Mar 22, 2021

Zeroing in with HP5+

As a film photographer for the last eight years, I've been playing the field in regards to my selection of black and white films. I've tried the majority of them as this point: Everything available to me from Ilford and Kodak, with maybe the exception of P3200, and a few off brands in there as well. Bergger. Arista Edu. Street Pan. You get the point. Frankly, I lost count a long time ago. 

At The Ready

To really make film work to your advantage, though, it's important to stick with one film and then work to get reliable results at a given ISO and with a given developer. I've known that for years now, but haven't actually put it into practice. It's time to do just that. 


Ilford HP5+ is my emulsion of choice. It's versatile, (reasonably) affordable, and readily available in both 35mm and 120 formats. Several times when I have shot and processed it, though, I've been less than happy with the results. Too many grays. All of the tones bunched up in the middle, even when I try to spread them out. Other times, though, I've been completely happy with it. 


A few weeks ago, I headed out on a partly sunny day with the Canon AE-1, 28mm f/2.8 lens, and a roll of HP5+. I attached a yellow #8 filter and shot the roll at ISO 800. Afterward, I souped the roll in d-76 1:1.  The results? You can see for yourself. A lot of contrast with much of the shadow areas blocked up. In some situations, this might be ok. You might even think that approach is ok with these frames (one of them was Explored on Flickr).  I want some contrast, but I also want some even tones. 

 Abandoned Grain Thresher, SE Washington State. {Explored, thank you}

My next roll, which is waiting to be developed, was shot at ISO 200, again with a yellow #8 filter. I will develop it in d-76 again but at a 1:2 ratio. Yes, I'm changing two variables, but I think I can get closer to what I'm looking for with this combination. At least, we'll see what happens, and we can tweak it from there.  More to come.


  1. Those panoramic views of the wind farms are particularly nice.
    I've had variable results from HP5 as well. The consistently best was in combination with PMK Pyro. Sometimes very good with XTOL and L110. I decided one problem was the age of my developers, so I've started over with new chems.

    1. There's a place here when you can see them by the hundreds like that. I've learned that d-76 isn't the best combo, especially lower dilution levels, but I'm hoping that a 1:2 ratio might do the trick.

  2. I see what you mean about the shadows, but I find the contrast to be pleasing. HP5 is one of my go-to stocks lately and I always develop it in L110 to reasonable result.

    1. Thanks Jim. I'm getting ready to post examples from HP5+ shot at 200 and developed 1:2. It's quite a different look, and introduces some challenges of its own.


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