Darkroom Diary 7/13/2019: B&W Wild Horses Print Comparison Using Kodak P3200 and Tri-X in D76
I decided to try the new emulsion Kodak T-Max P3200 film this week while photographing the Wild Horses of Missouri.
I regularly work in early morning low light scenarios and sometimes I need the ability to rate my films at EI 1600 and EI 3200.
In case you are not aware, P3200 is not an ISO 3200 film, it is technically an ISO 800 film that Kodak claims can be pushed to EI 3200 as opposed to Tri-X that is an ISO 400 film that is suggested not be pushed beyond two stops to EI 1600. The P in P3200 stands for "Push". You can download a PDF about P3200 directly from Kodak to review the technical details and development suggestions.
I decided to try some of the new emulsion T-Max P3200 because I wanted to know how it would render the grain, sharpness, and tonal values for my style of wildlife photography at EI 3200 or even EI 6400 as compared to Tri-X at EI 1600 in D76 1:1.
FILM DEVELOPMENT BACKGROUND INFO
I decided to develop my roll of T-Max P3200 in D-76 because this is the de facto black and white film developer. Kodak recommends using D-76 stock and developing the film when rated at EI 3200 for 14 minutes when using a rotary processor. Since I have not tested this film, I decided to use Kodak's recommendation to see how this would render my shadow values (based on exposure) and highlight values (based on development time).
I had high hopes for P3200, but it didn't meet my creative intentions as I discussed in the video. It was flat and I didn't care for the grain pattern. The prints felt lifeless to me.
Why even bother with P3200? There are times when I need EI 3200 when photographing the wild horses and elk at first light in the morning and in the late evenings. I thought since I loved Tri-X at EI 1600 that I would also love P3200 at EI 3200. I was wrong...
From an exposure and film development perspective, my shadows were reasonably good and the highlight values were not blown out or underdeveloped. This indicated to me the exposure and development choices were reasonable.
So, what's the problem then?
CAMERA GEAR USED
My core gear for photographing the wild horses includes the Nikon F6 camera with the 600 F4 or 300 F2.8 lenses. Tim Jr usually shoots the F5 or the F100 with whatever lens I am not using. Having two of us with two different focal lengths has opened up more opportunities than either of us had originally thought possible. I normally rate Tri-X between EI 400 and EI 1600 and develop in D-76 1:1 for the majority of my wildlife images. I like the higher contrast of Tri-X versus the lower contrast HP5 film. If I want a lower contrast scene, then I reach for Ilford HP5 and I also develop that in D-76 1:1.
ILFORD DELTA 3200 COMPARISON
I didn't include my Delta 3200 prints in the video, but I thought I would add some of my thoughts here in the article.
I reserve my final opinion about film and paper choices until I am holding the print in my hand. I felt like the grain and tonal range of the Delta 3200 was exactly what I was looking for. I liked the mood of the prints and I was really surprised by the level of detail.
Based on my elk photos, I know that I can use Delta 3200 at EI 3200 and develop in Microphen and produce the type of prints that meet my creative vision. This is good news, however, it also means that I would have to keep Delta 3200 and Microphen on hand and if I can avoid that, I would prefer that.
KODAK TRI-X AT EI 1600 COMPARISON
The images below are scans of the negatives and edited in Photoshop. I scanned the films with the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizer and the Epson V-850 Pro scanner. I made some prints from these scans with my Epson P800 in the advanced B&W mode on Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta paper. Those prints look very similar to the digital images below and I am very happy with them. I haven't had time to make some split-grade silver gelatin prints of these images yet, but I plan to do that soon.
Early Morning Centuries
Get Back & Give Me Some Space
New Foal With Mom at Sunrise
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?
I have been trying to simplify every area of my life over the last several years, so using one film and one developer for the majority of my wildlife photography has been a good fit for this mindset and I haven't given up anything creatively.
Based on some missed opportunities and field conditions, I am struggling with finding an EI 3200 and even an occasional EI 6400 film and developer combination that works for my style. I don't want my EI 3200 images looking drastically different that the rest of my body of work if that can be avoided.
My plan is to expose some Tri-X at EI 3200 this coming week and do a
In an email with David Bivins, David shared some of his work with Delta 3200 at EI 3200 and Tri-X pushed to EI 3200 developed in Rodinal. David has inspired me to try some Tri-X at EI 3200 and develop in Rodinal. David developed in a daylight tank for 11 minutes with a 30 second initial agitation, then a gentle tip every minute. I plan to try a stand and semi-stand development with Rodinal in an attempt to tame the grain a little more and then evaluate the new prints to see how I feel about them.
It would be so much easier and less expensive if the Tri-X at EI 3200 performs, but the only way to know for sure is to invest the time and make the prints.
For the pigment ink prints, I've been printing on Hahnemühle's gloss, satin, and new metallic papers and I have really been impressed with the quality, tonal rendering, and overall aesthetics.
Keywords: analog photography, black and white, darkroom, Delta 3200, film, Ilford, Kodak, P3200, T-Max P3200, Wildlife, Wildlife Photography
I've known that Spur Speed Major may be a great developer for P3200 at EI 3200. Would you consider to try it?
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