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|| Leading Off: 2014-10-03

Tri-X: Falling In Love With Photography

By Robert Hanashiro,

Photo by Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Robert Hanashiro
Stained shirts. The bitter smell of Indicator Stop Bath. The buzz of a Gralab timer. For photographers “of a certain age” ---like me--- those are some of our earliest memories as we fell in love with photography. But the most vivid memory, the one closest to our hearts, is loading our first roll of film into our camera …and it usually came in a yellow box with the green lettering that read: Tri-X.

How many of my contemporaries out there read every scrap of information we could on how W. Eugene Smith cooked up his D-76 developer to push process his Tri-X… go ahead, raise your hands. Yep, there are a lot of us.

Working for local newspapers, I spent hours in the lab, playing mad scientist looking for the perfect formula to increase the speed of Tri-X enough so I could get at least 1/250 shooting in the dark stadiums and gyms in the Central Valley.

Here are a few concoctions that I tried over the years:

-Bathe the film in hydrogen peroxide fumes between the developer and stop

-Acufine at 90-degrees, agitated 5-seconds every 2 minutes for 12 minutes followed by a 5 minute water bath before the fixer

-Dektol 1:10 for 6 minutes (Dektol is a paper developer; got this from a photographer at a Flying Short Course ---this was horrible)

-Diafine (Acufine’s really crappy 2-step brother film developer) would top out at around 1600 no matter how long you processed it for.

-Rodinal in various dilutions and times (everyone said the grain was better but I thought it looked worse than Acufine)

-HC-110 Replenisher 1:10, 10 1/2 minutes, 1 tank inversion/agitation every minute (This was a winner! We could get a decent 3-stop push.)

Back when I began my career, I devoured newspapers, looking for images that not only told stories but also had style. Photographers like Greg Schneider and the late Tom Kasser at the San Berdo Sun were idols to me. Despite the limitations of their crappy presses at the time, their images jumped off the page.

Yes the “hand of god” was in vogue back then, but what the hell, we ALL used it.

Up in the Bay Area, Kim Komenich and Gary Fong’s documentary work I literally studied to absorb their nuanced printing … and John Storey’s work still had impact despite the San Francisco Chronicle printing the sports section on GREEN PAPER.

These days photographer speak consists of “correcting things in post,” using adjustment layers, levels and curves, the burn and dodge tool, Instagram filters and Snapseed.

Call me old (fashioned) but I sort of miss the days of using my hands and homemade tools under an enlarger to dodge and burn, the art of rolling film onto a stainless steel reel with out buckling the edge, red safe lights, stained fingernails and the comradery of a photo staff looking at negatives gathered around a light table.

Tri-X to me, and maybe a lot of other photographers, isn’t just a film --- or as a student once commented to me “it’s just another tool that outlived its usefulness” --- it was the start of something.
Falling in love with photography.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

A brick of Tri-X sits in a box in the trunk of retired Reuters photographer Fred Prouser's car.
Tri-X is celebrating its 60th birthday this fall. To commemorate this event, I asked several friends of mine to contribute articles to this special issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter. While I hope this is not looked upon as the “Old Geezer’s Club Remembers” they are all intimate, personal thoughts and feelings about not just a film we all loved (except one), but about their thoughts and feelings about photography.

Thanks to David Burnett, Kim Komenich, Dan Dry, Matt Mendelsohn, Robert Seale, John McDonough, Greg Schneider and Joey Terrill for taking time out of their very busy schedules to contribute to this issue.

And special thanks to my USA TODAY colleagues Jym Wilson and Andy Scott for giving me the idea for this special issue.

To celebrate Tri-X’s birthday, I am conducting the first in a series of what I am calling “Pop Up Contests”. These fun, little contests will have specific themes and deadlines and are open to members in good standing.

The first contest will be photographs taken on Tri-X…of course!
Here are the guidelines for this contest:
• The entry must have been taken originally on Tri-X film by you
• One entry per person
• Entry can be of any subject or theme (sports, news, portrait, scenic, etc.)
• No composite photos (combining multiple negatives or using cutouts)
Scan and email your entry to: AND"Tri-X" must be in the subject of the email
• Scan your image and size it to a resolution of 72 with the longest dimension of 16 inches; compress to medium or high
• In the body of the email include your full name, email address, who you work for (for example company name or freelance) or if you are a student (please list your school) and your thoughts or a personal story about Tri-X
• Deadline is 11:59PM November 1, 2014
• Instructors from the Sports Shooter Academy workshop will judge the contest

Prizes will be awarded to photographs selected by the judges. Prizes will be provided by Sports Shooter sponsors Roberts Distributors and Adorama. (Thank you Jody Grober and Jeff Snyder!)

The top entries will be published on the Sports Shooter website.

As always, special thanks to: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen and Jason Burfield.

Thanks this month to contributors: David Burnett, Matt Mendelsohn, John w. McDonough, Robert Seale, Joey Terrill, Greg Schneider and Dan Dry.

The comments, opinions and other perceived nutty statements that the writers may have expressed, implied, imagined or made up are theirs and theirs alone. Sports Shooter, Inc. and published these articles in good faith with the purpose of education and inspiration. Permission in writing must be obtained from Sports Shooter, Inc. and the author of the article before being reprinted. Comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions are appreciated. Please e-mail me at

For information about the Sports Shooter Academy workshops:

In This Issue:

Tri-X ::..
  | David Burnett | Fifty years ago, when I started taking pictures for the yearbook, there was just one film. You could use it in about any place, any time. Available light, bang-on flash. It was “the film” which fit all necessities. If someone ask ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Kim Komenich | It would have been in the summer of 1970 when I first held a roll in my hand. I was going to be a freshman in high school and I bought some outdated Tri-X and an Argus Autronic 35 camera at the “Buyers Bargain Barn” in Lathrop, Cali ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Greg Schneider | As a senior in high school, I got a weekend job developing film for the writers who had to take their own photos. After instruction and practice getting the film on those stainless steel reels, I forgot which deep tube of chemicals ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Matt Mendelsohn | I’ve always hated that Kodachome song. If you came of age in the 1970’s, as I did, it was hard to escape Simon and Garfunkel going on and on about the virtues of that ubiquitous slide film, what with those nice bright colors and ...

Tri-X ::..
  | John W. McDonough | Beginnings, way, way back… Early 1974. My first experience with processing Tri-X, in my apartment bathroom in Mesa, Arizona. Lights out, and a bath towel shoved underneath the door, loading a plastic reel (several times, I might ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Joey Terrill | For more than 50 years, when someone decided they wanted to be a photographer they usually asked three questions: What’s the best camera to use, what the best lens to use, and what’s the best film to use. The first two questions alw ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Robert Seale | Unlike most 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 Jo ...

Tri-X ::..
  | Dan Dry | Hello … my name is Dan and I was an addict. Yes, I was addicted to Kodak Tri-X film. My habit started out innocently enough when I was 15 years old. I had a Humanities teacher my freshman year at Athens (OH) High School, Ms. Peni ...

Sports Shooter Academy ::..
  | Sports Shooter Staff | The Sports Shooter Academy recently unveiled a newly designed website that features the best images from the various workshop over the past 9 years. The site, now hosted by PhotoShelter, displays galleries with much larger images ...

Robert Distributors News: On The Move ::..
  | Jody Grober, Robert Distributors | Greeting to all my friends at Sports Shooter. It is wonderful to have this opportunity to catch up. Especially for this auspicious occasion, because I love TRI-X. Many great things are going on at Roberts! Our new used department, Used Photo P ...

Contents copyright 2015, Do not republish without permission.
Sing, sing a song. Make it simple ::..