« OM Goodness | Main | Priceless Memories »

Friday, 20 January 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Though, I can't but notice that a film like HP5, pushed one stop - just one stop is all - really gets much more pleasingly contrasty and clear than the somewhat muddy results of using it at box speed.

Pushing is bad. Adjusting your exposure a bit to get good tonal separation on the other hand…

Yes Uncle Mike. Sorry, I promise not to do it again. :)

This is so true. Film photography is not good at high ISOs and there is no need to use it that way. Want a noctovisor - buy a digital. Pushed film has zero advantage - if you want grain and mega contrast with zero detail, you can always use digital and post-processing.

When I have gotten into film 5 (?) years ago, I did it to compare it with digital. At that time some people kept telling me that film is better and digital is a crap. Of course I found out that they were very wrong. However, I quickly discovered that I love B&W prints, especially for their tonality (and this can be achieved only by proper exposure).

BTW, a compensating developer is also a good idea.

Mike, liked the article, remember those days well. Tri-x and Pan-x were my favorites.
With reference to your comment, BANG! Shot right through the foot.

Here at work many years ago one of the engineers was heard saying, "He shot himself in the foot and then congratulated himself on his markmenship"

Neat extension of an old saying.


Umm... some people push to achieve a look they desire. High contrast with blown highlights typical of pushed film is the goal. I do it with my night time work because it conveys the feeling of night in a city, with its mysterious shadows and temporarily blinding and disorienting bright lights.

Not only is a tonally well-balanced image technically difficult to achieve in night shooting, for many photographers it betrays the look or experience of being in the situation. Its false, whereas pushing gets you closer to the truth.

For example Daido Moriyama.

Tut tut. I'm going out today to take macro pictures of flowers. With ASA 50 film pushed to 400. With a Nikon lens.

In an SUV (no cupholders though).

You can't get an SUV without cupholders.



"ADDENDUM: For general photography in good light, the best, easiest, most immediate way to improve your B&W film technique is to halve the manufacturer's ISO rating and subtract 20% from the manufacturer's recommended development time. Don't take my word for it. Try it."
And stay away from constant agitation. You know the drill, thirty seconds at the start and five seconds per minute after that.

(replying to Mike's reply to me)

Okay, but then your argument really ought not to be "Never, ever push," but rather, "Don't push without knowing what the result will be and why you want that effect." (And "push" in that sentence could be replaced by any number of other things, e.g. "use a polarizer", "use HDR", or "use so-called 'art filters'") Not as short and snappy, but more accurate. A technique is not invalidated by misapplication, after all. There are always idiotic people doing idiotic things because of something idiotic they read online. As this principle relates to photographers, I doubt pushing is the worst problem out there.

Mike, have you ever seen a straight print of the Bobby Kennedy photo? There's plenty of shadow detail in it. It's in one of the Time-Life series of photography books. Probably "The Print." The version of the photo that you're showing was intensely burned, specifically to create a scene reminiscent of the crucifixion of Christ.

My last two rolls (with an OM1 and OM2, both with a 28mm lens) were in dark spaces lit by bright window lights, way too contrasty for any DSLR I know. One roll of Tri-X at iso400, one at iso1600, both developed in Xtol. No loss of quality or added grain I could see @1600, apart from a very slight loss of detail in very deep shadow. But I was able to get shots that would otherwise been on the verge of unhand-holdable.

The same people who are pushing their films to this degree and with this amount of frequency are also likely ones who needed to have a Densitometer explained to them.

Not that one cannot learn a lot of great things on the internet.. but at some point surely the newer generation of film photographers is going to be missing out on something by not learning things 'the old fashion way'

I am constantly in a quandary because all of that old film Tri-X 400 film I saved from long ago requires me to shoot it at 64 to get all of the base fog away and render anything close to shadow detail. Even brand new films are rarely any better than Half of the 'box speed'.

I found out long ago that throwing away shadow detail is something more easily done by choice with contrast filters in the darkroom printing stage rather than at the initial exposure. You can't get those shadows back if they were never recorded in the first place

You can always burn those shadows down or use a contrast grade that makes them a bygone memory in the darkroom...

But, ..as I seem to see more and more.. many of the newer folks shooting film these days consider photoshop their darkroom and a film scanner as their enlarger... So maybe this might not occur to some of them.

Again.. it aint like it used to be in the good ole' days.

Thanks for the addendum suggestion, Mike, I am going to try that on my next roll.

I'm wondering, as someone with infinitely more experience than me developing film, how do you feel about two-bath developers? I use Diafine on occasion, and when I do I shoot Plus-X at 200 and Tri-X at around 1000 (even up to 1600 for a frame or three). So I'm underexposing, but not really overdeveloping since Diafine is what it is. I have gotten some good results that way but not nearly as consistent as I'd like. If you have shot that way, any pearls of wisdom you can pass along?

