Why Pyro?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Colin Corneau, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Having just picked up an 8x10 camera - and had a 4x5 for a few years - as well as a rotary type tube system for developing (Simma tubes) in addition to a slosher tray....

    I'm wondering about developers. So many photographers with a lot of LF experience use Pyro developers and I'm wondering why. I've never heard of them prior to my re-introduction to film and being in a bit of a remote area, can't buy it over the counter.

    I've always used D-76 (1:1), TMax developer and recently Rodinal...just wondering about Pyro and if it's a fit for me.

    Any advice greatly appreciated
    Colin
     
  2. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    I get a little better separation of high values with 510 pyro than HC110, and the negatives are a little easier to print.

    If I didn't have 510 pyro, I'd be plenty happy with HC110.

    Mike
     
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    Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Is it better suited for those contact printing? I don't see getting an enlarger capable of printing an 8x10 in this lifetime, so...
     
  4. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hi Colin,

    One of the reasons I use pyro is I can make negatives that print ok both with silver and alt process.
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It will give you a bit more density at the top of the range, particularly for UV-sensitive processes.

    Pyro developers are grainy in general, but that's not so much of an issue when you're contact printing, and that is probably the main reason they fell out of favor with the rise of 35mm and medium format, but they can give great highlight separation when used properly. I like ABC pyro myself.
     
  6. Robert Brummitt

    Robert Brummitt Member

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    I like the smoother tones I can get when I use pyro. I also like to range of exposures I can work within.
    What was that old commercial long ago.
    "Try it. You'll like it!"
     
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    Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Interesting to hear about the highlight detail.

    How many types of Pyro are there, anyway! Rollo, ABC, PMK...yoiks.
     
  8. randyB

    randyB Subscriber

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    I use PMK. I find it to be quite fine grain even with 400 speed 35mm and it is one of the sharpest developers I've used.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    PMK seems to have a stronger grain masking effect than some of the other formulas, so it's a better choice for smaller formats.

    The tanning effect may be responsible for some of the edge effects associated with pyro. It's also advantageous if you're using one of the softer emulsions, particularly with tray developing.

    There are lots of different pyro formulas. It's one of the oldest developing agents in the history of photography.
     
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    Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    At this point, I only see myself contact printing any 8x10. It was a huge step going up to that format, but I was/am really inspired by what I see here.

    Are there reasons, apart from better highlight rendition, to go with a Pyro developer other than, say...D-76 or a 'more common' developer? And if so, how does one make a distinction between the many types of Pyro?

    I will be reading up on this, but greatly appreciate the voices of experience, here.
     
  11. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    There is probably some advantage to using a developer you "know" until you feel comfortable with the new format and film. One less variable when you start.

