About ten years ago I developed a 135 roll of HP5+ in my favourite developer - Rodinal. I love Rodinal, one shot, liquid, very economical, use very dilute, stand and semi-stand development, very sharp, convenient, toneful, ultra long shelf life even when opened, low grain when used dilute and finally, Rodinal is a compensating developer. I’ll do a post on developing with Rodinal sometime, you may get to love it as I do. Back to that roll of HP5+ of ten years ago. I mixed EI on the same roll, from EI200 to 1600. I have done this often with no problem whatsoever. Then, I also used a standard acid fix whereas today I use an alkaline fix. Back then I did a full stand development. That being 1:100 dilution, agitation for 60 seconds and then stand for one hour doing nothing. Water wash, fix and dry.
The results were horrid. For the sake of it I consulted the Oracle (the web) and other users reported that HP5+ and Rodinal are not a happy mix. I wasn’t a happy bunny as HP5+ in my other favourite developer, Prescysol, is just wonderful. I heaved a sign and consigned the HP5+ and Rodinal combination to the metaphorical dustbin. Never did HP5+ and Rodinal again.
Then, a week or so ago I came across a post by Cooking Film (http://cookingfilm.wordpress.com) an excellent blog from a Portuguese photographer. In this post Cooking Film uses HP5+ and Rodinal. I thought “Good grief, that’s is going to be absolutely awful”. The photos were actually lovely with wonderful tone. “Must be terribly grainy” I thought. I knew I had a roll of 120 HP5+ from the Hasselblad just waiting to be developed. I didn’t know what was on it. I thought “what the Hell, lets just do it in Rodinal and see what happens”. I know, reckless or what. I threw caution to the wind.
What I was expecting was a repeat from ten years ago. What I actually saw in the scans completely shocked and surprised me (yeah, sad, I know).
The tone was good considering the subject. The dynamic range was excellent. The sharpness was razor. But it was the grain that shocked me. Rodinal, unlike the vast majority of developers is not a solvent developer. Most other developers use I think Sodium Sulphate (or other chemistry) to soften the grain. The downside of this of course, is a loss of sharpness to varying degrees depending on the developer. Rodinal has none of this namby pamby business. If you don’t like grain, then don’t use Rodinal. Grain can be attractive. Grain can add so much to your pictures in the way of atmosphere, texture, definition and sharpness.
Lets get on to the pictures. I made these exposures at the Piercefield Manor. A beautiful old mansion house with a rich history built on the money of a Caribean sugar plantation and slave labour. Now in its final death throes. Crumbling. Decaying. I suppose, come the day when it has falling into nothing part of its ignominious past dies with it. Now, only rich in texture and photo opportunities. Well, it would be if some pillocks hadn’t fenced it. Over the last ten years or so I have been photographing parts of the Manor as they fall into ruin.
The below is a 100% crop of the above, a 5847px x 5847px file at 2400dpi. Scanned on a Epson v700 using Epson Scan.