Week 15: Kodak Tri-X joins the commuters in London

I was recently in London for a week for work and I figured it would be a good time to try Kodak's famous black & white Tri-X 400. Join me for a trip down memory lane.

I have been meaning to try Kodak's Tri-X 400 film for a while, it has a great reputation and I was keen to see how it stacked up against Ilford's HP5+, a personal favourite of mine. I also knew I'd be busy commuting to and from work in London so I picked black and white film to focus mainly on lighting and composition. I was also lucky enough to go up the Shard building, so managed to snap some panoramic shots of the city from the viewing gallery of the 95-storey building. As always, you can make photos full size by clicking on them.

Early morning start - first tube out of Hammersmith. Great rendering from Kodak Tri-X, I really like the bright lights against the darks. Good first shot!

05:43 - probably the only time you will ever see a London tube station so empty, but great for me to take a photo! Again, I'm liking how this film renders dark scenes.

Looks like someone beat me to an empty train - I nearly photoshopped them out, but that wouldn't be very "analog" (ridiculous joke). Happy with the results so far, also less grainy than Ilford HP5+ (although I do like the grain). As an ISO 400 film (like HP5+) it is a good all round film for most situations.

Time for a quick snooze before hitting the gym (that's me in the mirror by the way and sleeping beauty is my twin, Eoin).

Post gym reward. Best coffee in London in La Gauloise in Baker Street, run by my good friend Tahar. Although I warn you, if you go once, you will end up going everyday! Great selection of cakes and pastries too, served with a some good banter from the locals. Highly recommended.

Canary Wharf underground station - commuter central. I really like how well balanced Kodak Tri-X is - it renders very well overall.

Nothing like black & white for bright office buildings. This film keeps the blacks very dark and the whites very bright - good work!


Another shot of Canary Wharf during evening rush hour. The geometry of this station is very interesting (proper photography nerd talk!).

I managed a quick trip up into Tower Bridge, it has a pretty cool glass floor. The sky is a bit washed out here as it was very cloudy and a bit foggy - my yellow filter didn't help much. Black & white renders better during night time in my opinion.

Foggy London as seen from Tower Bridge.

The museum inside Tower Bridge is quite cool, taking you through the history of how it was built. Nice rendering of the spotlight on these two workers.

Tri-X really comes into its own after the sun goes down.

A photo of a photo, but I couldn't resist.

The More London Place complex with part of The Shard building in view. Again, strong performance of this film during evening time.

Tower Bridge as seen from the viewing gallery of the Shard. This photo has been cropped and looks like it's from another time.

Full version of the previous photograph. It was actually a very hazy day, so the film did well overall.

Reflections from above.

I could look at this view all day - you get a great perspective from the Shard, especially observing all the traffic from that height. Looks like that's Borough Market in the middle.

My friend Daniel aiming for a good shot. We both struggled a bit with the hazy view (as this shot shows), although I think film won the day.

A 10 carriage train coming into London Bridge station looks it belongs in a train set in this photo. 

More London Place complex (including the EY offices) and City Hall. Some reflections and a bit flat, but not bad considering how hazy it was.

The Shard from below - bit blurry as hard to shoot handheld in the pitch black. However, you can get away with it in black & white film. I like the composition of the buildings and bridge around the main focus of the Shard.

Orderly queueing in practice - makes for a wonderfully composed shot.

This shot would not have worked in colour, you need black & white to cut everything out and let the mind fill in the rest. I like to balance between the London Eye on the top and the guy reading the paper on the bottom right.

Waterloo madness from another angle. It is amazing how quickly you forget the London commute when you leave. I really like how Tri-X has rendered the lights in this scene, it really adds to the image.

Slightly cropped from a bigger image, but I really like how it captures movement and some light in an otherwise very dark scene.

Overall impressions

Kodak's Tri-X 400 really delivered, bravo! I certainly think it renders better during the night time, where there is more contrast and strong bright city lights. However, it still delivered some good shots in a very hazy, foggy and 'flat' day time London in January.

I would have to do a closer comparison against Ilford's HP5+, which I think delivers a more grainy image. Although to be fair I would need to shoot similar subjects under the same conditions to do a proper test (I'd rather spend time time shooting other types of film). Anyways, they are both great black & white films and I'm sure I will be reaching for either of them when I want a reliable ISO 400 B&W film.

There will be more photos in colour from the Shard coming shortly, showcasing London by day and night - not to be missed! Also, Week 16 photos are currently in processing and the theme is "A snapshot of my life through photographs", and should make for some interesting shots!

As always, I hope you have enjoyed reading this and if I can try to make something as mundane as commuting interesting, so can you...so get out there and take some photos!