OK, so it probably looks like Bertie and Coco spend most of their time loafing about. But the truth is, this is the best chance I’ve got of a getting something in focus. I’ve got a stack of photos that consist of little more than a blurred tail leaving the scene.
I’ve been shooting a few rolls of HP5 lately, after years of mainly using Kodak 400 speed films. The contrast is a bit more subdued, and as such I had some good results on New Year’s Eve pushing it a couple of stops.
These ones didn’t come out too bad either. I think Bertie was rather pleased with his tonality, but Coco just rolled over on her back and wanted her tummy tickled. I sometimes feel she’s not taking it seriously.
Bertie (with added Coco) the working cocker spaniel puppy at 7 months / Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed in HC-110 1+31
The last time I push processed a roll of film was about ten years ago. A friend asked me to take some pictures at his 50th birthday party. Things didn’t work out so well and I only ended up with a couple of frames I was happy with. We don’t talk about it now.
But time heals, and I reckoned it was time to give it another go. I’ve recently started to reacquaint myself with Ilford HP5. It’s less contrasty than my usual Tri-X and Tmax 400, so I thought it’d be a good candidate for pushing.
I decided to go for two stop push and shot at EI 1600. Microphen is a great developer for pushing, and I coupled that with a carefully restrained agitation routine in order to control the grain and contrast. Thirty seconds agitation initially, and then one gentle inversion every thirty seconds. For the final third of development, I reduced the inversions to one a minute. This is a well-known technique to reduce the grain, and it seems to have worked well, with a really pleasing level of grain and tonality. Inevitably, some of the blacks are a bit crushed and lacking detail, but I don’t think it matters for these type of shots. They’re not fine art landscapes and I’m not Ansel Adams.
Anyway, this was my New Year’s Eve: friends, kids, dogs, beer and games. I’d like to have plenty more of all those things in 2020, with the possible exception of beer. Although I say that every year.
Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 shot @ 1600 / Push Processing HP5, Developed in Microphen stock for 11 minutes
These photos might give the impression that Bertie’s a sleepy, placid puppy.
What they actually demonstrate is that it’s only worth trying to get a decent picture when he’s sleepy. True to the working cocker spaniel breed, Bertie’s energy levels are off the scale. The good news is that now he’s had all his vaccinations, he can burn some of that energy off outside in the fields.
Nikon F100 / Ilford HP5 / Developed with Bellini Foto EcoFilm (Liquid Xtol)
Don’t worry Coco – you’re still top dog
Thoughts On Ilford HP5
I’ve probably shot most of the popular black & white films over my four decades of shooting film. In more recent years I’ve tried to whittle my choices down to a handful of films that give me consistent, predictable results. The downside of this is that I can’t always remember why I might have previously discarded certain film stocks. And so it is with Ilford HP5. Seeing Jim’s recent appraisal, I thought it was time to give it another go and refresh my memory.
You can only draw limited conclusions from one roll shot under one set of conditions. Grain is more controlled than Tri-X, with a flatter, less-contrasty look. That said, the highlights were blown on quite a few of the frames. I suspect this was down to over-development rather than poor metering. I’ve just started using Bellini Film EcoFilm Developer. It’s supposed to mimic XTOL and use the same times, but I had a similar issue with a roll of Tmax 100. I have one more roll of HP5 to shoot, and I’ll probably decrease the developing time by ten per cent. Let’s see how that goes.