A Conversation for The Black and White Photography Process
bbtommy Started conversation Sep 17, 2002
Once you have mastered the basic types of black and white printing and processing, you can then move on and try other techniques that can extend your photography in new and interesting ways.
For example, Infrared is a simple way of doing this. Infra-red image making is done at the camera stage of the process, by putting infra-red film in to your camera, and a deep red filter on the front. The infra-red film is sensitive to the infra-red part of the EM spectrum, and therefore will pick up IR radiation. The practical effects of this include that various objects will look lighter and darker. Specifically, the foiliage, plants and trees will go to a white tone, while man-made objects such as buildings or roads will go to a darker tone.
The film in your camera and photographic paper you use in the darkroom has varying types of sensitivity and you will get different image results dependent on it's sensitivity (this can be measured using a sensitometric graph, available in the datasheets from film and paper manufacturers websites). This is why different films have different 'looks'. The sensitivity of black and white film is one single line, representing black to white, wheras colour has the three seperate colour layers. The upshot of this is that once you have become aware of different films sensitivities (or "looks"), you can then apply that for a different situation. This is often why photographer's have "favourite films". I am a big fan of Ilford's FP4 Plus emulsion, as it has a wide sensitivity, and can produce high-quality art prints. Paper has similar effects, but you also have to take in to consideration the tone of the paper. Certain papers have a subtle 'look' to them. This is expressed through it's warmth or cold look. A 'warmtone' paper (eg. Ilford's Multigrade Warmtone, or Agfa's possibly now discontinued Portriga Rapid) will have a subtle brown / orange look to them, when compared to 'neutral tone' (pure white), or (my favourite) 'coldtone' or 'cooltone' papers. Coldtone papers like Forte's Resin-coated Coldtone, have a slight blue look to them.
Developers are wide-ranging. There is developers to suit many different purposes. The chemical formula is designed to bring out characteristics of a certain type of film, and it is usually a good idea to find a film / dev combination that you like and stick to it. I am a big fan of Kodak's T-Max developer, as it is easy, numerous shots, and enables high-quality results with T-grain films (like Kodak's T-Max, or Ilford's HP5 or Delta series). Other developers I use include Agfa's Rodinal and Ilford's Ilfosol. T-Max dev is especially good for the T-Max film, wheras Ilfosol is better for slower speed art films like Delta 100, FP4 at 50ASA, Pan F and the sadly discontinued Agfapan 25. Rodinal is good for many purposes, and is a good one-shot dev, reliable and all.
Another type of b&w development that I am slowly beggining to get interested in is the Lith process. There is so much to write about the Lith process, that I'm not inclined to explain it all here...
Anyway, this is my first post - and I've just been listening to the audiobook of the real H2G2!
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