More thoughts on the Semi-Stand process
It occurs to me some don’t realize the full potential of the Semi-Stand process, like most photogs, myself included we get caught up in the mechanics and technical side and loose sight of the creative possibilities.
The Semi-Stand process and it’s ability to completely alter, then control and ultimately predict the final micro contrast of a negative opens up possibilities in our own personal work never before possible. Think about this for a minute, you have a process, which effectively gives maximum film speed (shadow detail) yet at the same time gives maximum contrast compression by nature. True, not all scenes require compression, but when the process allows for complete control of the micro contrast you have effectively produced a negative otherwise which until now was not possible, do you see the creative possiblities? A good friend says, “you are just pushing tones around”. That maybe but let me see you what you’re doing to effect to own vision.
Take for instance a photograph on this page in my web site, http://www.steve-sherman.com/southwest_main.htm photo is titled Jack, Mystery Arch. For those who have been to Mystery Arch near Monument Valley you know the rock or arch is deep dark red sandstone with little areas which reflect any secularity. The negative was generously exposed with the dark tones of the rock exposed near Zone 7 or 8, naturally this pushed the background (late afternoon sunlight) probably up to Zone 14. I used the HC110 dilute developer method and then printed on a high contrast paper preserving the impression of light emanating from the arch, add in my good friend Jack Holowitz and I created an impression of believability which just doesn’t exist. I had to use some darkroom gymnastics to print this negative on a # 4 paper but nevertheless I was able to pull it off. With the Semi-Stand or Extreme Minimal Agitation process there would be no need to use a hard contrast paper, which would make the darkroom process so much more enjoyable.
My original attraction to Semi-Stand was a result of using Azo for by 7x17 work. Made all the sense in the world to use a contact printing paper when shooting film that large. Problem was Azo and its considerably longer gray scale. I was not willing to shoot in more contrasty light, above expample not withstanding. The Semi-Stand process when throughly researched and perfected through trial and error can produce the exact micro contrast which is unique to each photogrpaher’s likes.
Bruce Barnbaum is the photograher who turn me onto the “Slot Canyons” of the southwest. The major difference I think between my work and almost everyone else’s renditions of the slot canyons are how the film was exposed. I never saw anyone’s technical data reveal exposures of more than 3 minutes. Typically, my film was exposed for one hour and in the case of one shot on my web site for two hours. There were just parts of the slots that were never going to reflect light regardless of exposure time. Therefore, I placed the highlights as high on the Zone System scale as I felt comfortable in controlling through development and final printing methods. Again, had I known of the Semi-Stand process then it would have made the printing process infinitely more enjoyable. The difference between my photos of the slots and most others I’d seen, the gradation of tone, it was not harsh but more subtle, and more in keeping I thought with the incredible flowing lines of these incredible “wonders of the world”.
When I turned to contact printing Azo was an easy choice, I just didn’t care for the micro contrast of the Platinum / Palladium process, enjoyed looking at other’s work but it was not for me. Thanks to Sandy King and the Semi-Stand technique new possibilities are presenting themselves regularly.
Immediately following the View Camera Conference this past May in Springfield Michael Mutmansky gave a Palladium printing demo at Jack Holowitz's darkroom. He used one of my Semi-Stand negatives for a test print, not only was the micro contrast more than sufficient (at least for me) the color and feel of the process was quite mesmerizing. I now own a Pt / Pd printing light source and look forward to new possibilities in my personal work, another learning curve, it’s very exciting.
I realize that this post has gotten long winded, but I would conclude that the Semi-Stand process is much more than a technique, it allows creative possiblities never before possible.
Isn’t it the creative opportunities why we do this thing called photography?
Semistand and pyrocat vs. traditional developers.
Having seen Steve's negatives and test prints at the LF conference in Springfield this May, I can vouch for the superb acutance and microcontrast achieved by him using pyrocat.
I would appreciate another description of your semistand technique. Sorry!
