Tempelhof Airfield, HP5 + ID-11 1:1, 11 min. with constant agitation
Film Recipe: Ilford HP5+ 400 in ID-11 1+11 at 20C for 11 minutes, constant agitation.
This recipe for black and white film development in the darkroom is one of many in a series. Readily available films and developers have changed over the last few years, and this is intended to be an up to date selection of recipes.
This is my go-to film and developer combination, as it is for many film photographers, with good reason. One of the advantages of film photography over digital is the extraordinary tonal range which film can record. And Ilford’s HP5 is one of the best at doing exactly that. The result is a relatively low contrast negative, but you can always increase the contrast later when printing. Getting information onto the negative is a crucial step in black and white analog photography, and this combination of developer and film will effortlessly do exactly that.
The downside of HP5 with ID-11 is grain. This isn’t a fine-grained combination, and it is too much for some people. That makes this combination a better choice as a medium format black-and-white film than as a 35mm film. I use it for both, knowing that the final photograph will have a different feel.
My grandpa’s Rolleiflex, from the attic.
The easiest way to get more out of black and white film for your darkroom experimenting is to use medium format film. Medium format is sold as “120 Roll Film”. Developing medium format film in the darkroom is the same as 35mm format, but the film is way broader, making it easier to handle. If you have a developing tank big enough to handle two rolls of 35mm film, it can probably handle one roll of 120 film.
Different cameras give you a different size negative, and different format. The classic medium format size is 6x6cm (2 1/4 square inch), which you get with most Rolleiflex and Hasselblad cameras. Or with a Holga. Mamiya makes a bunch of cameras that shoot 6×4.5cm or 6x7cm. There are plenty of others. A Holga is the cheapest way to jump in the game. A few weeks ago I bought a perfectly functional Rolleicord (6x6cm) for 40€ from a shop.
Why medium format? Because the negative is bigger, way bigger. Going from 35mm (2.4×3.6mm) up to 120 (say, 6x6cm) roughly triples the size. If you are thinking digital, it is not at all like going from a smaller sensor to a larger one. It is like tripling the number of megapixels and sensor size at the same time.
I enlarge ISO 400 negatives shot on HP5+ in my darkroom up to 30x30cm all the time and get no grain whatsoever. Perfect resolution. This gives you a lot more room to play. If the exposure is off, or there are a lot of highlights or shadows in your picture, you can get more out of the negative without loosing quality. It like shooting with a state of the art digital camera. Indeed, I find I can get more tonal range on HP5+ film shot at 400 than I can with my Nikon D800 at 400, similar to what I get shooting digitally at 100.
Shooting medium format film is a fifty dollar solution to get a lot more room to play in the darkroom. You could buy hundreds of rolls of medium format film for the price of a digital camera with a similar resolution…