Week 13: Frankfurt's skyline in Ilfords wonderful HP5+

Frankfurt is a city of contrasts, the modern skyscrapers mingling in between the very old architecture of a city that is older than most realise. Join me with Ilford's HP5+ film to discover this city in black & white.

Having moved to Frankfurt 2 years ago, I am still discovering new parts to it (surprising given the population is only about 750,000). That being said, the Frankfurt metropolitan area (Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region) is home to upwards of 5 million people, but this covers 3 states and a number of other bigger towns including Wiesbaden and Offenbach.

As you can guess from its official name, Frankfurt am Main is on the River Main. Thankfully, this river is rowable (otherwise I would have not moved here!), and I enjoy rowing on the western part of the city centre limits. Seeing the sun rising with the skyscrapers of the city a short distance away is definitely a sight to see (even if it is at or before 6am). Frankfurt has been around since the Early Middle Ages, (I read the year 794 somewhere, that's old!), read more on its history here.

Needless to say, a lot of the city was flattened in WW2, and with a new status as a financial centre came lots of investment and a new cityscape, one typified by the highest skyscrapers in Germany. The city is also nicknamed 'Mainhattan', given it's on the River Main and somewhat resembles Manhattan with its concentration of skyscrapers.

And now to the film. Ilford HP5 is one of my favourite films, and I have shot it extensively before. It produces wonderful grain overall, and being an ISO 400 film, it is very adept at most shooting situations.

Maybe it was due to the fact that this was my "Week 13" (I am not surperstitious), but there was a small problem in developing this film, so some of the shots have some random streaks on them. This can of course happen with film sometimes, I guess the chemicals just act up! Just to provide comparison, the very first two shots are from a previous roll that show HP5 in all its glory. You can still get away with some minor developing issues with black and white film, it kind of adds to the look in my opinion.

Well developed HP5 (1/2) - fantastic detail in the darks. This film was made for striking architecture!

Grain, grain, and more wonderful grain! (well developed photo 2/2)

Downtown has skyscrapers everywhere you look, some are very nice and some look like they came straight out of a Science Fiction movie: these below my case in point.

Contrast between older architecture with sykscrapers looking over it. Here you can see what looks like some scratches on the film, otherwise Ilford HP5 produces fantastically clear images.

A cropped shot of the 'Science Fiction' buildings - it could be something directly out of Star Trek.

A wide angle shot of a bunch of skyscrapers right downtown. The one on the left has a fantastic viewing platform.  The one on the right, the Commerzbank Tower (that is inbetween the others and has a spike on top) stands at 256 metres / 56 stories tall. It used to be the tallest building in the European Union until the Shard in London came along. I suppose it won't be long until it retains that title of tallest in the EU, with the way things are going!

Japan Centre Tower, standing at 115 metres high. I also call it the building with a hat!

Something simple in various shapes bundled together. I love how well Ilford HP5 handles the contrast and produces very deep darks yet somehow doesn't wash out a very white and bright sky.

Commerzbank Tower from the bottom up.

I love the simplicity of the architecture and how well it renders with this film.

High rise offices, a luxury hotel and a reconstructed palace from 1973 - the Palais Quartier is all about new vs. old. It also consists of My Zeil shopping centre, which has the coolest interior achitecture I have seen in a long time - a photographer's dream (a shot coming below).

Following my 'always look up' mantra, Frankfurt has interesting shapes and angles to photograph in most of its buildings.

The wonderful and addictive to photograph interior of My Zeil shopping centre. You can see a fluorescent red/orange shot of this from a different angle in Week 8. This Ilford HP5 film is so clear, with great balance between bright and dark areas.

At the top of the shopping centre there is a full scale map of Frankfurt and the surronding areas that is stuck to the floor. Shot standing straight over it, just for fun.

A blog post of Frankfurt's architecture would not be the same without the new European Central Bank, on the east side of the city. There are a whole bunch of other skyscrapers near the exhibition centre (the Messe), but I opted for this one and also the view of downtown Frankfurt in the distance.

Frankfurt skyline view from the top of converted shipyard dock, now a very popular restaurant and bar. This shot was taken on a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon. Not bad overall from Ilford HP5 film, given how bad the visibility was.

Frankfurt skyline as seen closer to the centre. The Main river is a working river, with barges travelling the length of Germany carrying goods. I have to contend with these guys when I am rowing and they are pretty menacing up close!

Leading out of one of the museums - this angle caught my eye. I am very pleased how it came out given the very bright lights, darker steps, and it being past sunset already. Great result Ilford HP5!

One of my favourite views straight down a side street with the massive Commerzbank Tower as the main focal point. Again, lovely balance between street lights and the dark sky.

Bit obliterated by the bright light on the left, but overall a nice shot of a very unusual tall buidling. It always catches my eye - I also live round the corner so see it all the time!

Overall assessment

So there you have it, Ilford HP5 taking a tour of Frankfurt's architecture!

This is definitely one of my favourite all round films, so much so that my fridge is full of it. I find it produces wonderful grain, yet balances bright light and dark subjects very well, producing a fantastic black and white image. Despite some slight challenges in the development process for this week, I am still happy with this set of images.

I plan to try out Kodak's Tri-X 400 film very soon. There seems to be a lot of opinion as to which is the better of the two, only one way to find out!

Thanks as always for reading - and as usual, get out there and take some new and interesting photographs!