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10-05-2011, 02:05 PM   #1
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My first roll of B/W... not sure what went wrong

So I just got my hands on a Pentax MX in great condition. I was so excited that I took it on my trip to El Salvador without ever having used it before. Well lets just say I wasnt blown away by the results. Im not sure what the issue was. I have included some sample shots (I did my best to correct some of these in iPhoto, but these are the original with no PP done). It seems to me that a lot of my skys are totally blown out and there is not much contrast in many of the shots. I dont know if its possible to tell just from looking at some shots what I may have failed to do, but lets try.

Basic info about these photos: Pentax MX, Kodak Tri-X 400, Pentax M-35/2.8 and 50/1.7, and I used the meter in camera.

what variables do I need to consider and improve upon next roll? lower speed film? do i need to expose sunny pictures differently than my meter says? be more careful of lighting conditions and not expose exactly as the meter says? please help a newbie!!!! THANKS!


Last edited by wehavenowaves!; 07-10-2012 at 05:40 AM.
10-05-2011, 02:29 PM   #2
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Hard to tell without knowing the intensity of sky, but the contrast and such look fine to me. Just each shot looks overexposed slightly. If I remember correctly, the MX exposes center weighted, so the meter will expose for your subjects in the center of the frame, which is looks it looks like it has done alright.
10-05-2011, 02:32 PM   #3
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Hummm... how have you scanned the film? Was the camera recently serviced? Are the lenses in good condition? Have you used a lenshood? With 400 ISO and the kind of sun you have in Salvador, you should have had plenty of speed (maybe not for the first one which looks a bit blurred).
10-05-2011, 02:46 PM   #4
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#2 looks like an overcast day? I don't see any strong shadows.

Did you scan these yourself?

Did you use a colored filter (eg yellow, orange)?

In general, getting better tone in a blue sky is augmented with a colored filter. Other factors such as exposure is significant too. If the sky is placed, say, 4 or more stops above the middle gray exposure, it's just begging to be rendered "white". And that is something you really never know when using the camera's meter.

Don't, in general, expect optimum results without some post processing of your image after a scan. A lot depends on what curve adjustments and sharpening was done in the scanning software of course.

10-05-2011, 02:47 PM   #5
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Did you set the ASA dial to match the film?
10-05-2011, 02:57 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by wehavenowaves! Quote
So I just got my hands on a Pentax MX in great condition. I was so excited that I took it on my trip to El Salvador without ever having used it before. Well lets just say I wasnt blown away by the results. Im not sure what the issue was. I have included some sample shots (I did my best to correct some of these in iPhoto, but these are the original with no PP done). It seems to me that a lot of my skys are totally blown out and there is not much contrast in many of the shots. I dont know if its possible to tell just from looking at some shots what I may have failed to do, but lets try.

Basic info about these photos: Pentax MX, Kodak Tri-X 400, Pentax M-35/2.8 and 50/1.7, and I used the meter in camera.

what variables do I need to consider and improve upon next roll? lower speed film? do i need to expose sunny pictures differently than my meter says? be more careful of lighting conditions and not expose exactly as the meter says? please help a newbie!!!! THANKS!
Looks to me like your first problem is really bad scanning. How were your negatives scanned? What adjustments were made during the scanning process? The images you posted are not 'originals". They are scans, which is quite a different thing.

It's tricky to judge negatives solely on the basis of scans as the scanning process can greatly alter the appearance of images. My best guesses are that there was some overexposure and that one of your lenses may not have been completely clean (flare in group shot)

I suggest that you ask a photographer who is experienced in film development to have a look at your negatives. It is fairly easy to "read" negatives to determine whether exposure is grossly off. Most darkroom books (easy to find used ones for little money) provide advice on evaluating negatives.

Cheers
10-05-2011, 03:11 PM   #7
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Overall, these shots remind me of my own B&W snaps (as returned from the photofinishers) from the '50's: it is because of shots such as these that I enthusiastically took to chromes and colour instead.

Since then, I have discovered that the kind of prints (see Ansel Adams and /Weston etc) I had hoped to get required both the creative utilisation of various filters (to beef up contrast and to bring out the clouds), the use of different "grades" of printing paper, and some post processing steps (such as dodging and burning in).

All this was a bit too much for me, so I have stuck with colour.
10-05-2011, 03:24 PM   #8
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i got a clue

the meter of the MX is center weigthed. It means that it does mainly a spot mesure on the middle of the picture.
So on the first two picture, the people are well exposed (because they are in the middle) and the rest is over exposed (mainly sky.)

