Finally Getting Some Grain – Ilford Delta 3200

The search for some really grainy shots continues, and the latest batch of shots seems to be heading in the right direction.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Some decent grainy goodness at last – not quite there yet but this is a ‘work in progress’!

This mini project was inspired after being reminded of Scotch 3M 1000 slide film in an old photography book. I used to like fast Scotch film a lot – sadly it’s now been discontinued for many years. It didn’t try to hide its grainyness – instead the grain was an integral and deliberate part of the image. It was a little like trying to recreate a 19th century painting technique called pointillism using film. Modern 400 ASA films have proved reluctant to ‘grain up’ to the challenge so more extreme measures are called for.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Overcast days are best for this technique- too much light overwhelms the OM2N’s 1/1000th second shutter speed without a filter of some sort..

It turns out this ‘closest yet’ effort was really very simple – expose Ilford Delta 3200 at it’s ‘box speed’ 3200 which just involves a little work on the OM2N. The OM2N goes to a maximum 1600 ISO and is at it’s limit, so no there’s no -1 exposure compensation in aperture priority mode. It’s just a case of setting the exposure manually and then taking a stop off. So simple really as long as you remember!

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

These were developed in D76 – it’s Rodinal for the next try to really harden the grain up. After that it’s 6400 ASA – with an ND filter I think.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

These were taken on a cold, overcast day in Lymington near the New Forest in Hampshire UK. Lymington seems to be dependent on the yachting/tourist fraternity – in January it’s quite quiet and empty.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

Worn out, old patterns complement this technique nicely – but only in the smoother areas (the window) as this wall was already pretty gritty already.

Now for a close up of the grain structure :-

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

The full frame.

 

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

And a portion of the centre – complete with a few drying marks. Oops.

Finally a rural church – always a good choice for a book cover.

Olympus OM2N, Ilford Delta 3200, D76

This was taken before a heavy storm – hence the dark clouds. The snowdrops add a certain something.

Well, almost there, but this has been more difficult than first imagined. Thirty years ago grain was a major problem using 35mm film, but the past few experiments have shown that it’s really quite difficult to get really grainy results with modern emulsions. Ilford 3200 seems to produce some promising results, but pushing Kodak Tri-X to 3200 ASA might work well – more experiments!

This is the best reason to use film – the combinations of film, developer and exposure provide some fascinating possibilities and learning opportunities. The 5d Mk2 and the 60D are enjoying a break for a while until this particular project is over – this is the best photographic fun I’ve had in ages.

Oh – and Ilford 3200 in D76 is quite good too!

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful.

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

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Still Quite Fast – Fuji Neopan Professional 400

As part of a series testing films which are faster than I’m used too (100 ASA essentially), the next one up is Fuji Neopan Professional 400. After testing the 100 ASA version of this film (here), the 400 ASA version should hopefully be as good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

This was taken at a local Iron Age hillfort which floods between the ramparts after heavy rain. The landscape is quite surreal and a good location for some abstract landscapes. This is a very good start! Vivitar 17mm.

Physically the film exudes a high quality feel as the canister feels very robust – it’s quite difficult to prise it open when it comes to development. Efke films canisters used to just fall apart in the darkroom!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Vivitar 17mm f3.5

Another abstract shot round the other side of the hillfort. Vivitar 17mm.

The film loads very easily on to a film spiral – always a good thing – and usually a sign that film is well made.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This is something of a nice oddity from the start of the roll. There’s an area down the left extending over to the upper part of the shot which looks like a strange light leak into the canister. Not that I’m complaining – I like the effect. Zuiko 50mm f1.4 and soft (or mis-focussed!) wide open.

Exposed at its box speed these were taken on an Oly OM2N in aperture priority mode (I’m getting lazy!), adjusting exposure as necessary. Various lenses were used – if I can remember what they were I’ll put it in the caption!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 28mm f2

This one’s a bit of a test of DR (in digital speak). Shadow detail is lost to preserve most of the highlights with the sun behind the obelisk. The film has coped well here – again very good. Zuiko 28mm f2 closed down to f11 .

Developed in D76 stock for 7 minutes (these were taken in contrasty conditions so 30 seconds were taken off the recommendation) the results look pretty good.

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

The Zuiko 50mm f1.4 at f11 – nice and sharp and a good range of tones.

An enlargement of the centre portion :-

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

This grain for a 400 ASA film is excellent – if I didn’t know I’d guess this was a 100 ASA film.

