. I don't have to use Tech Pan. But, since it is slow, I figure it'll help in minimizing the highlights.

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    Pictures are to be taken at a Bar-B-Q around noon, outside in someone's backyard. It seems like it's been quite some time when I've shot BW when the sun is high overhead and thought I'd put the question out there to see if anyone has a good film/developer combo they'd like to share with the rest of us. When I was learning photography, one time I had a shoot like this and took shots with the resulting contrast so high that some of the people looked like they had sunglasses on [when they didn't].

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    Another time I screwed up the ASA and way over-exposed the film, causing me to have to subject the film to a reducer to try and salvage something. Believe it or not, there is something to be said for that technique.

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    So what do you say? What would you do in this situation?
     
  2. NOT using Technidol or TEC would be about the worst thing you could do. This film has an inherent high contrast characteristic, and Technidol is the only thing which keeps it in check.

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    In January the Navy opened up the BB Missouri for tours. I shot one roll of Techpan, and it came back from the photo lab with very high contrast. Ok, I thought, that's good enough. So I shot two more rolls, and they came back ... WITH NO EDGE DETAIL. The lab was using Rodinal. So if you don't use Technidol with Techpan, user beware.

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    What I would do is use, say, Tmax 100 and rate it for ASA 50. Develop in D-76 minus 10% time, and it should be OK. I have a series I did just like that with rocks and shadows. Also, if you use a blue filter then you'll get better shadow detail. (the light in shadows is blue) Yeah, there will be an evident color shift with folks wearing red, but what the hey.

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    The other thing that you could do is use fill flash. But if you don't want to bother with it, just go with pulling the film. I have also pulled Kodak E100S one stop with excellent results. (Hmm, or you could try out a contrast reduction filter. I think that both B+W and Tiffen make some.)

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    Experiment a little and have some fun!
     
  3. Tiffen's contrast reducing filters suck. Despite what they say, I'm
    not impressed. Basically all they do is introduce a crapload of flare
    into the image, causing a "reduction of contrast" -- but at the
    expense of detail in the shadows.

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    Oh, that's good. Blacks aren't black, they're a kind of greyish, dusty
    blobby area -- and it's not so sufficient to overexpose to compensate,
    because it's flare, not just a reduction of light. I shot a couple of
    b/w shots with this filter... and promptly have not used it since.
    Anyone want to buy a 77mm Tiffen Ultra Contrast 3 filter, cheap?

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    Anyhow, that's just my take. YMMV; who knows? Maybe you don't like
    detail.
     
  4. Of course Brian meant "USING technidol or TEC would be the worst you could do". You would have next to no shadow detail. The "Photographer's formulary" developers work much better with Tech Pan! But if you really need lots of shadow detail, perhaps better use a traditional b/w film.
     
  5. Dear Roger;
    I would avoid tech pan, especially for this application. Sounds to me like you have a job to do --- record the barbeque --- well, in your situation I would just use something that works. A good panchromatic b&w film like Kodak Plus-X or Ilford FP-4 is made for just this sort of thing. I like Agfapan 100 developed in Rodinol. If you are going to take your film to the lab, consider tmax 100. It is not my favorite film, but most labs do 1,000s of rolls of tmax every year so they would probably be most likely to develop yours correctly.
    If the noonday sun and people's faces falling into shadows worry you, I would second the fill flash idea.
    Tech pan is probably not a panchromatic film (I guess that's why they name it tech PAN) but it sure acts like one. I haven't used it in years just because I didn't feel the fine grain was adequate compensation for the lousy contrast control I felt it had. Others may have 'magic formulas' but experiment with those when you can afford to lose the results.
    good luck
    stefan
     
  6. Roger, Whatever film/developer you choose, I think Brian's advice is sound.

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    To gain better shadow detail (increase density in the lower values). increase your exposure (by adjusting your film's EI downward), and reduce your overall film development time.

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    This will serve to contract the contrast range of your negative, increasing shadow detail and retaining texture in the highlights. Such a negative will be easier to print.

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    Good luck, Sergio.
     