I was in Vegas last week and saw young hipster types shooting Instax instant film and disposable 35mm cameras. I can dig it, but film shooting is becoming almost too hip - kinda like when Yogi Berra said something like "That place is so popular, nobody goes there any more." Or maybe it was just a shot of reality that got me, that my own nonconformity corresponded with the nonconformity of so many others, it was in fact conformist. Do I blame computers for that?

You do what you gotta do. I hardly ever exposed TRI-X below EI 1200. If I could use flash, or there was good light, I shot PLUS-X at rated speed .

But most of my good photos are on TRI-X at from EI 1000 to EI 4000.

Among other things, the rather harsh scales you get with extreme pushes nicely capture the subject visual impression of the contrasty light in most of the places I shot that needed that kind of speed.

Much better today, of course; I can use ISO 3200 pretty casually on my D700, rather than that being the upper limit of what I could get a usable image out of.


It's a 1995 Isuzu Rodeo. I was just kidding about the flowers and stuff. I normally just shoot at the ASA on the box, but I'll try your recommendation.

"Okay, but then your argument really ought not to be 'Never, ever push,' but rather, 'Don't push without knowing what the result will be and why you want that effect.'"

No, actually I think everyone should never, ever push. [g] I really hate the look of underexposed film, whether someone does it on purpose or not. But others, of course, are free to make up their own minds, as I am neither Emperor of the Universe nor (the old "Malcolm in the Middle" song reverberates in my head, because my kid used to quote it to me constantly) "the boss of you."


"Rate in half, shoot for the negative not the print, and pull two stops in development." That was the dictum I learned in college for black and white film. I still have some very fine, dense negatives most of which produced excellent tonality when printing.

William Mortensen, the one Ansel Adams regarded as the incarnation of evil, used to expose for the shadows and then develop very very long.
We must admit he achieved a unique look, a look that can hardly, if at all, be imitated by digital.
And, given the convenience of digital, this is a strong argument, because to stick with film only for the sake of it smells like useless snobbery. But to stick with film because of the results is an entirely different matter!

Yes, been there (in the early 1980's). Now my negatives occasionally border on "bulletproof".

Another common mistake: using the wrong format. For highly detailed landscape photography, 35mm is not the right format - use a view camera or at least MF and don't waste time with things like specialty developers for super-fine-grained document film in 35mm (been there, too).

Just place the highlights on zone 8 and expose -- shadows take care of themselves. I think Fred Picker said that and it works just fine. That's after you've determined your film speed (which is often about half the manufacturer's recommendation) and development time.

How is it that for 40 years or so I didn't know I was involved with analog photography? I thought it was film I loaded in the camera (or has the term camera been replaced with some new age terminology?).

Pet peeve...rant over.

Signed, Jeff from the old school.

Interestingly, I find myself often emulating the look of pushed hp5 or tri-x in my digital work. Or at least I think so...

There are a few samples in this gallery, for those interested: http://www.jphion.com/lentsiuscoats/index.html

Mike, You're getting cranky in our old age. The only difference between what the newbies are doing know and what we did (OK, what I did) is that they can post their results on the interweb for everyone to see (and rant about). Don't we all learn by pushing the limits? I know I did. And I'm sure we all secretly thought we had just created the most unique piece of art ever and probably would have posted it on Flickr, if Flickr had existed. Let the newbies push whatever they like, they'll learn. And as long as they continue to buy film, let them ruin it. It means they'll buy more - which is good for the rest of us film users (yourself excluded of course).

I saw an interview with Eppridge many years ago regarding the Kennedy photo. He said he was so flustered that he could barely make a photo at all, shot blindly from instinct and unintentionally underexposed.

I'm assuming the techs processed by inspection to save what was there and baked it a bit.

Pushing, basically. The glare of the lighting and drama saved it,but otherwise it might well have been a grainy pile of mush.

"Soot and chalk" as AA may have said. "A thing of beauty,"as Gibson might have.

If grainy and high contrast is the aesthetic someone is deliberately aiming for, fair enough. Pushing the snot out of film is one way to achieve that.

Personally, I find lately I'm gravitating toward slower speed films and proper technique (including such bizarre notions as using a flash or tripod where appropriate, imagine that!) rather than "handheld available light only, at all costs". I'd rather get all the tonal detail I can on the negative and choose what, if anything, to lose when it comes time to print or prep for the web.

Worth noting: I don't own a DSLR or indeed any digital camera with ISO settings beyond 400, but I seldom find myself needing to push beyond that.

I've never "surfed" the Internet looking for interesting images.
How would I go about doing that?

I think I understand where you're coming from, Mike, but I don't share your frustrations. I think one of the negative impacts of digital photography (especially shooting raw) is that key aesthetic decisions can be taken post shooting. I'm sure great photographers are capable of getting past this, and maintaining a consistent style of pre-visualisation, but there is a trap us lesser mortals fall into whereby we are paralysed or rendered impotent by the infinite possibilities of future post production, and shoot without an aesthetic in mind. The most common of these woes is the shoot-in-color-and-see-if-it-looks-any-good-in-black-and-white-later syndrome.

