Saturday, 11 August 2012

Stop not buffer.

One of the most popular over the counter acid stops.
Made from citric acid with colour indicator.
Stop is the second part of the development process, but how many of us give it a second thought. Most of us when we come to developing our first film tend to do what the manufacturers, friends and teachers suggest without delving into what the relationship is between these elements in the process. There is nothing wrong with this approach we are all eager to get on and see those all important first images. With success, we continue settling in to a way of doing things that produce good results. It's not until we start printing that some faults with the negatives rear their heads. Dust and hair marks being the most common but then there are those odd black spots appearing in the skies here and there. This is when the controversy about how we stop the development process comes to the fore.

There are two main categories. The more aggressive with chemicals and the gentler water stop. The later is not a stop and it is misleading to call it such.   It dilutes the developer to the point where it no longer has an affect on the emulsion this can and does lead to unevenly developed negatives and I cannot understand why it is recommended (for film only) other than to increase the longevity of the fix, a buffer or as a way of creating a certain style to the negative. 

Have been processed using a citric acid stop.
I personally prefer the more aggressive chemical route, when the stop go's in, the developer is stopped in its tracks producing a clean crisp negative but you need to be careful.

A popular choice in the make up of developers is Sodium carbonate, an alkali. When this comes into contact with an acid based stop it produces carbon dioxide gas that leads to blistering of the more sensitive film emulsion,( not the case with enlarging papers). It manifests its self as a pinhole in the denser areas of the negative. There are ways around this by using developers that are formulated from mild alkalis either balanced or borax which do not produce the damaging over heating or gas when used with acid stops.

A reflection of St Pauls in London.
Processed and printed using all Ilford products
Stops are made from several different acids the most popular is acetic with a pH dye indicator. The others are citric and boric. You can also use a simple solution of sodium bisulfite. Be careful which stop you choose as some produce green staining with some enlarging papers. Another precaution is to use the stop bath at a lower working temperature to the developer; I know this is a controversial move but I have used this method for years without any of the problems suggested by others.