There hasn’t been any dust spotting or ‘dust and scratches’ correction on these negatives so it looks like it’s resistant to gathering dust when drying. This makes it’s use worthwhile just on it’s own and is quite remarkable!

Fuji Neopan Professional 400, Olympus OM2N, Zuiko 50mm f1.4

Close up (well ‘ish’), 50mm f1.4 blurring the winter background away. The range of tones captured is excellent again.

Unfortunately if you like the look of this stuff and want to cheat with DXO Filmpack you can only approximate the look with something like Acros 100 as there is no profile for this film – on my installation anyway – so a direct comparison isn’t possible here.

Oddly enough the conclusion of this test isn’t what I was expecting to write at all. This is virtually indistinguishable from 100 ASA film which makes it a useful film for use in the winter when the light is low. Unfortunately I’m currently trying to get more grain in my shots so it didn’t quite do what I wanted! I’ll try pushing a roll a few stops and use Rodinal or Neofin Blue on the next roll to see if I can coax some grain from this excellent film.

So highly recommended – unless you’re after some grain! Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

p.s. There a reviews of lots of other films on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

A Few More Rollei Blackbirds

Bruce Robbins on his blog theonlinedarkroom recently raised some interesting ideas about one of my favourite films – Rollei Blackbird. Having been concentrating far too much on digital (especially video) lately it seemed a good excuse to get out the OM2N and shoot off a few rolls. It was pure heaven!

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Zuiko 85mm F2, closed down to f16 to give a shutter speed of 1/30th, plus some panning.

All shots at 100 ISO (25 ISO is too contrasty for me), developed in ID11 stock (identical to D76) for 10 minutes.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

Interestingly these two rolls seemed a little less contrasty than normal, and the developer didn’t turn end up with a dark fine sludge after use – in fact it turned yellow. This may be due to old developer (4 months old) or possibly the formulation of the film has been changed. Whether this confirms the speculation on Bruce’s blog that Rollei Blackbird is re-branded Rollei Retro 100 is open to debate, though it does muddy the water (if not the developer).

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar Series One 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

There was a mixture of lenses used here. The Vivitar Series One 70-210 performed wonderfully as it always has, but I’d forgotten how heavy it was. The day became increasingly overcast which made focussing at F2 with the 85mm easier than the 70-210mm at f3.5.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

OM2N, Vivitar 70-210mm F3.5 Series One

All of these were taken on one day at a local fair, the vintage cars and carousel horses being the best subjects around.

Rollei Blackbird, OM2N

There’s something very attractive about some of the lines of old cars. New ones seem bland by comparison. 85mm F2.

Thanks for the link Bruce. I’m not sure I’ve answered the Blackbird/Retro question, but to me at least it doesn’t matter. Blackbird is still a favorite (along with Ilford PAN F) which produces results which are difficult to accurately ‘fake’ in digital, making its continued use worthwhile.

A few more examples of Rollei Blackbird shots are here and here.

Hope you like these – thanks for looking.

 

Even More Dramatic Tone on an Oly EPL5

This ‘Dramatic Tone’ phase in a dark cloudy winter is hopefully over soon! Overcast is an uninspiring light source at the best of times so any useful technique helps. A recent trip to Tyneham and Worbarrow Bay in Dorset (UK) provided a chance to use it again.

Tyneham – a village taken over by the army and never returned to the previous owners (the Bond family). The Bond’s family motto ‘The World is not Enough’ was used as a Bond film title.

This isn’t just a gimmick – it’s genuinely (commercially) useful at those times of the year when light is limited and flat and you need to inject some drama into an otherwise bland scene. ‘In Camera’ effects are often criticised for being a bit crass – the ‘Dramatic Tone’ is genuinely useful in black and white if used carefully, so I beg  to differ.

someoneelses

A published book cover (Arcangel Images/Rob Lambert) using this technique!

Corfe Castle shot from the south. The original was pretty dreary but this is good.

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Corfe Castle – a remarkable range of tones for a winter landscape, shot with the 40-150mm kit lens.

Finally, a shot of an old farm building near the coast, inhabited by some wind battered trees.

Using the 14-42mm kit lens. The remains of a farmstead on the way to Worbarrow Bay.

Thanks for looking – hope you like these!

