Gibbet Hill stands smack in the middle between Portsmouth and London. It’s the second-highest hill in the county of Surrey, and the last thing you need if you’re building a road between these two important cities. But a road was needed, and the first one went right over the top. Not great for horse-drawn carriages, and a bit of a notorious ambush point for highwayman and brigands. So in 1826 a new road was built, and this one swept around the hill and along the rim of The Devil’s Punchbowl, a large natural amphitheatre and beauty spot.
I first heard the name Devil’s Punchbowl years ago, through listening to traffic reports on the radio. As the only single-lane section of the A3, it was an infamous blackspot and the blight of commuters. Something had to be done, and in 2011 the Hindhead Tunnel was opened. This 1.14 mile engineering masterpiece bored straight through the hill. Great news for commuters. But even better news for conservationists, as it allowed the old road above to be reclaimed by nature.
The old A3 ran right through Devil’s Punchbowl and Hindhead Common, splitting them apart. Now however, no such barrier exists. Grazing of the heathland by commoners ceased around the mid-1900s, and this allowed the spread of birch and bracken over the heather. But this invasion is now being reversed by a programme of active reclamation. Exmoor ponies graze the common, helping to restore and maintain these areas, and if you’re lucky you might just spot them. I’ve been lucky. And although they’re wild, they’re also friendly and rather curious. Of course, it helps if you have a couple of carrots to hand.
Exmoor Ponies Hindhead Common / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X / Semi-stand developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 mins
Note: Output on Short Stories is hardly prolific at the best of times. This website is where I keep the photos of things that I’m up to and things I like to document. But sometimes I’m just not up to much. Or if I am, they might not be the sort of things I should be photographing and sharing. But it’s going to be even quieter round here for the next month or so. As my latest work project reaches its peak, I’ll be embarking on a longer than usual period of travelling. But I will be taking a camera. And I may even get the chance to use it.
There’s loads of information out there on stand development with Rodinal. But rather than just regurgitate what everyone else has written, I wanted to concentrate on my own personal experience. So whilst this is no way a detailed guide, it does have the benefit of being my first-hand experience.
Ella in the garden / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
West Norwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
What is Stand Development?
Stand development is the process where the film is left in a very dilute developing solution for an extended period of time, with little or no agitation. The theory is that the developer exhausts itself in areas which require greater development while remaining active in less-exposed areas. In other words, the highlights don’t burn out whilst the shadows develop a bit more detail. Not all developers are suitable for this, but I’ve been using this method successfully with Rodinal for many years.
Exmoor ponies in the rain on Hindhead Common / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Kodak Tri-X / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
What’s The Process?
It’s simple, really. Bear in mind this is all about what I do and what consistently works for me. Other opinions are available.
You mix up a solution of Rodinal and water in the proportion 1+99. So to create a working solution of 500ml, that’s 5ml of developer and 495ml of water.
Temperature – some people say that the temperature of the solution is irrelevant. But because I strive for consistency and predictability, I always go for 20℃.
Pour the solution into the film tank, and agitate well for 30 seconds. I then give the tank several good whacks with a wooden spoon on the top and sides, to ensure any air bubbles are dispelled.
You can then leave everything to develop for 60 minutes. After the first 30 minutes, I give the tank one very gentle turn upside down and back (don’t forget to whack afterward), before leaving for the remaining 30 minutes. Technically, this is called semi-stand development. I’ve tried leaving for the whole 60 minutes, and I’ve noticed you can get some strange ‘halo’ effects on the edges of subjects. Apparently some people like this, but it’s not for me, hence the gentle turn mid-way
After the 60 minutes are up you pour out the developer. I never bother with a stop bath because the dilution of the developer is so low, and in any case it’s exhausted by this stage. Just give the tank a good rinse out under the tap.
Fix and rinse in the normal way.
Whilst you’re waiting for the negatives to dry, kick back and listen to some fantastic music.
William / Yashica Mat with Rolleinar No. 2 Close-up lens / Kodak Tri-X / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
When To Use Stand Development
When the forums on Flickr where a lot more active than they are now, I used to marvel at the things people did with their films. It’d start off with someone saying “Yeah I always shoot at 80% of box speed and then underexpose by 1/3 of a stop” and then escalate to “Well I drop my film in a bucket of peanut butter and then develop in a homemade concoction made from Irn Bru and lard. It seemed to become a bit of a dick-swinging exercise in the end. (And yes, it did mainly seem to be men).