Shooting with film, the aesthetic choice is largely forced upon the photographer at least once every 36 frames. He or she makes the choice and 'sees' accordingly. I see choosing to push a film two stops as no different from choosing to shoot Velvia over Astia. And my instinct is that those 'newbies who are reflexively pushing to 1600 and stand developing in Rodinal because of some idiotic thing they read somewhere' are more likely making those decisions based on some engaging photo they saw. Aesthetics are far better explained with pictorial examples than with verbal descriptions of method and technique. Personally, I find that Bill Eppridge image a perfectly good advertisement for pushing film; I find it visually very engaging.

It was similar thinking that lead me to (shock horror) reconsider my derision of those Olympus 'Art' filters introduced a couple of DSLR generations ago (see http://www.cronbi.com/2011/12/07/where-are-the-aesthetic-choices-in-a-digital-age/). They may seem gimmicky, but at least they force the photographer to seek a narrower range of aesthetic photographic opportunities. Think that's a bad thing? Well, consider choosing a prime lens forces the photographer to seek a narrower range of compositional opportunities, and worse photos are rarely made due to that decision.

David Dyer-Bennet,
Yes, you can easily push Tri-X to 1600, if you know the secret trick: open up the lens three stops from the metered value. Works great!


Don't want shadow detail in your black & white images -- just print on #4 or 5 paper and develop in boiling panther pee.
You can always make a funky print from a good negative - but never a really good print. Nothing like a very well done hockey puck $20 steak -- NOT. You can never make it rare again, but a rare steak can always be cooked a little more.
A big goose egg in my book on push processing.

There was a wonderful book by Carson Graves, useful for most film photographers, entitled The Zone System for 35MM Photographers: A Basic Guide to Exposure Control

It offers an easy-to-follow and simple method for determining film speed and development time. There is a densitometer free procedure, and, if I recall correctly, another for those who have a densitometer.

"how do you feel about two-bath developers?"

Having had extensive experience with two-bath and two-part developers and water-bath and stand techniques, and even more extensive experience with students enamored of same, my opinion is: 96% of the time, they yield anything up to almost-but-not-quite as good quality as standard MQ developers used normally, with the disadvantage of making the process generally less controllable, less understandable, and more finicky and laborious; and the other 3% of the time they can be moderately useful.


(P.S. 1% of the time you'll mess up and ruin your film. I could tell ya stories.)

As I think of it, if any photographer came to me and said I don't know much about film based photography, but I want to learn how to expose and develop my film correctly, and how to make black and white prints, I would recommend the above book by Carson Graves and this one: Elements of Black and White Printing If I could only recommend a couple of books, I think that these books are so well thought out and provide such outstanding explanations, I would even recommend them over the Ansel Adams books on the same subjects.

Not too subtle point there with the choice of pictures!

Do you have any thoughts on overexposing and overdeveloping, like Ralph Gibson and Trent Parke?

I think there's a distinction to be made between processing adjustment - plus and minus in relation to the contrast of the scene - and pushing for sport.

The latter seems to occupy the time of newbies and amateurs who are more interested in materials and equipment than ideas.

But you have to know your true film speed based upon testing with your own materials and equipment. Otherwise, it's just guessing.

Mike said: "Eradicate disease, I say. Do your part! Expose enough!!"

Maybe they should get themselves transmission densitometers!


Here's a better idea: Push film, and know what to expect. Do some tests. See how the film performs in some different developers, with different techniques. Does it produce what you want? Good, use it that way.

Does digital produce what you want? No? Figure out something else.

The current maximum speed of the medium format digital sensors is 800, and that's state-of-the-art. I have seen a 3ft x 4-1/2ft wide print made from Ilford Delta 3200, using a Fuji 6x9. It's a beautiful print, of a cowboy roping horses at dawn, in the winter. If there is a digital system that can beat that, especially for the price of a Fuji 6x9, please let all of us know.

I keep reading how digital is sooo wonderful, and then I look at the price tag, and I look at the results. If results are what count, and a person does have a budget, why buy digital?

When I was in grad school for cinematography, I didn't know enough to get consistently good results. When I go back and look at my short films I made, on 16mm film, there is some really edgy stuff there. I worked on some kind of instinctual, experimental level. After a while, I learned good technique, and how "things are supposed to be done." My style become tame and lost its edge. Not until I really improved did things become more interesting again, and even today, I have to consciously remind myself to get back to the edge of chaos.

The closest I get to that these days is when I pick up my old Rolleiflex after several months and the counter is at three, but I have not the slightest idea what kind of film I've got loaded in there. That's when I just go crazy: shot portraits right into the sun, use 1/4s shutter speed, who cares. It is very liberating, try it sometimes.

Nice timing. Just as I finished hanging up a freshly developed roll of Tmax 400 to dry.

