Years ago, when I was a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I recall whispers of a non-conventional approach to processing black & white film.
Key to conventional black & white processing is regular agitation of the tank. This keeps the developer from stagnating, minimizes streaking and mottling of the image area, while greatly speeding the development of the film.
Until recently, I’ve always agitated my film, but made a point to minimize this activity, since excessive agitation results in a host of other defects and undesirable characteristics.
Stand processing, as it’s now known, was what I heard in whispers during college.
Basically, you mix a very weak developer solution (approximately one third the concentration of ‘normal’ developer), agitate for about 15 seconds when introducing the solution to the tanks, then leave it to stand for about an hour with NO AGITATION. Then agitate briefly before draining the tanks and continuing process as normal: stop, fix, rinse, etc.
By doing this, you use the developer to exhaustion, which is more economical and yields a different result than by working with short times and more concentrated solutions.
This doesn’t work well with 35mm film because bromide salt deposits tend to cluster around the sprockets resulting in streaking.
I made a series of tests using 120-size film, which has no sprockets.
An advantage of stand processing is a very different tonal curve that features extremely rich blacks with great detail in shadows, and broad tonality in the mid-tones. When the mix is just right, the highlight regions should reach an optimal density that allows for excellent detail without loss of data.
Key to making the stand process work is controlling chemical fog. Without controlling chemical fog, the shadow areas will gain too much density and there will be an undesirable loss of image data leading to a poor quality negative.
There are other elements of the process that aid in making for more effective negatives, and like any black & white process, these require trial and error refinement to yield the best results.
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