Pushy photographers

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by michael_r, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    I'm curious - why do we see so many threads/questions about pushing film?

    Ok, back in the day when press/reportage etc photographers were firing away with Tri-X they did what they had to do to get a shot. Alternatively, the effect on image characteristics is ocasionally used for aesthetic purposes.

    But it seems like many people are just pushing film because they think they're getting significantly more real speed, and trying to figure out which developer is best, and they're using it as their normal procedure.

    I guess aside from some kind of special effect, I've always thought of pushing (ie underexposing and overdeveloping) as a last resort.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 7, 2013
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I don't do it unless I can justify it, for two reasons:

    1. The light is too low to shoot at box speed, but the subject matter is interesting enough that I have to try anyway.
    2. To help with tonality. For example, TMax 100 shot at 250-400, push processed in Xtol 1+1 to normal highlight density, agitated every minute, has a tonality that's remarkably similar to Kodak TXP. TMY-2 @ EI 1,000-1,250 with similar treatment is another option for that. (This was something I did to prove to folks that just because one film is going down the tubes doesn't mean that all is lost, so this I actually don't use anymore).

    There was a time where I tried to push process quite a few different films, and at the time it was interesting to do, but I quickly realized that it is a compromise, and like you I now consider it a last resort. Today 99% of the time I expose somewhere between EI 200 and 500 with Tri-X depending on lighting conditions, all of which I consider 'normal' exposure.
     
  3. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    I personally think it is for two reasons: (1) it makes interesting conversation and (2) some photographers fear flash or tripods.
     
  4. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

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    Even back when I made some good spending money shooting weddings and the like I only really needed to push a few times. Now, a night football shooter might do it 100% of the time just to try to cut down motion blur, but for me it was more playing around then anything. I did like Diafine/Tri-X, but really don't know if that was considered "pushing" or not. If I really need speed now I grab my Canon 5D and fast lens. Opp! Sorry about that, but it just the facts. Right now I'm stuck around ISO 100 and can't seem to move the ASA/ISO dial. I just never thought you got the best out of your materials by pushing. JohnW
     
  5. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    I have pushed processed for theatrical work where there was no other option and even f2 wasn't enough. These days I take a very conservative view of box speed unless there's a particular need. I am also tending to use larger formats. It may be a generational thing.
     
  6. horacekenneth

    horacekenneth Member

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    It's Winter and I want to shoot indoor mostly without flash. Also I wanted visible grain so pushing a 400 speed film seemed the right way to go rather than a 3200 speed film or something.

    Also 3200 speed films are really expensive.
     
  7. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Why not use a tripod indoors? Depends on what kind of photography I suppose.

    I admit I had no idea the "super speed" films were more expensive.
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    That might be true; I'm not sure how many people think of it as a magic procedure that produces more "real" speed (meaning toe speed, I suppose), vs. recognizing that the ostensible speed increase is only partial. You can, of course, get a "true" speed increase in any part of the film that doesn't go to completion under normal development, but it's not clear to me if anything can be said in general about what levels of exposure that represents.

    I happen to have a pushed image on the shelf next to me---TX at 1250 in Diafine---and I'm pondering whether I see anything in the image that really suggests the speed increase is an illusion (which of course it is). The contrast is pretty high and it has the gritty TX-in-Diafine look, but it doesn't give the impression of empty shadows. There are featureless black areas, of course, but they look fairly natural. The action is in the midtones, which really *are* faster when pushed. To my mind that's the definition of a situation well suited for non-special-effect pushing---you aren't trying to bring Zone Absolutely No Photons Got Here up to Zone II or whatever, you're trying to steepen the contrast curve so that the image is dominated by upper-midrange or midrange-midrange values instead of lower-midrange.

    -NT
     
  9. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    ...and they aren't actually ISO 3200, they're just optimized for pushing. Delta 3200 is an ISO 1000 film, if I remember aright, so box speed is actually a push.

    -NT
     
  10. horacekenneth

    horacekenneth Member

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    Oh interesting.

    So far in my limited personal experience I'm not looking for much shadow detail, I want nice dark shadows but then upper range values that don't seem out of place. I don't know what muddy looks like but I keep trying to push and it just doesn't work - it doesn't work in my mids and highlights, the shadows are fine. Part of the issue may be that I suck at scanning, I'm working on doing more actual darkroom prints but those have their own problems for me.
     
