Tuesday, 25 December 2018

XP2 super is pulled in to the darkroom screaming

On the frontier of a new discovery in the darkroom A bit dramatic I know but that is how I felt. All rubbish, I'm not the first to travel this route. It is new ground for me and this time I have left the research alone.

Fotospeed RCVC paper

With no preconceived ideas as to what was going to happen. I'm free to experiment. The first and most noticeable problem is the colour of the film base. Will I be able to set the grade of paper I want?

 Before the film got anywhere near the darkroom I found my old Ilford multigrade filters and looked through them to see if the film base had a close relation. It is lighter in colour to filter number four in the set but will it interfere? I did try to duplicate the filter grade on my colour enlarger the closest I could get was what I set for grade three and that was darker.

Multigrade filters with XP2s film
To stop the speculation I contact printed all the film using white light at two seconds with the lens fully open. These are some of the best contact prints I have had, nicely toned and detailed. I was not expecting that!

The next thing to do was to scale it up to a print size in this case 8 x 10. I would do a segmented test print using white light and then set to grade three. I chose Fotospeeds RCVC to do the test on. (A much under rated paper ). I did the first print F8 for 4 sec's using white light and set grade three at F8 for seventeen sec's. 

HC 110 processed XP2s
 The results I received plays into my assertion that multigrade papers can produce well toned prints without filtration. That's not quite true in this case as the film bass is close to the shade of one of the multigrade filters. 

Here is a thought, if film base was the colour of a particular filter would all the negative on the film print at that grade? And would you need graded filters any more? There's something to ponder while you develop your prints. If you have any thoughts please share.

Where was I hum! Yes the results of course. The difference between the white light and grade 3 print? In short not a lot if you did not know which was which you would be hard pressed to tell but there is a subtle one it shows as an increase in the strength of tone and a slight uplift in contrast.
XP2s contact prints exposed with 2 sec white light

I was expecting a difficult time in getting good results because of the colour of the film base. This is partly because of what others had suggested when they had a go at printing. In fact I have found so far it very easy to print the XP2s negatives. I think if anything the tint of the film base has enhanced the results.

This was the first graded print the white light print was
slightly brighter
If we go back to when the film was exposed it was a very bright day with lots of contrast and if this had been a normal black and white film the contrast would have lead to a grade zero when being printed. Instead the prints have been at my normal grade three. Thinking on what others have said it leads me to believe that XP2s under represents contrast levels which would explain the flat looking prints when used normally. To counter this I would suggest using a harder filter grade and or Kentmere RC to lift the contrast to a better level.

Printed on Ilford multigrade FB paper
Back in the darkroom getting sharp focus was difficult. The grain seen in the focus finder is very fine and the window of sharpness is very small unlike traditional film emulsions. What I mean by this is when turning the focus wheel on the enlarger the grain of the film sharpens If you keep turning it stays sharp for a few degrees of turn and then go's soft. With the XP2s it go's out of focus almost as soon as it is sharp.

 I did try other grades of filter to see if they worked they did but made the picture look muddy and very dark. Under normal circumstances I would interpret this as the the wrong grade being selected and or over exposed.  

In answer to my question Will I be able to set the grade of paper I want?
No! I am of the impression that the colour of the film base plays a part in the amount of contrast the paper displays. I have not really forced the issue because the level of contrast I'm getting is to my liking. But you may know differently in which case please share.

You maybe interested in this The first part of this post:

Monday, 24 December 2018


This article was written a long time ago and is from another version of a blog by photomi7ch. The images that were part of this article have long disappeared.


A modern way of describing off camera flash, an art in its self. Those of you who know me well are aware that I can not abide camera flash and try to avoid it at all costs.

What I'm going to tell you should be kept between us! I own a flash gun or two and will use off camera flash to add punch to some of my pictures if I think they need it. Shock, horror! remember keep it between us!

I realised the potential of off camera flash before I purchased my first unit. So researched which make and type met my requirements. Then there was no stopping me I always had a flash in my bag, along with elastic bands, cardboard, silver foil and anything else I could use to help achieve the light I wanted. My camera bag looked like a waste site. Looking back I'm surprised I could get my cameras and lenses in the bag let alone find them when I needed them or for that matter lift the bag and hike the miles I did. Now days it is much easier, you can buy the attachments needed to get the right lighting effects which means a tidy lighter camera bag.

Not all of us can afford to buy all these new ad ons and part of the fun is making your own to keep the cost down. Not only that, when an improvised reflector or snoot works it adds a bit of kudos to the final picture. Which brings me neatly on to the strobist blog a great place to go if you are new or need ideas, there are videos and articles that explain the basics. Also a flickr group that allows you to ask questions and get advice.

The days of toting around a camera bag with flash and goodies are long gone. You don't need loads of kit to make great images.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

XP2 super meets Zero pinhole camera and then mugged by Kodak HC110

All of this film is beyond it's best
before date.