I got into photography a bit later in life and missed the heyday of B&W film. I would read comments from folks who did use it and found the tech talk fascinating and had to try it myself. Picked up an old Nikon FM, some Tmax 400 and Tmax developer and had at it. Started making a few prints in the basement at night too.

8 years later and I'm still hooked. Funny thing is after going full circle with many films and developers I'm back to TMY in Tmax developer. I often get a full 400 out of it and grain that falls somewhere between TMX and Plus-x. Good stuff that new Tmax 400 is. (was?)

Or, another way of saying "expose enough" comes from the late Fred Picker who thought many budding photographers to: Expose for the highlights, develop for the highlights. Kind of an analog version of ETTR!! :)

I agree that fussing with pushing, developers, etc. is the time wasting that our precedessors did before they had scanners and then digital camaeras.

However, lots of people like that "it can only be film" super-grainy look. There is a legion of mostly "street"/candid photographers who like to shoot with something like Fuji Super Presto 1600, which is really a 600iso film pushed 1.5 stops, even when shooting outdoors in daylight.

Personally, I like to shoot 35mm with 100ISO film with 0.5-1 stop overexposure.

"Maybe they should get themselves transmission densitometers!"

Nah, you don't need that. I never had one up until last week.

Now I have two. Don't ask. (Want one?)


Oh man, I haven't enjoyed a rant this good in a long time. Spot on, Mike, especially the 1/2 the ISO -20% tip. When I hear some young punk talk about pushing a 100 speed Eastern European emulsion to 1000 I just have to laugh. As an old newspaper guy I was more guilty than most, always searching for the magic soup to push Tri-X to 6400. At one time I had 12, count 'em, 12 different developers mixed in my darkroom.
How thing have changed.
But wait, lemmee tell you a secret... T-Max P3200 in Diafine? GUARANTEED 6400.

Re: the long question of paragraph 10 above:

I haven't shot b&w film in years but even I can remember why one would push: Because when you find yourself in a situation that requires an ISO several stops beyond that of the film you have loaded you can't just dial up that sensitivity on the camera the way you can with digital.

Dear Mike,

I think credit should be given where credit is due. The complete form of this exposure system is:

1) Overexpose by a stop.

2) Underdevelop by 20% (well, 30% with old emulsion types).

3) Get down on your knees and pray.

This is the entire Prone System, as described by our own beloved Pierce, and should always be known as such.

Works, too!


Dear Craig,

Aw, give the poor guy a break. Is every kiloword column supposed to be a nuanced discussion that takes into account all situations and cases?

Hell, could any of them be? Really?

Mike's talking about a broad pattern and he's right.

Reminds me of when I explained why "expose to the right" was a lousy rule of thumb, and people kept trying to argue with me about the exceptional cases. Kinda, sorta missed the point.


Dear Jeff,

This is called a "backwards (or reverse) neologism." Once upon a time computers were mostly human beings. When digital computers appeared, folks talked about "computers" and "digital computers." Similarly, we had "telephones (with rotary dials)" and "touch-tone/pushbutton phones." When the new form becomes overwhelmingly dominant, it loses its adjective and becomes the norm, while the old form acquires one. You can live with it, or you can be misunderstood. But you can't win.


Dear Bill M,

Mike wrote a column about this, I think, some years back. Random searches just waste your time, but there is a decent strategy. It's like this: presumably there are a few artists/authors/critics/whatever online whose work you especially like or admire. If they offer links to content THEY like/admire, there's a much better than random chance that you'll find that stuff meritworthy. Not always, but often enough to make the investigation worth your while. In turn, this will lead you to more people, and so on.

If you know nobody like that, you have a different problem [s].

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

At home I have two David Vestal books from the late 70s. From what I remember he recommended shooting Tri-X at 200 and metering the shadow area where you want to show detail, then stop down one stop from what the meter says. If you don't stop down, you'll make the shadows look like 18% grey, which is of course too bright.

Terrible advice. For shame. Frowny face goes here.

Every film based photographer (beginner and otherwise) should push their film, and I mean all of them. They should also pull their film, every last one.

Push it, pull it, go too far, then come back and see what works for you, not somebody else.

And don't listen to old photographers that tell you to grab a digital camera. learn how to do it with the tools you have, not the tools someone else thinks you should have.

Humbug and I say humbug again!

Given proper exposure for the situation Tri-X at 1600 works just fine and gives wondeful tones.

I truly don't get your point here. You encounter an image and you try to make it work with whatever you have handy. If it's a tree you shoot the tree with your iPhone, if it's a face you take your 28mm closer, and if it's dark you push your Tri-X. Simple as that. Cartier-Bresson (maybe a tired example) didn't pull the 8x10 out of his back pocket to take pictures of landscapes either you know.

