Bruce Barnbaum

Bruce Barnbaum

Member, Freestyle Advisory Board of Photographic Professionals


Bruce Barnbaum has been working in the photographic field for more that forty years, and is regarded and one of America's top master photographers and printers, in both black & white and color. His photography expands upon the dynamics he finds in both nature and the works of man, relating forces to the sweeping forms that dominate his vivid imagery. Long an advocate of both photography and environmentalism, Barnbaum has produced images which convey an intense love for the landscapes which have inspired him for decades, much in the same vein as the great Ansel Adams. An accomplished author, Barnbaum's internationally-acclaimed works include Visual Symphony, The Art Of Photography, Tone Poems - Books I & II, and more. He has also taught photographic workshops around the world, and founded the famous Owens Valley Photography Workshops, which enjoyed international acclaim from 1979 through 1990.


Ask The Experts

Dan, If you use a cold light head, variable contrast paper is difficult to work with because the cold light head is missing segments of the viual spectrum. Thus, moving from one contrast level to the next tends to be erratic. I believe youd do well to modify your enlarger to take the Omega Chromega head with dial-in filters, which will make working with variable contrast papers far easier. I also feel that variable contrast papers are equal to or better in quality than graded papers, and far more flexible beyond that (examples: allowing you to print different parts of an image at different contrast levels, or burning in areas at different contrast levels), so I strongly recommend using variable contrast papers...hence the further recommendation to get the Chromega head.
Shailendra, Rodinal s not really made for the T-grain films (i.e., Kodak T-Max or Ilford Delta films), and doesnt really do the best job of developing them to their potential. It sounds to me like the Jobo may be the roblem, but without knowing more about the direction of the motion of the Jobo drum and the direction that you place the film into the drum, I cannot be sure of that being the problem. Its possible you can experiment with diluting the T-Max developer in the Jobo and compensating for it by extending the development time, which could solve the problem in much the same way that you are thinking could be done with Rodinal. I think it would be worth trying. You could also try the Ilford Delta T-grain developers, if diluting T-Max RS fails to solve the problem.
Let me try my best to deal with your question: Hopefully you have a light meter-a reflective light meter, not an incident meter-to read the relative brightnesses of objects within the frame of your composition. Since I have no idea what those may be, I cannot tell you the exposure you need. As it turns out it doesn't matter who the subjects of the portraits are or what camera you're using to photograph them. It's the film and the light levels that count...and HP5+ is an excellent film. In general, meter the darkest thing in the composed frame where you want to see good detail (in both photographs). There may be even darker things in the frame, but if they don't matter much, just ignore them. Then meter the brightest thing that you feel demands tonal detail. See how many stops apart they are. Whatever is brighter than that, also ignore. Place the lower value in Zone 4...or one stop lower than it's meter reading, and expose it like that. If the bright value is above Zone 9, you may want to give the negative less than "normal" development to reduce the contrast. If the highlight is about where you'd want it, develop the negative "normal." If the highlight is too low (maybe Zone 6 or 7) you may want to give the negative more than normal development. I hope this helps. It's all laid out in my textbook "The Art of Photography." If you want to see about that book, look up my website at for information.
Hi Joe, Not really a problem. If I expose it in Zone 7, then I expect to develop it to Zone 7 density. Period! Now, I may want to print it as Zone 6, and I can always do that by giving it more time under the enlarger. But the real crux of this issue is with the lower zones, not so much with the middle zones. I use a higher ASA simply because Zone 1 has no real meaning photogaphically (sensitometrically, yes; photographically, no!) It has too little density to separate itself from Zone 0, so I ignore it, as if it doesnt exist. (Its only importance is in the negative, where it begins the doubling of exposures to achieve higher zones, and therefore it has importance as a sensitometric starting point, but little photographic value.) Furthermore, since the initial zones are on the toe of the exposure/density curve, where density separations are so meager (meaning, of course, that print tonal separations are meager, as well), I want to largely ignore the toe of the curve, and get my exposures onto the straight line portion of the curve for better separations. By exposing at least one zone higher than the manufacturers recommendation I have a somewhat denser negative, but I enjoy far better tonal separations. So, when I place a value in, say, Zone 3, it is MY Zone 3, which is the manufacturers Zone 4. But its always MY Zone 3! So thats the density that I expect. Later, If I want to print it at Zone 3, I have good separation built in already because Im above the toe of the curve. I simply dont confuse My Zone 3 (on the negative) with the manufacturers Zone 3. Finally, I can do all this with confidence since the shoulder of the curve is way up there around Zone 14, 15, or even 16, and the upper limit on the negative is around Zone 16, 17, or 18. So, by placing the low zones higher, I still have a huge long way to go before I bump into any ceiling on negative exposure. Those who think that the negative has only 10 zones are afraid to use my approach because they feel that if they push things up one zone in the lower zones, theyll be jammed against the ceiling at the high end. But that ceiling is so much higher than they realize that theyre simply constricting their options and creative possibilities. I hope that helps.