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Long exposure film tests part one: ILFORD PAN F+, ILFORD FP4+, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional

Long exposure film photography is a technique central to my currently ongoing photography project, Where We Meet.

Capturing the smooth extensions of water movement, contrasted with static elements of the shoreline is the key to this visual narrative. Of course, technical challenges and possibilities abound when it comes to using film for long exposure.

First, there is the concept of reciprocity failure, something that to the outsider may seem like another black magic aspect of our craft. Then, the film, as it usually does, offers a wide range of creative options, going well beyond the crisp and predictable realm of digital photography.

Realizing that mastering the long exposure technique would be the key for my project, I endeavoured on a comprehensive test of various films with longer exposure, trying to evaluate what exact method is the best suited to way I see the world. This series documents the process and findings, hopefully useful for the broader film shooters community.

The idea is not to create a recipe as much as discover different creative possibilities of long exposure with film.

So with your permission, let’s dive in to part one of these long exposure film tests with an overview of the methodology I used.

 

 

Test methodology

The methodology I am going to deploy will be based on varying only the films used, as much as possible:

 

Camera
All test images were shot on 120 format film using a Soviet-made Lomo Lubitel 166B camera. This camera s simple, fully mechanical, light and resilient.

Absence of electronics and it’s oft-criticized plastic feeling is an actual advantage – it is lightweight and can take the abuse. A built in 75mm lens performs reasonably well at medium-to-infinity focussing distance when stopped-down to f/11.

To accomplish a sufficiently long exposure in some of the tests, I used an affordable Polaroid Variable ND filter set to its highest ND value, approximately a 7-stop light reduction.

 

Developer
The developer used for the black and white films here is a 1+25 dilution of Blazinal, a Rodinal clone readily available here in Canada. Development times are all based on nominal EI, as per film manufacturer’s labels.

 

Metering
Light metering was performed using my iPhone 6 and the Pocket Light Meter app. While perhaps unusual, I have found this application to be adequate for most uses, including digital imaging.

 

Exposures and reciprocity failure
For each film evaluation test, three exposures are made. The first exposure is made at 2x the metered value, the second at 3x the metered value and the third at 5x the metered value.

This is a crude method that roughly brackets most typical reciprocity adjustment curves – something the app does not do. It is a handy way to quickly estimate exposure when in the field. The reasoning behind this is requirement for speed is the criticality of timing during the blue hour.

The light shifts in minutes and simplifying as much of this process as possible leads to more opportunities for actual exposures during this precious period.

All exposures will be made between the start of Civil Twilight and ten minutes after Sunrise, most of them were taken in Toronto, Canada between November 2016 and January 2017.

 

Films tested
These tests are split into three parts. For this first part, we start with low speed black and white films: ILFORD Pan F+, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional and Ilford FP4+.

Part two will cover the following high speed black and white films: ILFORD SFX200, ILFORD HP5+, ILFORD Delta 400 Professional and ILFORD Delta 3200 Professional.

Part three will make a departure from typical long exposure articles and cover the results of long exposure with the following color films: Kodak  Ektar 100, Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 800 and Fuji 400H.

There is also a potential part four but details are as yet, under wraps.

 

 

Long exposure results: ILFORD PAN F+, ILFORD FP4+, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional

Testing ILFORD PAN F+

This film has a very enigmatic look, at least to me. The slowest labeled emulsion from ILFORD, PAN F tends to give away a darker rendering of the scene, overall. With the long exposure tests, the most dramatic change appears in highlight areas, while shadows change only slightly with each new adjustment.

To this end, PAN F seems to be well suited for affecting a higher contrast between shadows and highlights with a more substantive long exposure adjustment.

 

ILFORD PAN F+ test 01

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD PAN F+ - EI: 50 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 32s

Long Exposure Test
ILFORD PAN F+
EI: 50 – Aperture: f/11Shutter: 32s

 

ILFORD PAN F+ test 02

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD PAN F+ - EI: 50 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 54s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD PAN F+
EI: 50
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 54s

 

ILFORD PAN F+ test 03

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD PAN F+ - EI: 50 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 80s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD PAN F+
EI: 50
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 80s

 

 

Testing ILFORD FP4+

FP4 is truly a good utility film. From all black and white emulsions that I tested, it provides the most even look, delivering negatives/scans that can easily be manipulated in post.

