Welcome to part two of my long exposure test results. for part two I wanted to look at how higher speed films from ILFORD behave with longer exposure times. While it seems redundant to use higher speed films for longer exposures, one does not know what can be found.
As you will remember from part one, is central to my ongoing photography project, Where We Meet.
This, the second part of my tests, continues my attempts at mastering the long exposure technique that is key for my project and I hope, charts my endeavours to complete a comprehensive test of various films with longer exposure. Whilst admittedly a non-typical use case for most photographers in the broader film shooters community, I hope readers will find this series useful.
Before we recap on my methodology, here’s what’s covered:
The methodology I have deployed is based on varying only the films used, as much as possible:
All test images here were shot on 120 format film using a Soviet-made Lomo Lubitel 166B camera. This camera s simple, fully mechanical, light and resilient.
It has a 75mm lens and I used a Polaroid Variable ND filter set to its highest ND value, approximately a 7-stop light reduction.
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.
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
As with part one, three exposures are made for each film being evaluated. 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 rough bracket should cover most typical reciprocity adjustment curves (which my light meter app does not). As I mentioned previously, my reasoning behind this is requirement for speed is the criticality of timing during the blue hour.
All exposures were 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.
These tests are split into three parts. Part one covered low-speed black and white films: ILFORD Pan F PLUS, ILFORD Delta 100 Professional and ILFORD FP4 PLUS.
In this, part two, I cover the following high speed black and white films: ILFORD HP5 PLUS, ILFORD Delta Professional 400, ILFORD Delta Professional 3200, ILFORD SFX 200.
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.
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There is also a potential part four but details are as yet, under wraps.
Long exposure results: ILFORD HP5 PLUS, ILFORD Delta Professional 400, ILFORD Delta Professional 3200, Ilford SFX 200
Testing ILFORD HP5 PLUS
This is a definitive utility film: high in contrast and with a wide exposure latitude. This film provided surprisingly underexposed images when tested the same way as slower emulsions.
It would appear that HP5 PLUS is likely not the first choice for your “usual” long exposure tests, but its high contrast properties seem to provide a unique and somewhat gothic mood when exposed for longer time in low light. So, if those dark and subtle outlines are called for, this is the film.
ILFORD Delta Professional 400
Demonstrating consistency of modern T-grain, Delta 400 Professional delivers even mid-tones with all three adjustment tests. Exposure adjustments produce results similar to Delta 100 Professional, albeit with slightly more grain.
If grainier images are needed, this film would be a solid choice. Otherwise, using Delta 100 Professional seems to make more sense.
ILFORD Delta Professional 3200
Delta consistency continues with the 3200 – for such a high-speed film, grain is hardly noticeable in the night shoot tests. Variations between different exposure adjustments are very subtle when it comes to mid-tones. Shadows, for the most part stay put regardless of the adjustment to exposure time. Delta 3200 is a night photography champion. This film would be my go to for moody, “film noir” style, imagery with longer exposure times.
ILFORD SFX 200
ILFORD SFX 200 is an interesting film that deserves its own category and possibly some more analysis. I approached the SFX test with great anticipation, as this film has a very interesting look with long exposure.
The unique tone to highlights combined with steady and even mid-tones defines its uniqueness. It’s hard to decide how to use this film, but it is clear that exposure adjustments provide for incremental changes in highlights.
Part two conclusion
I capped off part one by saying:
“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.”
Continuing that thread, long exposure adjustments should be viewed as just another tool in my creative toolbox.
Clearly, manufacturer’s instructions and general rules help – but blindly following these is somewhat similar to using a digital camera set to “Auto”. The most interesting outcomes happen when we push the film outside of that safe zone, and create additional creative opportunities.
When it comes to ILFORD’s film catalog, for my purposes Delta 100 Professional and FP4 PLUS seem to create the most pleasing long exposure results.
Now, it’s time to break out C-41 kit and dive into colour negative films.
Thanks for reading, there will be more coming soon!
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Just looked at this article, I notice in every single film you have feint dark lines on each image. What do you call these and how do you avoid them?
@ILFORDPhoto @junctionrails Delta Pro 100 goes nicely (25 minute exposure with ISS photo-bomb) https://t.co/yE3AXPbKGQ
@ILFORDPhoto @junctionrails Long exposer means a slow film which needs longer exposures like ASA 25 or ASA 64. Right?