I don't own a DSLR or other digital camera though, so what do I know... I'm also not cranky however ;)

Since I scan film (mostly Tri-X and Acros 100), I have now settled on a 2-bath Pyrocat-HD workflow. I rate Tri-X at ISO 320 and Acros at 100. The nice thing about using the 2-bath is that it develops the negs fully as long as the timing and temperature are reasonable, i.e. it's lousy for pushing or pulling. It has a flat curve meaning that more information is available for post processing. In that sense, it's rather like a RAW digital output.

It has some compensating effect and is the greatest thing since sliced bread, at leasy for hybrid workflow.

What bugs me about it is not that people push for the look or because they need the speed or just of the hell of it, it's because they 'like contrast' or 'like deep blacks'. That's all good and fine, and it's a way to sometimes reach that goal. As is adjusting contrast and black points after taking the image, either in photoshop or by selecting the grade of your print, which seems to be lost on them. And THAT is the part that bugs me.

OR you can do as my hero Eugene Smith did and expose for the highlights and develop your film (as he did in Spain) clandestinely in a toilet.

The Kennedy photo is discussed in the excellent documentary on Life photographers...


Thanks for TOP.

"But why, oh why, would anyone take the time and effort...and then not expose the film enough?"

Because everyone needs a hobby... even 21st century film hipsters?

I'm with Jeff Warden and other commenters on the value of experimenting, and of course you are too, Mike, at least in general and to a point. But they're obviously missing the point of your rant. If I may paraphrase, for the sake of clarity, it went something like this:

"Keep your damn trash off my lawn! Damn kids!"

On two-part developers: I used Diafine for over a year, and pretty much experienced what you describe, if in different proportions. Maybe one out of six rolls had something special in terms of tonality and grain. At least one out of six rolls would be spoiled (banding, incomplete development, etc.). The rest were mediocre. Eventually I tired of the odds.

I disagree about the two baths. I regularly use a variant of divided D-23 created by Barry Thornton. Nobody can tell the difference between the photos developed in that soup and those I used to develop in X-Tol or D-76. One of these days, I am going to try some divided Pyrocat MC, just to see how it looks. I make traditional, not digital prints.

Clearly, many others disagree. As always with things photographic, YMMV! :-)

"If I may paraphrase, for the sake of clarity, it went something like this: 'Keep your damn trash off my lawn! Damn kids!'"

No, really not. I don't actually care what anybody does. As long as they're having fun and not hurting anyone, they can do whatever they want and I'm fine with it. I happen to believe that good pictures are rare and must be prospected for, like gold nuggets, and I admit it gives me a slight pang when I see a great/lucky picture that's let down or ruined by poor technique; but not really. It's their picture.

What I'm really trying to do is stand up for good technique...a lot of newcomer photographers are obviously just feeling their way, doing what they're told, trying what people recommend. And it seems obvious to me that a lot of them are getting bad advice and poor recommendations, which they're dutifully following. I imagine they must be puzzled as to why their work doesn't look good. Doubtless they are blaming themselves.

My voice is just one voice, and won't counterbalance all the other voices out there, but if it's heard even a little, by a few people whom it helps, then it will be a good thing. Good results can "nourish one's enthusiasm," to quote (paraphrase?) AA.


"I disagree about the two baths. I regularly use a variant of divided D-23 created by Barry Thornton. Nobody can tell the difference between the photos developed in that soup and those I used to develop in X-Tol or D-76."

With what film(s)? It doesn't work equally well with all films, so the truth value of your statement is limited by the film(s) you're using.


I'm a pusher sometimes. I'll shoot 120 Tri-X 400 at 1200, because I'm out in the city and it's dark. When developing in Xtol, I barely get any grain and I like the results. Sure, I'd prefer to shoot at box speed or 200, but if I don't have a tripod, I'll do what I need to do.

Dear Dave,

Well, I'm confused. Mike said divided developer usually offers no benefits. You said it works for you. Where's the disagreement? You aren't disagreeing with a "usually" by offering an isolated counterexample.

Or are you saying you've tested this with a dozen or so different films so you can say with some assurance that usually it DOES offer an improvement?

pax / Ctein

Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. Kodak rates Tri-X at 400.

Nigel Tufnel: Exactly. But we push it to 1200.

Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's faster? Is it any faster?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's 800 faster, isn't it? It's not 400. You see, most blokes, you know, will be shooting at 400. You're on 400 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty DiBergi: I don't know.

Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty DiBergi: Put it up to 1200.

Nigel Tufnel: 1200. Exactly. 800 faster.

Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make 400 be the top number and shoot at 400?

Nigel Tufnel: [pause] We push to 1200.

Brian Miller, Delta 3200 is push processed to reach ISO 3200. It's rated ISO (according to Ilford) is 1250. You can push a digital file shot at ISO 800 two stops, convert to monochrome, and still have something that looks quite good... I have a couple ISO 6400+2 shots in my portfolio.

Hmm, I'm guessing that the same people pushing film for effect are the same people that do HDR for effect in digital photography. To each his own I guess, but it seems like a waste of a perfectly good emulsion to me....

