Flat

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by hammy, Apr 12, 2006.

  1. hammy

    hammy Member

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    I shot and developed a roll of HP5 today (35mm). My photos have all come out very "flat" looking.

    I've never taken shots on an overcast day. Today was very overcast.
    In overcast situations, is this flatness just plain unavoidable?
    Are there any ways or tricks to improve this (ie: Shooting techniques, developing)?
     

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  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Looks a bit overexposed, and the contrast is off a bit, at least on my monitor, I might have played a bit with a filtration to see what would have given you best effect, I agree it does look a bit flat.

    Dave
     
  3. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Flat usually means underdeveloped.
     
  4. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    And, I will add, that if you are used to shooting in high contrast situations, you may have settled on a developing time that is a little short to compensate. Now that you have shot in overcast conditions, your worked out times might not serve you quite so well.
     
  5. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    You can also look into filters: I find a yellow filter gives my photos a little extra "zing" in most conditions, especially when the light is flat.
    Of course, I would only do that after you follow the above advice (these guys know their stuff!) - there is no coloured piece of glass that can replace good fundamentals and understanding of controlling your exposure and exposure/development relationship.
    Are you developing/printing these yourself, or are they from a lab, by the way?

    Peter.
     
  6. metod

    metod Member

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    I would also add that HP5+ in general looks flat. I was always disappointed in its muddy looks. The film is very suitable for pushing though, which increases the contrast and gives the film more life. Try push it (less exposure, more development) and see if you like the results.

    Metod
     
  7. lee

    lee Member

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    if HP5 looks flat MAYBE you need to develop it a little longer. I shot HP5 for years rated it at 200 and used PMK dev not a peoblem.

    lee\c
     
  8. hammy

    hammy Member

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    I was using one of my grandfather's old Minolta's. The light meter in it has proved tricky for me to use, so any under/over exposure is likely.

    I do the developing myself. I used D76 at 18C for 9 minutes. I'm not sure, I know the "ideal" temperture is around 20C/68F but I have no ways of heating my chemicals, do chemical temperatures have any affect on how the negatives will turn out looking?

    I have to admit that I do love high contrast and am used to high contrast situations.

    I was considering pushing the HP5 for more contrast. I'll try that next.

    I will also look into some colored filters. I currently have a UV and a polarizer. Could the polarizer help at all in this situation? I've read that they can enhance things sometimes, but have not done any experimenting.

    Considering the film, I use HP5+ for a few reasons: I generally love the look it gives in most situations, this one being an exception - I'm wondering if it's the film or just me, or a combination of both. I'm new to the chemical side of photography, and HP5 has been easiest and managable for me to do, HP5 is relatively cheap and easy for me to get at my local camera store.

    Any other films I could consider?
     
  9. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Is that a neg scan or a print scan?
    If it is a neg scan I think you oughta try printing.
    And you may use curves to adjust your scans. (just like in the example below)

    If it is a print scan, use a higher number filter.

    IMHO it is a full scale negative you have in there, properly exposed for the shadows and probably a tad overdeveloped for the highlight.
    Anyway in a wet darkroom you should be able to print it easily.
     

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  10. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    My answers in italics

    I was using one of my grandfather's old Minolta's. The light meter in it has proved tricky for me to use, so any under/over exposure is likely.
    I think your image os properly exposed

    I do the developing myself. I used D76 at 18C for 9 minutes. I'm not sure, I know the "ideal" temperture is around 20C/68F but I have no ways of heating my chemicals, do chemical temperatures have any affect on how the negatives will turn out looking?
    Development is temp sensitive, warmer developer will act faster and colder slower.
    Check in the Ilford website for a time-temp adjustment chart.
    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/download.asp?n=430


    I have to admit that I do love high contrast and am used to high contrast situations.

    I was considering pushing the HP5 for more contrast. I'll try that next.
    You may try that yes, but I think your next idea is better

    I will also look into some colored filters. I currently have a UV and a polarizer. Could the polarizer help at all in this situation? I've read that they can enhance things sometimes, but have not done any experimenting.
    Polarizer would have probably not helped you in an overcast day.
    Use it to darken sky or to make reflections in glass or water less noticeable, it is a very useful filter, but it is too easy to over-use it
    A yellow or orange filter would be far more useful for BW photography


    Considering the film, I use HP5+ for a few reasons: I generally love the look it gives in most situations, this one being an exception - I'm wondering if it's the film or just me, or a combination of both. I'm new to the chemical side of photography, and HP5 has been easiest and managable for me to do, HP5 is relatively cheap and easy for me to get at my local camera store.

    Your image looks very good for HP5+ in an overcast day, you may just have to learn some post processing

    Any other films I could consider?
    As of now, keep shooting HP5, and learn the quirks of it. Stick to D76/Id11 (they are the same)
    After you are satisfied that you can squeeze some good pics from HP5 move on, I'd reccomend FP4 which is slower or Fuji Neopan 400
     
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  11. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    When I look at your thumbnail, I don't think that the image was underexposed, overexposed, or underdeveloped. At least the shadow areas and the highlight areas don't indicate that to me.

    If anything, judging from the roof of the house, it may actually be a slight amount over developed.

    The problem that exists in this thumbnail is that you are dealing with a moderate to high overall contrast (roof to window openings) and a low local contrast (all of the midtones).

    The problem that exists is how do maximize the local contrast while living within the confines of acceptable overall contrast.

    There are several ways of accomplishing this during the printing. The first and easiest is to preflash the paper. Since the house roof is a relatively small part of the total image, this will probably be sufficient. When you preflash the paper, the highlights will compress downward allowing you to use higher contrast filtration or higher grade of paper to increase the local contrast. The net effect is a compression of the overall contrast to allow a higher contrast at printing to maximize the local contrast.

