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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.

Photographs on Ilford HP5