Dramatic Tone Landscapes

Having liked this effect on chalk downland landscapes in an earlier post last November,  it was only a matter of time before another shoot. These were all taken on an Oly EPL5 with a 40-150mm Zuiko on the Wiltshire/Dorset border (southern UK) in January during a brief break in what has been truly terrible winter weather.

The ‘Dramatic Tone’ effect – if used with care – can produce some impressive images on a dull day. Winter seems to be the best time to take these as the bare trees and ploughed fields seem to suit the moody darkness of the images.

These are cropped to a square format from the 4/3 ratio of the Oly because they (and a few others) are going to be printed and framed in groups of three as a series of triptych type arrangements.

The shot above was a quick ‘grab shot’ – the lonely figure looked perfect, but only for a few seconds as he disappeared over the horizon.

Finally a nice sweeping landscape looking towards Shaftesbury – the edges of the downs are quite impressive too!

Thanks for looking – hope you like them!

Olympus Dramatic Tone meets a Lensbaby Plastic Lens

After messing about with the ‘Dramatic Tone’ on the EPL5 using a conventional lens, I resurrected the idea of using a Lensbaby. Rather than using the Sweet 35, the beautifully soft, single element plastic lens was given a chance to show what it could do (remember to hover your mouse pointer over the shots to get a proper level of contrast).

This is something like what I’d hoped for – that fence is surprisingly in focus!

I’d hoped that the interaction between the Dramatic Tone filter and the vague blurriness of the plastic lens would produce something a bit different. All shots taken in RAW using the f4 aperture disk, the lens was mounted in a ‘Composer’, the results post processed in DXO Optics 9 and Filmpack 3.

This is a difficult lens to focus (there’s no autofocus here!), as it never really looks sharp even using focus magnify. The best approach is just not to  worry about it – just get close enough to give some sort of idea what the subject is! If you’re going to have a try at this, take lots of shots and expect lots of failures. When it all works though it’s worth the effort….

The Dramatic Tone seems to automatically extend the contrast of what are very low contrast images, which saves a bit of post-processing.The ‘dark glow’ around the branches and rooftop is very nice.

Simple, bold compositions work best – any complexity just ends up as a mushy mess, so keep it simple.

The only slight niggle I have is that the this is a 50mm lens, making it a 100mm equivalent on the EPL5 – and using a moderate telephoto for every shot isn’t ideal. A 0.42x wide angle converter is available but what would be perfect would be something around the 12mm mark, which would mean a 24mm equivalent.

This looks like it’s been layered – but it hasn’t. The odd texture behind the railing seems to be lots of out of very soft focus highlights crossing each other.

So quite a successful experiment which yields some interesting results. The overall softness of the images interacts nicely with the strange Dramatic Tone effect, producing images which are very different from those of the glass lenses. I’ll use this more often!

All taken for the book cover market – hope you like them and thanks for looking!

Olympus PEN Dramatic Tone

As you might have guessed from the previous post, I’ve been messing around with an Olympus EPL5 lately, having sold my EPL3 earlier in the year. What I really missed was the ‘Dramatic Tone’ art filter, which is proving useful in dragging some useful images out of an otherwise overcast few days (it’s quite useful when used on video too).

A walk up on the downland on a dull day – the filter really pulls detail out of flat cloud and the pseudo ‘HDR’ effect can produce a subtle infra red effect.

It’s not great for every scene, but when the light is just right – mixed overcast when normal photography produces flat uninteresting images – this can produce some intriguing results.  These are all straight JPEGs (plus a Raw file as a backup), toned in DXO filmpack.

Sometimes the results are a real surprise – this looked nothing like this to the naked eye, but through the viewfinder (or LCD) the effects can be judged quite accurately. A real transformation of reality!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shot a few minutes earlier that the first shot – and completely different.

These are shot using the monochrome filter, the colour version produces results which look too artificial for my taste. You could of course argue that these look artificial – however years ago I used to work for hours in a wet darkroom to produce similar effects and it never occurred to me that I was doing any ‘unethical’ post processing. Maybe our negative attitude to computer/camera based post-processing is that the results weren’t produced by traditional darkroom skills? Whatever the reason, the results are good enough for me not to worry about it any more!

In some circumstances the images just look like a lightly dodged/burned print :-

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This result was more predictable – the cloud forms were visible to the naked eye and all it needed was something interesting in silhouette.

And on other occasions the dodge/burn effect is less than subtle…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This one is possibly looks too over-processed!

So, whatever your attitude to post-processing images – thanks for looking and hope you like them.