Guest Musings Photos & Projects

Pushing Tri-X To 3200, Or Shooting A Concert On Film – Guest Post by Aukje

My second year of shooting film Part 13

(read Part 12 here)

A friend of mine is a guitarist in a band, and when they play I enjoy photographing their performance. So far I have been covering that with my digital camera, as it feels safer and more flexible. But I was up for some experiment with my M2 after shooting mainly landscapes, so I wanted to try photographing them on film. I decided to use Kodak Tri-X, since I had that lying in my fridge anyway. I considered buying HP5+ as I had read that you can push that pretty well, but then I remembered that Anton Corbijn (famous Dutch photographer who has shot a lot of pop and rock bands) shoots Tri-X, and if it’s good enough for Anton Corbijn it should be good enough for my friends band….

I spent quite some time deliberating over how far to push it, was two stops going to be enough or should I go for three? On the internet I found some great examples of pushing two stops, but three seemed to be more risky, as the results could become quite grainy. I decided to do a light measurement in the venue where the band was going to play and base my decision on that. However, that turned out to be not so obvious, since the lights were changing all the time. I decided to go for three stops, basing my exposure on iso 3200, and allow myself a bit more room with respect to motion blur. That is helpful as I find it can be quite a challenge to stand still when a band plays great music. I even noticed a moment when I tried to keep my camera stable when jumping up and down during a particularly catching song. But alas, those are the challenges of concert photography 😉 . I ended up using an aperture of 2.0 and a shutter speed around 1/250 second (on average).

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Apart from the difficulty of using film, there is another challenge using the M2. Like I mentioned before, the lights were changing a lot during the performance: the shutter speeds of the photos I took with the M240 (digital camera with automatic exposure) range from 1/45 to 1/4000 seconds. However the M2 doesn’t have automatic exposure or even a light meter, and there is definitely no time to measure with an external meter for every shot. So I decided to try my luck, and use 1/250 as my base, but change it to 1/1000 if the lights looked very bright to me. And leave it up to the latitude of the film to take care of the rest of the fluctuations. It turns out that you can get away with a lot with Tri-X…

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I had to wait quite some time for the results. As I usually do I sent my film to AG-photo lab for development, and so far it has taken about one week for the film to arrive at my house after receiving their dispatch notification. This time it took a horrifying four weeks! I had almost given up on seeing them ever again. But luckily I did, and I was very happy with the results. Although there is some variation in how dark and light the photos are, there is none that is too bright or too dark to be of use. That doesn’t mean all photos were good, but that was mainly due to lack of sharpness (should stop jumping while taking photos!) and bad framing, and for that I blame the moving musicians ;-). I scanned the photos myself and had no problem getting good files from the negatives. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of extra grain, and most images have good contrast, which I like for these type of photos. So I am quite happy with this experiment, and I will definitely explore the options of pushing further!

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About the scanning: this is the first roll I didn’t get the lab to scan. A month ago I decided to buy a scanner myself after receiving some disappointing scans from the lab (not AG, I tried a different one). I have been thinking about getting a scanner, but I dreaded the amount of time involved and was afraid that even with a lot of my own time I would not be able to get quality results. But after a few disappointments from the lab I found myself not knowledgeable enough to have a good discussion with the lab. I realised that in order to get results I liked I would need to tell the lab what I want, but I didn’t know what it was. Should I ask for warmer colours in the highlights, cooler tones, more contrast, or less? So in the end I decided to buy a scanner to learn about the effect the scanning process has on the end result. I have practiced with some rolls from my previous lab order, allowing me to compare my own scans with the lab scans, but this was the first roll for which I would completely depend on my own scanning. Again, I am not disappointed. The files from this pushed film did not give me any extra trouble with respect to the scanning, and I am happy with the extra bit of control I get. I am working on a workflow for scanning colour, I might do a post about that in the future.

That leaves me with showing a few more photos from the concert:

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The film was developed by AG photo lab and scanned by me on an Epson V800.