Wishing to avoid pyro based developers I did ask him and subsequently inquired about use of nonstaining developers. I posted my inquiry and subsequent very limited (2 sheets) experiment with 1:200 Rodinal for 2h with no agitation beyond the first minute (I guess stand rather than semistand). I will also test out TFX-2 when it arrives based on feedback from a fellow APUGer (thanks df Cardwell). I also read about stand development in Anchell and Troop. I believe Mr. Troop is the one who modified Crawley's FX2 formula for Photographer's Formulary to produce TFX-2.
Has anybody made a direct comparison of Pyrocat and other pyro developers vs. dilute Rodinal and other traditional developers used for stand and minimal agitation development?
Last edited by haziz; 08-10-2005 at 07:59 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Pyrocat HD is a wonderful developer. It is just as easily used for stand development as semi-stand development. Very inexpensive also.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
Hanny, I can say that pyrocat is a very nice, friendly developer to use for this process. While I have nothing like the experience that Sandy or Steve can exhibit regularly, I have recently been using minimal agitation and Efke 100 with wonderful results. Stay away from PMK pyro and any stand development, staining is not going to work due to a lack of agitation. When Steve says "micro-contrast" he is correct. The effects in shadow areas and edges are simply stunning in a print, or in seeing a film with loupe and light box. This is a "must see to believe" for anyone who will take the time to try it.
From what many other posters here have said, Rodinal has a great following for sharpness with very dilute concentrations. There are those who consider it blasphemy to use anything else. I have two bottles in my shrine now, given to me by my son last month, and don't know if I will use it this year but it's on the list for my next developer. tim
Where are some suggestions as to how this is done? I had time for only one quick search on semi-stand and found nothing.
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Look on APUG and at michaelandpaula.com for minimal agitation and extreme minimal agitation as well as stand and semi-stand. They are all essentially the same thing - the difference is in the amount of agitation given - from almost none to a little every three to five minutes.
The original discussion began with a post by Steve on Michael and Paula's site in early 2004. Unfortunately their site doesn't have permalinks, so I can't give you a direct link.
For decades, ALL photo technique was based upon using metol/HQ developers. Two reasons: a developer to do almost anything can be compounded from m & hq, so manufacturers turned away from other developer agents.
AND most "craft photography" ( to use a clumsy term ) which existed well with commercial imaging before WW2 died off as so many photographers were trained 'by the numbers' and the 'by the book' approach dominated the postwar photo world.
For all those who were indoctrinated 'by the numbers', agitation was 5 seconds every half minute, or if you were a rebel, 10 seconds each minute. It became axiomatic. Now, I'm not saying it was wrong, just trying to describe what took place.
The notion that agitation can be a variable, not an absolute, is still foreign to most folks. Certainly, you need to find an OLD text to even have mention of it. I have a 1920's text from Agfa that talks about standing developers: glycin, metol ( the formula Beutler became famous for (now we know where HE got it..), ABC pyro, and Rodinal. Yet, until recently, you couldn't talk about standing development in public without being torn to ribbons by experts who had been taught NOT to do it, and had never tried it. I was fortunate enough to have a good, old style photographer help me get going when I did his yard work in trade for darkroom time when I was a kid. He'd be about 105 about now.
Between Steve and Sandy, you have excellent guides right here. Neither of whom are 105.
Think of it like this: expose for the midtones, develop for the shadows, and agitate for the highlights. ( that is about true enough to be dangerous, but it's a place to begin ). The other thing is to realize that films have a distinct character. Begin working with your favorite film and see what happens. Take notes. You CANNOT predict what will happen, there are too many variables. Have fun.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
What a wonderful contribution, Steve. As a matter of interest to the APUG community at large, it'd be great if you could find the time to write down the procedure and posting it on the Articles section. Just a thought.
i recently started developing my own 35mm black and white. i was always happy with my labs work, until i started doing my own. i have always agitated 3 inversions every 5 minutes. i learned the technique from a photographer whose work i really admire at photosig, i andrew murphy. feel the technique really shines when 'pushing' to higher exposure indices. i can really see the difference in the grain between my labs constant agitation and my methods. the shadow detail is unbelievable between my tri-x @3200 and the labs.
Steve, I second Daniel's suggestion. A comprehensive article would be of great interest.
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