I don’t mind the odd bit of experimentation here and there, but the pictures I’ve shot are important to me. What I’m really looking for is consistency and the ability to be able to predict my results. So when I find something that works, I tend to stick with it.
What I’ve found is that stand development works best for me with medium format films. I don’t know why this is, but I don’t get the same results with 35mm. It can be done with 35mm, and indeed I’ve had some success with HC-110 instead of Rodinal. But to me, the look is inferior to developing in the normal way.
Similarly, through a process of trial and error, I’ve found I get the best results with traditional grain, rather than T-grain (i.e. Tmax and Delta) films. So FP4, Tri-X, and Fomapan (and therefore Kosmo) in 120 I always stand develop. Those have now become my go-to medium format films.
Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park/ Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
What Are The Advantages of Stand Development With Rodinal?
Longevity – Rodinal lasts for years. Quite literally. Even though it may change colour and consistency, it never seems to lose its efficacy. I’ve previously had a bottle for over 5 years with no problems. There are even reports out there of people successfully using bottles that have been kicking around for decades.
Economy – Currently a 500ml bottle of Rodinal is £13.98 at AG Photographic. If you were developing in the conventional way, you’d dilute Rodinal at a ratio of 1+24 or 1+49. For stand development I use 1+99. To develop a roll of 120 film you need 500ml of liquid, so that works out at 5ml of Rodinal and 495ml of water. That’s 100 rolls of film per 500ml bottle, working out at about 14p each. Pretty cool, right?
Queen tribute band, Windsor Races/ Yashica Mat/ Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Grain / Tonality – Rodinal is renowned for its distinctively high level of grain. Many people love this, but I find using this method the grain is more restrained, which I prefer. I also love the tonality I get from this method. But that’s very much a personal opinion.
Exposure – Old cameras don’t always have accurate shutters. I’ve found that stand development seems to compensate for small exposure errors.
ISO Agnostic – You can (and I often do) develop films of different ISOs in the same tank for the same amount of time.
It’s easy! Sure it takes longer, but you’re not hunched over the sink having to agitate every 60 seconds for ten minutes. Instead, just sit down and marvel at how much better life used to be in the ’70s when we were growing up. Or not.
Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
World Zombie Day, London 2014 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017 / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Lonely diner, London / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Walton Bridge / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
West Norwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Brookwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Hampton Court / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Middle-aged ladies sunbathing, Margate / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
My Mum in her living room / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
London/ Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Stools in the office / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand development with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Kurdish protester, Trafalgar Square / Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X/ Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
James, Windsor / Yashica Mat / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Quick fix by Big Ben / Yashica Mat 124G / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Scooter enthusiasts, Hampton Court / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4+ / Stand developed with Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes
Hey! Too much time on your hands? Why not check out my other guides:
As I write this, it’s 1000 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union. And it seems fitting that I was wandering round a cemetery whilst considering those things I’d bury in my Brexit time capsule. You know how this goes. You gather the things that are important to you, and wrap them up carefully. Then you bury them in the ground, the hope being that some future generation will discover them, and marvel at the way we once lived.
We’ve come along way in the last few years. In 2015, front page news was a picture of then-Labour Party leader eating a bacon sandwich. By 2016, the country was on fire. Here are four things I’m going to miss and fear are gone forever:
Polite discussion on the internet
OK, this one’s not exactly new. Failing to tell someone you disagree with that you hope they die of cancer was made illegal by an Act of Parliament sometime around 1998. Nevertheless, things have got exponentially worse in the last few years. So I’m shoving this one in the Brexit time capsule.
All photos Brookwood Cemetery / Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes
They say that satire is dead. Not true. It’s just that we no longer have the need for satirists. Politicians and public figures are now self-satirising. They’ve cut out the middleman. Take Member of Parliament Jacob Ress-Mogg, for example. Here’s a man whose idea of kicking back at the weekend is to wear a top hat and speak Latin. Who happily admits that even though he has six children, he’s never changed a nappy. Who since convincing the public to leave the EU has made seven million pounds by investing in funds in….er… the EU. Yet this multi-millionaire has managed to convince a significant number of people that it’s everyone else who’s the elite.
Or how about Brexit minister Stephen Barclay? He presented the government’s case for an extension to Article 50 in the Commons last week, saying it was for the good of the country. Then promptly went through the division lobby and voted against the amendment himself. But not to fear, this week he’s being sent to Brussels to argue for an extension.
So sorry satirists, you need not apply. Into the Brexit time capsule you go.
