Strangely perhaps, this was the first time I had shot HP5 in about 40 years of shooting film. The reason I hadn’t shot it before was quite simple – I just didn’t like the HP5 images I saw online. I’m a fan of fine grain and HP5 is just too grainy for my liking. Of course, I know that some people like HP5 for precisely that reason.
I did think it was time that I confronted my fear of HP5. I knew it was likely that at least some of my images on this trip would be taken handheld indoors in the castle or perhaps a church, so I decided to pack a roll of HP5 with a view to rating it at EI1600, even thought that would make it even more grainy.
The image below was my favourite from the trip. It was taken in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle – a place where courtiers might have waited to see the king, and perhaps a few plots were hatched. The shadows add to the mystery in my eyes. There were a few other visitors to the hall, who were viewing the large collection of guns, swords, and other armaments – but I prefer to take the path less trodden.
(Click on any image for a larger version)
I find that grain is most obvious in the sky, and in shadow areas where some detail is still visible (especially when we try to boost the shadows), so it’s less obvious in the this image where there’s no sky, and I’ve deliberately kept the shadows almost black.
The next image is in St Giles Cathedral. It was taken at 1/30s and with the lens wide open – so I couldn’t have taken it at any lower ISO without using a tripod. Again I think I got lucky with a subject choice which doesn’t emphasise grain.
In the Museum of Scotland, I could have got away with a lower ISO in this hall because there was a lot of light. I’ve used luminous noise reduction in Lightroom to mask some of the grain. I love this spot – I remember taking a picture there about 10 years ago on an Olympus XA and wanted to go back to get a mediun format version.
Finally here’s a shot which had a very high contrast range. I could have got a shot with lower ISO but the alleyway would have been mostly in shadow. HP5 at EI 1600 retained a lot of shadow detail on the left hand wall and the visible grain is sympathetic to the gritty stone walls.
I was quite happy with this small group of images captured on HP5 at EI1600, and processed in Kodak HC110, but I’m still not keen on the HP5 images I see at ISO400. Some commentators say that HP5 is better pulled to EI200 – but since I can easily push FP4+ to EI200 and get a finer-grained result, I don’t feel any desire to do that. Your mileage may vary!
I have however purchased a few more rolls of HP5, with a view to pushing them when circumstances require it. It’s finding it’s way into my film store, but as a specialist option rather than an all-rounder.