Advice from Pyro users

Ian Grant

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#21
So this is only useful for straight darkroom printers? Digital printing offers all kinds of ways to modify edge contrast. You can even control edge sharpness selectively.
What sort of size do you need to print, before these effects are apparent? What do you do if the effect is too much?
And when you say"grain edge" does this mean the individual grains are rendered more sharply or that the transition from a light patch to a dark patch is enhanced, by Mackie lines? I thought this was related to very dilute (but standard) developer, used with very little agitation. I can recall seeing N-shaped graphs illustrating this but I also recall a suggestion that one of the lines doesn't exist and is a purely retinal effect. My apologies, but I can't remember the reference. Might have been a passing comment in the BJP...
I had believed that staining developers were used to control the contrast of tricky subjects, in the days of graded papers.

My experience is that Pyrocat HD negatives scan beautifully. A friend was using Precsysol (the datasheet was an exact copy of Sandy King's first version of Pyrocat HD - using Sodium rather than Potassium Carbonate). He was scanning all his negatives to make digital inter-negatives for Platinum printing

I'm currently scanning many of my negatives and I like the Pyrocat negative the best.

Ian
 

Ian-Barber

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#22
My experience is that Pyrocat HD negatives scan beautifully. A friend was using Precsysol (the datasheet was an exact copy of Sandy King's first version of Pyrocat HD - using Sodium rather than Potassium Carbonate). He was scanning all his negatives to make digital inter-negatives for Platinum printing

I'm currently scanning many of my negatives and I like the Pyrocat negative the best.
My experience is limited but nevertheless, I shall throw my little pebble into the pond :)

HC-110
I started out using HC110 at different dilutions. As this was my first developer, I had nothing to compare it with.

Kodak XTOL
I then tried some XTOL and I started to see better shadow detail. I was using it at 1+1 and soon realised that I could not keep up the expense of it. I then heard about replenishing it and spoke to Ian about to do it. The replenishment method worked and I am still using the same stock I mixed in Jan 2017.

PyroCatHD
My switch to PyroCatHD was probably by accident rather than scientific research. Although I was using XTOL more and more, I was still not happy with the way the highlight scanned on my film (FomaPan 100). Again listening to people like Ian who has used Fomapan I began to realise that the film builds up contrast very quickly.

For a short time, I went back to HC-110 and started experimenting with semi-stand and yes, this did seem to control the highlights better but compared to XTOL there appeared to be a drop in sharpness.

I then stumbled across a video from Steve Sherman who was promoting his Minimal Agitation and edge effects using PyroCatHD. It took a while but eventually, I bought the video series and also some pre-mixed PyroCatHD from Wetplatesupplies in Cambridge.

Although I cannot really say I am seeing these edge effects in the negatives, I am seeing a much greater control of the high values using the Fomapan film both in FomaPan 100 and 200. I have even test high contrast church interiors where I have done an N-4 development according to his development times.

The negatives using the Pyrocat also seem sharper to me than they did in XTOL and do scan very nice with what appears to be a full tonal scale.
 

David M

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#23
Interesting. I remember this sort of thing fascinating the Leica-cuddlers, anxious to show that their investment was worth it.
I did a quick Google and found a reference to "a friend in Turkey". Do we know him?
Then I found a B+H page that seemed to suggest that Precsysol was the answer to every photographer's prayers. "...extremely tolerant..." They claim you can develop different films and different formats in the same tank at the same time and get "unsurpassed" results. From that claim, we might suppose that tight control doesn't matter with Precsysol.
And yet, here on Earth, we seem to have problems and doubts.
You can see why I'm both curious and so far, a little sceptical. I'm not doubting anybody's account of their own experience.
 

Ian-Barber

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#24
You can see why I'm both curious and so far, a little sceptical. I'm not doubting anybody's account of their own experience.
Yes, I can fully understand this. For me personally, I was interested in trying to get this FomaPan under control because I do not use any other film due to the costs but having said that, I did manage to treat myself to a box of FP4 no so long ago.

Buying the video series f rom Steve Sherman for me was more about obtaining the times and dilutions he had taken over 16 years to master. His main process is to design a negative which has a highlight density of 0.95 above film base and fog. My understanding is that he then uses a blue light in the enlarger to build up the contrast, he refers to the green light as "Contrast Killing Green".

As I don't use an enlarger who really have the means for testing true density of stained negatives, I was more focused on getting negative which would scan, have a full tonal range and more important be able to keep the high values under wraps.

@martin henson has used a variety of developers over the years and was a big fan on Kodak TRI-X 320 film. I think he has seen a big difference since he started to use PyroCat and if I am not mistaken, I think he has gravitated more towards FP4. I remember him once saying that they seem to be made for each other.
 

David M

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#25
Yes, I too used Foma for some time but gave it up because of the world-class reciprocity failure. My decision was helped by finding one box that seemed to be fogged. Now I use FP4 and occasionally HP5. At the moment I control scannability by using more-or-less N-1 development to all films.
 

mpirie

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Thread starter #26
Ian, are you using the extreme minimal agitation that Steve promotes?

Do you see an increase in micro-contrast?
 

alexmuir

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#27
I have a book called ‘Night Photography ‘ by..... Andrew Sanderson. It has a section on developers, and covers Pyro developers in particular. It has illustrations of the advantages in controlling highlights, something which can be a problem when working with street lights, etc. It’s a very good read if you do any night photography, and the section on Pyro could be of interest if you use that type of developer. I picked up a used copy for a very low price, and found it a worthwhile purchase.
Alex


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martin henson

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#28
Diafine was supposed to be the miracle developer, maybe for press work pre digital but not the serious photographers who wants to produce the best work they can. Diafine and precsysol could be the jack of all trades, master of none.

