That's reasonable advice, andrew.roos. I did call the store today, but the store is in Springfield, IL and the lab is in St. Louis, MO. The gentleman at the store wasn't able to tell me what they develop their B&W film in (he honestly didn't know) so I did what I thought was the next best thing. I scanned negatives of some shots I'd done in B&W about 15 years ago. They were on Tri-X I think (I know Tri-X and HP5+ are not the same film), definitely shot at box speed. I didn't see the shadow detail I thought should be there, so I am shooting this roll at ISO 200. Hope this turns out okay; if not I'll have to bug the lab directly I guess. I didn't want to wait until Monday to get in touch with the lab, I wanted to shoot NOW :D so thought this might be a reasonable compromise. I should probably call the lab directly on Monday and find out what they develop B&W in and then I can give appropriate instructions to them when I take the film in (it takes me a while to get through 36 shots!).
Thank you all for your advice, hopefully this roll will turn out more to my liking. I want to get some B&W practice in as I'm wanting to do some IR work next spring/summer and think this might be a good way to get a feel for B&W before I go that direction. And maybe by then I'll have the ability to at least develop the film myself, even if I can't print it myself yet.
You might want to bracket some of your photos, keeping good notes. If you expose a typical (for you) scene at 100, 150, 200, 320, 400, and even 800, say, you will get a better idea of how the things you shoot, the film, the settings, and the development, even the lab printing, and/ or your scanner work together. If they are consistent with their processing, this should give you a very good idea of what ISO you want to use with future rolls.
Tanks are pretty inexpensive, and many bathrooms, laundry rooms or closets fairly easy to darken - nighttime, lights off in home, blankets, towels stuffed under, around doors. Test it out by just sitting while your eyes adjust. If you still can't see anything after 20 minutes, it'll do. Developing B&W film yourself is easy and inexpensive.
I have had excellent results from North Coast Photographic Services with B&W, C-41, & chromes. Ultra high resolution scans and negatives returned in 1-2 weeks by mail. I called and they use F76+ developer for black and white.
Recently I have started developing B&W film myself. Freestyle can set you up cheap. You don't need a changing bag, just use a dark closet or bathroom with towel against door.
Now, I just need to get me a decent scanner that can do medium format. Looking at the Epson V700.
I got the HP5+ back from the lab today. Dev+Prints would've cost me USD $20, Dev+Scan was $7.73 so I went with the lab scans. I'm using a 50mm lens as a loupe and my computer monitor as a lightbox to view the negatives, since I have neither a proper lightbox nor a proper loupe. I shot pictures on the roll at ISOs ranging from 100 to 400 in 2/3 stop increments.
I've attached a few of the lab scans here (approximately 6MP scans from the lab). This is probably the best shot on the whole roll, which I shot at ISO 400:
As far as I can tell from my notes, this first one was shot TTL with the camera set at ISO 250, the second TTL at ISO 400, both with a Cokin #003 (I think it's equivalent to a Wratten #25) filter on a cloudy day (hey I was experimenting - this is a lot different than color):
Attachment 60465 Attachment 60466
Is it weird that I like the one shot at 250 better than the one shot at 400, but like the first shot of this post the best in terms of contrast?