    Mike
     
  12. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    You have opened the proverbial can of worms Colin. Periodically the issue of Pyro developers is discussed by the smart and very talented people on this site. As you will shortly read, there are as many different opinions as there are participants. Some swear that Pyro offers benefits that are unique and easily seen. Others say the opposite: Pyro offers little in the way of recognizable differences in prints that are made from their negatives developed in their "standard" developers. Some of the statements regarding Pyro can be verified ( see Ed Buffaloe's site and others ) using sophisticated densitometers, while other claims cannot be verified ( see the more easily understood work of Howard Bond and the late Phil Davis ). Frankly, I don't know if there is a "correct answer" about the advantages of Pyro except to say that the appearance of negatives developed in Pyro ( the stain and the "detail" ) excites those who use one of the various formulae. Indeed, to read the statements of Gordon Hutchings makes one want to run out and buy some pyro simply to experience the rush of excitement that Mr. Hutchings claims to get when he sees one of his "Pyro negatives"! However, to be fair, to look at Mr. Hutchings work is certainly to be impressed with what he has accomplished using Pyro. Gordon is rightly held in very high esteem indeed, and is one of those who is no doubt responsible for the renaissance of Pryo developers. However, when one looks at the work of photograpers who eschew Pyro for various reasons ( one having to do with the fear of deleterious health effects from Pyro ) one sees work that is equally well done. In my comments, I don't refer only to conventional silver prints made by enlarging, for one can easily use conventional developers to develop negatives to a density that can be used in contact printing using some of the alternate techniques. A caveat: I am not experienced in Platinum, Palladium, Azo, etc. printing and so I cannot render a meaningful personal statement based upon my own work concerning Pyro negatives using these and other alternate techniques. However, I can tell you that I have made 8x10 contact prints from negatives developed in Pyro and DDX on the same day using fresh Dektol and fresh paper and the same light source. I have endeavored to make the prints to the same Dmax and the same contrast, but have not used a densitometer to be certain that I was successful. I am certain that there were small differences in the prints. However, if I put the prints away, and pick them up "blindly" in a month or so, I am not certain that I can tell the contact prints made from Pyro negatives from those made with my conventional developers. I am sure, however, that there will be those with much more talent and experience than I who will tell you that contact prints made from Pyro negatives are infinitely better for a variety of reasons, and that the reason I see no difference with Pyro has to do with my developing time and technique, or my printing set up. I admit that my lack of experience makes me unable to completely refute their assertions. I will go back and try again, for Pyro must be better....;}, but I am just not capable enough to bring out the differences. Of course, such opinons might well be correct...I think....

    And so, there will be no "correct answer" to your interesting and relevant question. There will only be, in the end, personal opinions from many very well meaning and accomplished analog photographers. What you might consider doing is trying to develop a few of your negatives in the Pyro developer of your choice, and then print the negative along with the same scene developed in your standard developer. As Phil Davis has stated, any meaningful comparison depends upon the difficult chore of making each print to the same DMax on the same paper toned the same way, etc., etc.. Of course, frame the prints in exactly the same exact way, and then have impartial "blinded" ( in the statistical sense ) observers look at the prints in random order in the same viewing light. Only then will you be able to say if the difference is/differences are significant as reflected in your prints. You will then become either an accolyte, or a skeptic! However, trying is half the fun...go to it, and let us know what you find out!

    Stay well.

    Ed
     
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    As Ed says, one can develop a negative to a density that is suitable for alt process with a normal developer, however that negative will be not the most suitable for silver, and the inverse is true as well. Pyro negatives have a different density to UV than to normal printing light, and many pyro negatives can be printed equally well with either medium. This is one of the reasons some contact printers such as myself prefer pyro negatives. I don't feel I explained that sufficiently in my earlier post.
     
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  15. haryanto

    haryanto Member

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    I use Pyrocat MC almost for all my negative now, use tube pvc 1+1+100 semistand 30 minute 1 minute initial agitation the rest is 20-30th minute for `10 secs, but I've found that, for printing in VC paper, Hi light is a bit dull i dont like the prints result, the best scene for pyro (for me) is hi contrast scene and print in grade paper such as gallerie G2, much help to take hi light down, for low light and N+ I cannot found yet how to make my pyro neg good for prints as good as hi contrast scene, now I start to back to D76 for low contras scene
     
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    Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    I've read that UV light is affected by film choice (TMax 100 vs. say...FP4). Keep in mind I'm crashing full-speed into all this with NO previous experience -- only a desire to get where I envision going!
    Thus, I don't even know the basics of contact printing. To me, that's something you do with a sheet of glass, an enlarger and some regular FB paper. And, just reading the responses here (never mind the niblets I've picked up earlier) I have the inkling there's more to it than that.

    Thanks again, very much, to all. Keep the info flowing! I hear this developer talked about all the time, yet know little about it specifically.
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    T-Max 100 (the current version) has a UV absorbing layer, so it can't be used for UV sensitive processes, but this isn't an issue with too many films.

    The dual-use advantage of pyro comes from the fact that the stain usually has a higher UV density than visible light density, so a pyro negative will usually appear to have a longer density range to a UV-sensitive paper than it does to regular enlarging paper, and it so happens that you usually want a longer density range for UV-sensitive processes, so this is an attraction.