I started out doing news photography in the mid-60s. Shoot Tri-X at 320 and develop in D-76 1:1 increasing the development time appropriately. If you don't have enough light to shoot at 320... that's why they make flash attachments.

By a strange coincidence I was doing a darkroom workshop with a kid this morning and when I suggested he rate his tri-x at 200, he got upset, because "I paid for 400. so I want 400!"
I think I'm going to give up on knocking common sense into 18 year olds.

Next thing we'll hear is that the young blades are throwing away their (equiv.) 50mm "kit" lenses immediately after purchasing a camera.

Remember that? It was just so coool to say you had dumped the 50mm for a 35mm (wow), plus accompany the proclamation with a superior and self-important rant against manufacturers for their 50mm stupidity and total disconnect with such hip and knowledgeable people.

Pushing and 50mm dumping - Photo Cred Central..

Bill Rogers totally wins. We can all go home now and have a beer.

We in the "old" newspaper business in the '70s (until 96 when we went digital) used Accufine if we had the money to buy it, and HC 110 Replenisher...hot, to push our film for night football..or a dingy courtroom. Tri-X of course...we got two bricks a month (100rolls)) but when those developers ran out or someone was hoarding them., we had to run the film through the old Kodak Versamat, a automatic B/W process...we slooooowed it to a crawl...that had to do the trick, but pretty flat negs... at something around asa 1600-3200. Looked pretty good on newsprint.

Mike, when the metered value is 1/15 at f/1.4 or some such, opening up three stops is not really much of an option.

The "magic" 2-bath Pyrocat that I referred to is great for scanning hybrid workflow and not so much for darkroom enlarging. The idea and the techniques are perfected by Sandy King. You can mix film and develop together; the temperature and timing are important but exactness are not required. The negs are developed fully and it's a assume that you will adjust the contrast etc. post processing. I have been using it since Oct 2011. Just take a peek at my blog and and you can see some of the results.

I remember pushing film. Colour film no less. Because, as you say, there was no friggin' choice.

I shoot digital now, and even with an APS-sized sensor, I'm doing things not possible with film.

On that note, there are people who "push" digital by underexposing at a lower ISO. They claim it's better to post-process the RAW file. I roll my eyes at them.

I was struck by how much Eppridge's picture of Bobby looks like his brother Jack. Uncanny.

Richard M,
Tough to judge critically without seeing prints, but those look great to me on the screen...maybe not quite the tones I'd pick myself but convincing and coherent.

Knowing you I'm guessing the prints do look great too.


I love cup holders.

Everything is there: blur, grain, noise, overdeveloped, underexposed :


Ha, I have never in my life pushed any film. Pulling is another story. Sometimes in the summer I'm rating Tri-X at 200 or 250. It looks almost the same to me as at 400 or 320 developed in some magic recipe almost everyone uses like D-76 1:1 (I'm normally using HC-110, dilution E). 200 or 250 ASA is enough for available light outdoor photography. In the Rolleiflex I also rarely rate it at 400 because you're easily up at 1/500s during sunny days. The same goes for Delta 100 which only looks good enough at ISO 50 or 64 in most developers or Acros 100 which I normally rate at 80 ASA. T-max is the only tablular grain film I've used that looks allright at box speed when processed in most developers. It's still the cheapest of the three. Why?

Nowadays, I rarely 'push' my K10d past 100 ISO, but back in the days before digital, it was a lot of fun. I remember one night driving around sodium lit in Toronto, shooting out the passenger window of a minivan with a zoom lens, TMZ 3200 and a plan to push to the max. Probably the same night, I sat in a dark room and read a column of some Kodak white paper giving procedures for developing to 12,500 ASA. Of course, I extrapolated and gave it a bit more juice to a completely theoretical 50,000 ASA.

Barely a shot on that roll was worth a damn, but damn I had a good time. The big difference from digital was, same as it's always been, that I couldn't look down a screen to tell if I had an image. If it was there, it was only to be extracted with unapproved alchemy and a lot of luck. I know better now, but I kind of miss the gamble.

In the dim and distant past, there used to be a magazine called Camera & Darkroom. One of the many interesting articles in it was a comparison of 400 asa b/w films.

In the article there example prints from these films. In a poll, amongst C&D's contributors, the favourite print was the one from the XP2 Super neg.

I'm just sayin'...as someone is fond of saying.

Have the hip kids figured out that if you are going to push the development, using a dirty or uncoated but sharp lens will magically improve the shadow detail?

I remember when the big thing at some magazines was to overexpose Ektachrome and have it pull developed. The transparencies looked a little flat but the guys that made the separations could make them look wonderful.


thank you for this interesting article. You had written before that for you it is all about the mid-tones, I was eager to learn more about your aesthetic sensibilities, and this is a start. Let us hear more!

In particular your suggestion to not use film for things that film is not good at resonated with me, because lately I have been thinking about what I do and why I do it.

A practical question: When you suggest to subtract 20% from the suggested development time, is that what would be commonly understood by pulling one stop? I ask because I do not develop myself (yes, I know it is supposed to be easy) but can tell the lab what I want.

