Just three prints remain for sale! Order one today!
I’ve made five traditional 11×14 black & white prints of my recent photograph of the former New Haven Railroad electrification and drawbridge at Westport, Connecticut.
This represents the first time I’ve printed one of my ‘stand processed’ black & white negatives. The prints are signed in pencil and numbered 1/5 to 5/5.
I’m selling the remaining three prints for $100 each plus shipping. First come first serve. If you are interested please contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I exposed the photograph using a vintage Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm lens on 120 black & white film. I processed using the ‘stand processing’ technique to obtain maximum tonal range with deep shadows and delicate highlights.
I made these silver prints in the traditional way on Ilford double weight 11×14 photographic paper, fixed and washed to archival standards. These have been pressed and are suitable for matting and framing.
I chose the Westport drawbridge because it is graphically engaging and historically significant. This bridge and electrification are examples of early 20thcentury infrastructure in daily use on one of America’s busiest passenger lines.
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.
Tracking the Light focus on creating photos and this post is about the nuts and bolts of working with black & white film, and pursuing means to refine the process.
What better way to spend a damp, windy snowy day, then to expose and process black & white film in new ways?
I’d read about ‘stand processing,’ but I’d never tried it.
Stand processing uses developer at very low-concentration with virtually no agitation for very long process times.
Among the potential advantages of stand processing is greater tonality with exceptional highlight and shadow detail. A secondary benefit is that it requires much less developer. Also, I wondered if I could better control granularity by eliminating the effects of agitation (the answer from this test was: no).
I’d previously experimented with Foma Retropan, a modern film rated at 320 that emulates the effects of traditional emulsions. For those photos I processed the film in Foma’s specially formulated Retro developer. I found the negatives to be grainy, but offering a distinctive tonality with soft highlights.
Below are some examples of Retropan using stand development in Agfa Rodinal (mixed 1:100 with water) for 40 minutes, 10 seconds agitation at beginning of development, and again at the end. Development temp 74 F.
For comparison, a couple of hours later I also exposed more Retropan and processed this in Agfa Rodinal Special (as distinct from ordinary Rodinal) but with agitation and short process times; one batch (mixed at 1:32) at 68F for 4 minutes;
A second batch (mixed at 1:32) at 70F for 70 minutes. I then toned these negatives for 9 minutes in a selenium solution to boost highlight detail.
This is a work in progress and I have no formal conclusions, but makes for some interesting images.