Finding film part four: ILFORD FP4+ strikes back – Tom Rayfield
Welcome back to my year long series discovering film stocks: finding film. This week’s article takes a slight deviation from the norm, in that I am using a film I have already used before; ILFORD FP4+. However, all with good reason, dear reader.
Lately, I have found myself in a bit of a photographic rut. Whilst I am still enjoying the process, the developing and other elements of the photographic experience/community, I am getting a little frustrated by my results. Maybe it is the constant experimentation and changes with different films, or maybe it is because I am still chasing that elusive film/developer combination. Maybe it is what I am shooting, maybe I am overthinking things too much, or maybe I am setting myself standards too high.
Maybe it is all of the above. I am sure there are some of you reading this that will know where I am coming from.
So, the weekend came around, and Norfolk was blessed with some fantastic weather (we seem to have our own climate round here, I swear). I wanted to head out and shoot, taking advantage of the great conditions. So without thinking, I grabbed my Yashica Mat-124G, tripod and bag and headed out first thing in the morning.
I decided to head to a National Trust site, not too far from where I live, as it often throws up something nice, regardless of the time of year/weather, and there are still parts I am discovering some 15+ years after my first visit. I began by wandering around one of the new, undiscovered areas and found a subject I wanted to shoot. I looked in my bag and realised that I only had ILFORD FP4+ on me.
Nothing wrong with that but I had been so excited to head out (and it was still well before 8am on a Sunday), that I forgotten to take my next film from my test list – whoops.
Rather than abandon the article (and shoot), I decided to try something else for the first time: pushing film.
My meter was still set to ISO200 from the previous Fomapan shoot, so I decided to keep my first film push relatively simple. I know there are far more adventurous things you can do than this, but I decided to play it safe, with a film I know well. The shoot went well, I managed to find plenty of new spots, with some beautiful early morning light (does anyone else find that when you shoot black and white, the weather always lends itself to some great colour work?).
Shoot over, I decided to experiment a little in the darkroom whilst I was at it. It has been a very long time (years) since I did any stand development, so I decided to give this a try as well. Having read good things about the Fomapan/DD-X stand development technique the week before, I decided to try an FP4+/DD-X stand development and see how things went.
So, I adjusted my developing time (1+4, 12 mins, 18c). I used the same mixer of Ilfostop as my stop bath (1+19), and Fotospeed FX30 Fixer (1+9), as I have on my previous articles.
No issues with developing, curl or scanning this time, everything went smoothly, even the stand technique!
I only shot one roll, so there aren’t as many results to look at as previous parts in this series so far. As always the only changes made to any of the images are fixing the square crop, straightening/alignment, and removing any major dust added whilst scanning. Here are some of the results:
I am very pleased with how the results turned out, and in my opinion, this is the best I have seen from the DD-X yet. At a 100% crop, the image is sharp, contrasty, and is closer to what I am looking for.
Even though the conditions were screaming out for colour, I feel that the FP4+/DD-X combination has done a good job of capturing the early morning light on these two images.
I am most pleased with this image, and love the clarity/detail captured in the tree bark. I would say that this is comparable to the results I had from the Rodinal on some of my other rolls of film.
TLDR; I shot FP4 again, this time pushing the film, and trying stand development in DD-X for the first time in years. Was I happy with the results? Very much so. Will I be doing stand development/film pushing again? Yes, but only in the right situations. Is FP4 the champion? No, I am far from being done yet.
Am I still in my photographic rut? A little, but the experimentation definitely helped to lift most of it. In my opinion, this week’s article goes to show that pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can only help you on your way to becoming a better photographer, even if the experience/experimentation is more enjoyable than the end result.
If you’re curious enough to do a bit of catching up, you can find parts one to three at the links below:
- Finding film part one: experiences so far
- Finding film part two: expanding my horizons with Kodak Tri-X 400 Rodinal and Ilford DD-X
- Finding film part three: Czeching out Fomapan
Thanks for reading!
~ Tom Rayfield
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