My semi-stand week: Orwo UN54

As semi-stand week is my party I get to make the rules and so I’m going to start at the end of the week and talk about Orwo UN54 which was the last of the six films I used. The film was an impulse buy; when stocking up recently on my regular films I popped a single 35mm roll of the UN54 in the virtual basket. I’d seen many images from other users of the film and thought I’d have a look for myself.

I used the roll on a changeable Tuesday morning as I walked to the Post Office and then meandered back through the back alleys that I’ve haunted a lot during Lockdown 3. As the roll was 35mm the choice of camera was a no-brainer – the Horizon S3 has been a constant in my bag this year and indeed 80% of the 35mm films I’ve exposed this year have been through this camera.

The film was exposed at it’s box-speed of 100 ISO and I followed my usual technique with this camera of taking a meter reading as I start walking and using this as a basis for estimating exposure without having to stop every frame to re-meter. I do also take a new meter reading if the light changes considerably though or if I want to be sure of getting it right for a particular composition. My starting exposure was 1/125th at f11 so most frames on the roll are equal to or +/-1 stop from this base. A couple were f8 and 1/60th.

For many new-to-me films I start by looking at the Massive Dev app on my phone when getting ready to develop the finished roll. This gave a suggested time of 25 minutes for semi-stand in Rodinal at 1+100. I was concerned that this would not be long enough to reap the benefits of a semi-stand development. One of the main benefits of this way of developing film is that it gives the effect of boosting shadow detail while preserving bright highlights in the film. We use a very dilute developer and give it plenty of time to do its magic usually. It’s a technique that can also be useful in increasing perceived sharpness especially in contrasty scenes such as those I had been photographing. I decided to try 40 minutes as this was approximately half-way between the suggested 25 minutes and my more usual go-to time of 60 minutes. It’s worth remembering that Massive Dev is a great starting point but that’s all the times are, a starting point to guide your own experiments.

Negatives on the light pad and a copy simply inverted in Photoshop (iPhone image)

So, into the tank and on with the development. A little under an hour later the developed, fixed and washed negatives were hanging in my bathroom. A quick look at them was very positive and when later in the evening I cut and sleeved the dried negatives I couldn’t resist a quick iPhone snap (above) which revealed some nice-looking negatives.

Inspecting them with a loupe I was very pleased by how crisp and sharp they looked. Plenty of potential contrast too so the semi-stand had done its work well. As it would be a few days before I could get into the darkroom I “scanned” the full roll of 18 negatives for the next stage. My “scanning” technique for my 35mm panoramic negatives is to hold them flat in a Lomography Digitaliza, place them on a light pad beneath a copy stand and photograph them with a Fuji X-T3 capturing RAW files and using a custom white balance. Not as good as darkroom printing of course but it means I can post them to social media etcetera.

Horizon S3, Orwo UN54, semi-stand in Rodinal (1+100) for 40 minutes.

The image above shows the untouched “scan” of the negative on the left, this has not been cropped, is the full negative and has not been adjusted from the original digital capture. Notice the sharp lines and crisp contrasts (ignore the crazy verticals!). The grain is very pleasant too although that may not be so easy to see at this resolution. A simple invert in Photoshop gave an overall flattish result (centre), still crisp and sharp nevertheless which suggests to me it will print well; I shall probably use spit-grade to really bring out the contrasts. Finally, on the right is the inverted image with just a simple Levels adjustment in Photoshop and nothing else. No localised attention, no cloning or tampering, just the full negative, simply inverted and with contrast added back in by a simple global levels adjustment. Incidentally, I stay away from heavily processing my film “scans”, even with the image below which does have some localised adjustments in the lower half, I have spent no more than a couple of minutes on any of these digital versions.

Top: a simple invert of the “straight scan”
Bottom: very quick ‘n’ dirty localised burning-in of sky and LH-side of the frame

I’m very pleased with how this roll of film has responded to the semi-stand treatment. I have no benchmark against which to measure this film stock as this is the only time I’ve used the film – but on this result it won’t be the last.

Incidentally, had I actually researched the film more widely, rather than just recommended development practices, I’d have found that Lomography’s Potsdam Kino is apparently the same emulsion and there’s lots of words on the web about processing Potsdam! The recommended times for Potsdam semi-stand in 1+100 Rodinal was between 45 and 60 minutes so I was pleased that I played my hunch although I was even more pleased when I took the dried roll down and viewed it on a light box.

The first part of this series outlined the methodology employed for the semi-stand development of each roll in this series. Today’s post has covered the “scanning” methodology, a basic conversion such as I would do for Twitter for example and has also touched upon the benefits of researching beyond simply looking for development suggestions when using a new film. I hope you have enjoyed it. In a future post I will look at the development of three rolls of 120 Ilford Fp4+ and my approach to printing these negatives. I am also planning two other posts regarding a couple of other new-to-me 35mm films, FT12 and Ferrania P30. I also plan to grit my teeth and process a couple of images more fully and consider the benefits of the so-called hybrid, analog-digital, approach to film photography.

Which of these I write and post next you will have to wait and see!


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