    Contact printing doesn't have to be anything more than using a sheet of glass and a light bulb and whatever paper you're familiar with, and that's a perfectly good place to start. If you use Azo or the new Lodima, you can print negs with a wider density range and show more detail throughout that range. It's not so much that the paper is more beautiful in itself, but it lets you print a negative with more information than you can easily print on most regular enlarging papers. Alternative processes give you yet more options.
     
  18. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    David: Thanks for the information about Azo paper. Let me be certain that I understand your points. I do understand why the UV sensitive processes might benefit from negatives developed in Pyro. (As an aside, does anyone who prints with PT. use anything other then Pryo developed negatives? If so, are their results in any way different? ) However, why would Azo paper exposed with a white light manifest a longer density range from negatives developed in Pyro? I'll have to go back to the information presented on Ed Buffaloe's site to see if I can get a better "handle" on Pryo and Azo. Nevertheless, assuming that the Pryo negatives do have a higher density range, and that such extended range can be captured with the skillful use of Azo paper and Amidol ( only Amidol??? ), a major question can now be reformulated. Let me proceed: IF only Azo type silver papers ( is such a true statement? ) are capable of capturing the extended range of Pyro developed negatives, AND ( to address JBrunner's correct points about dual use of negatives ) IF one is ONLY going to use a negative for "conventional silver enlarging", is there an advantage to using Pyro to develop one's negatives? For those of us who have no current plans to ever use Platinum, Carbon, Azo, etc., etc., why use Pyro? One might legitimately argue that one might, using one's own darkroom and enlarger, find that making a given print is EASIER using a pyro developed negative. However, one could surely make a similar print using a negative developed in D76, DDx, and a host of others.

    Have I posed the questions so as to be understood? Again, NOT anticipating using a negative for anything other the a conventional silver enlargement on papers other the Azo ( of course, contact printing here ), can one show any advantage to using Pyro? Of course, the very same issue continues to be discussed here and elsewhere. There will likely never be those on either side of the issue who can be convinced that they are wrong. However, so what? If you are making good prints, then who cares how you do it as long as you accept that others using another developer can achieve the same results!

    Ed
     
  19. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hi Ed,

    As a "reality check" I developed and printed quite a few negatives in HC110 last year expressly for silver. I managed to make some very fine silver prints. They did print quite a bit differently that my PMK negs, not so much that I couldn't achieve the same ends. What I did find was that I had an easier time split printing with the PMK negs. I think the stain provides more separation between the gades. I didn't notice anything lacking in the range of the negatives from what I was accustomed to, but I didn't shoot anything that exceeded the normal range of the film. I have shot scenes that I was sure would lose out on one end or the other and developed with PMK. I have been amazed at what has held up, but I have never run a side by side. You have given me the impetus to develop sheets of the same extreme scene in different developers and see what sticks. Of course far more scientific tests have and will be done, but as a matter of pragmatism what works best for an individual is always the best regimen, as long as that person keeps an open mind.

    This is a contact print from my first non-pyro negative in years. It worked out ok.
     

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  20. domaz

    domaz Member

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    Be careful switching developers. Pyro by it's nature is much more fickle than the mainstream developers. You will either be mixing from scratch, which is error prone, or mixing parts A and B which isn't hard but if you cross-contaimanate, your negatives are done. I should know, I ruined a bunch of negatives with Pyrocat even though I thought I was being very careful. I'm going back to D-76 and DD-X, developers that are downright hard to mess up.
     
  21. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    Pyro-developed negatives have a higher-than-neutral blue density as well, that is proportional to the silver density. You can get some idea of how this affects printing on various types of printing paper by bleaching out the silver part of the image and printing the resulting stain image. Many seem to think that since yellow filtration reduces contrast on VC paper, the print resulting from such a stain image should be a weak negative. Not so.
     
  22. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Nice print Jason! Think the negative developed in Pyro would have been "seen" as any different in the print? By the way, what paper and developer?

