Semi-Stand description and illustratvie photo

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Steve Sherman, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    I’ve attached a file of a photograph I made for last weekends Semi-Stand Film Developing workshop at the Rockville Arts Center outside of Washington DC, graciously put together by Jim Shanesy and attended by 7 other photographers.

    Rather than discussing the difference between developers and their respective chemical make up I would encourage those interested in the process to go make some negatives which have rich texture exposed in low contrast light and look for the obvious adjancecy effects but also subtle details which I will discuss below.

    The file which I have attached is a completely raw scan of an unmanipulated proof print of the scene. The negative was made about 1/2 hour before it started to snow to give you an idea of how flat the light was at the time of exposure.

    The text below is reprinted from a handout I gave to the students at last weekend’s workshop describing how Semi-Stand and Extreme Minimal Agitation film development impacts the negative.

    Dark Values

    Controlled almost solely by exposure, in the case of S-S or EMA development the dark values will realize maximum density as allowed by initial exposure.

    Mid Values

    Perception of mid tones is a product of micro contrast, micro contrast is the single greatest control is dependent on several conditions, scene contrast, film reciprocity, dilution and agitation frequency, stronger dilution, less agitation can be countered by weaker dilution and more frequent agitation, probably with slightly different results.

    High Values

    The densest part of the negative is controlled by all three, initial exposure, dilution and agitation frequency. Highlight’s appropriate density is dictated by the perception of tonality just below paper white with the product we choose to print with.

    Looking at the photo of the Manhattan Bridge we can conclude that the dark values are controlled by exposure, the sky being the brightest area of the negative is dictated by the density necessary to render slight tonality, in this case on Azo. I was most impressed with the micro contrast which resulted in the far off buildings in the right hand side of the photograph. I pointed this out to the class, Jim Shanesy can attest to the fact that the clarity and perception of detail is startling.

    I would concede that the micro contrast which is present in the weathered planks in the foreground is possible with conventional development even under these lighting conditions but the micro contrast which is present in all areas of the negative would not be possible without this technique.

    My point in all this, I truly believe that the S-S or EMA technique works equally well with a number of different developers and to a large part negates the uniqueness of many popular films. It is truly the best of both worlds, maximum film speed and shadow contrast and by nature has a compensating effect on the high values all the while with experimentation you can derive any micro contrast in the mid tones you desire.

    Go make some negatives!

    For those interested in the image itself. I will be releasing a Limited Edition of this Minimal Agitation negative printed on Azo and mounted on archival board, complete with descriptive and technical notes. The edition will be limited to 100, is priced at $100.00 and will close after 100 days. Proceeds will go towards the construction of my new darkroom and classroom facility which is presently underway. The edition is scheduled to be released at the beginning of June 2006. Watch for more details on my web site.
     

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  2. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Hi Steve,

    Congratulations on the workshop. Glad to hear it went well.

    You have carried research into semi-stand and extreme minimal agitation to a much higher plane.

    Good luck on the new darkrooma and classroom facility.

    Best,

    Sandy


     
  3. hortense

    hortense Member

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    Steve, thank you sharing your workshop results with us. I use Unsharp Masking on my 4x5 hegs that produce similar enhance edge effects. Realize this is not possible to discern using your Thumbnail. USMs for MF are to arduous so I don't use them. Here's where your approach would pay off. Semi-Staand I've done. My opinion is that FULL stand development would be needed to appoach this objective?
     
  4. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    No matter how much I may attest, you have to see this print to believe it. The scan doesn't have even 1/10th the impact of Steve's print.
     
  5. antielectrons

    antielectrons Inactive

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    Steve,

    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting. I have recently been involved in a discussion with some photographers, who deny that edge effects can actually be obtained with S-S or EMA and that I will see no discernible difference with negs processed on my CPE-2 and its constant agitation. However, Anchell and Troop indicate in their book that constant agitation works against such edge effects, although they do say that this can be compensated for by using even more dilute developer (although looking at the numbers tank sizes may be an issue here). Would love to hear your opinion on this matter. I am keen on developing my B&W landscape photography further and would love to learn how to produce such edge effects when needed. I have read Barry Thornton who also recommends dilute Perceptol (1:2 or 1:3) although he uses standard inversion agitation as far as I can see.

