Unlike that of my brethren, my early forays into photography were mostly in color. I worked at a one-hour photo lab in high school, so I was able to get color neg processed at a hefty discount. I also read wildlife photographer John Shaw’s “field techniques” book, and took his advice that if I was really going to learn, I was going to have to get better through the discipline of shooting chrome, so there was a good bit of Kodachrome running through my camera then as well (when I could afford it). My goal was to get tack sharp, perfectly exposed pictures, and Kodachrome, Velvia, and (in print film), Fuji Reala, were my films of choice.
Yes, I shot Tri-X in high school during yearbook class, and we shot it for my first year or so on my college newspaper staff, and I did my share of night football with weird esoteric mixtures of developer (Acufine, sodium sulfite) when I really needed to crank the ISO.
This is where I’m going to say something blasphemous and all you Tri-X nostalgists are going to look at my like I’m crazy. As soon as T-Max came out (around my second year of college), I abandoned Tri-X and it’s contrasty, chunky-ugly grain. T-Max 100 looked better than Pan-X (which was ISO 32), and I found T-Max 400 to be superior to Tri-X at 400, 800, and 1600.
When we really needed to crank it, we went to the T-Max 3200. Some people complained about T-Max 400 not looking as good as the venerable Tri-X they were used to, but I chalk that up to people not processing it correctly. If you read the directions, and mixed the T-Max developer correctly, it kicked Tri-X’s ass. The grain was so sharp and fine on it, that I often had trouble using the grain focusing device in the darkroom. During my second semester on the student publications staff, I was put in charge of purchasing supplies… I started buying it for the staff, and I’ve never looked back since.
There, I said it. You guys are a bunch of romantics. Tri-X can kiss my ass.
Robert Seale is a freelance editorial and corporate photographer based in Houston, Texas. You can see his work at http://www.robertseale.com