Experimenting With Rodinal and Stand Developmenthttp://www.randelljohnphotography.com/experimenting-rodinal-stand-development/
Developing Ilford HP5 ASA 400 in Rodinal
It’s been a while since my last post so I thought I’d write one about Experimenting With Rodinal and Stand Development.
It took me a long time to let go of film when digital camera’s become an affordable option, and I must admit I begrudging realised that analogue photography would eventually be pushed aside by the amazing images modern camera sensors can produce.
There aren’t many professional photographers who prefer using film for their everyday work due to the convenience of the digital workflow and quick feed back that can be gained simply by ‘chimping’ the LCD screens that modern cameras are fitted with.
Although I really like using a digital camera, I have found something lacking in the process of using them.
The images are superb, crisp, sharp, with as much contrast and colour control you can point a stick at, but photography is much more than just an end result, for me at least anyway.
I have always missed the process of creating a photograph from celluloid, and the connection between the photographer and the finished print has somehow been lost.
With this un-scratchable itch I’ve been feeling since moving to digital, a couple of years ago I decided it was time to reconnect to my past, and really start to get a real ‘feel’ for my photography again.
I started out buying a rather beautiful Canon EOS 1N, at one time the company’s top of the line professional 35mm SLR Film cameras.
I wasn’t disappointed, not only does it accept all my modern EOS EF lenses, but it’s the closest film camera I own that is similar in operation to my modern DSLR’s.
It has full auto focus, auto rewind, lens stabilisation functions as normal, and all the controls are very familiar to me.
Although this camera soothed my itch for a while, I still felt that something was missing.
I needed to go retro.
With several more purchases and a few camera’s given to me by friends, I eventually felt complete again.
Next I decided to build a new darkroom and buy all the equipment I would need to develop and print from my own ‘real’ negatives.
I bought a lot of used gear to try to minimise costs, and again through the generosity of friends, it wasn’t long before I had more equipment than I actually needed.
I was soon spending many happy hours mixing chemicals, enlarging negatives and splashing around photo sensitive papers in a variety of chemical soups, and loving every minute of it.
My itch to reconnect with photography had finally been soothed – permanently.
For a long while I stuck rigidly to the chemical manufacturer’s development times and instructions, taking great care with my precious negatives, but I soon realised that the tried and trusted method of following the graphs and tables produced by great companies like Kodak and Ilford left a lot to be desired in the processing of film.
After all photography is an art, right? I knew of a method of developing film that would give me more scope to push the boundaries of possibility when developing film.
So with a little push from a couple of fellow film lovers, I ordered some Rodinal from Germany and set about researching ‘Stand Development Techniques’.
Rodinal was originally produced by the Agfa film company, but they stopped producing it several years ago, luckily for the likes of me and other Rodinal fans the German company ADOX now make it to the original specifications, and this wonderful elixir is now available again, pretty much world-wide.
After chatting to a couple of friends I decided that the best way forward was to dilute the developer to a ratio of 1:100 with water and allow my film to ‘Stand Develop’ for an hour with just 10 agitations of the chemical at the very beginning of the development period.
I’m a huge fan of the Massive Development App, from Digital Truth, and used their timings for the stop bath, fix and final film wash.
In total my roll of Ilford HP5 ASA 400 would take a total of 1 Hour and 18 minutes to complete.
So I set my timers, filled the Paterson developing tank loaded with my film and sat back and waited for the film to develop.
When the development process had completed, I poured out the soup, poured in the stop bath and agitated for a full minute, before fixing the film in Ilford Fixer for a further 5 minutes and finally washed the film before hanging to dry.
On first inspection the exposed film looked pretty good, and although I had fluffed a couple of shots on the roll (One can be seen at the very bottom of the roll. I accidentally fully tripped the shutter when I zoomed in to take a meter reading of my wife’s face), the negs seemed nice and ‘thick’ or dense as I prefer (This gives me more time to manipulate the negative during the print stage under the enlarger), I noticed the shadows weren’t quite as dark as I normally produce using standard development processes. (Remember that that this is a negative, so the shadows actually appear as highlights on the roll of film).
I realised this was a pretty normal thing to happen though, and is mainly brought about by lack of agitation during the stand development process. (Simply put, the developer just isn’t being refreshed over the surface of the film as the development tank is inverted during a more conventional development process).
This lack of contrast, was really obvious once the film had dried and I put the roll under inspection on my light table.
And although the image below was shot with my iPhone that lack of ‘punch’ can clearly be seen in this frame.
Now this is not a terrible first result using the stand development method, in fact it’s made me realise just what a versatile method of developing film this really is. It gives me a whole load of time to make changes to the process.
Simply by adding more agitation at the beginning of the development process and or inverting the development tank at say the 30 and or 40 minute point, would increase the contrast of my film.
Flushing fresh developer over the surface later on in the process would increase the density of my shadows, and due to fact that the highlights will have developed in the initial stages of the process the whole contrast of my film will increase.
So this is the first stage of that artistic process – Experimentation! I’m no longer stuck within the boxed restraints of a development graph, and can now fully control the whole photographic process from choosing my film stock to developing my own wet prints.
Eventually after a few more attempts at this method, I should hopefully be able to produce consistent negatives, that have not only the density I want, but have the contrasty punch I love too.
I haven’t noticed any increased grain size in these negatives but I didn’t push this roll of Ilford HP5 above its base ASA 400.
That will be another more advanced experiment to try once I’ve nailed down my agitations and can produce the underlying look of the negatives I desire, but I must admit that I really enjoyed myself today.
I’ll post some more images when I’ve finished Experimenting With Rodinal and Stand Development