  7. I have the perfect combination for your situation. If you follow it without asking you are going to thank me. Shoot Tri-X 400 at ISO 50 and develop in D76 minus 35% of the reconmended time. You are going to love it. Agitation first 30 seconds and then 10 seconds for each minute without agitation in the last minute. If you can do it try to develop it at 68F. It really works better.
     
  8. The TD-3 developer from Photographers' Formulary is what I meant to say instead of TEC. (sorry 'bout that, posting at 5am with only one cup of coffee) Also, looking over their catalog (so many developers, so little time) you might try Divided D-76. It's a two-part development procedure, and they say it "... holds back the highlights and brings out the shadow detail."
    Yeah, the shadows were great with Rodinal and Techpan. (I still wonder where the edge detail went with those other two rolls of film. I mean, the edges were just gone.)
    Have you experimented with Agfa APX-25? If you need the slow speed, this might be what you need.
     
  9. Thanks to all who replied! You have all presented a nice group of options/alternatives for me to consider.

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    Use of flash is out. I failed to mention that I'll be using the P67, and at 1/30 flash synch I think it would be too inconvenient.

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    Another thought occurred to me that I didn't mention earlier, and that is to use color film and push/pull as necessary and print on B & W paper.
    Still haven't made a choice yet, but I have a few weeks to mull things over.
     
  10. After all this discussion, why not just get out the old P&S and set it on fill flash and take then to the drug store? I got a point and shoot olympus because I didn't want to drag out all of the equipment to take pictures at family gatherings.

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    I always take it with me when I travel, regardless of what other equipment I have with me. I then have the required two rolls of "WE were there" shots. Then I use the serious gear for serious work.
     
  11. They're already sold 'em on the bigger neg's = better enlargements idea.

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    At an outdoor function such as this there are also bound to be people there with 35mm point 'n shoots, along with a video camera or two. When they compare shots those shots with mine taken on the P67, the host will feel justified. 35mm just doesn't seem to create more business like MF does, because anybody can buy a 35mm and take shots with settings on automatic and get something reasonable. So why would they need a photog if 35mm satisfied them, apart from being free to entertain the guests? Also, have you ever butted heads with people in cost-justifying your prices when they tell you they turn in their roll of 36 and pick it up the next day for $6 at the local drugstore?
     
  12. Perhaps you can get the best of both worlds: Shoot Kodak T400CN. Excellent lattitude. C-41 process and proofs at most pro labs. Haven't tried it yet myself, but understand it has excellent quality and minimal grain. Nominally EI 400, but it has such great lattitude that you could expose it at EI 100 or 200 for improved shadow detail, with no change in development. (My local lab claims EI 50 to 800 without adjustments during development and says many pros use it when clients want B&W wedding shots, etc.) As I recall, the www.kodak.com says EI 25 to EI 1600, but lists suggested development corrections for EI 800 and 1600.
    Kodak claims that it even has a relatively flat spectral response, meaning you don't have to use a yellow filter to get a normal-looking grey-scale.
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    The main downside is the negatives will last tens of years instead of hundreds of years because it uses colour film technology, but that should be fine for your BBQ, unless it's a historic event.
     
  13. I'll second the nomination for Kodak T400CN. I've shot several rolls of it in my Mamiya at E.I 200 and the negs are incredible. Grain structure is smoother than TMAX100 developed in [anything], shadows are rich and smooth and highlights go on forever.

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    You may not be able to control the neg via development, but sometimes it's not worth the effort. Short of dual bath (developer, water, developer, water) development this is a pretty easy way to go if you need a long brightness range. I'll post some images on my web-site from T400CN when I get a chance.

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    T400CN also has a little bit of elevated red sensitivity so fleshtones look a little smoother and less blemished than if you use typical b/w film.

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    Oh yeah, I'm not sure where all these wild E.I. ratings for T400CN come from, but 200-400 is the films recommended range. Shoot any color neg film more than two stops over or 1 stop under and the image will degrade rapidly. C-41 chemistry and color print film dye couplers don't respond the same way as standard B/W films when development is changed. A one stop push is about all the playing around you can get away with.