  11. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Many folks like avail light. Where press photog's back in the day using flash? I presume and that might explain the variance to some degree.
     
  12. dazey

    dazey Member

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    If you shoot available light in dim environments then even with f1.4 lenses you can find yourself wanting fast films. I am coming back to film from digital, my D3 spends a lot of time in the 2500-3200 range and I shoot it up to 6400. I am looking forward to being able to shoot at real ISO100 in studio, but still want to be able to work in hi ISOs for other events.
     
  13. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    I push film because 3200 film isn't available in sheet sizes. Also, how about those low-light situations when f/2.8 gives you a 1/2 second shutter time at 3200? That's wide open for my 645.

    When shooting in low light, things are going to be different from normal daylight. You have reciprocity correction, you have pushing the film, you have metering difficulties, etc. Things change.

    Of course pushing doesn't mean a real speed increase. However, it is the difference between not having a workable photograph at all. Take a look at Occupy Everett photos in the gallery. That was done at f/2.8, 1/2sec. There is a *lot* of movement that can happen in 1/2 second, which means that someone's limbs can completely disappear. When people's heads are bobbing around, 1/2 second is too slow for the shutter speed. So I had to wait until they paused for a bit to have recognizable people in the shot.

    As for TMax 400, it's OK to 1600, but at 3200 the lowest it will register on a gray scale is about the normal midpoint, and there's nothing beyond that. What I always recommend is that a person needs to do their own testing, and do it with an actual gray scale, like the Kodak test targets.
     
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  15. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I agree about 'type' of photography matters. From my own perspective, I shoot a lot of hand held portraiture. Using a tripod is usually not going to work unless I am working with somebody that is good at posing, because it takes away that element of spontaneity and surprise, where people are not yet quite realizing they are being photographed, where they look relaxed and natural. After that moment has gone, 90% of people freeze up and start to try to 'look their best', resulting in them looking completely unnatural, stiff, and frozen up and there simply is no time to readjust a tripod. It's a matter of a split second, and it's busy work just to get the focus perfectly done.
    The attached picture of my second cousin Carolin is basically a 'surprise' moment, where she wasn't really aware that I was pointing the camera at her until I made her aware. The next frame was terrible. That was Tri-X at 800.
     

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  16. dazey

    dazey Member

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    Nice portrait!
     
  17. horacekenneth

    horacekenneth Member

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    what did you develop that portrait in? It's great!
     
  18. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It doesn't really matter what the developer is, but I chose one where the highlights were easily held in check with agitation every three minutes, due to the strong light from her right.

    The point is that if she would have been more aware, the moment would have been lost, hence not doable with a tripod.
     
  19. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I agree completely, as are many photographic chemical/time/temperature variations which are not necessary and often detrimental to the final image characteristics.
     
  20. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Horacekenneth:

    All things equal, a compensating/acutance developer would normally be best for pushing. They typically provide the highest film speeds to begin with, and when overdeveloping it is easier to restrain contrast. This can also be accomplished to some extent with diluted solvent developers, but in some cases such as D-76, dilution does not produce a true speed increase.

    To maximize a film's real speed, most true acutance/compensating formulas tend to produce a small speed increase (not a push), and there are some solvent developers that do this too - typically they are Phenidone-based developers like XTOL, Microphen, DD-X, TMax.

    These properties vary from film to film, of course. It also depends greatly on the amount of shadow detail/local contrast you personally prefer. I like full shadow separations, so for me, based on my testing I've never found so-called speed increasing developers to really give me a useful speed increase. What they do offer me is less of a speed loss with contracted development. Others might come to very different conclusions. Some people say developers like FX-1, FX-2, and some two-baths like Diafine give them a full extra stop or real speed above box speed with non-tabular films.
     
  21. horacekenneth

    horacekenneth Member

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    I like the grain size and the tones more than anything else, the developer matters pretty strongly there as far as I understand.
     
  22. Helinophoto

    Helinophoto Member

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    I sometimes push, just to see what I'll end up with and for the experiment, I rarely push for necessity actually :smile:
     
  23. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I totally agree.
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I shoot box speed. I have not had a reason to push film, even to available light photography. It is a tool which I may have to use at some time, so I do not rule it out.
     
  25. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Replenished Xtol.
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi michael

    im more of a pully photographer, i neverpush ...
    i don't really pull either now that i think about it, i just over expose 3-5 stops
    and develop as normal