« If You're Looking for that Classic Film Look, Try Classic Film | Main | The DIGITAL Glow »

Monday, 07 May 2018


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

Ah, but what recipe with digital? I imagine SilverEfex would be a part. The lenses for digital are all very sharp, but there are also issues with using old lenses on new bodies (though it can be a lot of fun!) And assuming a regular digital print (and not an interneg), what paper (and printer. And ink. Argh.)

'Use an older lens. An old, fast "long normal" lens‚ a 58mm ƒ/1.4 or ƒ/1.2‚ works wonderfully.'

I've been having a lot of fun with a Canon FL 58/1.2. As "A standard lens for 35mm SLR cameras with the largest aperture in the world when marketed (2/62)." , it has lots of the aberrations that contribute to Glow.

I am neither shooting film nor printing in monochrome, but it sure does Glow, to the extent that I often prefer f2.0 to wide open.

'Various makers made 'em and you can get 'em on eBay for a song.'

I don't know if $178 is " . . . a song.' Perhaps so, compared to original price inflated. I looked at samples and concluded that it's as bad (good) as the currently hot Rokkor that's going for more $$.

So.....can you coax "The Glow" out of your XTi files processed with Silver Efex Pro and printed on the Epson 800? Inquiring minds want to know!

Okay. I am an old Pentax fanboy starting in 1980 with the K-1000 and SMC 50mm f2.0 lens. I still have it (along with a variety of other Pentax and Minolta film cameras) and it still works. I have recently been seeing some of Ned Bunnell's work with old Takumar's on his digital K-series cameras and have thought of getting a Spotmatic and screw mount lenses. Would you recommend the Takumar, SMC Takumar, or the Super Takumar? I have decided on the Spotmatic F and just need to pick a lens and go! Thank you for the re-post of the article. I might just have to print this one for my notebook!

Mike, Thank you for that post. It not only reminds us that the editor is a seasoned and knowledgeable author, but a preeminently skilled photographer as well. The techniques may be of older procedures, but transferable to the digital realm, by not the least, their layered nature of changeable aspects.

Indeed, that Nikkor normal is gawdawful. Harsh bokeh too.

My fave silver paper was Agfa Record Rapid. Such deep, warm blacks, wonderful. The plastic paper Portriga Speed was almost as good, amazingly. (I think that was the name.)

Good one, Mike. Thanks.

"Don’t use a thin-emulsion film; stick with old-fashioned conventional emulsions"


The plate making guys I dealt with in the late 70s did their best work from repros of dark low contrast RC glossy prints that looked absolutely awful. If you dig around in newspaper morgues, the prints all are kind of muddy.

On the other hand Ralph Gibson...

Is there an analog to digital converter for this recipe?

A photo with lots of glow-

[Sparkles! --Mike]

Just out of interest Mike; Is this anything to do with the "Leica Glow" and will Zeiss do?

I only ask because Haaselblad used Zeiss lenses in the "old days", and Leica used to make nice lenses.

Great article. I enjoyed experimenting in different, alternative printing techniques years ago. Too old and lazy right now to bother.
Could you imagine the gallery goers losing their minds today if there were orotone (gold tone) or platinum prints on display.
To tell you the truth..there was a certain kind of "glow" from the platinum prints. But a real PITA to wotk with.

A little glow from ‘72 or ‘73 taken in the Boston Common. M4, 50mm Cron, Tri-X and Ilford Galerie:



Your "glow" article synches with me. I use a Leica 50mm Summilux-M lens for almost all my B&W shooting now.

In the darkroom, I'm torn between a Rodenstock Apo-Rodagon-N or a Leitz Focotar-2. Having used the latter, if precision or sharpness is not of great concern, the Focotar wins.

Dan K.

May have to get that Takumar out of storage. Not sure where I'll find any fresh Plus-X however ...

For the first time in recent memory this is enough to make me consider trying to resurrect my darkroom. At least the wastebasket would still of necessity be functional. Somewhat related, I'm curious if there is a general consensus about the Fuji monochrome, Acros and filters simulation modes?

This makes me nostalgic for my darkroom... but not nostalgic enough to start it up again! This post is a good reminder of how incredibly hard it was to get to 'mastery' in black and white printing.

I would love to see you update this post for digital, from the shooting, processing and printing sides. You had some posts last year on black and white digital, but I think there's room for more.

And finally, if you're going to be re-publishing things you wrote on LuLu, I still think your piece on "contrast" from 2012 is clearer and more relevant than most of what I've read since. How about re-doing that one? https://luminous-landscape.com/understanding-lens-contrast/

Great article, Mike- I will print the article -
I only contact print these days, but the old papers are available if you know where to look.

Your recent mention of cinematography and now older lenses reminded me of an article I read recently on the way cinematography has transformed some of the big budget cable series. They mention that the series Atlanta is "shooting in Super 16 using super-old garbage hand lenses." Some of the other big shows from the last few years have a beautiful look that must come from this new freedom to innovate, advancement in technology, and BIG money. I think I read somewhere that a Game of Thrones episode can cost 8-10 million.