A great way to compensate this center metering is using the huge dynamic range of the film
If you shoot a scenery that is bright, do the metering on the brightest part, and under expose of 1/2 or 1 EV this part. So the film won't be burned (or not too much) on this area, and the rest will remain well exposed.

You have to know that the dynamic range of film is huge (even at 400 or 800 iso). I did some excellent picture with some Ilford and Tmax 400 iso, with an under-exposure of 2 EV. I made is process @400 iso, and the picture is fine, one of my best in fact !
(the real one is not that grainy at all, the grain comes from a baaaaad "scanner")



When you take some picture with arsh contrast or a lot of sun, you can use set the meter to under expose of 1/2 EV (even 1 EV if you do your own processing and printing process.)

10-05-2011, 03:44 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by aurele Quote
...
When you take some picture with arsh contrast or a lot of sun, you can use set the meter to under expose of 1/2 EV (even 1 EV if you do your own processing and printing process.)
Actually, in a high contrast scene, you want to slightly over expose and under develop to compress the highlights assuming you metered for the low values properly. How much you over expose and under develop is film brand, developer brand and amount of compression dependent.

Last edited by tuco; 10-05-2011 at 04:01 PM.
10-05-2011, 05:13 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Actually, in a high contrast scene, you want to slightly over expose and under develop to compress the highlights assuming you metered for the low values properly. How much you over expose and under develop is film brand, developer brand and amount of compression dependent.
Exactly right. A very old saying in black and white film photography is "Expose for shadows, develop for highlights."
10-05-2011, 05:51 PM   #11
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wehavenowaves!,

Did you scan the images yourself? The images contain more information but are way out off range from my usual curve profile I use for a Tri-X film?



I made a wild 'S' correction to my Tri-X profile to match the shadow detail to my guestimation of the type of light.

Also, are you familiar with Sunny-16 rule?

Last edited by MysteryOnion; 10-05-2011 at 05:59 PM.
10-06-2011, 12:49 AM   #12
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The pictures look a bit over contrasty to me

Maybe it is bad scanning; so check if the contrast if OK by inspection
1. Place the negatives over an open book or newspaper if you can stil read the letters through the dark parts of your negatives (sky) highlights are OK
If the highlights are too dark, then you have overdeveloped; cut dev times but 10-20%

2. place your negatives over a computer screen in white and see details in the light areas (shadows)
If the shadows have no information then you have underexposed, change you ISO set from 400 to 250/300
10-06-2011, 05:17 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by John Poirier Quote
Exactly right. A very old saying in black and white film photography is "Expose for shadows, develop for highlights."
funny ! i was teach the exact opposite ! it was called the Zone System
10-06-2011, 05:59 AM   #14
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You left out some important information, as others have already pointed out:

- what developer did you use and did you use standard times / dilutions etc? Agitation schedule?

- what scanner and software; did you let the software determine the scanning exposure?

However, even without that info, and making some assumptions - the film is reasonably well exposed and developed, and you used default scanner settings - I can say that usually there's more to be done with a scan in post processing. The image is your 'print', and like with traditional printing, you need to adjust curves and contrast and so on, plus likely do spotting and dodging / burning etc.

In fact, the default scan exposure makes certain assumptions about what a 'normal' scene is, and often it is better to adjust the light / dark points yourself, get a flat looking scan, and adjust from there in post processing. This way you know the scan doesn't blow highlights or block shadows, at least.
10-06-2011, 08:40 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by aurele Quote
funny ! i was teach the exact opposite ! it was called the Zone System
Expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights is a high-level description of the zone system.

Think it through. All you do when you under expose a high contrast scene is place highlights at a lower value as well as the low values when you develop as normal. So under exposing 2EV (2 stops) places what would be a zone 8 tone at zone 6 and a zone 3 at zone 1 (all black). Your goal in the zone system is to move the high values and not significantly move the low values.

Compressing is not linear across all values. Highlights develop faster than the shadows. To compress a high value by say one stop (move say zone 9 down to zone 8) you under develop. But the low values might only move 1/3 of a stop in this scenario. So you bump up the exposure so the low values are slightly higher and drop to what you metered when you under develop. The opposite is true for expansion on a low contrast scenes.

Example: This test shot is a high contrast scene. I metered only the low values and placed them. I added 3 stops to the exposure and under developed the film by 1/2 normal time for 400TMY using PMK Pyro. I captured detail from zone 2 to zone 14. That's highlights 9 stops above middle gray.

Last edited by tuco; 10-06-2011 at 11:36 AM.
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