Kevin Bjorke
Kevin Bjorke
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Mortenson-style testing

A couple of years or so back I was browsing at a San Francisco bookstore and came across a book called “Projection Control” by William Mortensen, whom I’d only heard of as an antagonist to the old f/64 group of the 1930’s. His pictures seemed oddly contemporary, however – so I read further and found that he was an advocate of what we might think of as a ridiculous method: he developed his film not for minutes but for hours.

Today all B&W film shooters know “expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights” as espoused by core f/64 paladin Ansel Adams.

Mortenson’s approach was 100% opposed: “expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows.” The way he did this was to develop until there was simply no more developing to be done: to set the film in the tank and leave it.

So I tried it out. I ran a roll of 120 Acros through the Bronica at a variety of exposures from three stops over standard to many stops below, put the film in the tank, loaded it with Rodinal 1+100, and went out for the SV Bloggers Meetup over at Barefoot Coffee. Two hours later I returned and fixer’d the film.

Normal development time for Acros is something like 11 minutes, so I anticipated some pretty black negatives, heavily over-developed. Which is not what I found at all!

Instead, I only seem to have gained a single stop or so in the overall exposure. The underexposed frames were… well, clear. I threw them away. The remaining frames I scanned, down to a faint level where the scanner was just taking a picture of the light source.

The strip above shows the frames at one-stop intevals around “normal” (marked with a triangle). The “minus one” is pretty much right where I would expect a normal exposure to land.

Does it look unusual, different from “normal” agitated development? Yeah, take a look: the local exhaustion effects, to my eyes, look a wee bit like stepping on the “unsharp mask” a little too hard. I like it.

Minus one

(Also on Flickr)

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