The good old days when photography was all silver based! The Hunt bros. are still cursing digital photography from their graves!

Lenses certainly make a difference.
The old (pre-Pentax) Takumars, for example, have plenty of resolution on digital, but considerably less contract than modern lenses.

It's a look I like.

James Ravilious, whose documentation of life in rural Devon is one of the great accomplishments of 20th century photography, was master of the "glow," although that was by no means his primary purpose.

Photographing contrasty scenes, often backlighted, an effect that he preferred, he early on learned to rate his HP-5 at 200 and reduce development. He also turned to older, softer, even uncoated, lenses for his Leica to give his prints the sharp, yet soft look he sought.

A post very much after my own heart, one of the kind that keeps me trawling photo blogs for daily. Instructive and a joy to read.

A lover of good tone aspiring to competence in printing and a convert to digital, I believe that many of your readers besides myself would be interested to know your take on the digital print in this regard. Can it 'glow' too? And how does it otherwise compare in other tangible and intangible aspects of photographic printing?

PS In my film days I had both a 50mm f/1.4 Pentax Super-Takumar and a 50mm f/2 Leica Summicron, and I found the Takumar superior in every way. It was a very noble lens, very sharp yet mellow, and mechanically smooth as butter.

Thanks for the hints, much appreciated.
Unlike most nowadays, I still enjoy B&W film particularly for any photos of people and portraits. Yeah, the best description is indeed: "the glow".

My memory may be failing me, but I vaguely recall you wrote an article back in the 37th Frame days (maybe earlier, maybe later, maybe I'm crazy) about how to get 'The Look'. All I really remember were two details. 1: (and most important) was to use a tripod. 2: was to use Tri-X film. I am certain you wrote an article/column somewhere with this advice.

Knowing Mike of the 21st century, I'd guess that the material choice of Tri X was only the example you gave for your own workflow, but I distinctly recall the exhortation to use a tripod as the key.


Clearly I've been doing it wrong all my life! Never rated a B&W film below the nominal, nearly always pushed the fastest B&W film, used Agfa #6 paper where necessary, always preferred condenser enlargers (yeah, not actual point-source ones).

These were necessary to get pictures at all in many of the conditions I shot in. Sacrificing speed is fine for outdoors in the sun and stationary subjects, no doubt, but I rarely shoot those.

Let’s admit it, all that darkroom stuff was a “faff”. Just compare the work involved in keeping a pony and trap, with running a Mazda MX-5.

It is just a question of time, maybe, but two remaining “thrills”, that the digital age has to conquer ....

1) Just hold a Cibachrome (now, there’s a good strapline for someone)

2) Just gasp at projected medium format (my currrent passion)

That is, unless TOP or it’s readers can convince otherwise.

Excellent advice and given the number of young people rediscovering film it is also timely.
If I may I would also recommend that to achieve the "glow' you need to mind not just your film/developer choice but also how you choose to agitate your film during the development step.
I was taught that the best results for B&W roll film development came by using stainless tanks. First tapping them on the sink to break loose any air bells on the film followed by 30 seconds of agitation and then five seconds of agitation at the top of each minute.
My understanding is that by leaving the film to stand in still developer for 55 seconds at a time it gave the developer next to the highlights an opportunity to partially expend itself while also giving the developer next to the shadows time to work more aggressively.
I don't know if this is an old wives tale like the idea that hypo is heavier and thus drains out the bottom of a washer. It is however how I have always processed roll film and I like the full detail most of my negatives show.

I highly recommend the RPX emulsions from Rollei. RPX 100 is my favourite so far. I haven’t played much with the 400, and I messed up a roll of 25, but I have seen good stuff from both. The 100 impresses me as silver rich and “old school” ... whatever that means.I’ve had lovely results in (forgive me, Mike,) in Rodinal and next I will try (forgive me again) Pyrocat HD. Maybe I’ll even try D76 or a clone.

The only drawback is the price of the Rollei-branded emulsions; they are about 50% more than other b&w films. I don’t know why this is.

The best prints I ever made were developed in Weston’s Amidol.

Hugh's right: flattish prints were recommended for reproduction because copying always - pretty much always - introduced unwanted contrast; it was an unavoidable part of the copying process whether in the studio or in a process house. But muddy? That's a bit OTT.

Regarding HC-B and his foibles re. prints: I think the old guy played mind games with those around him. Holding a sheet of contacts upside down in order to evaluate the graphics smacks, to me, of having been caught out looking at something the wrong way up because you forgot your glasses that day.

He had the weight, the popular gravitas to get away with that kind of crap.


There's rating film speeds (black-white) at all manner of fancy speeds, (remember ASA, anyone?) but that means precious little in the grander scheme of things if you don't understand how to use your exposure meter for the subject that confronts you.

Unless you are reading the correct part of the subject, then what on Earth do you imagine your speeds really mean?

Insofar as film/processing goes, I would suggest forgetting everything except D76/ID11 used 1+1. When you know that chemistry well, process consistently, most of your problems vanish.

Like many things, the more often you do if, the better you might get.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007