Thanks for the comment Tom – the HP5 images definitely created some interest – they definitely seem odd compared to the rest. It may be time to revisit HP5 Plus as a film (I’ve shot a few 100ft rolls of it since, none in long exposure situation) and create a follow-up article.
I know this is a while ago, but I read your article today…
It is great to see people experimenting with film again! (a few of us never really stopped…)
About the HP5: Something has definitely gone wrong there. To my eye this looks a lot like quasi-solarization (sometimes called Sabattier effect). I did this quite a bit (on purpose) back in the 80s. I suspect your film may have been briefly exposed to light during development. A brief (non-image) secondary exposure approx half-way development produces an effect very similar (usually heavier). Exposure to light between developer and fix would do the same to some extent, and given that your images are not heavily reversed, that may be the culprit.
I have no way of knowing for sure, though. Consider it an educated guess…
Thank you for your interesting article, and have a great day!
Well, I’m not getting involved in the back-and-forth, just observing: compared to all the other films in Part 1 and Part 2, the HP-5 just looks underexposed. The highlights are barely mid-gray and the shadows are empty black. I’d say that something went wrong with the metering or the aperture or the initial exposure time. If I were doing the experiment, I’d do that one over, and double check everything. All of the other films look like the initial exposure was pretty close to correct.
Also, if you don’t mind a methodological criticism, I think the comparisons of the different films would be more meaningful if the subjects were all the same. The Delta 3200 picture of the bridge, for instance, has specular highlights and black shadows, an inherently high-contrast picture, while most of the others, the seashore pictures, are mostly gentle shades of gray. They’re interesting pictures on their own, but I can’t tell much from them about how one film compares to another.
Otherwise it’s a pretty interesting series. I’ll be watching for more.
Hello Scott – thanks. Yes – the methodology is far from objective or perhaps complete. Logistics and my focus on shooting scenario for a project drove this. HP5 result was a surprise to me – I did assume operator error, so had another roll shot – same stuff. Could be a developer, ND filter, or something – may be interesting to take a few rolls of 135 HP5 this winter and put HP5 through a comprehensive test – just OM-1 and no filters, just straight film with a standard developer. Let’s see, it could be fun. The density curve and Ilford’s reciprocity compensation curve do look very different to all other films. January 2018 could be a good time to revisit this utility film and write out a comprehensive review. Stay tuned.
“Hello Bruce – once again, thank you. You do bring up an interesting point, worth discussing. I am saddened, however, that much of it is cloaked in judgement, derogatory condescension and presumption of incompetence. Too bad, would be interesting to have an actual conversation. I am working on a series of HP5 related articles, based in a fair amount of time and energy spent with this film, perhaps that gives us another chance to pick this conversation up and have a real dialogue.”
Yes indeed, Toni. I agree that your references to demagogues and religious cults were a bit over the top in relation to an exchange about photography. Thank you for recognising that.
“…or perhaps you can impart some of the knowledge you appear to possess and share it with the community, as opposed to moaning about others experimenting on their own from the sidelines. Seems a little more productive, don’t you think.”
I do that on my own blog.
Good on you!
Please stop ruining the reputations of excellent films like HP5! If you got results like that from HP5, you screwed up – pure and simple. Don’t blame the film for operator error.
Nothing to ruin here, Bruce! This is all in the name of experimentation and understanding the limits/suitability of (not only) this film. I’d recommend you visit part one of Toni’s series to understand his motivations here.
If you feel like seeing more experiments that will likely have you beating your head against your desk in frustration, I’d like to direct you to HP5+ shot at EI 25600 – https://emulsive.org/articles/black-and-white-high-ei-shootout-part-2-ei-25600
There’s no way to expose HP5 accurately and get a result like that. I don’t want people thinking that the film just behaves that way during long exposures because that would be garbage. HP5 is a superb, versatile film. It’s been on the go since the 1930s in one form or another. Do you honestly think it would have lasted two minutes if it behaved like this in low light or with long exposure times? The photographer in this case just screwed up and appears not to have realised it.
It’s great that you love film. It’s great that you’re enthusiastic. It’s not great that you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’re spreading misinformation. I know you have the best of intentions but aimless experimenting doesn’t really add much. All of this stuff was done decades ago anyway. People have been rating film at ridiculous ISOs for sixty years and getting exactly the same results – no shadow detail. You can genuinely increase the sensitivity of a film by about two-thirds of a stop and that’s it. All you’re doing with extended development is blasting the mid tones and highlights in an effort to get some printable or scannable detail in those tones.