And maybe you or one of the other writers could explain with the help of some diagrams the differences between, say, exposing and developing for half the rated speed versus rated speed? And also between just underexposing and trying to salvage the picture by appropriate scanning versus using the same exposure and push developing?

Oh, and of course I cannot resist, so with my apologies:
HP5 at 3200, 40mm/2, 1/30 s and hoping for the best.


There's the story of the film representative talking to the media at a press conference to announce a breakthrough technology in film emulsion. He explains that the new film has a super-fine grain and an ISO rating of 204,800. All the hands in the crowd go up and in unison they ask, "How far can you push it?"

Personally, I rarely like the look of pulled fast B&W. Tri-X at EI200? Ugh. APX 400 wasn't bad at EI 250, but then it looked like Tri-X at EI1600 when shot at 400. HP5+ has the blahs until EI 800.

If I'm shooting Tri-X or HP5+, I'm not looking for it to look like Plus-X or FP4+, just faster. If I want that look, I'll shoot that film. For me traditional ISO 400 B&W is about the grit and that shows up even better with some push.

Heck I've been known to push HP5+ to EI 3200 and shoot in daylight and still get results I like (although that's not SOP, usually just finishing off a roll left over from twilight/night shooting).

It's about what works for you. Like Tri-X at EI200? Go wild. Don't expect me to since it's not my bag and I won't expect you to rave about the wonders of Tri-X at EI1600 in TMax Dev.

My four-and-a-half year old girl is saying, Miss Kelly (her daycare teacher) said: Don't push!

A few years back, on a whim I stopped into a gallery (in or near Santa Fe, NM). On display was a fire damaged print of the Ettridge, Bobby Kennedy photo for sale at some horrendous price (US$50k or in that order). The blurb the gallery posted next to the print explained the story of the pic. and "push" of the film in development but went on to say that the resulting neg. was then enlarged in printing (from memory to 11 x 14 but maybe 16 x 20 inches) biased towards to exposing the highlights with as much possible detail. That print was rephotographed on 4 x 5 inch film. The 4 x 5 neg. was them retouched (there you go Mike, another joy of the old-fashioned way; not) to - um - hide the problems from pushing the development and saving the highlights. All further prints were made from cropped enlargements of the retouched 4 x 5 neg..

If the story is true (and I suppose it is verifiable), it might explain why the edges of the 35 mm negative in the Tim Mantoani portrait (posted in TimD's comment) are showing- the print in that portrait would be straight from the 4 x 5 neg..

Of course, the print I saw for sale was (or was supposed to be) the original print from the 35 mm neg. before it was rephotographed, etc. There had been a fire somewhere or other and the print was what had been saved. It was displayed next to a print from the 4 x 5 neg. (not included in the price and only asking about US$5k), which was an original print from the 4 x 5 neg. as published and sold. If the story was true, the retouching on the 4 x 5 neg. was significant, particularly in removing white specking from the shadows.

Well. That (Epperidge) negative is vastly crappier than I'd misremembered. I'd still like to see the reproduction of the straight print, as mentioned above. Amazing that a better-than-decent image was printed from that neg.

My general rule is: expose at box speed + 1/3 stop, reduce devtime by approx 10%.

My favourite is Tri-X shot at 320 in HC-110 B for 6.5 minutes (that is 30 secs off the base time). This combo gives me results I'm very happy with.

"What I'm really trying to do is stand up for good technique."

Very well, Mike. It's not that I didn't get that sentiment, or any of the sentiments you protest were there and were overlooked by others; they were not, at least by me. And I certainly know that you've stood up for good technique countless other times, here and elsewhere. But this post was also covered in a thick crust of benevolent-curmudgeon tirade, which my comment focused on.

My comment on its own didn't convey all this, and purported to interpret your message, even if tongue-in-cheek, and you are right to set the record straight, and I'm sorry to have made you.

But I hope you understand how this one came across as being more about putting down a particular technique (and, perhaps more importantly, bad advice) than about standing up for good technique. Not that there's anything wrong with the former, but I look forward to the follow-up, which I expect will elaborate on the latter.

Mike and Ctein,

Sorry, I was away all day yesterday.

I have used two bath developers, specifically Diafine, Divided D-76, and Thornton’s version of Divided D-23 over many years. I have only used DD-76 with HP5+, so let’s set that one aside.

I learned how to develop film with Diafine, and soon moved on to other developers, notably Microdol-X and I think my Dad and I might have used some Acufine for a while. Once I tried D-76, I stuck with that for a long time. So, for most of my life as a photographer, I used D-76/ID-11 1:1 and then switched to X-Tol, which I mostly used 1:3.

To the best of my recollection I have used Diafine with the following films.
Plus-X - 35mm
Tri-X (400) - 35mm
FP4+ - 120 and sheet film
HP5+ - 35mm, 120, and sheet film
T-Max100 - 35mm

I may have also used it with Delta 100 and Delta 400 in roll film. It is probable, but I cannot remember for sure, so lets leave them out of this.

