Semi-Stand description and illustratvie photo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally Posted by Steve Sherman
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?
[FONT=Times New Roman]MAC[/FONT]
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.
Originally Posted by Steve Sherman
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.
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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?
Originally Posted by jdef
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.
Originally Posted by jdef
Last edited by sanking; 01-29-2006 at 12:03 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Originally Posted by antielectrons
Last edited by sanking; 01-29-2006 at 11:30 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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!
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?
art is about managing compromise