Shame / Honesty
These two go hand in hand. Because once politicians and pundits dispensed with shame, they realised they could lie without consequence. In days gone by, a person in a position of authority would have had to resign if they knowingly told the public a bare-faced lie. These days they can stand up and say the exact opposite of what they said before, without any recourse whatsoever. You can even show them the video of them saying it and they decry it as fake news. The truth has evaporated into steam.
We used to say that everyone was entitled to their own opinion. Now it seems that everyone is entitled to their own facts. And that’s whats truly terrifying; that the people believe the lies, in spite of all the evidence. I had to go back to my copy of 1984 and check exactly how Orwell defined Doublethink:
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
I think they call it cognitive dissonance these days.
You’ve probably come to some opinion on my political views from reading this. And you may well consider me either a hero or a monster, depending on how you perceive they align with you’re own. But in fact the only point I’m making is for people to be nicer to each other.
It’s possible to not be responsible for voting in the most shameful government in my lifetime, without being a supporter of the most incompetent opposition I’ve ever known. It’s possible to have views on our current political situation without being on one extreme on the other. Yet everything appears to be binary these days; black or white. You’re either a leaver or a remainer. A communist or a conservative. A traitor or a patriot. A libtard or a fascist. But there are very fine people on both sides. Well, OK, not always. And those people with sticky-out rather than sticky-in belly buttons are kinda weird, no?
I’m of an age that grew up without the Internet, and yet was quite an early adopter in my early twenties. I remember being very pleased when I had my first email address, before realising I didn’t actually know anyone I could email. That optimistic sense of a Brave New World seems almost laughable to be me now.
We used to say that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. These days, a hateful ideology can travel to the moon and back whilst common decency is still lolling around in its gingham nightshirt. I’m not hopeful for the future.
One weekend of warm sunshine in February is a surprise.; two consecutive ones is jaw dropping. Making the most of the weather, we took an eight mile walk along two national trails, the New Lipchis Way and the Serpent Trail. The latter is a is a 64 mile long path through the purple heather, green woods and golden valleys of the Sussex greensand hills.
This was another opportunity for me to play with stand development in HC-110, this time with Ilford FP4. I’m particularly pleased with the results of this combination.
This is the walk we did. Fancy Free Walks is a really good resource for walks in the South East of England. I’ve probably done about 30 over the last five or six years.
Mamiya 645 Pro TL / Ilford FP4 / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes
St Mary’s in Chithust is an 11th Century church, probably built after the Norman Conquest. Chithurst has probably always been a sleepy place, but a note of high drama was sounded in 1757. The rector, Rev John Denham, was stabbed and murdered. A man named Aps was tried at Horsham and convicted of the crime. He was hung, with a contemporary report saying that he ended “his wicked life without the least sign of repentance”. We thought that’d be a good place to stop for lunch.
Just because I’m biased doesn’t mean that Coco The Cocker isn’t the world’s most beautiful dog. She hardly ever sits still, so a photo of her taken with a manual focus lens is a rare occurrence.
There’s a certain type of weirdo that enjoys cemeteries. I’m one of them. This little isolated cemetery was a final treat for me near the end of the walk.
West Wittering Beach is a beautifully sandy beach located at the entrance to Chichester Harbour. On a unexpectedly sunny Sunday last week, we loaded up the car with and assortment of kids, dogs, and sandwiches and headed on out.
Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X / Stand developed in Kodak HC-110 1+160 for 45 minutes
I generally use just two films in medium format these days; Ilford FP4 and Kodak Tri-X. And this being Feb, my Yashica Mat was already loaded with Tri-X. I typically stand develop both those films in Rodinal with good results. However, blue skies on Tri-X with Rodinal was likely to show a little too much grain for my tastes. I therefore decided to use stand development with HC-100 instead.
This roll was developed for 45 minutes in a dilution of 1+160. I used 5ml of HC-110 in 800 ml of water, and developed for 45 minutes with one very gentle inversion at the halfway mark. I’ve often head it said that stand development is temperature agnostic, but for the sake of consistency I stick to 20C.
These frames don’t quite have the lemon-juice-in-the-eye sharpness of Rodinal, but the grain in those skies is less pronounced.
Daisy’s nearly 16 now. Her legs don’t really work like they used to and everything’s a bit harder than it once was. I know how that feels. But I’ve never seen her happier than when she’s on the beach.
There’s some great dunes at West Wittering Beach. I’m always reminded of 1968’s ghost story Whistle & I’ll Come To You, although that was filmed on the Norfolk Coast. If that means anything to you, you may find this interesting.