Developing black and white film is easy, everyone can do it.
Especially when using Rodinal as an agent for stand development.
There are many awesome resources out there on monochrome development and stand development, such like this article by J. B. Hildebrand from which I’d like to quote the following (although I use 1+100 dilution being an AGFA purist):
“Now lets look at the developing times for Rodinal 1:100 using stand development:
T-Max 100 = 1 hour
T-Max pushed two stops = 1 hour
Fuji Neopan = 1 hour
Ilford HP5 = 1 hour
Some mystery roll you found in a second hand camera = 1 hour”
This is why I love Rodinal stand development so much in combination with expired film and lo-fi cameras. You get the best possible result from combinations that have so many unknowns in the equation that you couldn’t figure it out otherwise. I have developed expired film for which I had adjusted exposure and development according to what I thought should compensate for expiry and still got not so good results (i.e. underdeveloped and/or underexposed) when developing normally and much better results when developing using stand development.
So, how do I do it?
Firstly, stand development is temperature insensitive. However, temperature changes over 5 degrees Celcius can produce film reticulation! If you want to avoid that, then fill a large container (I used 5 litre containers that had stored distilled water, very cheap) the day before and let it acquire room temperature overnight. I most often as not used tap water for all processes.
After you get your film(s) on the reel(s) and in the tank(s) in the dark:
Step one: Put on your gloves, protective glasses and lab coat and make sure there is very good ventilation!!!! Then: Presoak for 1 minute. It induces swelling of the gelatine component of the emulsion and reportedly improves developer penetration and/or removes antihalation layers. Many people don’t bother with it, but it doesn’t hurt to do it and I was under the impression that for 120 film there was less an issue for uneven development with it.
Step two: Put in the developer. For standard stand use Rodinal 1+100 for 1 hour. If you want extra kick to push the film you can try 1+200 for 2 hours or even 1+300 for 3+ hours. People argue that most development takes place in the first 20 minutes and everything else is just hogwash, but I have seen better shadow detail in same-batch expired film with longer development. I also like to experiment and use other ratios, like 1+100 for 90 minutes if I think there should be a little more shadow development. Don’t worry, you can’t really overdevelop, as development exhausts soon in the highlights. This is also the whole premise behind stand development: Development on demand in both highlights and shadows!
One problem looming over the dilution, however, is that of Rodinal failure. Reportedly, when using <5ml of Rodinal you risk that no sufficient development takes place and the film comes out blank (no edge markings in this case). I might have experienced this once, although there might have been other factors involved (water impurities were discussed). I went over to using a 5-roll Patterson tank which requires ~1,5 litre of solution, so there will always be >5 ml of Rodinal! And I must say, I never had problems again, despite the many films being developed. And it saves time!
After putting in the developer agitate continuously for 1 minute. I have seen no difference between rotary and inversion agitation in Rodinal, despite the claim that Rodinal, as an acutance developer, produces best results with gentle inversion agitation. Some of my development tanks tend to leak, so rotary agitation is safer and not as messy. Give three vigorous taps to dislodge air bubbles from the film. Don’t touch until the next step.
Now: If you have something else to do, go do it and return after an hour or so. A few minutes don’t have impact. I personally use semi-stand development, however. What is that? To avoid uneven development (in theory attributed to sedimentation of developer, for example), after every 30 minutes do another 2-3 inversions/rotations, so as to reconstitute solution attributes to even. It has enden my problems with uneven development even when using huge tanks!
Step three: Arrest development. At these dilutions I use a water stop, filling and draining for one minute. It is sufficient.
Step four: Fix according to your fixer instructions. Use a non-hardening fixer so you can use the very economic Ilford wash method for archival negatives.
Step five: Wash using the Ilford method: Look for example here on page 5 of the FP4+ fact sheet.
Step six: Use wetting agent.
Step seven: Dry and behold the splendour of Rodinal (semi-)stand-developed negatives!
All images Copyright by A. V. Behrens, all rights reserved.