I shot a lot of Ilford HP5 in 2023. About a dozen rolls of it. And I still have a lot of it in my fridge. My goal in using a stock so frequently is to become familiar with it, and to find a way of shooting and developing it that works for me.

Helping me decide what to do with all of this HP5 is the article “Different Ways to Shoot and Develop Ilford HP5” by Jennifer Stamps. After metering a bunch of HP5 under its box speed of 400 this roll I decided to push it two stops and meter it at 1600.

This is great for shooting indoors or other low light situations. And a big subject of my winter photography is indoor shots of an orchid plant illuminated by our weak winter sun. I took this one at the exact time of the winter solstice here in Minnesota.

A close up black and white photo of two orchid flowers and a closed orchid bloom.
1/2, f8, 50mm macro, HP5 (EI 1600), red filter

Although reasonably well lit the high ISO still helped me here. For these orchid shots I used a red filter, reducing my light by three stops. The two extra stops I got from pushing the film helped keep my exposure times from getting in to the reciprocity failure zone.

I used the red filter because the orchids I’m shooting have fine purple details on their leaves. I’d hoped that the red filter would help draw these details out. But from what I can see it made no difference.

A close up black and white photo of two orchid flowers and a closed orchid bloom.
1/15, f16, 50mm macro, HP5 (EI 1600), red filter

My usual method for taking these photos is pretty low effort. I spend the day working on my laptop in my back room. Every so often I glance at the orchids. If the light looks nice, I take a photo. Sometimes the light lines up just right.

A black and white close up photo of two small orchid flowers. The flowers are mostly in shadow except for a vertical strip of light that bisects them.
1/4, f16, 50mm macro, HP5 (EI 1600), red filter

I have a lot more to say about this photo, which I’ll save for a future post.

In that post on shooting HP5 Jennifer Stamps says that pushing 2 stops “intensifies the contrast and grain even more”, which certainly lines up with what I see in these orchid shots. And was even more true when I shot in lower light situations

A black and white photo of a statue of a woman. She wears a shawl over her head covered in flowers. Her face is painted as if it's a skull -- in Dia de los Muertos style -- with white skin and black eye sockets. She wears a black corset and a white lace skirt. Crossing her body is a bandoleier of flowers and money. She holds dollar wads of dollar bills in both hands.
1/30, f4, 50mm/1.4, Ilford HP5 (EI 1600)

To be fair it’s a contrasty subject to begin with, but I like how it looks here. When printing it I pushed the contrast higher with an Ilford 4 filter and then let the print soak in some highly diluted selenium toner (1:20) to deepen the blacks.

The grain gets a little bigger at 1600, but not as much as I feared. It’s there, but I don’t find it distracting.

These were shot using a Pentax Spotmatic ii. Developed in Rodianal 1+50 for 24:00 at 20C.

Full album

Thanks for reading! Coming up I’m working on posts about pulling HP5 and some darkroom-focused posts. You can always keep up to date by adding the site to a RSS reader or follow me over on Mastadon at https://mastodon.art/@ianwhitney.


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