Mistakes are the film photographer’s license to experiment and recently I found the perfect opportunity to try stand development in Rodinal. The problem: I shot a 120 roll of Ilford Pan F 50 in my Zenza Bronica ETRS medium format camera with the shutter speed set to 1/60. However, driving home I realised the camera battery had never left my pocket.
So, although I had metered light a full three stops below the default shutter speed of 1/500, that’s exactly what I had on my roll. Only 1/8 the light exposure on an ASA 50 film. Three stops is an awful lot less light on the film plane and I had the impression from earlier processing that Pan F 50 could be less than forgiving.
In regular film development the temperature and time that the negatives are immersed in developer is a lot more critical because the concentration of chemical around the film is relatively strong. I usually use Ilfotec DD-X at 1+9 solution for 8-10.5 minutes depending on the film in the developing tank. Sometimes I use Ilfotec DD-X at 1+4 for several minutes less.
But in stand development (note this was my first stand development) the solution is much weaker at 1+99. I used Rodinal at 18 Celcius for 2 hours with six rotations in the beginning followed by three rotations every half hour. The solution in stand developing has just enough chemical to develop the film.
From what I’ve read about stand development the lower the temperature, in some respects, the better. Higher temperatures are said to make for larger grain so my Tasmanian mid-Summer 18 Celcius in the tank could be a positive. Also, I’ve read that the developer is basically spent after 1 hour but my objective was to get the best out of the highlights so I took it to 2 hours and included the half hourly rotations. As there is only enough chemical to expose the film, it can’t be over-exposed in that time if I stick to 1+99 ratios of Rodinal.
Which leads to an interesting other point that I read about stand development – film type, over-exposed or under-exposed or correctly exposed, temperature and time all become less critical. Stand development just exposes until the developer, in this case 1+99 Rodinal, is spent. This means if you make a mistake, if you shot with the wrong ASA, if you have some Holga shots from a dark forest walk… stand development is your tool for recovery of a usable image.
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