    By the way, I really enjoyed viewing your image. Very satisfactory experience.

    Regards,
    Antonio
     
  6. antielectrons

    antielectrons Inactive

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    Jay, I think edge effects (in particular the so called adjacency effect) and micro-contrast are two different things. Or are they? As you say, terminology seems to be an important part of the equation when discussing acutance. If you have high micro contrast my understanding is that gradation is reduced and therefore in say highlight areas you will loose some definition. I can see how that may give the appearance of greater sharpness. But is this really what is going on when so called adjacency effects occur - in particular Mackie lines? Again, my understanding that this process involves creating a greater contrast between adjacent print tones on a minute level - say between a dark mountain range and clear sky,to use an exaggerated example. Two ways of looking at the same thing?

    Antonio


     
  7. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Micro-contrast and edge affects (same as adjacency effect) are not interchangeable terms, but they are intrinsically linked in that one is the cause of the other. That is, edge effects or adjacency effects are the primary cause of enhanced micro-contrast.

    As for Dr. Henry's conclusion about their being no relationship between type of agitation and edge effects, one should note that he never tested stand or semi-stand type of agitation. I quote from his book, p. 214. "Since the edge effects occur because of lateral diffusion in the emulsion laye, the degree of agitation should have no effect on them and Barrow and Wolfe stated that agiation produced relatively little effect. Schwalberg disagrees, stating that violet agitation will completely elimiate thse edge effects. I cannong agree since identical results were obtained on my machine mixer with very vigorus agitation, and inversion of the tank at 1-min intervals, and at 20 sec intervals."

    Nowhere in the book is there any indication that he tested edge effects with agitation periods of more than one minute.

    Irrespective of Dr. Henry's conclusion, and on the role of lateral diffusion in the emulsion layer, there can be no doubt but that edge effects that create micro-contrast can be significantly enhanced by allowing the film to rest during devlopment for long periods of time, assuming one is using a suitable developer and at a suitable dilution. As far as I can understand there can be no other explanation for the tremendous increase in apparent sharpness in that folks like Steve Sherman are getting in their prints using stand and semi-stand development methods.

    Sandy


     
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  8. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I have been involved in several threads with photographers who don't believe edge effects can be obtained with stand or extreme minimal agitation. And these folks often cite the statement by Richard Henry in his Control in Black and White Photography, failing to note that Henry himself never tested this type of agitation. Well, IMHO these folks are simply wrong, but what else would you expect them to say? Many of them have invested a lot of money in Jobo equipment and are addicted to the convenience of continuous agitation.

    Sandy


     
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  9. antielectrons

    antielectrons Inactive

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    Thanks Sandy, that has really cleared things up for me in my mind. Constant agitation = not as good edge effects as little or no agitation. Got it!
     
  10. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Steve,
    I am sure you are familiar with the stand development that Mortenson advocated in 'the negative'. He seemed pretty particular to the type of film that was used to develop to 'gamma infinity'. Do you have any thoughts on this?
     
  11. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    The most recent upload to my gallery shows what an "edge effect" is. I did not intend to post the image as an example, as it was done with 35mm film (Efke 100 & minimal agitation to enhance sharpness). The edge of the wagon, where it meets the sky at the top of the image, shows this effect pretty well. While not a 4x5 shot, it does illustrate the relationship of dark against light. I find this is more pronounced where a dark area of the film meets a light area (where the thin edge of shadow interacts with the thick edge of light).

    I was asked about this effect on one of my prints, as it gives the appearance of a "mask" with a halo. No masking involved, simply a benefit of minimal agitation and dilute developer. In this case, 1:1:150 with 3 minute agitation intervals and pyrocat. For anyone who hasn't tried this type of development, I would urge you to do as Steve has suggested. It opens up a whole new world of sharpness and depth which is just not there with the usual development process. tim
     
  12. bozgoren

    bozgoren Member

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    Steve
    What regime of agitation do you recommend forBTZS type tests with tubes for EMA or S-S developments? I've built tubes with long caps, longer than film compartment so that I can do EMA or S-S development.
     
