I began in photography shooting for The Arbiter, Boise State University’s student newspaper. My qualifications at the time? I had access to a camera (a Minolta SRT 303b) and I happened to be at a bar with the photo editor drinking whisky when he realized he was one staff photographer short. At the time we still developed and scanned our own 35mm film, 98% of which was bulk-loaded Kodak Tri-X and I never felt the need to explore black and white film stocks any further.
That all changed for me when I finally tried ILFORD HP5 PLUS over 15 years later.
I purchased a Bronica SQ-A after developing an interest in shooting square. One of the Youtube reviews of this camera linked out to a review of HP5 PLUS so I thought, why not give it a go? I was hooked after getting my first two rolls back from the lab. In my view, it outshines Kodak Tri-X by being not quite so contrasty at box speed so when pushing one or two stops, the result avoids the over-the-top contrast I experienced with Tri-X so I could shoot under more circumstances bringing only a single film stock along with me.
I recorded all the images included with this article using my Bronica SQ-A + Zenzanon-PS 150mm f/4 lens. The photographs selected are from a variety of locations (mostly in Idaho) to show the versatility of this film.
One photo is of a wall of Black Magic Canyon – this canyon is best photographed by finding deals and shadows amongst the walls and rock formations, and HP5 PLUS through the Zenzanon lens really nails the tiny pores on the rock while offering a nice medium contrast in the scene.
I photographed the trees on the edge of Lake Cascade on a winter’s day when snowfall and overcast conditions muted all colors into near black and white even without using a black and white film. The portrait was taken during blue hour at Craters of the Moon National Park – I really love how the skin tones are rendered.
The photo of the house is on Farm to Market Road near McCall – taken in subzero temperatures for which I was not adequately dressed as my friend waited in the car thinking I was crazy. Finally, a landscape of Leslie Gulch, just over the Idaho border in Oregon shows how well this film can render a scene when lighting is pretty flat.
Thanks for reading.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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