A Walk In The Woods: With The Yashica A and Ilford HP5

My Yashica A is my latest, and favorite acquisitions so far: I’ve spoken a fair bit about it in a recent article where I shot a pack of expired Portra 400 VC. Although I was very pleased with the results I got out of that, I was anxious to shoot some fresh stuff.

The Film

One of the hardest decisions for me to make before leaving the house is whether to shoot color, or black and white: I really do love both. However with the Yashica, the decision is made much easier due to the cost of color 120 film. Black and white is pretty affordable compared to color, so I picked up a couple rolls of HP5 400 for a good price.

I’ve shot a lot of Ilford HP5 in 35mm. It’s a film that’s solid, reliable, and just a great go-to black and white. Up until now, I’ve been developing it in Cinestill’s Df96 monobath and getting really great results. Recently, I’ve started using Ilfosol 3 and I really enjoy HP5 in this developer. I haven’t noticed a huge difference in the scans, but I feel Ilfosol 3 gives me a better quality negative.

Comparing 35mm HP5 to 120, I personally don’t see much of a difference as far as a look. They’re the same emulsion, just on a different base. What I do see, is an overall better quality and depth in the 120 images. Developing black and white at home, you don’t get as clean results as you would with C41 in a professional lab, so I still got that lovely grain you expect from HP5.

The Shoot

There’s a patch of woods not far from my house where there is public access. I’ve been there many times for hunting, though I’ve never gone there to take pictures. It’s a pretty dense bit of bush which made it tricky for composition, but I tried my best and was just having fun.

Having only a couple hours, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. That said, I purposely moved at a slower place than usual which was very enjoyable. It had been quite a while since I been able to get into the bush by myself – it felt good to do it again.

Even though I didn’t have much time, this short walk into the bush made me realize that you don’t really need a ton of time. If you can spare just a couple hours on a Saturday, or a lovely summer afternoon, it’s worth it. Some of my favorite photos were taken on a simple one-hour walk after work. A slow paced, couple hour walk was a real treat.

It’s the little details in the woods that has always captivated me. I do enjoy the grand and enchanting landscapes as seen in the work of Ansel Adams, but I can’t help but be more drawn to the little things in nature.

Something interesting about visiting a place that you’ve been to many times, is that when you go with a camera in your hand, you see things you didn’t see before. I’m sure I’ve walked past these two trees often as they’re right where I enter the woods. This time, they really stood out to me.

Shooting black and white, at times, was a bit of a challenge. I purposely didn’t bring another camera loaded with color as I really wanted to focus on the one camera, and one film.

Some of my shots would have made much more sense in color, as the subject wasn’t isolated from its surroundings, or scenes didn’t have enough contrast for my liking. But I did my best with what time I had, and just took the shots anyway.

An issue with the Yashica A is its minimum focusing distance. Being drawn to the little details, a minimum focusing distance of approximately 3 feet, and a focal length of 80mm, made it a tad difficult. But this is where the high resolution of medium format helps.

I’ve mentioned before one of my articles that I’ve never been afraid to crop my work, as long as it strengthened the composition. With the 6×6 medium format image, I was able to crop right into an image with hardly any loss of detail, making it a much stronger composition and more pleasing to me.

Running out of time, I had to leave the bush before finishing my second roll. Driving around, running errands later that day, I made sure to bring the Yashica with me to finish it up. Seeing as it was on the same roll, I figured I’d share them here too.

Conclusion

Just like 35mm, HP5 in 120 is just a great film. It has the look I’m going for when shooting black and white, and it’s rarely disappointed me. I was quite excited to shoot with HP5 in my yashica, and after seeing these results, it made me so excited to shoot more!

Thanks for reading! And let me know what you think in the comments about HP5 in 120! What’s you’re favorite 120 Black and White film?

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