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Thursday, April 10

Part One: Tri X/Acurol-N - The dull day film search goes on!



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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.

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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.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

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.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

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.

www.theonlinedarkroom.com, analog, analogue, silver gelatin, film, darkroom, tri x, kodak,, om2n, om2, olympus, developer, development, spur, acurol-n

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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10 comments :

Herman Sheephouse said...

I can imagine that combo working well with your old Mamiya Press where you'd get even more of an expansion in mid-tones on the 6x9 neg. Good stuff again Bruce . . and man that light looks dull!

Bruce Robbins said...

It would probably work well with the Rolleiflex as well, Phil.

Eric said...

Nice images Bruce. I like the last one in particular.

petros gkotsis said...

Very nice results Bruce

excellent work, nice photos

especially the last one is great

Antonio Aparicio said...

I usually reach for FP4+ on dull days. In fact I have a problem using it when there is a lot of light, so not sure what it was actually designed for. 400 ASA films seem to work better with lots of light, and 100 ASA films seem to prefer low light!

John Robison said...

Looks like you must have been shooting that 24mm close to wide open. In the second shot the building in the background is nicely subdued by being slightly out of the depth of focus range. Good use of DOF to emphasize the main subject.


Dull days have their charm, on a sunny day with that film/developer combo this selective DOF would have been very hard to achive without the use of a heavy ND filter.

Bruce Robbins said...

John,
The 24mm was probably at f5.6. I think the background is out of focus just because the chain was really close - just 18 inches or so. I always try to get a good foreground when using the 24mm.

MartyNL said...

Time to get some of these photos into your portfolio Bruce. They're too good to leave as bits & bytes and deserve the full silver treatment.

sanjit said...

Omar -- This is Sanjit, greeting you from Kolkata, India. Thank you for writing abut pictures and picture making -- thank you for being someone who talks of photographs from a place of caring and affection -- it 's a welcome and pleasant change from all that soul-less, use-and-throw talk out there about specs and deals and upgrades and suchlike. I'll be visiting regularly -- so you have one more regular reader. Stay well. Cheers!

marty said...

Hi there. Nice pictures here, I like the atmosphere that pervades them and indeed the film/dev combination suits this kind of weather giving the image a lovely glow.

Cheers, M.