Adding a little colour to my FP4Plus
Back in Oct’ 2020 Emulsive published an article by Anthony Pearson about making trichrome images with our favourite B&W film Ilford FP4 Plus. I had never seen one before and was amazed by the results so I promptly opened my mouth and this happened...
I decided (if I could pick up enough courage) that I would wait for the next #fp4party to try it out. It’s plainly not a new technique and a few people have recently experimented with it but with colour film readily available in smaller formats there seems little point to go through the pain to achieve a colour image. Colour Ultra Large Format (ULF) film is virtually non-existent other than very special orders from Kodak and way out of my price, skills or interest.
Doing this was not going to be cheap so I waited till #fp4party 2021 to try the technique out with the handily loaned RB67 from Dave Whenham. Each trichrome requires 3 negatives, taken of the same (stationery) subject from the same point of view in hopefully stable lighting using a different filter for each exposure. Red, Green and Blue to give an RGB composite image to construct back in the “lightroom”. I had Red and Green filters as they are “normal” B&W filters. A managed to get my hands on a cheap Blue filter to complete the “trichrome” set.
For my tests I exposed two subjects. Six exposures, keeping the focus and aperture the same I had to vary the exposure time to handle the different filter factors. Not too tricky to keep track off whilst exposing. Sort the focus, and determine a base exposure at an aperture that allows all the required exposure times to be handled by the MF and LF lens shutters. I didn’t want to get into multi second exposures as there was enough to “worry” about. Make an initial exposure with the Red filter with the appropriate exposure time correction. Switch to the Green filter, correct the exposure time and expose. Switch to the Blue filter, correct the exposure time again and expose.
Development of the 120 roll with the 6 exposures was with trusty Moersch Finol at 24C.
Simplified steps for “normal” sized film:
Expose with Red filter
Expose with Green filter
Expose with Blue filter
Create new PS document
Include each each on appropriate Channel
Colour grade like a loony!
I love the janky colours of this first experiment. It's caused by bright sunshine and fast moving clouds changing the shadows between the exposures. If I wanted a "realistic" images I would need consistent light.
This image shows the effect of consistent light during the three exposures. Less janky, more realistic colours. You can see some colour artifacts in the background vegetation as it's moved in the breeze.
The two test images from the RB67 blew my socks off and I shared them with a couple of twitter friends and got enough encouragement to move ahead with the 7x17” ULF attempt. Several twitter friends then stepped up and very generously answered my cry for help covering the costs of the 7x17” image so I had no excuses now. I did try to find one with the dull weather, but went ahead anyway as I couldn’t let my supporters down and the flat consistent light would help the final image (hopefully).
Doing this in Ultra Large Format adds some uncertainties, complexities and additional steps. Medium format by comparison is pretty safe, simple and consistent and you can be quite confident that you have captured your image correctly. Large format (and ULF) requires more care and attention, more steps and more opportunities for messing up. The stars need to align nicely to achieve a usable image from any exposure, it takes all my concentration and habits to follow the steps and these extra steps were a worry. Trying to get 3 usable exposures with the additional steps of changing filters and exposure corrections were testing my skills, patience and concentration.
After exposure and development there are also additional steps to handle the 7x17” negatives:
Scan 7x17 negative in 2 parts
Mount on homemade scanning mask and tape flat
Remove, rotate, re-tape negative
Photomerge in PS of two parts
Crop to 7x17 ratio
Repeat for remaining two negatives
One challenge at the composition stage is getting the right scan on the right channel and then getting those to align so the image is sharp and the channels align to produce seemingly sensible colours.
The remaining challenge is attempting to colour grade the resulting image to look something like the real world which turned out to probably be the hardest challenge of all them. I was really nervous about doing this. It could have easily turned into a very expensive failure. To say I'm pleased with the final result is an understatement. I hope you like it and I'm so grateful to my buymeacoffee supporters for helping me make this happen.
GIF showing the RGB channel, initial composite and final graded image... 😮