    Ed
     
  23. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

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    My reasons for using Pyro (in the form of Pyrocat HD):
    1) Long shelf life (still can't beat HC-110 though)
    2) Semistand development- all writings I'd found were for FP4 in PyroHD (most notably Sandy King and Steve Sherman). I tried this first with my (then standard) developer- HC-110, but found it too hot and really blew out the highlights. Research here got the response that I was using the exact opposite type of developer for this technique than I should heave been. I was recommended to try Pyrocat HD
    3) Ziatype- UV process that uses negs developed for "N" silver, so can use same neg for both processes.
    4) Lodima- my recent tests happily show that I can use that same neg for this paper as well.

    I did a workshop with Gordon Hutchings and he does some beautiful printing. He'd probably be able to do it without a PMK neg, but I saw first hand how you can salvage highlights on a neg developed in pyro that are sitting around Zone 15 and above. As he says " you cannot overexpose a pyro negative". I considered switching from Pyrocat HD to his new PMK because it's supposed to maintain box film speed, but I'm still just getting a handle on Pyrocat HD, and it works well for all my 3 processes. Plus I tray develop, which Pyrocat seems to be preferred for. Lastly, I believe PMK (and it's newer iteration) is more for enlarged negs. Not to say it wouldn't be great for contacts, but I just don't want to switch. Maybe once I get my 5x7 enlarger up and running..... :tongue:

    Tim
     
  24. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

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    I would say that if I were doing nothing but enlarging LF negs (or even MF ones) on silver, the ability to salvage highlights is a good enough reason to use it (PMK-II). As for 35mm, the new PMK may be equal to my current developer- HC-110. I don't think I've tried 35mm in Procat yet, but I certainly like my MF Pyrocat negs better than my HC-110 ones. Probably due to the different base (closer to LF film than 35mm).

    Tim
     
  25. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For exposing Azo and Lodima, I use a halogen lamp without UV filtration, so it puts out more UV and gives me fairly short exposure times, so in this way, there's some benefit from the added UV density. Some aspects of pyro negs, like grain masking in the case of PMK and edge effects resulting from tanning of the gelatin are separate from the UV effects. Using amidol for prints is a separate issue from using pyro for negs.

    There are many ways of making fine prints, and each way looks a bit different. I think it's best to settle on one or two main combinations, but try other things occasionally, and if you like something else better, then that's a reason to switch.
     
  26. Mahler_one

    Mahler_one Member

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    Jason: I think your honest and interesting statement referenced below deserves some emphasis:

    <They did print quite a bit differently that my PMK negs, not so much that I couldn't achieve the same ends. What I did find was that I had an easier time split printing with the PMK negatives>....

    I hope that you don't mind my taking one of your statements out of context, and I apologize for deconstructing them somewhat. I also apologize in advance for highlighting some of the points you made. I want all to know that the responsibility for highlighting the points is mine alone. However, certainly your observations deserve discussion, and echo some of my thoughts. Thus, you could probably achieve the same ends, but that you did think that you had an easier time split printing, and the negatives printed differently. I take "differently" to mean that your PMK negatives, in the instances you cited, probably did not make the image as it appeared in the print any "different", i.e., any sharper, any brighter, etc. Instead, I take your statement to mean that "differently" means that the means used to print the negatives were different. Am I right? You are a very experienced and well thought of photographer and teacher who has much more knowledge then most of us when it comes to various photographic processes. Thus, if you were not to have used the negatives for any of the alternate processes, then aside from having an easier time making the prints via the split printing technique, what was the advantage of using Pyro for the negatives in question? One might enjoy developing with Pyro, one might like the looks of a Pyro developed negative, one might find that your developing technique allows one to develop Pyro with more repeatability, or any other of a number of reasons why one LIKES developing with Pyro. However, the results as seen on the print in the examples you cite appear not to be any different. Am I mistaken? Is so, please accept my apologies.

    Ed