Finding film part 6: taking it slow with ILFORD Pan F+ – Tom Rayfield
Having had a lot of very average weather lately, I was delighted to see a weekend of sunshine! Not the kind where you get a burst for the odd hour or so, I mean full on sunshine, blue skies, all weekend (at the time of writing/shooting we are talking mid-March, which for the UK is pretty good going).
I know it sounds like I bang on about the weather a lot, but good light definitely helps photographers, and when every weekend is grey, flat and overcast, it really starts to get me down after a while, as I start to feel limited to shooting the same things over and over again.
So with all this great weather, it can only mean one thing: time for a trip to the beach.
I feel like I have neglected ILFORD a little since starting the Finding Film series. I know I pushed some FP4+ back in part four, but I am yet to try anything new from ILFORD (instead, I have stuck to offerings from Kodak and Fomapan). So I grabbed the roll of Pan F+ I received from my EMULSIVE Santa 2016 and headed to the beach.
Easy on a Sunday morning
I do love a nice early Sunday morning. The kind where hardly anyone is about (which is easier than it sounds in Norfolk, given its vast landscape). There was a fresh, crispness to the air, the kind that you don’t mind, because the sun is also warming on your skin – you know the morning I am talking about, right? I love this time of day, when it feels fresh and new. It gives you positive, warm feelings that make you not mind being out early; if anything it drives you on to get out more. I was not the first at the beach, there were a couple of dog walkers out, but other than that, I had the place to myself – lovely.
The shoot at the beach went well, and I headed home for a spell in the darkroom. I decided to go with Rodinal for the Pan F+, as I shot it at EI 50, and wanted to bring out the sharpness in some of my subjects.
The film was developed at 21c, 1+25 for 6 minutes, with 3 harsh inversions every minute (almost bordering a shake).
I used the same mix of Ilfostop as my stop bath (1+19), and Fotospeed FX30 Fixer (1+9) but this will be the final time I plan on using this combination. The reason for this is pretty simple: I am now out of Ilfostop and will be switching to Fotospeed’s Stop Bath for my future articles – nothing wrong with Ilfostop, the Fotospeed was just much cheaper.
Similar to my FP4+ tests, I had no issues with film curl, and the scanner handled the film well. There were no issues with the Yashica spacing film this time, so I had 12 shots to deal with. 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 pleased with how things turned out. The images are sharp, contrasty and deliver some good tones. Considering the second image was shot into the sun (the only decent view from the cliff unfortunately), I think the film handled it very well.
The film worked well in a variety of situations, and produced some very interesting results when pointed at the sky for the image number 3. There was no filter involved (or editing), I simply saw the plane, focused and captured the image, I didn’t have time to think creatively.
Up close, the film delivers striking results, as the 1:1 crop above shows. I read up online about Pan F+ before the shoot and found some impressive images taken with it, so I knew it had potential to be sharp, but I am very impressed with the results. In my opinion, it gives T-MAX a good run for it’s money.
Whilst the two films are similarly priced in 120 format, the ability to shoot Pan F+ at wider apertures on a sunny day really appeals to me (I could not source any 120 T-MAX 100 for my test in part 5 and had to settle for T-MAX 400). I honestly don’t think I could call it between the two though (and why should I? Choice is certainly better when it comes to film).
I had a couple of frames left on the roll and I was going to head down the road to the next beach when I passed the cliff. The sun was still rising at this stage and was casting some strong shadows on the eroded parts of the cliff face.
The patterns in the sand really caught my eye, and as is often the case with our coastal erosion, you can capture parts of the beach, return a month later and see a totally different pattern/scene, it is really inspirational at times and allows you to shoot something new, even if it is in a familiar location.
Tangent: for those who have never been to Norfolk, coastal erosion is a real issue here, with several beach towns threatened by it. Some continue to fall into the sea on a yearly basis. Search Happisburgh – pronounced Hazebruh (I don’t know why) – to see what I am talking about.
TLDR; the Pan F+ I shot was a delight to handle in the darkroom, with the scanner and on the screen. There is good tonality, great levels of sharpness, and it handled a bright sunny morning very well, even when shot directly into the sun.
Will I use it again? Definitely.
Is it “the one”?
You see, as this my project and this series progress, it’s becoming clear that there won’t likely be a definitive film that becomes my only go to, “the one”. I would love to be wrong and discover a magic emulsion that fits all situations and needs but different films work for different situations, weather conditions and times of the day. At the moment, I see Pan F+ and T-MAX 400 sharing top spot.
Thanks for reading.
~ Tom Rayfield
Ps: If you’ve not been following along with Finding Film, or if you’d like to refresh your memory of how I for to my top two, you can jump to any of the preceding five parts using the link 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
- Finding film part four: Ilford FP4+ strikes back
- Finding film part five: All GAS-ed up and time for T-MAX 400
- Finding film part six: taking it slow with ILFORD Pan F+ (hey, you’re here already!)
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