If you are interested you can find more of my photos, both digital and film, on my website: whataukjesees.com. I am doing a 366 project on film, which I record daily on tumblr, and I post film photos regularly on instagram.

Thanks a lot for reading, and Hamish, thanks for having me!

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40 Comments

  • Reply
    Hamish Gill
    December 4, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I was going to suggest this as a change, before publishing it, but actually, it struck me as more useful if I mention it as a comment…
    So, technically you don’t “push” a film to a speed.
    Film has a fixed ISO, in this case, it is ISO400 – what you are doing is “rating” the film at a different “exposure index”. In this case, you have rated it at exposure index 3200, or EI3200 … Although, that said, since you aren’t metering, your not really even rating it at a fixed EI, you are just shooting with a 3 stop push in mind by using EI3200 as the basis for exposure – something that is perfectly doable with bullet proof films like tri-x and hp5…
    After that, you are (as you correctly say) pushing it 3 stops.
    In short, it’s useful to acknowledge the difference between ISO and EI – ISO is the film, EI is what you set the camera/meter to.
    More often than not people describe the process in the way you have, but I know you see these posts as a platform for learning, so I thought I’d try and outline the technically correct way to describe what you are doing.

  • Reply
    George Appletree
    December 4, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Beautiful review. Good to make a try.
    Interesting texture. Rather than grain increase the film has a pleasing paste like structure. Giving still a grey range and some detail in shadows.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 10:02 am

      Thanks George. I expected something more course, but I am pleased with this result.

  • Reply
    Aukje
    December 4, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Haha, and I thought I had it down this time, I have seen these types of discussion before. Thanks for making it clear one more time! So the term pushing is for development activities only, and the title should have been something like: ‘Shooting Tri-X at EI 3200’ , because ‘shooting with a 3 stop push in mind by using EI3200 as the basis for exposure’ is a bit too long?

  • Reply
    rollbahn
    December 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Agreed Hamish and on that point (unless I missed it) we have no idea how AG developed it eg did they develop at 3200?

    I stand development my Tri-X when I am rating it at 1600 (would liek to try 3200) and it comes out just fine. The amazing thing is shooting various “ISO’s” on one roll and leaving it in Rodinal for 1-2 hours and they all come out perfectly developed – like magic 🙂

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 10:05 am

      We don’t know for sure how AG developed it, but I did ask to push it three stops, so I hope I can trust them to do that.

    • Reply
      Reiner
      December 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      Which solution do you use for Rodinal stand dev for 1-2 hrs? 1:100 1:50? Your workflow after shooting different EI on roll tri-x is very interesting.
      Aukje’s post reveals again that the magic can happen in using b&w film in very difficult conditions. Great post indeed!

  • Reply
    Augen Tier
    December 4, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Thank you very much for sharing Aukje. This return of experience is really interesting. Usually I “rate” (btw thank you very much Hamish for teaching me a new word. Your explanation is cristal clear.) TriX at 1600 during the winter. I was a bit reluctant about exposing at 3200, but really you dispel the doubts I had. Especially since the context of a music concert is very challenging as you said in terms of metering (more than street photography as I understand it).
    About the scanner, I am using it all the time for both color and b&w, 35mm and 120mm. And I am sure you will get used to it very quickly. Besides, time is not a real issue (usually I read or eat during the process…).
    Can’t wait for your next post…

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Thanks! With respect to the scanner, I notice that scanning well-exposed film is easy and fast, but it becomes a nuisance with dull and scarred negatives.

      • Reply
        rollbahn
        December 4, 2016 at 8:43 pm

        That’s true of any film and a good reason to get the shot right in camera as you will save yourself many hours of mucking around in Lightroom or PS if you just get your exposures right in the first place. And if you dev your own negs a good reason to keep them free from dust and marks – again it pays off when scanning.

  • Reply
    Frank Lehnen
    December 4, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I have done some night shooting withHP5 lately and measured for 3200 ISO too.

    I stand developed in Rodinal for one Hour and the photos came out beautifully.

