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I'm going to be taking some B&W shots of the exterior of a tavern at night. The exterior is white and dimly lit by nearby street lights etc. There are two large windows which will be somewhat hot in a night shot as the tavern interior is well lit.
I'll use 4x5 film, 80mm and 150mm lenses. My favorite film is Ilford FP+ at ISO 100. Normal development is 5 minutes in HC110-dil.b.
Do you think this film/developer combo will work well ? I expect to do a N- development to keep the contrast to a minimum. This will mean the film will be developed around 4 minutes.
If there are any photogs out there that have experience with this type of subject, I'd appreciate your input.
You might want to try a two-bath developer like divided D-23 or divided D-76, Diafine, or Barry Thornton's two bath (http://www.barry-thornton.co.uk/2bath.htm - up the metol to 6.5 grams as called for in his book The Edge of Darkness).
The emulsion absorbs the first bath (the developer), and little or no development takes place (depending on the particular formula you choose). The second bath contains the alkali activator. This kicks off the development, which is to completion. Usually you keep the film in the A bath for 3-4 minutes, drain it, and immerse the film in the B bath for 3-4 more minutes (no rinse in between).
These developers are inherently compensating: The developer absorbed in the highlight areas exhausts before the developer in the shadow areas. This allows your shadows to fully develop while limiting overdevelopment in the highlights.
I have used Thornton's two bath with success in a dark interior with bright wall sconces.
Gene, Night photography has become one of my most enjoyable events. I work with both medium and large format cameras using slide & B & W film. You first have to measure your dark shadows (Zone III) and then your highlights (Zone VII). Figure out how many stops there are between these two measurements. If you have about 5 stops shoot at the Zone V setting. By doing this you will underexpose the shadows while over exposing the hightlights. The challenge arrives when you have more than a 5 stop range. If you have a 6 stop difference you will have to do an N-1 developpment loosing a little in the Zone III area. If you have a 7 stop range then put your Zone III in Zone IV and use an N-2 devellopemnt time and so on. Of course all of this has to be done in the manual mode or with a spot meter. Hope this helps. My website has some examples. www.guyboily.com Guy
I'm not much of a technical guy, but I'll tell you my "seat of the pants" approach to night photography with B&W film. I've used Tri-X developed in highly dilute HC110 at about 1:31 with agitation for a few seconds every three or four minutes for a total of about 15 to 20 min (see Ansel's The Negative). The compensating effect really reigns in the highly exposed areas, while giving the shadows time to develop. With this development scheme, I rate the film at least one stop slower than normal. Recently, I've had good luck with PMK developed at about N-2 and printed on multigrade paper. The self-masking effect of pyro negs on variable paper helps with the contrastiness of night scenes, where there are neon signs, bright interiors, etc. My exposures at night run long to give the film a long look at the dim shadows. I then use dilute developers or pyro to keep the high areas from blowing out. I pretty much ignore my light meter in most night situations and just leave the shutter open for as long as I can bear.
If this were a commercial advertising job instead of fine art, it could be accomplished in one of three ways:
(1) Shoot during the afterglow of twilight rather than in complete darkness. There will be a ten-minute window when everything is balanced. Many city skyscapes are double exposures: one for the twilight sky and a later one for the lighted building windows.
(2) Do a time exposure of the exterior after the tavern closes. Have an assistant turn on the interior lights for a fraction of the total exposure time.
(3) Roscoe makes large rolls of neutral density stage gel material which can be taped to the inside of the tavern windows to dim and effectively balance the light. This material is normally used on interior shots to balance the brighter daylight with interior lighting. It is available in a warm color to balance the color of the daylight to interior incandescent lighting.
These methods are handy when you are asked to shoot color and can't horse around with the development and contrast. By the way, I think that a four-minute development time is playing with fire.
I've had good luck (albeit with 35mm and medium format) just shooting tri-x long expsoures and developing more or less normally or a bit under in D76 1:1.
With B&W, if you really want that night look, I find it best to shoot at night, way past twilight, otherwise you get white sky.
was done basically in this simple way. the trick is to practice, use a film you know, and make sure you expose the film enough.
Michael J. Kravit
Here is an easy and quick starting point.
Tri-X rated at 200 Expose for 15-20 minutes @ f/16 for scenes with some artificial streetlights and/or window light. 45 to 60 minutes with only moon light and 2-3 hours with no light at all. Process at normal dilution but for 20% less time. Bracket if you feel that empty feeling in your stomach.
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