The zone system is a method of controlling tone in black and white film photography. It enables the user / photographer to have confidence that tones visualised when the shutter is pressed will be the tones seen in a final print. It involves undertaking careful film exposure and development testing (linked to an individual’s equipment and working habits) and removes the doubts of ‘hope it will come out’ photography.Read More
It's not a conscious effort, but I feel I have become something of an advocate of HP5+ film developed in Perceptol. It is a combination that Barry Thornton used to sing the praises of, and I have found myself admiring it time and again.
It's all very well doing studies of film and developer combinations in the abstract (see my Pebble Project galleries, and blog posts for lots on this), but the simple fact is, for a photographer shooting black and white, it is the tones he or she attains in practice that are key.
The properties I enjoy with this combination are sharpness (with a little grain suppression) and a long tonal range. It's the latter I've really got in mind in presenting the above image. The scene was backlit - a classic dramatic landscape type image - and it really benefits from the film's ability to capture a wide brightness range. The undulations in tone follow and amplify the structural curves of the trees.
Ilford HP5+ developed in LC29 1+19 6.5 mins 20c
A by-product of writing a blog is that it inevitably records the author's developing tastes and predilections. I seem to be very much in a black and white mindset at the moment, to the point, even, of giving a monochrome treatment to shots I originally saw in colour - like this one here.
There is a very old tradition in picture making of a landscape in which the viewer's eye is led towards a source of light. This has a pictorial effectiveness, the eye undertaking a 'journey' and finding satisfaction in so doing, and it also has an obvious metaphorical resonance. 'Out of the darkness, and into the light.' I write 'picture making', because it abounds in historical painting, and therefore long precedes photography.
I am close to this shot, having just processed it, and so am not yet decided as to how much I like it. It is significant because of its relationship with the above tradition, but as usual with these things, it is also something of a photographer's set piece, just as are windows, doors and so on. My main reason for including it is that I know I am happy with its tones.
I trimmed the image a little, before darkening the edges and tweaking the highlight tones. I worked towards a tonally full piece, one having a range of tones from black to near white. This image presents one of those very balanced and full-looking histograms that fills the graph as a neat and symmetrical, centred hill. I haven't yet printed it, but imagine that it will print very well and has plenty to occupy the eye, in textural detail as well as fulsome tone.