They say that fact is stranger than fiction - but this is not fiction! I have processed XP2 super 400 in Kodak's HC110. It has produced some wonderfully smooth toned negatives with just the right amount of contrast. I really will not know how good these negatives are until they are darkroom printed.

This adventure started with my pinhole camera and the crazy idea that I would like to use the out of date XP2s sitting in my film cupboard. I have used this film in the past and been completely under whelmed by the flat looking photographs I received back from the lab. That is why I think I am being crazy!

So for the first time I am going to see what others have done and said about this film. I started with a bit of research something I do not usually do. When using a film product for the first time I like to approach it fresh without all the hurly burly from other people.

HC 110
Not to be mistake for golden syrup. 
First I should explain that XP2 super is a chromogenic black and white film designed to be processed using the C41 process for colour film. Super is the updated version of the original XP2 first released in 1981.

With a quick search a number of references came up, the first one I went to was the online photographer blog. Written by Mike Johnston. I took two things away from this blog. First was how to get the best from the film in different light if you are using the C41 process. He suggests altering the ISO depending on the lighting conditions as the film can become very contrasty. Not from my experience.

  • For regular shooting in normal lighting ISO 200
  • For shooting in extremely bright and or contrasty light ISO 100
  • For shooting in low and low contrast lighting indoor or out ISO 400
  • He does not recommend using it at ISO 800

The other bit of information that took my eye but was not part of the post was about cross processing using the monochrome chemicals. This made me sit up and take note. I like the idea of using black and white material to process and print the film because I could do it in my darkroom without a costly upgrade.

I found the write up about using black and white chemistry on the Ilford photo web site. It is very informative and took some time to read. The author Chris Moss has not only developed XP2s in HC 110 but has also used Rodinal and Ilfotec HC. He has posted a lot of images to back all his work up.

HC110 in syringes
It became apparent that he preferred HC110 as most of the work described is devoted to this developer. It was at this point I decided to use HC110 myself so I could in part test his results and cut out a lot of trial and error on my own account - a short cut so to speak. I was however disappointed to find that all his negatives had been scanned and not printed in the darkroom. The short cut in the beginning means I will have more time to experiment in the darkroom.

Lastly before I move onto my results it is worth mentioning Erik Gouldproject web site and in-particular his article on using HC 110 to control contrast by varying the dilution of the developer. This is mainly in response to Mike's assertion that XP2s can get very contrasty in certain situations. Most of this he relates to the C41 processed negatives he has produced. This could be the case for monochrome work.

lts just check those setting again
What have I gotten myself into! this was going to be a straight forward article about using XP2s and my pinhole camera. I'm pleased to say we are now getting on with the photography. The good thing about it is that I will be able to take part in world pinhole Day for the first time.

 I was able to go out over a number of days with my Zero that included world pinhole day to make the images. The sun was out which made a change from the dullness we had been experiencing, but it still had a bite.

I used three rolls of XP2s that I rated at 100 ISO I did this because it was a bright day and I wanted exposures that were seconds long rather than part seconds that a faster ISO would have produced. It also occurred to me after exposing a roll of delta 100 that I could do a comparison between the two films. In most cases it took about eight seconds for each exposure or round about as I can be quite cavalier when it comes to closing the shutter. This does lead to over exposing the film, something I should take in hand because I end up with longer printing times in the darkroom.

XP2 S 400 negatives this shows
the colour of the neg base.

 It is the first time I have experienced scepticism and anticipation in relation to the results. A bit of an April fool feeling, no matter what happens I have a plan B or do I?

Right! I loaded the first roll into the tank. Developed it for 5 mins as suggested being a first for me, I develop one film at a time so I can adjust the dev time if needed. I used the HC110 at a dilution of 1+49. Woe! this stuff is so concentrated it is like syrup. I was warned, which means using a normal graduated measure is out. You will need to use syringe/s to get the right amount of HC 110 out of the bottle if you are not going to end up with sticky fingers etc everywhere. They should be marked out in mls and part mls as the 49 works out at 12.3 mls in 600 mls of water. I wanted it to be the exact amount that was used.

Contact print. 2 sec using white light.
When it came to processing the film I kept to my standard method 12 inversion for the first 30 seconds and then four inversion every minute there after. the stop was for two minutes with the same inversion count as the developer. I did the same for the fix, fixing for 5 mins and then checking to see if the film base had cleared. I did this partly because there can be an issue with under fixing if the fix is old which mine was having been used for five previous film. When I looked the base appeared a little foggy so I put it back in for a further two minutes.

While I was checking the film base I was revealed and pleased to see the tell tail squares that images were there. I now had the unspooled dripping wet film in my hand. To be presented with some wonderfully toned negatives on a pinkish magenta film base, was something I had not been prepared for. What wonders are to be had in the darkroom! Let the fun begin!? 