With long exposures, more adjustment is made to metered values, the exposure becomes flatter, muddier. Unlike PAN F, FP4+ appears to deliver less contrast between shadows and highlights longer the adjustment becomes.

 

ILFORD FP4+ test 01

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD FP4+ - EI: 125 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 16s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD FP4+
EI: 125
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 16s

 

ILFORD FP4+ test 02

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD FP4+ - EI: 125 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 24s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD FP4+
EI: 125
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 24s

 

ILFORD FP4+ test 03

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD FP4+ - EI: 125 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 40s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD FP4+
EI: 125
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 40s

 

 

Testing ILFORD Delta 100 Professional

This is my go-to black and white film, so logical to start at this point. Long exposure bracketing shows most of the difference in shadows. Changes from one adjustment factor to another are rather subtle and smooth. The contrast between shadows and highlights remains in the same range throughout the bracketing range. This is in line with general tonal properties I find pleasing with Delta 100.

 

ILFORD Delta 100 Professional test 01

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD Delta 100 Professional - EI: 100 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 4s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD Delta 100 Professional
EI: 100
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 4s

 

ILFORD Delta 100 Professional test 02

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD Delta 100 Professional - EI: 100 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 6s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD Delta 100 Professional
EI: 100
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 6s

 

ILFORD Delta 100 Professional test 03

Long Exposure Test - ILFORD Delta 100 Professional - EI: 100 - Aperture: f/11 - Shutter: 10s

Long Exposure Test – ILFORD Delta 100 Professional
EI: 100
Aperture: f/11
Shutter: 10s

 

 

Conclusion

You may draw your own conclusions as to which, if any, of the exposures in the tests above suit your own photographic taste. As noted above, the purpose of these tests was to “evaluate what exact method is the best suited to way I see the world”, in the context of my ongoing project Where We Meet.

It is also worth noting that there are still eight films left to share as part of these tests. Each of these films has it’s own characteristics, strengths and weaknesses; and deals with my approach to compensating for reciprocity failure in a different manner.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and look forward to hearing your thoughts below.

~ Toni Skokovic

 

 

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About The Author

Toni Skokovic

I am a Toronto, Canada, based enthusiast photographer. Railroads and nature have always fascinated me, a strange combo. With a lack of drawing talent, photography is the only way for me to attempt at capturing what I see and how I feel about the world around me. I have discovered film photography just recently (2015). To me, film offers unique ways to extend creative possibilities and build more technical discipline.

11 Comments

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  1. Good afternoon! I read your articles about long expositions. I liked it very much and it became clear much. Initially, I read information on the Ilford delta 100 film and tried to adjust the time according to the schedule, but it turned out to be infinitely large. Now, after reading your article, I will simply increase it 3-4 times.

    Reply
    • Toni Skokovic

      Alex – thank you for your comment. Really happy you found this write-up useful. Long exposures are fun to shoot.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the test, if a good subject come i will try.

    Reply
  3. @junctionrails @ILFORDPhoto Nice test! I was surprised how much I liked the look of the PAN F – think I have a roll somewhere

    Reply
    • Toni Skokovic

      Thanks Isabel. Pan-F certainly has a look to it. I could see a specific creative direction it would support well. For now, I don’t think it fits where I wanted to go with Where We Meet project, but definitely something I will file for later – the whole purpose of tests and sketchbooks. Glad you discovered your liking for Pan-F via my post.

      Reply
  4. Nice test! Logical and thorough and useful 🙂

    Would love to see these in a 3×3 grid!

    Reply
    • Toni Skokovic

      Thank you Mark – glad you liked it and find it useful!

      Reply
  5. Nice test! I found the emulsion of Pan F had an odd speckled finish when I used it for pinhole LEs. Not used it since.

    Reply
    • Toni Skokovic

      Thanks – PAN-F definitely has a unique look. Was tempting during this test, but I still ended up liking Delta 100 more.

      Reply
  6. I don’t see Fuji Acros 100 in the list… Very good long exposure film, with low reprocity failure. And available. Nice test !

    Reply
    • Thanks Pierre-Alain, wanted to focus on Ilford films, I am a Ilford fan-boy 🙂 Do have a few rolls of Acros, but never shot the film, so a long learning curve.

      Reply

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