    I love the grain, the contrast…. never did it with Tri-X but I’m amazed.

    Great shots, Aukje!!

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks Frank!

  • Reply
    HW Kateley
    December 4, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Love the pictures!

    FYI. If you don’t want to wait, and are interested in going there, Black and white films are very easy to develop at home with a daylight tank using common developers. I use the old standard d76 for triX when pushing. It’s readily available.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks herb (?)! I am thinking about developing myself, which usually means that I will eventually 🙂
      For now I am already learning a lot from scanning.

      • Reply
        Reiner
        December 5, 2016 at 12:42 pm

        I would like to share another thing that could add something to a more HQ scanning workflow: I use a canoscan9000F flatbed to scan 35mm and 120 b&w negs and 35 and 120 color negs and positives. For color the Fare (called ICE on other types) anti scratch and anti dust option can be used, for silver halide b&w film type trix and hp5 this option can’t be used at all leaving me with dusty and scratched b&w scans mostly. When an almost grainless look isn’t bothering you the use of ilford XP2 b&w C41 film gives the option of using the Fare or ICE resulting in almost dust and scratchfree b&w scans. So scanning b&w film for me is almost equal to using XP2 film lately. It saves me tons of spare time to shoot more film instead of removing dust behind the pc in post process!

        • Reply
          Aukje
          December 5, 2016 at 7:12 pm

          Thanks for the info and suggestions. With these photos though I took them right from the lab’s sleeve to the scanner, so there was hardly any dust there.

  • Reply
    John Lockwood
    December 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Well done Aukje. Really surprised at how little grain you got from Tri-X @ 3200. The developer and process the lab used provided excellent results. Given the angst you experienced from the postman, I would also encourage you to try home developing. You’re already doing the tedious part, scanning. The chemical part is easy!

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks John! I almost order the starter kit for developing at home. Till now the scanning part is what kept me from taking the plunge, at the moment it is the fact that I usually shoot colour. But I am getting close.. 🙂 (just a few more encouragements I guess 😉 )

  • Reply
    Aukje
    December 4, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Someone on Facebook asked about the development details, so I mailed the lab and they gave some information on that. Thought I’d share that here too for those interested. From AG Photo Lab: ‘we use Fuji Negastar developer for our black and white processing and adjust development times according to film and speed used relative to box speed. The times we use wouldn’t be relevant to most home users as it’s a continuous process.’

  • Reply
    Steve Ford
    December 4, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    From what I’ve seen (I also work at Ag!) the Negastar gives much less grainy results than the Paranol that’s supplied in the home dev starter kit. Push-developing with Paranol (or any of the other Rodinal-type developers) will build massive amounts of grain; I’ve stand-developed HP5 shot at 1600 and the results are a lot grainier than you’ve got here, although they’re still pretty classic-clooking.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 4, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks for the extra information Steve. Nice to hear from someone from Ag. I was impressed with the fast reply on my question about the development details, and that on a Sunday!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 4, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      Ilfotec DDX has given me the best results from HP5 pushed – but I get as good results from AG, so can’t be bothered with home dev anymore… for the large part at least

  • Reply
    Pierre Pichot
    December 4, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Very instructive post, and very nice photos too! I’m positively surprised by the low amount of noise.

    One question: what scanner do you use?

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 5, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Thanks Pierre. I use an Epson V800 with Silverfast software.

  • Reply
    Michael Rennie
    December 4, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Great write up and love the shots Aukje! I’ve used DDX for everything I’ve developed and scanned so far. Seems to work great!

    Hamish I’d like to write something about my experience of home development and scanning. Shooting on either my Minolta Dynax 7, Rolleicord or Leica M4.

    Would this be ok?

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 5, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Thanks Michael. I can’t speak for Hamish, but I would be interested to read about your experience with home development and scanning.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 5, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Of course! Just add the content directly and set it to pending when you are happy with it 🙂

  • Reply
    Patrick Hudepohl
    December 5, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Hi Aukje, so far I’ve really enjoyed your adventures shooting film and this article is certainly no exception! Lovely images and your writing is a pleasure to read.