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    //scott
     
  14. Opps. I didn't catch that this was a professional assignment!!! I assumed that since this was a B&W shoot that it was a family job!!

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    Fill flash is a problem with p67, one reason that I still have a C33 mamiya. Any chance of borrowing a leaf shutter camera?
     
  15. Scott, the strange E.I. ratings come from http://www.kodak.com/cluster/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/f2350/f2350.shtml.
    I don't know how they do it, perhaps by blending emulsions of different speeds into the same film, but some of Kodak's modern films exhibit an amazing exposure latitude. For example, I've heard that it is sometimes possible to get good prints from Kodak's MAX consumer film after it has been so over-exposed that the negative looks black.
    It seems the same idea with T400CN. It seems that you can over-expose by quite a few stops, yet achieve excellent results. Quite different from traditional black and white films or traditional colour films, where you would pay large penalties for such abuse.
     
  16. Thanks for the clarification Roger.

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    There is a big difference between amatuers setting their film speed to ASA 25 and forgetting to change it when they load 400 speed film, and a fairly experienced MF photographer making his best effort to shoot a film at it's optimal speed. "Oops lattitude" is not the same as "optimal lattitude".

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    I've made acceptable prints from negs so dense that you could use them to as a welding shield. However, the customer got charged a hefty increase for the xtra time spent trying to color correct the negative.

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    As a veteran commercial lab operator I frequently get asked "what's the best way to improve the quality of my negative images" from pros. My answers is the same: shoot the film consistently and and it's optimal E.I rating.

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    //scott
     
  17. Roger:

    don't know how long ago you submitted this one, but I just saw it today. I would recommend that you do a combination of things.

    First, if you can, use a fill in flash. Set the flash to be controlled by the f-stop and the ambient light by the shutter speed. Then set the film speed on the flash so that it under-exposes by 1/2 stop. (i.e. Tri-X pan, exposed at 320 with flash set to 480'ish.

    I would process the film in Microdol-X at 1:3 for 17-18 minutes at 75 degrees. The thing I like about Tri-X Pan is that the sholder levels off and the highlights don't continue to block up if you over expose on occasion. This can help boost the shadow areas of your negs (i.e. in the eye sockets). I would bracket my exposure, to allow for differences in cameras, meters, etc., until I found the right combination. But, this film hand holds well, and affords decent shutter speeds with small aperture settings, a plus for MF work! I have been using this film/dev. combination since I was a lad in Jr. High.

    I have also discovered that the same film (regardless of type/brand) almost always prints a better tonal range on Ilford MC IV than it's Kodak counterpart. There just seems to be more snap in the Ilford paper. And the HP5 film with the Microfen developer combination works well too! I just think this Tri-X Pan is a good product because it has been consistent through the years. And, it is not often that I have something great to say about Kodak products any more.
     
  18. I agree with the posters, but let me put my own spin on this subject. There is no film/developer combination that will give you good shadows, it's all exposure. The exposure indices that film manufacturers use are excellent for general scenics and give a negative that's thin enough to print in a shorter time and for commercial developers time is money. More exposure will give more shadow detail, it moves the slight variations in light intensity up off the toe of the curve (where they all get compressed together) up to the straight line part of the curve--better separation. You then need to reduce the highlight values somehow so that the part of the curve you need to print will all fit on the papers own curve!

    Some films have an excellent shoulder curve (Tri-X TX-120 NOT repeat NOT TXP-120!!! comes to mind) and will help you with compressing the highlight values. If you want a medium speed film with similar characteristics try Verichrome Pan (NOT PXP-120!!). A mild reduction in development should help as well. Shoot TX-120 at EI 200, pull development 10%, use D-76 1:1 (slightly compensating developer) and TEST, TEST, TEST.

    Note: the "Professional" Kodak films and the new technolgy films (Delta, TMax, etc.) have very little shoulder--gives extra "sparkle" to highlights but can be a real SOB to shoot in bright existing light--leave them in the studio where they belong.

    Mike
     

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