Big Day Out 2014 @ Metricon Stadium, 19.01.2014: On Film


I normally like to keep things roughly chronological on This Is Not A Photo Opportunity, even though it usually means a massive backlog around festival time when there just isn’t the time to keep up to date.

I’m going to break with convention to put up a few posts from this year’s festival season with some photos that I shot on film. I decided after last year’s Soundwave, a day where I did take a couple of rolls of film to compliment the normal digital images, that I would make a conscious effort to try and use some film at all the festivals. The Australian festival season ended up being truncated this year, with no Harvest, Parklife massively downsizing and Future Music ditching most of the live music they used to put on in favour of more DJs and laptop acts, which only left me with Big Day Out, Laneway and Soundwave.

For about the last dozen years I’ve almost exclusively used Ilford HP5 and developed it using Ilford ID-11. This year I decided to have a change and bought up a bunch of Kodak Tri-X instead. The main reason for the change was a combination of experiment and finance. I recently bought a roll of HP5 at Ted’s in Brisbane and almost died when they charged me $18.95 for it. I used to import this stuff in bulk from the UK for less than $7.50 per roll and even if I was caught short and had to buy it in Australia I was only paying about $10. At Photo Continental in Mt Gravatt, the price for HP5 was much better, $12 or $13 I think, but the Tri-X was coming in at less than $10. In terms of the experimenting-side of the change, it was more to do with the name and reputation that Tri-X has as a black and white film more than anything I was particularly looking for in terms of grain or contrast.

For all these festivals I ending up going with an ISO of 800 which I hoped would be best for the outside stages as well as the indoor tents and buildings. It all went well in terms of the aperture/shutter speeds that I could use for exposure. Using ISO 800 in the day on the outside stages just meant a high aperture and/or shutter speed and the ISO was sufficient for the indoor/undercover stages and for the night time stages to allow sensible settings.

All was good until it came to do the developing and I found that there isn’t a chart for developing Tri-X at ISO 800 in ID-11. Although Google offered a number of developing times, there wasn’t much consistency in the advice. The most useful guidance was that ID-11 is more or less identical to D-76 so to use the D-76 developing times instead.

There’s always a nerve-wrecking moment when you open the developing canister, when you hope everything has gone ok and that the negatives are going to show some sign of an image and it was really reassuring to see that the negatives had come out much better than expected.

The photos are more of less how they came out of the developing tank. I did a quick bit of work on most of the photos, but nothing that you wouldn’t do in the darkroom if you were making prints and wanted to increase the contrast. I did a tiny of retouching to remove the worst to the dust & hairs that negatives always manage to pick up somehow. I still managed to miss a few glaring examples though. Next time I’ll have to remember to buy some neg cleaner before I start to get them looking a whole lot cleaner to start with before I scan them in.

For the Big Day Out film photos, I took a few throughout the day. There was no real approach or plan to it, more a case of quickly pulling out my old Minolta 5 if I was bored or thought I had enough photos on my digital camera. I’m surprised I didn’t take anything of Arcade Fire but I think that was more to do with not being happy with the shots I was getting, despite the first three lasting a while. I’m disappointed that I didn’t take any shots of Bo Ningen, given that they were the best band by a country mile. I didn’t get to photograph Pearl Jam so there was never going to be any photos of them anyway.

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