I found that it worked fine and I got excellent results. I was all of the films in this developer, except for the TMAX 100. I never liked that film much in standard developers, and I did not like it in Diafine. I never found that I could use the films at the higher speeds indicated by the manufacturer (which I think goes to the main point of Mike’s post). Typically, I found that the films worked best for me in around ½ rated speed. For Diafine, 35mm and 120 were developed in either Jobo or Patterson tanks. Sheet film was developed in hangers or in a slosher.

I have used Thorrnton’s 2-bath with the following films:
FP4+ - sheet film
HP5+ - 120 and sheet film
Delta 100 - sheet film
Foma 200 (Arista.EduUltra 200) - sheet film

I may have also used it with 120 Delta 400, but again cannot remember for sure, so drop that one from the discussion.

Roll films were developed in Patterson tanks. Sheet films in either a slosher, or more recently, a Jobo Expert drum rotating on an old motorized roller base.

Again, I have gotten excellent results with this developer. No problems with messing up and ruining the film. Nice negatives, easily printable with grade 2 or 3 filters most of the time. All this over many years of photography.

Add to this the experience of other photographers with whom I have had contact over the past few years who also use the two bath method. I have not heard a single one complain about ruining their film, and many who were surprised by the results. The most notable is Sandy King, who wrote an article for View Camera Magazine (July/August 2008) about using Diafine or Divided D-23 to develop negatives for scanning. Professor King used these developers with FP4+, HP5+, TMAX100, TMAX400, and Tri-X 320 in a testing environment and concluded that “The two-bath method is about as close as one can get to a magic bullet in development if scanning and printing digitally is intended.” Although not included in his article, Professor King and others successfully use one or more of King’s Pyrocat developers as a two bath film developer.

In subsequent conversations with Professor King, he indicated that he agreed that this method of development is also valid when used in a traditional darkroom using VC paper and filters, as I do. He indicates that he would prefer to use traditional time and temperature development techniques with sheet film as he would prefer the additional sheet-by-sheet control that process affords. For me, I am satisfied with the two bath, finding it simpler, and equally effective as the time and temperature process I used for most of my life, especially for roll film.

After the aforementioned article came out, many large format photographers tried Professor King’s techniques. Not all jumped on board. Not all rejected them either. Most probably use them for scanning negatives for digital printing. There were many discussion of this on the Large Format Forum, and on APUG.org.

I think the advantage of traditional development techniques is less apparent when dealing with roll film, which is likely to have scenes with different contrast ranges on the same roll. Which scene should we develop for? The one in harsh bright sunlight, or the one entirely in deep shadow? Unless all frames are taken in a scene appropriate for normal development, some frames will be just right, others just wrong. Often, you don’t know which frame you want to be right until you see the proofs, which is too late adjust development. If the one you want was not the right scene for the development you chose, you are going to have to engage in various antics in the darkroom to try to make things as right as you can. The divided development technique helps avoid this.

So, a dozen films? No. Many? Yes. Did I run a controlled test? No.

Does the technique work for photographers like the late Barry Thornton and Sandy King, and people like me that nobody ever heard of? Yes, in many instances, for both “analog” and hybrid photography.

When Mike said “ . . . 96% of the time, they yield anything up to almost-but-not-quite as good quality as standard MQ developers used normally, with the disadvantage of making the process generally less controllable, less understandable, and more finicky and laborious . . . .” I disagreed.
I think that worrying less about time and temperature, and more about proper agitation techniques make the film developing process more enjoyable and result in fine negatives that enable the darkroom worker or digital printer to express their art as they like.

I am not the only one that likes two baths. Many others don’t like them, for whatever reason. As I mentioned above, YMMV. As Mike mentioned above, there is no one right way.

Mark Lacey, that sounds so like me. If I wanted slower film, I'd buy slower film; no way would I ever consider shooting TRI-X at anything below 400.

I'm not even going to read all the comments (there's not likely a single one that I haven't read elsewhere on the vast sea of Internet expert-ness,) but just say that my "style" and choice of materials and method changes over time.

Right now I'm in a period of considering ISO 100-ish films (e.g. TMX, Delta 100, FP-4+) fast, and the "right" film for my work is something like Pan-F+ @ EI 32~40. More pictorial? Yes; nothing wrong with that.

It's fun to look back and see how my style and tastes have evolved.

It's rated ISO (according to Ilford) is 1250.

It says 1000 in their data sheet.

Ah, but how about the other side of the medal.....what good would it do to overexpose and to "pull" film instaid of pushing? I know for instance that the lads at Ilford can pull Pan F to 25 ASA, does it reduce grain size.....at 20 degrees C its only a minute less developing time......says Ilford in its fact sheet:


Greetings, Ed (http://blogger.xs4all.nl/stomoxys)

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007