  13. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    He doesn't use tubes. He uses cans and agitates with very gentle up and down movements of a stirring paddle.

    I use tubes. I simply turn the tube slowly and gently on its end and back again upright two times, just like you would a rollfilm tank. I do not swirl. Then I walk away until next it's time to agitate. I may reduce this to one turn of the tube. One thing I've come to realize is that minimal means minimal.
     
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  15. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    Micro-contrast and edge affects (same as adjacency effect) are not interchangeable terms, but they are intrinsically linked in that one is the cause of the other. That is, edge effects or adjacency effects are the primary cause of enhanced micro-contrast. [/QUOTE] [/QUOTE]

    Sandy's description of the relationship between "Edge" and "Micro" contrast is right on target to my way of thinking.

    Yes, I have read Mortensen on the Negative. My interested was piqued when a friend told me he had heard a story that Mortensen once developed a sheet of film for a week. The story I heard was that Mortensen put a sheet of film in a tank and agitated once each day and returned the tank to the refrigerator where the film stood dormant and repeated for 7 days. I actually tried something similar by developing a sheet for 4 days in my darkroom where the temperature hovered around 65 degrees. The result was a very dense negative with dramatic adjancecy effects. I do believe if the “throw away” negative I developed was exposed more on the straight line with the highest values purposely left in the middle of the straight line the negative
    would have been printable, very probably with some very interesting results. I will try the above sometime in the future just for fun.

    Mortensen basically reversed the long accepted adage "Expose for the Shadows and Develop for the Highlights". This is likely born out of the fact he did not agree or get along with the F 64 group, Adams, Weston to name a few and likely wanted to discredit their work. Further, I believe he felt by placing the highlights more on the straight line and giving maximum development, (he called it "Gamma Infinity") that the entire straight line would be exaggerated to reveal the most interesting tones which make
    up a B&W photograph.

    My development regime is a 5 minute presoak in a tray, transfer to tank with film in vertical orientation and agitate gently with a Jobo “cylinder cleaning sponge” in a gentle up and down motion. For one minute initial agitation I move the sponge up and down 25 times, for 20 second intermittent agitation periods I do the same motion 10 times. Circular stirring action has proved to be unreliable and has destroyed some of my earlier negatives. Once the scheduled time has elapsed I carefully transfer the film by grabbing just the edge with my fingernails to a tray of diluted stop bath for 30 seconds and then into a non hardening fixer for 5 minutes.

    I use Pyrocat developer exclusively and until I hear superior results with another developer wonder why anyone would use another product. Sandy King is the inventor of Pyrocat and has proven to be a wealth of knowledge easily assessable to anyone who frequents these forums, seems to me to be the easiest part of the whole process.

    As far as those who claim there is no evidence of increased micro contrast, they obviously have never even seen a print from this type negative much less done the process themselves. My father used to have a name for those types, had to do with paper and ones's posterior.
     
  16. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    Steve, your photo didn't show me anything until I printed it. Even on ordinary bright white typing paper, it is very striking. I am very jealous.
    You didn't mention the film or developer. Did you perchance do the same scene with continuous agitation?
    I have read in some technical book that these effects are considered defects of insufficient agitation that are difficult to avoid even by continuous vigorous agitation. Viva la defect!
    I have had some trouble with uneven development, which is difficult for me to predict.

    I can't stop looking at your photo.
     
  17. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    The film is old Tri-X, outdated 1994 film. The developer is Pyrocat diluted 24: 16: 4000ml at 66 degrees. Developed 5 minute presoak, 1 minute agitation, 12M stand 20sec. agitate, 12M stand 20sec. agitate, 12M stand out to stop bath.

    I can't begin to describe the micro contrast in the buildings far off in the distance.

