Night Shooting with Pan F+ and the Pentax 645

This is a shot I’ve revisited a few times, the first with a Canon F-1, 28mm lens and Kodak Ektar 100 film. Later, I went back with the same camera and lens, but black and white film.

This time, I was walking around downtown Roanoke after dark with the Pentax 645 and 45mm lens (which has a similar field of view to the aforementioned 28mm on the Canon). For night time shooting I typically use my trusty old Gossen Luna Pro F in reflected light configuration and refer to the printed table I have taped to the back of it for times accounting for reciprocity failure.

I suspected this would be extra-challenging with Pan F and it’s tendency toward high contrast, but it wasn’t so bad. The negative came out contrasty but usable. Scanning it was easy, but the darkroom is always the true test of a negative’s character.

In this case, it was a fairly soft effective grade (printed split grade, with a very short exposure at grade 5 compared to the 00 exposure). A little simple burning in on the lower area helped keep it under control, otherwise it’s a straight print.

The detail on a 645-format piece of Pan F+ is something else. You can’t see it here, or even with the naked eye on the 8×10 print unless you look really closely, but under a loupe, about 1/3 of the way down, is a reflection of an illuminated street name sign which was somewhere behind me. On the print, and in a scan of the film, it’s amazingly sharp. That contrast though…I really need to work on the development time for this stuff!

All In A Line

All In A Line

Some time ago I was gifted a set of Vivitar Series 1 close-up filters in a size suitable for my Pentax 645 system. They’re simple, uncoated single element glass diopters, in +1, +2, +4 and +10 strengths.

With the 150mm lens, these can get you pretty close to your subject. Needless to say, you want to do this on a tripod. One nice thing about these is that they don’t affect the amount of light at the film plane. The downside is that they aren’t as sharp as a dedicated macro setup. But I have to be honest here, I’m overall impressed with the results so far. They can even be stacked, to a point (not all will fit together as the +4 and +10 bulge out quite a way, also image quality will really suffer with all those uncoated air-glass interfaces).

This shot was made using Ilford’s Pan-F Plus, a traditional style slow speed film. It produces beautiful tonality and fine grain, at the expense of slower shutter speeds and a tendency to get very contrasty, very quickly. But it makes very pleasing prints. In this case, the print is also on Ilford material, their pearl-finish resin-coated multigrade paper.

Other than figuring out which filter to attach to the 150mm, this was a fairly simple shot to make, and a straight print at a lower contrast (because Pan F+ and I’m still dialing in my development times with it).

A restart, and updates

Canon F-1, Kodak Ultra Max 400 developed in Rodinal 1+100 30 minutes semi-stand. Paul Glover PhotographyIt’s been a while since I last posted anything here. No posts, no gallery updates, no nothing. Two and a half years, more or less.

The good news is, I’ve not been idle in the photography department. The bad news is I’ve not been idle anywhere much else, either!

So what’s been going on, anyway, besides the rust and peeling paint?

Printing. I’ve done a lot of this, which is great. My earlier described LED lightsource has been a faithful servant and combined with primary green and blue cinematic filter gels under the lamp, I’ve made a number of pleasing split grade prints.

LED. The bigger news is that I’ve been working alongside a UK-based hardware engineer and darkroom printer to develop a complete controller and lightsource system using red, green and blue high LED modules. This allows full control over contrast grade, and a completely paper-safe view of the projected image when not exposing. It’s still in prototype stage, but well on the way to being completed! I started out with a prototype made of cardboard, using the existing condenser system, but have since rebuilt it in a wooden box and switched over to running it as a diffuse light source. This has been my primary printing method for a good year and a half.

Liquidol. I tried a bottle of Formulary Liquidol for my printing. As it turns out, the working solution, long lived as it is, still wasn’t long lived enough to deal with my somewhat sporadic darkroom efforts. Liquidol is a lovely developer, but better suited to a more regular throughput, or for darkroom users who don’t print often, but do long sessions with many prints when they do.

