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  1. #1

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    Pushy photographers

    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 Michael R 1974; 01-07-2013 at 01:48 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: typo

  2. #2
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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.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #3

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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. #4

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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. #5

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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.
    I feel, therefore I photograph.

  6. #6

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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. #7

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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. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    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.
    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
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by horacekenneth View Post
    Also 3200 speed films are really expensive.
    ...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
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    ...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
    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.

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