    Earlier this year, I dusted off the old film cameras (Nikon FE, F100 — not very “35mmc approved”, I’m afraid) and shot some Portra 400 and Tri-X. The negatives seem just fine, I’ve scanned most of them and this month I hope to spend some time selecting, editing and publishing the results. It’s been a lot of fun to return to film, although I am certainly not going to give up on digital. And I must admit that adding a meterless rangefinder to my tools is both daunting and alluring…

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      December 5, 2016 at 11:07 am

      I was a Nikon collector in a previous life… So whilst they might not fit the site, I still approve! 😉

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 5, 2016 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks Patrick! I am a rangefinder fan, I only became hooked on photography after holding a rangefinder, so for me that is not the daunting part… I would say just give it a try 🙂

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    December 6, 2016 at 3:37 am

    Hi Aukje,
    You got nice results from the film. I expected the shadow areas to be coal-black, but you’ve retained detail in the important areas.
    I’ve always thought that photographers have more in common with musicians than artists. So, shooting a band is a visual connection to our creative ‘cousins,’
    I love available light/available gloom shots. I’ve tried Delta 3200 [35mm] on a number of occasions and have always been disappointed with the results. So, I did some research and found that the true speed of 3200 is around 1000 ISO. I tried a roll @ 1600, and used Sprint Standard film developer, following their directions as if I exposed the film @3200. I got results that I was pleased with. The film yielded images that came close to the actual lighting conditions I encountered on the nighttime streets of Florence.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time or opportunity to shoot additional rolls in marginal light to see if the results are consistent and can be duplicated. I’m going to try some HP-5 (personal preference – I’m not a Tri-X kinda guy) @ 1600 & 3200 based upon your results.
    Thanks for your pics & article. Nice work.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 6, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Thanks Dan, and thanks for sharing your experience with Delta 3200. That’s one of the fun things of shooting film, figuring out all these options.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    December 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Well, sites like this, where photographers share their experiences, encourage experimentation. We see results from people [like yourself] and then go out and try for ourselves.
    I live in an area where there is no longer a camera store, so forums sustain the photography community and the idea exchange.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 8, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Dan, I agree that Hamish has created a great community for learning and inspiration. I hope you still have acces to film, online or otherwise!

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    December 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Great set of pictures Aukje. You’ve really caught the atmosphere of a gig.

    The way you went about exposure is just right for this kind of photography. Had you relied on a meter it would have led you to overexpose, as it would have been fooled by the dark areas.

    On the scanning, I have a v750 which came with Silverfast but I became disenchanted with it as they don’t seem to support later Mac OS versions. I find though that the Epson software works pretty well

    I look forward to more of your posts.

    • Reply
      Aukje
      December 8, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks Jeremy! With respect to SilverFast I use it with Sierra on my Mac, I just downloaded the latest drivers from their website. I use silverfast as I like the negafix function, and it seems more flexible with respect to choosing/drawing frames. I need that as I prefer the v700 holders over the v800 ones, but with this holder the negatives are in a different location.

      • Reply
        jeremy north
        December 9, 2016 at 10:38 am

        Thanks Aukje, I’ll look at Silverfast again to see if they have an update for me.

        Why do you prefer the older film holder? I read that the v800/850 holders were much better.

        • Reply
          Aukje
          December 9, 2016 at 10:57 am

          The V800 holders have a glass cover which collect a lot of dust, and may cause a decline in image quality due to the abberations in the glass. Also the holders only accommodate three strips instead of four.

          • jeremy north
            December 12, 2016 at 11:12 pm

            I’ve read about anti newton ring glass which is supposed to eliminate moire effects. Has anyone tried it out?

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    December 8, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    About every 3 months, I send in an order to B&H or Adorama: film, enlarging paper & d/room chemicals. My darkroom is alive & well.

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