    Another way would be to unsharp mask the negative. The unsharp masking would compress the shadow details upwards and again allow higher contrast filtration or higher grade paper to increase local contrast. This would also work in this instance since the deep shadow areas are small in relation to the rest of the image. The net effect is the same as in preflashing the paper...that is compressing the overall contrast thereby allowing an increase in local contrast.

    The difference in the two methods is that they work on opposite ends of the tonal scale.

    There is no hard and fast rule about which tool to use and at what time. For instance preflashing paper is not always the proper course of action...nor is unsharp masking.

    But, I repeat, based upon the thumbnail, to suggest that you didn't expose or develop the film properly is not being correct in my opinion.
     
  12. Sibbie Song

    Sibbie Song Member

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    As for heating your chemicals and regulating the temperature, try putting your bottle of developer in a tray filled with warm water. Stir the contents every so often and check the temperature. If you let it sit for a while the temperature will come up to where you need it. I use warm water baths every time I develop film because I work out of my garage.
     
  13. jon furer

    jon furer Member

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    Basic rule of thumb...if you want contrastier negs, underexpose, over-develop. In particular, on an overcast day, you should develop for N+1 (which means generally 20-30% increase in dev for this).
     
  14. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    My basic rule of thumb is: never underexpose. I can deal effectively with any other mistake later, but not underexposure. If there is insufficient support in the shadows, I'm flat out screwed the instant I trip the shutter and there's nothing I can do about it. Over or under development or overexposure are all dealt with in the printing. When in doubt, give it more light and not less.

    I agree with Donald that the key to the quality you seek in a print (whatever it may be) is in controlling local contrast. Sometimes it's in the middle, sometimes at either or both ends of the scale but it's the difference between a nice, or even excellent print and a jaw dropper.

    Your negative contains enough information so that you can produce a fine print from it. Concentrate on the printing.
     
  15. hammy

    hammy Member

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    Thank you all for your suggestions.
    I used a time/development chart with lines to determine my development time.
    The Ilford chart recommends 9:15 at 18C, so it looks like my development time of 9 min at 18C was around the correct time.

    This was a simple negative scan done with my flatbed scanner. I'm really low on paper and haven't tried printing. I don't even particularly like this shot, it was just a good example of the look of the batch.

    So it seems the answer is underexpose/overdevelop (although I do see the point c6h6o3 has made regarding this), colored filters, and good tactical printing.

    I will try them all, and see what I can get.
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I strongly second what Jim Shanesy (c6h6o3) said about underexposing and overdeveloping. That may be what some people will recommend but it is a sure recipe for empty shadows. I guess if that is what you want then you should do it.
     
  17. hammy

    hammy Member

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    Donald, can you explain to me "empty shadows"? I can understand what you're saying but can't visualise it.
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Empty shadows are shadow with no discernable detail. This condition occurs when one underexposes film.

    Exposure is necessary for shadow exposure. Proper developement is required for proper negative density range which is required for proper contrast and highlight rendition.

    Hope that this helps.
     
  19. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    And thus the myth of "pushing", right?
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Exactly. Perfection XR-1 was supposedly a true push developer, but I never used it. The one thing which does increase effective speed is semi-stand development. If I'm going to be developing that way I'll rate my TMax at 400 instead of 200, but that technique is only aesthetically viable for certain types of subject matter.
     
  21. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Pushed film never has the appropriate contrast or shadow detail, in my opinion. While increased development will affect film speed and exposure to a certain extent, densitometric tests don't indicate that it is on the order of the magnitudes that some propose.

    There are of course, situations where underexposing and overdeveloping will be the only alternative to not achieving an image. There are trade offs in these situations. There is no free lunch.
     
  22. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    Every time I see this satement, I wonder how it is done. I suspect that each photographer has a personal way of rating film, but the procedure is never specified. I wonder how it happens that "box speed" works for the way I use it, but not for many if not most others.

    The ancient rule, even older than I, was "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights" so I set my exposure meter at 4 times the box speed and read what is often called Zone III. I don't always have the luxury of shooting a whole roll of film on the same scene brightness range, but the shadows are taken care of by the exposure and the highlights by printing contrast, sometimes by burning. IMHO, the wide range subjects can be dull when a straight print fits the paper range, so need dodging and/or burning no matter how you develop the negative. If you develop to get the scene on grade 2, you often find that you need grade 3 with burning in of the highs.

    Enough lecturing from me.
     
  23. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I'm not sure which statement you mean, but if you're referring to how I rate the film I just set the meter on either 200 or 400 and read the shadows. I then place the Zone IV mark on my Zone VI-modified spot meter next to whatever number I just read. Then I check to see where the highlights fall at this setting and develop the film accordingly after I make the picture. How did I arrive at the 200 setting? It's the one that consistently yields the best prints on the paper I use.
     
  24. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Assuming this thumbnail as a scan would turn out exactly like this as a print, I'd just try increasing the print contrast to see what improvement that gave you. This shot looks almost identical to a print I deliberately did at grade 1 to see what would happen. I was amazed at the amount of flat grey veiled look it produced.

    It required grade 4 eventually to suit my taste. The difference was substantial. It's worth "wasting" 4-5 prints just to see what effect the different grades have on the print. You only need to do it once and that way you can have a permanent comparison stuck to your darkroom wall.

    Most printing books recommend this as an exercise for a beginner. I am sorry I didn't follow this advice sooner.

    pentaxuser