Ansco 130. My original working solution, mixed from powders in September 2013, was still active as of this June, last time I printed. I’d been replenishing it every session from full strength stock, but that ran out some time ago. I will be getting more, this developer is perfect for how I work!

Cameras and formats. I got into the Pentax 645 system, and use that camera almost exclusively now. With a 45, 75 and 150mm lens, a couple of filters, 3 film inserts, and some closeup filters, it’s a very complete system which has been giving me great photos in a wide range of situations, from shooting landscapes on a tripod, to handheld shots at an air show. I’d love to add the 300mm and 35mm lenses to the bag, and replace the original manual focus 645 body with a newer 645N which has much better ergonomics. But it’s a solid, reliable system I’m happy with. I still have the Yashica TLR, along with a 1936 Voigtlander Brillant and 1926 Ansco Goodwin box camera, all in medium format. In 35mm, I still have the Canon F1 but don’t shoot it much. My old Vista View 35 plastic camera had a shutter failure. I found an Olympus XA, which for a couple of years was the only reason I even shot any 35mm at all; sadly, a couple of months ago it had a (common) electrical failure in which the self timer cannot be disengaged. A 10 second shutter lag means the camera is of no further use to me for the type of shooting it excelled in. Sadly missed. I also found a Canon EOS Rebel X with 35-80mm mk.III kit lens, it’s a good little camera and might yet vie with the F1 for the “smaller, faster” type of shooting. I just don’t do that much, though. And I MUCH prefer handling medium format film, both for scanning and enlarging.

Large format. Ha, fooled you! I have not, yet, succumbed to any urge to go to 4×5 large format. But I do have a plan for how I might upgrade my enlarger for it. Just in case, you know? Only the Pentax 645’s overall competence is saving me, I suspect.

Move. In July, we moved home, and so the quest to make a regular room into a working darkroom is on, again. It’s taken until now just to get the room habitable again, but plans are afoot for darkroom use. I do indeed plan to document this process right here.\

Fiber and other art papers. I took the plunge into printing on fiber base paper and it wasn’t as scary as it sounded. Adox MCC-110, Ilford MGFB Classic (glossy) are very nice papers which dry decently flat without much extra effort beyond hanging them up for a couple of days and then flattening them under something heavy for a couple more days. My favorite, however, is Ilford’s Art300 cotton rag base. Takes less washing, has a pleasing eggshell/semi-matte finish which manages to combine both high DMAX and easy retouching (diluted India Ink for spotting, can even scrape off emulsion to remove small dark spots, can use pencil and colors easily also. Washing FB papers has been in-tray, by multiple changes of water, one print per tray. I’d still like to make some sort of washer, but it’s not critical.

Gallery. I’ve been printing, which means I have updates for the gallery to follow shortly.

Digital. We (as in my wife and I) finally replaced the ageing and much-dropped Olympus with a “proper” digital camera – a Sony SLT-A33. Uses the existing Minolta A-mount lenses she had, and the SLT cameras play well to the strengths of digital in being able to live-view focus at 100%, and preview the exposure and DOF in the viewfinder. As much as I love film, and manual focus cameras, our grandkids move too fast for me! Also, I do like color print film’s tonal characteristics, but it’s kind of a pain to deal with when I just want some competent snapshots, or if I find myself shooting an event of some sort (which has happened a handful of times).

See, I’m not just some film-only elitist snob! I’ll shoot digital when it makes sense to, we just didn’t have any digital camera that was up to doing it properly until the Sony.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and my sincerest apologies for the long break. I plan to write more here and use it as my primary place for sharing my photographic work.

Drying Marks BEGONE!

One thing which has been the bane of my existence since the first roll of film I developed at home is the dreaded drying marks. Those irritating little streaks on the base side of the film.

Hanging to dry

I don’t, oddly enough, have trouble with drying marks on my prints.

I’d tried everything. Lots of photoflo. Tiny amounts of it, just a drop. Squeegee/no squeegee. Sometimes I would be streak free and home clear, but more often than not, there they would be.

