Pushing HP5 to 1600 – This Could Be My New Favourite

sarah blackmore on ilford hp5 black & white film pushed to 1600

Pushing HP5 to 1600 was a fun experiment. Rated at 400 ISO, I usually expose Ilford HP5 at 320 to slightly overexpose. That seems to get good results although I’ve never really been a fan of how flat the images look.

I’m not going to sit here and talk like I know what I’m saying. Although I’ve been photographing life for somewhere around 20 years, getting back into exposing & developing my own film has made me feel like a complete beginner in some ways. It’s been awesome.

I like dark & contrasty images. If you’ve scrolled through my portraits, you’ll have noticed that. So like I said, HP5 just never sat well with me. But with film, without romanticising it too much, gives you a different range of options.

I enjoy the way it can really kick you in the a$$ if you’re not paying enough attention. That certainly happened on a roll of Kodak Ektar recently.

But chatting with a few photographers on Instagram recently, on top of my interest in the experimental process, I decided to push some HP5 to 1600.

At a couple of local ninja warrior competitions, knowing full well it was going to be too dark for 400 ISO, I figured it to be a great opportunity to try something new. 

Pushing HP5 to 1600 - My thoughts

The very first thing I noticed, having normally shot 100/125 speed film, is how much faster I can set my shutter in dark spaces. I mean, duh! The second gym is very dark and rating Ilford HP5 at 1600 made getting enough light pretty easy.

Then, once I’d developed & started to scan my film, I quickly realised how much this film changed. The thick & heavy contrast is absolutely delightful. Add to that a healthy dose of grain and pushed HP5 moved rapidly up my list of favourite films.

There’s not anything overly special about these images, I mean other than containing some of the most beautiful humans I know, but as my first experiment in pushing film, I have all the feels.

I used a Nikon F5 and a mostly my Nikon 28mm f2.8 but there’s a couple with the Nikon 85mm f1.4, too. 

The sharpness, if you look at some of the portraits, is still crystal but the grain adds a new feel to the image. I suppose, it’s possible to add this to a digital image later but there’s definitely something that hits with getting this ‘in camera’.

Anyway, let me know your thoughts. I’m gonna stop talking rubbish now. Enjoy.

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