Gamma Infinity

In order to expose film destined to be developed to completion, choose a slow, fine-grained film (such as Ilford Pan F or an Efke or Adox film with a similar ISO), rate it at an exposure index that underexposes it three stops (ISO 25 @ 200, or ISO 50 @ 400), and shoot in the flattest possible daylight.

To develop this severely underexposed film, use a pint (in a double–reel tank with a spacer reel on top) of straight D-76 with an added organic restrainer. Agitation is
***normal for the first ten minutes
(first 60 seconds, then 10 sec./min.);
***then every five minutes for the remainder of the first hour;
***then, thirty seconds every twenty minutes for a total of six to eight hours. Fix in fresh fixer and finish processing as you would normally. The negatives should print easily with “normal” contrast and moderate grain.
For those who have the patience to do this well, the dividends are renderings of fine texture in light that is not normally practical.

Update: It’s working well. The only surprise is that the contrast we’re getting in individual frames is crazy high. People are printing with a 0 or even a 00 filter! It’s either the light in which the film was shot, or my formula for the added restrainer.

Update update: Upon reflection, I have a better theory. Time was, when people returned to wherever they lived from San Francisco, they often purchased a local delicacy at SFO called “sourdough” bread. Of course it’s ubiquitous now, but when the Boudin chain of restaurants expanded from the Bay Area by opening franchises in Chicagoland, they made a big deal of flying the starter dough via United Air Lines.

“Starter dough?” For certain recipes (bread or cassoulet), a particularly distinctive strain is perpetuated by using some of the previous batch to begin a new batch. Stock solutions of film developer used full-strength are not unlike starter dough in that, as each roll of (dry) film may take away maybe 1/2 ounce of liquid, a small amount of replenisher is added to top off the gallon. For popular formulas such as D-76, HC-110 and Microdol-X, there are replenishers available from Kodak. (Xtol is formulated to be its own replenisher.)

Maybe I’ll get to my point now: photographers become attached to their personal batches of re-usable, full-strength developer for the nuances they provide. It’s takes endorphin-releasing to a new level, at least for the photographer herself, but these little things add up to a signature look in the prints. I understand that, among the cult of Harvey’s 777 users, some mature solutions resemble sludge. One case in point is Garry Winogrand, who preferred to process 7 rolls of film with one spacer reel in the top of an eight-reel tank (who can say how he arrived at that refinement?). When he began a batch of film developer, he would first pour it into a tray and run a few sheets of out-dated paper through it “to take the edge off the grain.” Perhaps that’s part of the reason for the seeming energy of our fresh D-76 with restrainer added. Or perhaps I’m confusing light sources with freshness with grain… IDK. You?

One more thought. Because I replaced Anti-Fog #2, the original restrainer for this formula (sold by Kodak in handy tablet form) is not currently available, I use Anti-Fog #1–Benzotriazole. The difference is temporarily lost to the ages, and the information superhighway is littered with rumors and canards. Also currently, I am disinclined to test varying amounts of Benz in order to refine the process.

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