Different grain 'looks' - Who can explain?

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Tom Stanworth

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Hi,

As most of us mess about with different devs, films, papers and paper devs, we usually find what we like, but cannot always explain why. I have often been perplexed as to why I like the look of certain types of grain more or less than others...and it just does not appear to be size related

I have been experimenting primarily with TMax100 quickloads lately as I am happy with FP4 plus or Efke PL100 for the closer to home adventures, developed in Exactol Lux (Finer grained version of Dixactol). I cannot explain what it is, but I find that TMAX100 seriously lacks acutance (as you'd expect from such a smoothie), but when developed in Exactol Lux for good acutance, what minimal grain does become visible just does not look nice. In stark contrast, grain from APX100 looks fine to me, even though at the same print size, it is more apparrent. I have a 19x12 inch print off a 6x9 APX100 that has visible inoffensive grain, yet a 14x9 off 5x4 TMAX that has tiny UGLY grain. Can anyone explain this pretty vs ugly grain thing?

Comments on TMAX100 developer choice would be handy too as I am yet to get it to look right for my eyes anyway.

PS Acros in Exactol lux has finer grain still than TMAX100, yet it is prettier - both being modern tech films.

Anyone know why this is?

Tom
 

David A. Goldfarb

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Yeah, some films have clumpy grain. I don't know that it's just a T-grain vs. traditional grain thing either. Some films just have clumpy grain.

I think this is a reason that it's important to test out films you might not like in one format when you try out a new format. I'm not a fan of TMY, for instance, but I've seen some really nice work from TMY in larger formats. I know there are some people working in platinum/palladium from TMY negs, and I imagine that might be related to the fact that pt/pd has its own texture, due in part to the paper, and that can create its own effect in spite of TMY's clumpy grain.
 

victor

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tom.. i dont like the tmax as well (neither on 35 nor on 69), it just lucks character to my taste. i dont have problem to look when some one else works on it, but not me.
the issue of grain is a very complecated thing. there are so many aspects to exemine in this respects.
i would devide it in two: the visual, and the technical - while the tech leads to the vissual of course, but the exemination of the vissual aspect itself is far beyound the grain itself, and mainly should deal integrally with what u see on the print - style, theme, tonality etc etc.
the tech aspects are -
-negative itself (fp/apx/tmax/delta etc fast film slow film etc)
-the exposure (mainly in the given situation). here i would also put the aspect of lenses or optics, since it has vissible effect as well.
-the developer (rodi, id, pyro etc tc)
-time of developing - where u push the negative, to high contrast, to low, to some kind of balance, to some kind of curve. the time here is important not only in terms of creating some amount of grainess but also leads us to some kind of filtration or use of grade in printing.
-the paper in use - different papers react in different ways to grain vissually. on some papers u can print such way that the very grainy neg looks fantastic, while fine grain looks not good ands vi -vers..
-gradiation - filtration or choice of grade, again - very important.
-scaling - or other words - the size proportions of - neg/enlargement, print size / viewing distance.
add to it another aspect - the theme.
all this - is a kind of analytic overview of the precess from a "grainess creating".

about the clumy etc - my suggestion with the tmax is to develop it in rodinal (25) in such way that u will be able to print it on diffused head with split while the yellow will be more than 50% of density builder and the magenta less than 50%, or on the condensor, such that u would print it on hard grade 4-5. those will be different prints of course - but i think at this point, with those two different kind of developments etc u will have prints that will not be anemic like the tmax can be...lol
i would also say that the combo of diffused/split can work well for glossy papers with lots of dmax and the combo of condensor can be great on matt papers.
 

gma

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I am no expert on emulsions, but I think that film grain can be divided into the old type which is more or less cubic in shape and the modern "T" type that has more of a flat "pancake" form. The "cubes" vary in size with different manufacturers and film speed. More agressive developers partially dissolve the edges while other film/developer combinations tend to act more gently and maintain the sharp "corners". I am sure there will be a more scientific explanation.

gma
 

Joakim

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This is something I've been thinking about as well, and to me it seems as if different films have grain in different places, so to speak. Neopan 1600, for example, is somewhat grainy, but most of the grain is to be found in the transition areas between the almost black and the dark grey parts of the image. This, in my opinion, results in a very pleasant look that is almost reminiscent of lith prints.

On the other hand, Ilford HP5+ seems to have much more grain in the lighter parts of a picture (which with Neopan 1600 are almost grain free), and the grain to me is therefore more objectionable.

It is certainly possible that what I'm seeing is due to the higher contrast of Neopan 1600, or differences in development, but it would be interesting to hear if anyone else has noticed this.
 

skahde

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There is a sure way to get grain ugly as it gets: overdevelopment!

Stefan
 

gma

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It seems to me that grain always is most evident in the mid-tones. The highlights are developed to max density and the dark tones are almost clear in the negative. At both extremes the grain is not very apparent, but the mid-tones show maximum grain.

gma
 
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