Options. One of the many things that I really love in regards to film photography is the options. You have a plethora of different cameras and lenses to choose from, different film stocks and developers, different paper too; if you’re a printer. Sure, you could edit a digital image with a different colour style in Lightroom for varying applications, but to me there is something to be said about having a fridge filled with film for different occasions. Something different about the tactile ability to open the fridge and grab a roll before you leave the house. Think you might need more blues in the scene? Load up some Fujifilm. Going for a warmer cast? Reach for some Kodak film. Want to mix it up? Shoot Fujifilm in the camera with a warming filter on your lens. And the advantage of having different options carries over to black and white film as well.
I am primarily a black and white shooter, at least this year anyway. January 2019 I finally learnt how to develop my black and white film at home rather than send it away, so with my new found knowledge I have only been shooting and sharing black and white film. But I’ve never really found a film that I connected with. Nothing that felt like my film stock. For the last 10 years of my photography journey (that makes me feel old and I’m only 26) when I wanted black and white film I bought Ilford’s HP5+. It was cheap to buy, consistent and every man and their dog shot it. The only exception was I shot my brother in laws wedding on Ilford XP2 because the shop near my house ran out of HP5. But the last 9 months I’ve been extremely bored with it. HP5+ is a gorgeous film, I’m not trying to say it’s horrible, but I was finding it dull. Anyone who has shot it at box speed will tell you it’s heavy on the midtones. So I spent the last 8 months experimenting with different options.
I tried pushing the film which got me close to what I was wanting, but in Townsville, Australia where we are gifted with over 300 days of sunshine a year, shooting at 1600-3200 every day is not smart. I tried different developers, stand developing in Rodinal, which gave me the grain I wanted and the contrast was close. But I still yearned for something more. I tried Delta 400 at all different speeds. Pushed, pulled and box speed and it was nice. But again I was up around 1600 to get results I really liked. Same issue with Kentmere 100 and 400 respectively.
Enter Ilford’s FP4+. I had read about it numerous times online. I’d read about how lovely the contrast is. How comfortably it pushed and pulled. Why not at least try some? So when pay day rolled around, 5 rolls of FP4+ were on a plane to my house.
The test situation.
Where I live in Townsville, North Queensland we have a lovely community of brilliant film photographers we call NQ Film. Regularly we trade gear, prints, offer tips and criticisms, and consume copious amounts of caffeine at a local coffee shop called Specialty Coffee Trader. We’re even working on a zine, but I won’t plug that here.
My only intention was to shoot the FP4 as I normally would and develop it in Rodinal. No special exposure tests. Just load it into my Canon AT1, meter it for iso200 and shoot, and my god the results are lovely. Really lovely. It gave me the contrast I was looking for all this time. Slightly less grain than I like but that can be forgiven. I am now an FP4 convert and now my fridge is full of FP4 and some rolls of C200 on the occasion I may want some colour images.
I would love to hear your experiences with FP4 so please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am by no means the leading expert and would love to hear from other photographers. What you’ve seen are some images shot on that first roll. Consent given by the individuals pictured in frame.
Ps. I do have a standard I hold myself to for my feature images (the image you see when advertised with the article) and I have been too lazy to shoot a proper image of a roll of FP4, so unfortunately I had to use an iPhone image whilst waiting for my coffee. Please forgive me and next time I’ll be back with bangers 😉