Pulling films to reduce contrast ?
Old 4 Weeks Ago   #1
ulrich.von.lich
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Pulling films to reduce contrast ?

Hello,

I would like to photograph some night scenes that are very contrasty. Imagine a scene where the Eiffel Tower, all lit up, is sitting on the top of a dark mountain at night, my goal would be to make the silhouette of the mountain visible, so the mountain can be distinguished from the sky. It happens at times the rest of the picture is totally dark due to the fact the subject is too bright. I don't need any detail from the mountain, obviously, but wish to have a sky that is not totally darkened.

I wonder if it's a good idea to use a 400 film at 100 or 50 to reduce contrast.

At the same time, I would like to avoid grains as much as possible. I remember how grainy they were the pictures from the roll of TRIX I exposed by mistake at 100 and developed in Rodinal 1:50 at 7.5 minutes.

The reciprocity failure is not a problem because the exposure will not last more than a couple of seconds, even if I slow down the aperture a bit.

I have excluded all slow films because it seems to me they are all quite contrasty themselves: Acros 100, Pan F 50 etc. They are good for long exposures, which is not my case. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I don't know them well.

For the moment, I have both TRIX and TMY as well as Rodinal and DDX. On digitaltruth there is a developing time for TMY at 50 in DDX, and I'm thinking of starting from there. However I don't know if the shadow details would be better than TRIX at 100 in Rodinal. If really needed, I can purchase other films or developers.

I have a low contrast lens for the job, too. By the way, is there any colour filter that I should try? I'm thinking perhaps a blue filter because after sunset, the sky remains kind of bluish, and some of the yellow / tungsten lights of the main subject can be filtered off perhaps? Again, the filter factor shouldn't be a problem.

I will be printing the negatives instead of scanning them, if that makes any difference.

It would be nice to hear some similar experiences. It seems most people push films by purpose and pull them by mistake.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #2
John Bragg
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Taking a pure stab in the dark with this one, I would try Tri-X @ei 200 and develop for a softer negative. Rodinal 1:100 might be the way to go as some compensation will occur if you don't agitate too much. I would also shoot in dusk not pure dark as you can retain detail in landscape and print as dark as you like later.

Ps. Bracket exposures too.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #3
Lauffray
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Pulling film does reduce contrast, but there's a few other things you can do too.

My experience with Rodinal is that it's very sensitive to agitation, it naturally tends to have good micro-contrast so the grain looks more apparent. I'd recommend either reducing agitation and temperature or maybe going with a more modern developer specifically formulated for less grain.

Also, TriX is a pretty grainy film, you could also start with a 100ISO film and pull it to 50 or 25.

The distinction you make for printing is an important one, scanning always looks different and I recommend not to use that as a reference for your development experiments. Maybe try medium format if you want the least amount of grain.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #4
aperture64
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You don't need to push or pull. Over exposure will bring out the detail. When I shoot landscapes at night, I over expose by 3-4 stops. I prefer using Portra 400 or Tri-X/HP5/Acros.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #5
sepiareverb
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HP5+ at 50 can be very good in super high contrast scenes. Microphen 1:1 for 12 minutes (IIRC - you can check the time on the massive development chart). I would test the development time for your scene if possible, I've only used this for super contrasty low light indoor scenes, with bare bulbs in the frame.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #6
Calzone
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ulrich.von.lich View Post
Hello,

I would like to photograph some night scenes that are very contrasty. Imagine a scene where the Eiffel Tower, all lit up, is sitting on the top of a dark mountain at night, my goal would be to make the silhouette of the mountain visible, so the mountain can be distinguished from the sky. It happens at times the rest of the picture is totally dark due to the fact the subject is too bright. I don't need any detail from the mountain, obviously, but wish to have a sky that is not totally darkened.

The reciprocity failure is not a problem because the exposure will not last more than a couple of seconds, even if I slow down the aperture a bit.

I have excluded all slow films because it seems to me they are all quite contrasty themselves: Acros 100, Pan F 50 etc. They are good for long exposures, which is not my case. Please correct me if I'm wrong but I don't know them well.

For night shooting when using a tripod Acros at box speed and developed in Diafine 5+5 is kinda unbeatable.

Diafine is a compensating developer that is purposely designed to lower contrast. I shoot NYC at night so I have bright lights and black, but with Diafine I get mids because I slightly underdevelop by only doing two inversions on my stainless steel tank instead of three. I also discovered that this also reduces grain, and with Acros it is almost no grain.

I will also tell you that forget seconds. Stopped down you are talking exposures in minutes not seconds. A minute and a half exposure will give you a nice negative with a full range of tones, but a three minute exposure will be a lot better, and for maximume detail you might even consider 5 minutes.

Understand that Part "A" Diafine in theory only soaks into the film, and is then drained, but little or no development takes place during those first 5 minutes.

When part "B" is in the tank the Part "A" gets activated, but the highlights kind of get a stand development because the amount of part "A" that soaked into the highlights gets depleted. Kinda impossible or hard to blow the detail in the highlights.

The 5 Minutes in Part "B" usually produces enhanced shadow detail, more then you generally see when using any solvent developer, so there is an enhanced "film HDR" effect, but it is only using one exposure and not stacking exposure.

By moderating my agitation this is really done as not blowing out the mids into shadows. No need for that because Diafine creates mucho shadow detail.

With Diafine, when in doubt overexpose.

I get full tonal range, even though these are urban night shots. And yes I have wet prints. The twist here is not that you are lowering contrast really, but are trying to shoot using a high dynamic range.

Cal

POSTSCRIPT: I forgot the best part: there is no reciprocy failure with Acros. Don't be shy with heavy exposure. I think you will find the negatives with the longest exposures will be your best.
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Last edited by Calzone : 4 Weeks Ago at 09:19. Reason: Postscript:
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #7
Calzone
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If you have the time check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cWhMVrbAZ8.

This was part of a documentary about works of art in public storage, and there ended up having an art show at a Manhattan Mini Storage.

The shipping container I open up initially shows some Piezography prints, many night shots taken with my Monochrom and printed somewhat large, but the print of interest for you is the square shot of an industrial area with the Empire State Building in the background.

This is a film image shot with a Tele Rollieflex using Acros at 100 and developed in Diafine. I likely used F8.0 and my initial exposure was likely 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, but this print was from a 3-4 minute exposure.

Pardon the archival plastic, but there is enough footage to see some of the detail and tonality. You will see the mids I am talking about.

Cal
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