For the love of Ansel, just use colour film!

What is all this messing around making colour images using Black and White film? Why bother when there are perfectly good colour films (despite Fujifilm's efforts) available? Is the cost and faff worth it?


These thoughts probably go through most peoples heads when they look at my Trichrome images. To be fair, they (and many similar thoughts) go through mine every time I make them. Are they easy? No. Do they take a lot of time and effort? Yes. Is it worth it? That's up to you, but for me, for now, Yes!


Ever since I started taking photographs I've obsessed about "perfection" whilst coming nowhere close. Even with my limited skills I've wanted the best everything to make the best technical image possible. I've fallen along way short of that goal and even if I had got anywhere closer I've finally come to realise that it really isn't the point. Far from it.


I don't think of myself as much of an artist. My youngest daughter has more artistic talent in her little finger than I have in my entirety, but I'm trying. I'm trying to wean myself off getting everything right technically and getting some intention into my images. I'm under no illusions that I can make great images. The wealth of talent and images visible on the socials whilst both inspiring and overwhelming put me in my place everyday so I know where I stand.


So what do I mean by "intention"? What I think I mean (and I'm still trying to work this out) is to use my skills/knowledge to add value to the compositions I choose rather than just make a postcard. If this sounds obvious/wrong/stupid just humour me as I'm trying to learn here and just realising how little I actually know about photography despite actually knowing quite a lot... 🤦‍♂️


How do Trichome's help here? Well unless everything aligns absolutely perfectly (no pun intended) you are not going to make a technically "perfect" image. The colours will be off no matter how hard you try, the 3 layers won't align exactly and artefacts will always be present from time passing and things moving between the exposures. Once you understand the basics of these things all you can do is embrace them and try to make use of them with some intention. You can't guarantee or entirely predict the result but you can apply your knowledge to "guestimate" the impact on the resulting image and use it to add your value.


My first "intentional" trichrome was this 4x5" pinhole image. Despite the bright midday sunshine the woodland scene needed exposures of up to 6 minutes on FP4 with f/206 and the deep RGB filters. I knew the shadow would move, I knew there would be different colours, I just didn't know by how much they would move and how effective the "rainbow" would be.

Another "intentional" trichrome is this simple grasses/woods/sky composition. I waited for a breezy, partially cloudy, sunny day. The movement in the grasses and clouds would induce the "funky" colours and sit in contrast against the static, solid woodland, hopefully instilling the feeling of our Trees standing strong against our toxic environment.

It's a little easier to be adventurous with 120 for 4x5 film. The costs are not too great. I've yet to intentionally take advantage of trichrome with my 7x17" ULF images so far. I've only created a couple of postcard 7x17" images, deliberately choosing still, overcast days to eliminate any "funkiness" and try to achieve a close facsimile of the scene... Hopefully I can put my big boy pants on and get intentional with some 7x17" ULF trichome's soon.


So for now I'll carry on my trichrome experiments and trying to intentionally apply them to my image making. It's not for everybody and I'm sure I'll tire of it soon enough, but it's been a really interesting and valuable learning and growing experience that I would recommend to anybody.

7x17" Trichrome, Ilford FP4 Plus

7x17" Trichrome, Ilford HP5 Plus

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