If you’re going to continue in this vein could you think about adding a disclaimer at the start of your posts to the effect that you don’t really know what you’re doing, you’re having a bit of unscientific fun and people should enjoy it for the entertainment value and not read too much into it? That way we won’t have a new generation of film photographers thinking HP5 is crap and P30 is a high contrast 80 ISO film.
…or perhaps you can impart some of the knowledge you appear to possess and share it with the community, as opposed to moaning about others experimenting on their own from the sidelines. Seems a little more productive, don’t you think?
Hey Bruce – thanks – and I truly appreciate your devotion to HP5. I do believe this classic film has its good many uses, without doubt. Not for my particular purpose here (this was actually one of three rolls I exposed just to verify I am using the same conditions as other films), in this project. I shoot HP5+ almost weekly and am quite happy with it for general photography. Check my Instagram feed for some of the results. I will not apologize to you, or Ilford, or Kodak, or anyone else, for preferring Delta to HP5, much like I feel I owe any explanation to Tri-X crowd on why I prefer using HP5 that Kodak classic.
For you, if you really feel strongly – I would suggest example of a true HP5 advocate – Matt Day. The guy that has single-handedly showed me, through his youtube channel, what HP5 can do. Fortunate for Ilford and my local film shops he did, since your advice would most certainly not made me spend what I did on HP5 in the last 6 months (value of a small compact DSLR – Camera companies, take note). Your comments, however, would have had an opposite effect – I would probably be buying Acros, Lomo, or ABI (Anything but Ilford) at this stage.
While on HP5 – there is a 100ft roll with my name on it – should be here next week, time to crank that bulk loader and drown out, as Sharky James calls some of us “grumpy film guys”.
We love you Bruce – but I don’t think you’re helping. I may not be, either, but at least I am not discouraging.
I’m not devoted to HP5: I use Tmax 400. I just hate seeing the film made to look bad by someone who screwed up, doesn’t realise it and then pretends in a post that HP5 just looks that way. No one is expecting you to apologise to Ilford or Kodak but you could apologise to the community for misleading them where HP5 is concerned and P30 too for that matter.
You might not be discouraging newbies who wrongly think you know what you’re doing but you’ll certainly put off experienced film guys who drop by. One might admire a surgeon for her enthusiasm and devotion but if she cuts off the wrong leg she’s still doing more harm than good.
Hello Bruce – just to dovetail into your other comment. I think we have a fundamental disagreement. I do not believe you hold the right to speak for “the community” or to determine what a proper exposure is. For years, some of us have disagreed with the notion of “proper” exposure and the rest are shooting in Auto and Program modes with digital cameras.
To me, the film offers experimentation beyond suggested and proper exposure. It is a rather simple equation – I discovered film and experiment with it, these are my results. Some I like and explore deeper, the others I discontinue. If I was planning to conform with “propriety” or define it I would join or start a religious cult. Since I am not, I like to enjoy a certain degree of freedom and experimentation, and chit-chat with fellow experimenters.
Like in my regular life, I prefer to not spend time dealing with demagogues. Sadly, photography world seems to be still not rid of that group.
Fair enough, Toni. The normal pattern is to learn to expose properly first and then experiment but you’re obviously free to do it your way round if you want. I suppose you think that makes you a post-modernist. Haha.
Saying you “discovered film and experiment with it” sounds very noble but it’s actually a bit like saying I discovered doors and decided to walk through them sideways. Yes, humans engaging in crab-like activity is certainly breaking the rules but it’s not going to add much to our understanding of walking, is it?
Maybe you should try following convention for a while. It seemed to work for 99% of the world’s greatest photographers to date. I don’t think any of them were compelled to start their own religion, although it’s true that some worship at the Church of Saint Ansel. Once you’ve mastered the basics then you can start experimenting. Although whatever “experiment” you can come up with rest assured it’s already been done before some time over the last hundred years or so – and possibly even by people who understood what they were doing.
Hello Bruce – once again, thank you. You do bring up an interesting point, worth discussing. I am saddened, however, that much of it is cloaked in judgement, derogatory condescension and presumption of incompetence. Too bad, would be interesting to have an actual conversation. I am working on a series of HP5 related articles, based in a fair amount of time and energy spent with this film, perhaps that gives us another chance to pick this conversation up and have a real dialogue.
If you’re interested, I did a little reciprocity test on Ilfords XP2 here : https://mir52.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/xp2-reciprocity-revisited-en/