    When I did the workshop last weekend it was in conjunction with a large show of all Azo contacts. The show is extraordinary, five very talented photographers exhibited 60 wonderful photographs. I looked deep into most images and we have all seen what happens to small details far off in the scene, they just seem to fall apart, lack any sharpness or contrast, but that is what we are used to. Until Semi-Stand came along, if you have never tried it, please do so, if you are close to Washington DC, please see the show. I understand the entire show will travel to Louisville and spend several months.
     
  18. Steve Sherman

    Steve Sherman Subscriber

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    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I must have hit a key and sent the last post before I was finished writing.

    I still have undeveloped film of that scene which I plan on processing with continuous agitation for a side by side comparison.

    In the workshop I showed a number of negatives with higher density indexes measured on a densitometry which were tray processed with continuous agitation which printed too flat, remember the scenes I am talking about have approximately 3 zones of literal contrast. Semi-Stand negs processed to lower densities printed with extraordinary micro contrast. I can not stress enough this process is the best of both worlds!

    It's hard for me to talk in extraordinary terms about my own work. All I can say is you really have to see my originals to fully appreciate them, many times I am still surprised to see some of the results and the fine nuances which are revealed.

    When Michael Smith saw them he was stunned, he called to Paula to quickly come and see first hand! What more can I say.
     
  19. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Lessee

    Steve: lovely stuff

    Stand and semi-stand has been around forever, but it was an intuitive process and simply done and the expected results were attained. Steve's work has helped quantify things a goodish bit. Wonderful.

    I believe Dr. Henry set out to investigate the effect of agitation on sharpness, and chose D76 for the test. D76 did not demonstrate any acutance effects, but Henry did not investigate further. Too bad. Schwalberg had a much broader palette of technique. Had Henry tried Schwalberg's alternative developer to D76 (Rodinal) the research would have been quite different.

    Mortensen's work was well established before he crossed swords with Adams ( he did admire Weston, BTW ). Mortensen simply used N- exposure and N+ development to increase separation in the highlights: to him the facial highlights were the point of the image, and tried to make the print convey his visualisation.
    Like Adams, it was simply the correct technique for the picture.

    There is a craftsman's approach to a job that demands both tools and materials be investigated: most importantly, a fundamental curiosity of what is possible is encouraged. Closed-mindedness has never been rewarded. Steve demonstrates that a little practical work is more valuable than idle speculation.

    Well done, Steve.
     
  20. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    On what do you base the claim that Mortensen admired Weston? I don't mean that in an argumentative way: I'm just curious. I'm a big fan of Mortensen's books, especially The Model and The Command To Look, and on the basis of what he says in them, I doubt that he though much of Weston's nudes.
     
  21. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    In the Negative he talks a bit about modernism, and mentions Weston by name. I can't find the quote right now but it has a mildly respectful feel to it.

     
  22. Bulent Ozgoren

    Bulent Ozgoren Member

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    I have been developing my films in Pyrocat-HD for about 3 years and S-S since 6 months. 5 min presoak, 1.5 mins initial agitation, then stand for one fourth of the total time and agitate for 10 secs quarterly "a la Sandy". I am very pleased with the results. I am now trying to do the BTZS tests using this method but I can not decide on how to divide the agitation and non agitatiın periods for 4, 5:40, 8, 11 and 16 mins test developments. Thanks. Bulent
     
  23. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Steve;

    Not that I need more convincing but to visually emphasize your point, it might be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of prints (negs) done with S-S or EMA and one done in tray for instance.
     
  24. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Personal quotations in numerous writing throughout the late '30s and early '40s.



    .
     
  25. antielectrons

    antielectrons Inactive

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    Steve, that would be interesting to see. Look forward to it. Antonio
     
  26. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    I followed exactly this proceedure with a group of negs a week ago. I noticed that the base fog went way up - especialy with the old tri-x - The new tri-x had much cleaner borders. I used p'cat 1:1:150. I was aiming for the same results. I havent yet printed them to see if the base fog will hurt the images on AZO. I wonder if for this process, I should add some extra BZT or KBR.