Neighborhood Wanderings, and an Experiment

For wont of anything better to do on Sunday afternoon, I went out for a stroll in the 90+ degree heat (what was I thinking!!!) with the Rolleis for company. I wanted to do a little film and development test to see how well my results would come out. I’d say I nailed it based on these shots. The film I was testing is Ilford PanF, a very slow, fine-grained emulsion. The film speed Ilford recommends for this film is ISO 50. Quite a few folks I know recommend giving it a more generous exposure and rating it at EI 12. I shot some before at EI 25 and got good but not knock-your-socks-off results, so I thought I’d try the 12 and see what difference it makes. I took a risk and changed two variables at once – film speed and development technique. Normally I use Rodinal at a 1:50 dilution and develop for 14 minutes, agitating the chemistry for five seconds out of every 30 seconds. This time, I used Pyrocat HD for my developer, gave it twice the normal dilution (I usually use it diluted 1:1:100, but this time I used 1:1:200) for 45 minutes, with 5 seconds of agitation every 15 minutes.

This development technique is known as semi-stand development. Semi-stand uses highly dilute developers for greatly extended periods of time, with minimal agitation. What this does is it allows micro-contrast areas to form on the film where byproducts of the development process accumulate on the edges of light and shadow. These byproducts serve as a mask and lead to a boost in contrast at that edge, increasing the appearance of sharpness. If you look at the emulsion side of a negative that was developed using semi-stand, stand, or extreme minimal agitation technique (variations on a theme), the emulsion will actually appear in relief as if it had been etched.

This technique is also useful for managing high contrast situations because it allows for greater adjustment of the length of development to manage highlights. When you develop a roll of film, the shadow areas develop first, and once they have reached their maximum recorded density, they stop. Highlights will continue to develop long after the shadows have finished. This is one of the primary means for controlling contrast in an image- if the highlights are known to be too bright before developing the film, you can simply reduce total development time to keep the highlights from becoming unprintable.

Bike Rack, 11th St. Northbound
Bike Rack, 11th St. Northbound
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street
Bike Share Rack, 11th Street

These first two images are of the Capitol Bikeshare rental rack near my house. I’ve photographed the Bikeshare racks before, with full racks of bikes, to capture the receding perspective of the bike wheels. This time, I shot the bike rack with only one bike in it, to work with the late afternoon shadows created by the rack itself, and also to demonstrate the popularity of the Bikeshare, at least in my neighborhood. As you can see, on a Sunday afternoon, with the heat rising to over 90 degrees F, all but one of the bikes from this rack are in use.

Stone Turret, 11th Street
Stone Turret, 11th Street
Number 9, Basement Door
Number 9, Basement Door

Very much in the same stretch of 11th Street as the bike rack is where these two scenes can be found. The stone house is a bit of a neighborhood landmark – there are maybe half a dozen or less in the neighborhood with similar facades, and the rest (hundreds of houses) are varying types of brick or stucco over brick. The basement door photo was taken as part of this exercise, not only because I like wrought iron, but because the scene had extremes of contrast that I wanted to see if I could tame with the semi-stand development.

Cavalier Liquor Sunday Afternoon
Cavalier Liquor Sunday Afternoon
Hellers Bakery
Hellers Bakery

These two photos are of neighborhood icons – you’ve seen my color photo of Cavalier Liquor at night before. It has been the subject of many a photograph by fans of urban texture, neon, and Deco architecture. Hellers Bakery has been in their current location for many many years, and if you saw the movie “State of Play” starring Russell Crowe as Cal McAffery, a hard-luck, hard-boiled reporter who uncovers a Washington conspiracy, you’ll recognize their neon sign from below his apartment window. I’m very annoyed with Hellers that they don’t illuminate their sign very often, so it makes it very hard to get a good photo of it after dark!

And last but not least, an appropriate sign to end the post with:

No Loitering
No Loitering

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s