They do wipe off easily in my case. But I’d still prefer not to have to deal with them.

I don’t recall where I read this. Maybe FADU or APUG. But someone suggested distilled water for the final rinse, with just a drop of photo flo. I usually have that around anyway as I use it for mixing my stock solutions and diluted developer working solutions.

Whaddya know but it worked! Half a dozen rolls finished up this way, sitting in distilled plus a drop of the wash aid for a few minutes, and not a single drying mark among the lot of them! No squeegee either, which reduces the chances of damage. Win win, as they say.

So if you’re fighting this problem and are at a loss for how to fix it, this might just be the answer!

Next trick will be to see if I can get away with just plain distilled water and no photo flo at all. I’ll be sure to post how it goes.

Off-the-shelf LED Enlarger Lightsource – part 3: contrast, exposure and coverage comparisons

In part 1 I considered ways to use a standard LED light bulb in place of the PH140 and ended up with the Utilitech Pro from Lowes.

Part 2 saw me cobble together a vaguely alarming cardboard-and-hot-glue contraption to hold the bulb in the right place.

Finally I made some comparison exposures to test for differences. I expected to see longer exposure times as the PH140, an overdriven 75W incandescent, pumps out 1150 lumens compared to the Utilitech’s 60-watt equivalent 800 lumens. I hoped for equally good coverage. I knew I’d see a change in contrast but honestly had no idea what to expect there.


Though it certainly looks good by eye, the only way to know for sure is to make an exposure of an empty negative holder using each light source and compare them. I aimed for a mid-to-light gray with no contrast filters, which turned out to be about twice as long for the LED, all other settings the same. I set up for 6×6 medium format as my 80mm is not necessarily designed to cover larger frames.

This is how it appears on paper, with both tests scanned together for a direct comparison:


Not bad on either one; just a tiny amount of visible variation, if anything the LED looks a little more even! Ignore the blotch in the top left of the LED patch; that’s a thumbprint from slightly sloppy handling.

Next, some post-scan curves alchemy, slamming the white and black points toward each other so that the exposed patches are represented by the full available range of tones. If there was such a thing as grade 50 paper, it might look like this:


Blimey! So, the LED has a hot spot in the middle and falls off quite evenly toward the edges. Some of that might be down to the longer path taken by the light exposing the corners here; this was a 4×4 inch patch, the enlarger head nearly bottomed out, so I’d expect some falloff in the corners under the circumstances. The PH140’s light spread is weird and awful looking, with very sudden and severe drop off into the corners, though the center isn’t quite so hot as with the LED! LED for the win, folks.

Again, keep in mind that’s a highly exaggerated contrast level and that the first pair of patches are really what it looks like. In real prints even the PH140’s oddball coverage, which is just discernible in the unmolested scan, does not make any noticeable impact. So the LED? It’ll do just fine, thank you. I should probably be edge burning my prints anyway, which would only serve to cover up the slight loss of light in the corners.

Exposure and Contrast – Grade 2 filter

Next up, a comparison of the two light sources through a grade 2 Kodak Polycontrast filter. This will give me a feel for how exposure time and contrast selection would differ. Again, both prints were scanned together, so the tones on one compare directly to the other.


The differences are fairly clear: the LED needs longer print times and has considerably lowered contrast. The longer time is about what I expected. Looks like highlights start coming in about 2/3 of a stop slower than with the PH140, somewhere between 8 and 12 seconds for the LED vs 6 seconds for the PH140. Since I’m about to start using Adorama VC RC and the new Ilford FB Classic papers, both of which are faster than the Ilford MGIV, I could actually use that slight increase in times.

The massive change in contrast through the #2 filter is rather unexpected. Now, since I’m moving toward split grade printing using blue and green filters, this may not matter too much, but it’s an interesting data point. I haven’t formally tested unfiltered exposure, but did make a couple of contact sheets that way and they looked to have normal contrast.

My next move is to subject this setup to some real-world abuse by making prints. I’ll find out in a hurry if there are any significant shortcomings.