This might seem like an obsession to some readers but if you knew the number of dull days we get in the part of Scotland where I live you'd maybe be a little obsessive, too. A "normal" film and "normal" development results in some very flat-looking negs. I've tried a few film and developer combinations in search of something that endows a scene with a little sparkle. After this quick look at Tri X and Acurol-N I reckon this combination is the front runner just now.
Spur Acurol-N is a developer that seems to give a little boost to mid range contrast and not just denser highlights which is sometimes the only effect of extending development in search of extra oomph.
An acutance developer, it can be used at dilutions of up to 1+150 although most of the time it's in the 1+35 to 1+70 range. Tri X has to be rated at 250 ISO to achieve a normal contrast range with Acurol-N at 1+50. Shot at 400 ISO and given the 1+35 treatment, it gets the equivalent of about plus half a zone contrast increase. At 640 ISO, it gets a +1 zone increase and at 1000 ISO a whopping +2 zone boost.
I decided to start slowly and build up to the higher contrast treatment if it was needed so I shot the roll at 400 ISO and gave it 15 minutes at 1+35. It might not look it from the pictures on this page but it really was quite a dull day which speaks volumes for the Tri X/Acurol-N combination. The negative scans got a levels tweak in Lightroom, a slight edge burn and a light sepia tone so they're not "straight". But I know from trying some other film and developer pairings that much more drastic post-processing treatment is often necessary to achieve a similarly nice tonal range.
For a variety of reasons, I just haven't been able to get into the darkroom for a while and I'd much rather print from the negs before saying too much more but, from what I can see from the scans, they're nice and sharp and the grain is very crisp. It's not the finest grain I've ever seen - nor the most obvious - but it's quite acceptable and actually adds something to the moody look I was after.
The subject for all these pics is Westhaven, a small fishing community just along the coast from my home in Carnoustie. They show the old moorings set into the rocks, something that can only be seen when the tide is out. The camera was an Olympus OM2n and the lens the lovely little 24mm f2.8 Zuiko.
There wasn't an awful lot of light around but I was mostly shooting into whatever there was. The OM2 is great for this type of thing. Instead of using it on manual, I keep it on aperture priority auto and use the large exposure compensation dial when I need to make adjustments. For some of the shots, 1.5-2 stops extra exposure was needed to get some detail in the shadows. Dialling that in through exposure compensation is quicker than switching to manual but you have to remember to reset the dial or everything will be shot with the same exposure adjustment.
I had about ten pics off the roll that I thought were worth showing but that's too many for one post so I'll split them up and add them in Part Two. The photographs divide up quite nicely as the rest are from a different subject - but still shot on a dull day!
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