Compensating developer for night work.

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by wayne_crider|4, Mar 11, 2004.

  1. I wanted to ask others for their favorite compensating developer / film for night
    work. I've been basically shooting Delta 400 and HP5+ in mf for day stuff, but
    after doing some reading on night photography, it's piqued my interest to get
    out again and shoot, but with b&w this time. I've used Diafine in the past for
    day work, but am interested in trying something else this time. I've been
    considering Acutol diluted 1:20, but it seems suited more for slower speed
    films. Apparently FX39 is considered more for the higher speed films. I'll be
    scanning for print and and wet printing as well. Thanks for any pointers.
  2. FX-39 is suited for Delta films above all, and Acutol works well with any conventional grain films of any speed.

    I suggest Delta 400 with FX-39 or HP5 with Acutol. Both 1+20 dilutions, about 9-12 minutes.
  3. 1) Microdol-X and PMK are standard compensating developers.

    2) Take a look at this page:

    3) Andrew Sanderson's 'Night Photography' is a very good book on the subject, and directly
    compares results from several normal and compensating developers:
  4. With Tri-X and FP4+ for night photography I use either Diafine (normal processing) or very dilute Rodinal in stand processing, typically 1:200 for two hours.

    Both developers and techniques will produce rather grainy results with Tri-X but acceptable grain (by my standards) with FP4+.

    I plan to try Microphen next since I know this developer has a compensating effect when used for push processing of negs shot in contrasty light. The trick is to agitate only a little and no more often than once per minute. In my experience Microphen is a very forgiving developer when used this way - it's almost difficult to produce unprintable negatives.
  5. I use HP5+ rated at 200 and PMK. I've shot inside historic theaters that are so dark that a flashlight is necessary to set the shutter speed and f-stop (4x5) with excellent results.
  6. The staining developers like PMK are strongly recommended.

    Any high energy/compensating developer like HC-110 at 1:200 will act as a powerfull compensator.

    Kodak Technidol is perhaps the best straight developer I've used for heavy compensation for night photography. Process times for Tri-X though will be quite long - like 25 minutes.
  7. Anchell's book "Darkroom Cookbook" has several formulas for comp. devs.
  8. Lex,
    I know with stand development you do minimal agitation. With the FP4+ in Rodinal at 1:200, can you give me a rough idea of how much agitation you're using? I'm very intrigued by this - I'm going to play with FP4 in Rodinal in general in the next few weeks.

    What EI are you exposing at? Do you find the grain to be worse than with other developers? If so, what exactly are the benefits you're seeing with the stand development? Just the better control of the contrast?

  9. I use XTOL 1:1 for 20-30 minutes. I used to do a few inversions every 5 minutes, but now I
    just give it 5 inversions and a good whack after filling and that's it. While I generally use
    this for at 80F and 30 minutes for about a +2 push, it's really hard to make it blow out
    completely--15 to 20 minutes and 72F at the ISO speed should be fine.

    If you need even more compensation, just increase the dilution, although with XTOL you
    don't want to decrease the developer past what you'd use for 1:1--That is, mix up enough
    1:1 to develop your film, then add more water to get to your final dilution, thus requiring a
    larger tank.
  10. Allan, Lex might not get back to you very promptly, but proper stand development is no agitation after continuous agitation for the first minute. Just put the tank on the counter, set your timer, and walk away. If the darkroom is more than five degrees off of 68 F/20 C, put the tank in a large water bath at the proper temperature to reduce the change in temperature. Come back when the time is up, stop and fix as normal. And forget precise timing -- out of a two hour process time, five minutes one way or the other doesn't matter much.
  11. Stand development is different from minimal agitation. Stand development is unsuited to roll film, as development byproducts will cause streamers because of their differing specific gravity.

    Stand development can be used only with sheet film lying horizontally in a tray or tank.
  12. "Stand development is unsuited to roll film, as development byproducts will cause streamers"

    Hans, I've used stand developing for 35mm Tri-x and Rodinal 1+200 as Lex suggested, and have never had streamers. I haven't tried it with any other films though, but lots of TX. Have you ever tried it with other films (or TX)?

  13. Donald,
    Thanks for getting back to me - I know it might be a while before Lex can. I guess when I said "minimal," I didn't quite realize exactly _how_ minimal :).

    I will give it a try next time I do some nighttime photography with FP4. I got a good stock of it I need to use up anyway.

    And I think from now on I will take all of Hans' comments with about a boulder of salt. He speaks in such absolute terms...

  14. AZ I've actually read Sanderson's book and seen his Acutol prints off HP5
    which look very nice. To note, there is another book on night photography that
    came out recently that's much better. I just wish I could remember the dog
    gone name for ya.

    While we're at it, has anyone ever used any Ortho for night stuff?
  15. I thought the Sanderson book was pretty good, although I don't own a copy. On my shelf is
    a copy of David Strickland's 1985 book, "Night- Low Light - Flash Photography," which is
    only okay (but worth the $3.50 I paid for it).
  16. Allan:

    You are welcome to try, but it is highly likely that a complete lack of agitation will cause some streamers, depending on the type of developer employed.
  17. Hans,
    Well, it's all about trying it, isn't it? :)

    Worst case is that I'll mess up a roll. For me, that's fine - it's just a hobby, after all.

  18. Wayne, Allan, other folks - here's an example of one of my better negatives that was stand processed:

    All the technical data is attached to the photo. Back then I estimated the EI at 100 rather than 200, as I've stated in this thread. Obviously this technique - long exposures dealing with reciprocity issues and compensation development - make it difficult to be precise.
  19. Hans: No, that's one of the reasons I like XTOL so much--it NEVER streaks.

    Streaking is very much dependant on how the developer works and what kind of
    byproducts it generates. Your description is correct for a decent number developers, but
    far from all of them.

    And in between the worst case (35mm w/sprocket hole streaking) and best case (sheet
    film lying flat) is 120/200--much less prone to streak than 35mm, much more than sheet
  20. Lex;

    Another great goat head shot. Pity about the streamers, tho. ;^)

    I wonder how many of us have such a pet subject around the house? You've got your buckets and that goat head. Mine is a brakemans lantern and an old bow saw hanging on the front of the house for "rustic decor". I have dozens of frames of them scattered throughout the pages of my neg files. Wonder what other folks use? Might make an interesting thread someday.

  21. A photo with a large expanse of sky with trees etc., would be more prone to showing streamers.
  22. I've seen streamers at birthday parties too. They're everywhere!
    (sorry Hans, couldn't resist).

  23. Good point, Dean. I do tend to photograph the same subjects repeatedly. Sometimes they're simple film tests and I don't plan to do anything with the negatives - I might scan a frame or two but I rarely make a contact sheet.

    Other times, tho', I'm looking for how differences in the light, film, processing and mojo affect those same subjects.

    Besides, they're convenient. I don't get out much.
  24. Gilbert Fastenaekens is a belgian photographer who make great night shots. He spoke about his technical "secrets" of exposing and developing for this purpose in Camera & Darkroom mag issue of november 1995. I do have scans of this article for you all if you want it. Eduardo.
  25. There was an article on stand developing in Photo Techniques some while back called "Agitate or Ruminate?" by some fellow named Gainer.
    he found it was possible to get streaking from sprocket holes with the film lying face down in a tray. Uneven developing does not always show as streamers. A white card may show a gradation of density from one side to the other that is different for stand development than for agitated development.
  26. I've tried standing development one way or the other... once for pure necessity though

    I used d:76 1+10 once, not bad, rodinal 1+100 not bad (specially in APX 100)
    never tried Rodinal 1+200 (how much borax do you add)

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