Equipment and Materials used – The Film
KODAK T-MAX 400
Once again I have been using T-Max pretty much since I started. To me it is the perfect balance between grain and tonal range. Not too much grey, with beautiful detail in the blacks as well as the whites. In other words it is a reasonably high contrast film without losing out in the mid tones. I also find the speed a perfect compromise for working in most levels of light. It can easily be pushed to 1600 and beyond with relatively little increase of grain or loss of detail. In other words a very flexible and forgiving film.
I have tried other films. I loved Kodak Recording Film, which I exposed at 1600 ASA. The grain was beautiful but more than that it was the way it dealt with direct light. The whites were blown out and then suddenly before you knew it you were into the deep blacks. It was stunning. Unfortunately Kodak no longer makes it. I did find the way the film curled slightly annoying though. It would take months to flatten out in the negative files and even once it had, when exposed to the heat of the bulb in the enlarger it would curl up again. This was particularly annoying when the frame you were exposing was on the end of the negative strip.
The main reason I stopped using Recording Film however, was that I cannot be bothered to carry more than one camera body around with me, so when i found myself in situations where I wanted to change film I was having to do so half way through rolls, wasting the film.
I am always asked why I don’t use other black and white films like Ilford HP5 and Kodak Tri-X. I have tried the Ilford but (and I have no idea if this is true or not or if it is just me judging it instinctively) I found it too grey. It does not seem to have the same extremes as the T-Max. Funnily enough I find the same problem with Ilford’s paper. As for the Tri-X, I have never really given it much of a chance, but the brief impression I have is that it is, like the Ilford, a slightly less extreme film.
I also tried various slow, low grain films, but never really got on with them. I found them very unforgiving and when you are, like me, slightly haphazard with chemicals and their timings, the last thing you need is a film that punishes you for it.