As for Pyrocat, and using it as per Sherman’s MA method and advise, I am convinced especially used in conjunction with Ilford FP4 it one of the best combinations out there, it’s near impossible to put the lower and higher tones out of reach, you have a large N+- to work with beyond the normal 2, it produces negatives that are rather flat but ideal for scanning, much better than any other combo I have used before, this is of course using LF film,

And in answer to the above (aimed at Ian)I see see better micro contrast and edge sharpness using Sherman’s MA method
 

Ian-Barber

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#29
Ian, are you using the extreme minimal agitation that Steve promotes?

Do you see an increase in micro-contrast?
Yes, I am using the EMA process. As for micro contrast, I don't think I have fully seen it yet but this may be cause I have been choosing the wrong subject matter or because I haven't really tried it properly with FP4
 

Ian Grant

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#30
I've used a lot of different films and developers in the 50+ years I've been doing my own processing and printing. I did some serious testing particularly of developers around 1986/7 it's about finding the right combinations, I used Rodinal for Tmax 100 and APX100 but Xtol for Tmax 400 until about 13 years ago when I switched from Rodinal and there was a definite noticeable improvement in terms of ease of printing and that matches the ease of scanning.

However in that 50 years I've only really changed films and developers a few times.

Ian, Kodak's own comparison chart shows HC110 to be the worst of their available developer, in terms of speed and grain, people like it because it has a long shelf life and some want the convenience of a one shot liquid developer.

Ian
 

Ian Grant

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#32
Ian, did you find issues using XTOL with TMAX 100. I would have thought TMAX 400 and 100 were from the same family
No, sometimes I would process Tmax 100 in Xtol, superb results. I just tended to use Xtol for commcial work which I would shoot mostly on Tmax400. I was often processing 20-30 rols of 120 film in a session and and I found replenished Xtol was the fastest and most economic way of working.

If I hadn't moved abroad in 2006 I'd possibly still be using Xtol. I have little space in our apartment on th Aegean coast in Turkey and I was already using Pyrocat HD so it was an ideal choice, I bought Potassium Carbonate and Ilford Rapid fixer in Izmir so would just fly with Part A.

I'd print on trips home and quickly realised how easy the Pyrocat negatives were to print and after using up my Xtol haven' used another film develop since.

Ian
 

Ian Grant

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#34
I'm back in the UK Ian, we still have our apartment in Turkey but I had to return when my mother developed dementia. My wife goes back more than I do as she has family and friends there, I have to look after the dog :D

Ian
 

mpirie

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Thread starter #37
It looks like i must have a contamination issue.......i just processed another pair of FP4 sheets in my Pyro-HD freshly made up.....and the image is barely visible. I made a point of making up 3ml of A with 3ml of B plus 300ml water just before the pre-wash was finished.

This time i know it's not the exposure because i shot doubles and the HC110 Dil-H are perfect.

Time to try another batch of Pyro methinks!

Mike
 

David M

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#38
I doubt if anyone is as clumsy as me, but I've mixed one part A with another part of A, or it might have been B with B. Or is there a lurking bit of fix? Unlikely, I know, with careful processing. If the HC110 negs are perfect, why not continue with that?

You might sacrifice one sheet of blank film. Cut it into strips and drop one into the mixed developer before you develop the real film. If it doesn't blacken almost at once, you have another faulty batch and can make other plans.
 
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Alan9940

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#39
A little late to this thread, but please allow me to toss in a few comments:

1. To the OP, as others have said any Pyro-based developer--especially something like ABC Pyro--will oxidize quickly and, basically, become useless. Mix immediately before use.

2. For anyone contemplating mixing Pyrocat-HD at home, please remember that Pyrocatechin is a poison and should be handled carefully; that is, proper breathing mask, rubber gloves, and good ventilation. Wouldn't hurt to wear a smock, either. When handling any pyro chemical, I wear all the necessary paraphernalia and measure/mix outside.

3. Regarding edge effects, etc, using Steve Sherman's EMA technique you don't even need to print a negative to see the effect. Grab an EMA developed negative and one of the same scene developed in something else--D-76, HC-110, etc--and hold both, emulsion up, at an oblique angle to a light source, and you should notice a distinct etching to the EMA negative. I've only ever used Fomapan 100 with the EMA technique, but it's clearly there with this film.
 

mpirie

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Thread starter #40
Thanks David. Part of the appeal of Pyro is the control of the highlights and the ability to make the negatives easier to print. The option to use EMA is a further attraction, but obviously i need to get it working for me first. HC110 will probably always be there as a backup, but i'd like to scratch the itch (no skin-rash pun intended) with Pyro. I like the idea of cutting up a sheet of film and testing it in the new batch dev before committing an image to it.

Alan, I hear what you're saying about the hazards......

1- The original question was clarified that the oxidisation is rapid and that the mix needs to be done just before use. However, as demonstrated by my last batch, the extremely faint image may not have been due to oxidisation since i mixed it just before use.....it may be down to contamination.

2- Anyone approaching the use of Pyro should have made themselves aware of the risks. I'm using a pre-mixed batch, so am not exposed to the powders, but it's a valid warning. I have my own protection methods, but thanks for the reminder.

3- The use of EMA is part of the appeal......but i need to get the basics sorted out first :)

Mike
 
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