If you are interested The second part of this post:

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Recall volume 2

There is a commotion in the hallway as the dogs clammer to get traction on the stone floor as they race to be first to the door. Ah! It must be the postman. There he is waiting to hand me the package containing my next copy of Recall. I thank him and head in.

With the package in hand I make my way to the office. There is a tinge of excitement as the packet is torn open. With bated breath I slowly pull the magazine from it's cardboard surround. Will it or wont it be as good as the last one. First impression suggest it is!

I remove it from the rapper, wow! Again the reproduction is wonderful it has caught the subtle reflections of light that were in the original photographs of the high rise blocks. There is a slight mistake that I missed, this was due to a software update that unsettled the original layout of the images but really not worth mentioning in detail.

Although I have set up a number of custom templates, do not take it for granted that there will render identical to the last issue without being carefully checked. Something I will do for the next volume. It is a case of getting used to the software and getting to grips with a method that allows things to flow. Once this happens then I think the mistakes will disappear.

I have decided not to release a digital copy as it defeats the idea of the magazine. Which is to share nicely printed pictures that could be framed and put on the wall.

I have a very small number of signed and numbed copies for anyone who maybe interested. You can only purchase them from me direct. If not you can buy direct from the site.

These links go straight to a blurb link that shows more of the content:

Friday, 21 December 2018


I have just finished reading the interview with Josef Koudelka. The only Czech person to document the soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and Prague in particular. A defining moment in his life and career. A fitting point to introduce to you Apertures volume on their collection of published conversations.

Like many of you I am familiar with Josef Koudelka's images of this period but do not know much, if anything, about the man behind the lens. Of the sixty nine names that appear on the cover very few of them jump off the page as people I have read about and know well. There are some who I have heard of from others but a greater portion I have no knowledge of at all.

I read a very small review of this book in black and white photography mag that peaked my interest and the fact that it was a collection of interviews - a format that I have enjoyed reading in the past and prefer to televised versions. To be able to kick back with a cup of tea in a free moment and allow what is being discussed fully occupy your attention is a great way to understand fully what is going on.

There are no images in this book to distract you from what is being said. A bold move by Aperture. I sometimes feel that when I'm reading articles that are interspersed with pictures that they tend to take a back seat to the point of not being noticed. I know this is true in my case as I can revisit books and magazines and have no recollection of the accompanying images it is as though I am coming to them again for the first time.

I have discovered I do not like pre views of anything. I like to have an open mind on what is about to pass in front of my eyes and lodge in my brain - a bit like life it's self! Likewise, this book has introduced me to a lot of things and opinions I had not considered. I have no doubt that at some point in my photograph making some of the things I have read will show themselves in my images.

I am methodical in the way I read -I start at the front and work through. I am about two thirds through this five hundred odd page book which gives you some idea of it's size - not an easy book to stuff in your pocket to read on the train, bus or plane.

The conversations vary in length, some more fascinating than others, all based on visual expression. I am enjoying the odd moments of time I have spent with this book this year. I will go as far as to say if you are a photographer you should have a copy of this on your shelf and if a person from Aperture reads this you should do an companioning volume on all the images that went with the interviews.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Bronica battery trouble.

I really enjoy using my SQAi But recently its reliability has become unpredictable to the extent that I have seriously thought about getting rid of it.

I know what the problem is, it is to do with the silver oxide batteries and the way they make contact or not with the contacts in the camera. On occasions a film has built up insulating the batteries from the camera contacts. A quick scrape and all is well again. Recently this has gotten out of hand in such away that I'm no longer sure if the shutter will fire from one frame to the next even after checking that the contacts are clean.

I've concluded it is one of three things: the batteries are not up to the job, bad manufacture, or that something in the camera has worked loose? Or maybe all three. I am so fed up with it so much so that I have dug out my motor drive for the Bronica - something I have not used in years. I have also bunged on the eye level prism, which corrects the backward view you get from the flip up viewfinder. I did this because it makes the use of the camera more seamless.

A drastic move I know as Bronica did not produce an auxiliary battery pack for its cameras like others have. It adds weight that I'm not happy about but if it makes the camera more reliable then all to the good.

I can not believe how much these changes have reinvigorated my image making. It is akin to when I first purchased the camera. It works every time freeing me up from that nagging 'will it?' or 'wont it?'. It was satisfying to hear the clump of the shutter with the outlandish sound of the motor as it wound on. No more senior moments. With the addition of all this technical wizardry it has made it more enjoyable. If I had known this, I would have made the changes ages ago.

Has anyone else experienced this problem with their Bronica, if so how did you cure it?  

update 12/2018

I thought I would update this post by saying that the motordrive I fitted a couple of years ago has dealt with the battery problem. It does this by taking on all the power requirements of the camera.