Amidol

Discussion in 'Contact Printing' started by Daniel Grenier, Oct 14, 2002.

  1. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    A few questions about Amidol which I'm about to try for the first time with Azo among other papers.

    1- Do Amidol processed prints need different exposure than Dektol prints?
    2- Does it change (Azo) paper color/tone? To what?
    3- What is the difference between Fein's and Michael A Smith? formulae - in terms of cool/warm/color to the paper?
    4- How's Amidol for papers other than Azo. Is it worth swtching to?
    5- What exactly does extra time in it do (ie, 3-5 mins as opposed to 1-2)?
    6- Lastly, how "better" is Amidol anyway? Are we talking about a 10% improvement? 50% - 100%?

    I've got my breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves and fans all at the ready for this nasty - but highly touted - chemical.

    Thanks for your assistance.

    Daniel
     
  2. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Why dont you check out Ed Buffaloe's site unblinkingeye, there is a link in our home page. He has a very thorough article about Amidol and Azo.
    As to some of your questions, silver bromide papers (enlarging paper) are usually very fast and do not depend on the developer for speed, so you would probably would have very similar exposures as those with Dektol. The color of the paper does have to do with both the type of paper and developer used. Amidol generally turns out very nice neutral colors with enlarging paper, azo comes out a little bit greenish but a dilute bath of selenium takes care of that.
    Switiching to Amidol for enlarging paper is a matter of choice, some people think it improves their prints, some dont. This is something you will have to decide.
    As with any developer the longer you leave the print in the bath it changes the tonal relatinonship, this is best described in AA book the print.
    Last is hard to tell you your prints will improve 10, 20 or 50%. It all has to do with your printing style, etc, etc.
    My personal opinion is that Azo is a very good paper if you like the silver look. I dont think is the magic bullet some people claim it to be the same way that pt/pd is not the magic process that will make all your prints look great. If you are an experienced printer then try it, if you are just starting I would recommend to pick a developer and stick with it until you know it very well and can make the prints you wish with it.
     
  3. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Amidol is used in various hair coloring formulations. You should wear gloves when you use it, but it isn't any more toxic than most other photographic chemicals.
     
  4. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Since Jorge referred you to the unblinkingeye.com, where there is one article about Azo and Amidol, I will refer you to the Azo section at michaelandpaula.com where there are four articles about Azo and there is also the Azo Forum, where there are many lengthy discussions about these things. Two of the articles are by the fellow who wrote the article at unblinkingeye.com and two are by me. I suggest you go there for much more information about this than you will find anywhere else on the planet. In any case, I will anwer your questions here. (At the moment there is a glitch in the Azo Forum and new topics cannot be added.)

    1- Do Amidol processed prints need different exposure than Dektol prints? Probably. Any change of developer will require a change of exposure.

    2- Does it change (Azo) paper color/tone? To what? No it does not change the color of the paper. It is what it is -- a neutral black, slightly green, as Jorge described.

    3- What is the difference between Fein's and Michael A Smith? formulae - in terms of cool/warm/color to the paper? I do not know Fein's formula. Let me know in an off-line email and I will tell you (by posting here) what the difference will be. My next article in View Camera magazine is about the chemicals in developers and how each one affects the print--including how it affects the color.

    4- How's Amidol for papers other than Azo. Is it worth swtching to? In my opinion, yes. Amidol gives deeper blacks than other developers. In my article, "On Printing," which first appeared in View Camera magazine, and which can also be found under "Azo" at www.michaelandpaula.com, I gave the formula for Amidol when it is to be used with enlarging paper. It is a different formula than that which is used with contact printing papers--meaning Azo--the last one still being made.

    5- What exactly does extra time in it do (ie, 3-5 mins as opposed to 1-2). For Azo, increasing the time does no good at all. One minute should always be maximum. The best developing times for enlarging paper are a function of the paper and not the developer. Every paper has an optimum developing time. The last enlarging paper I used extensively, Velour Black, had an optimum time of three minutes,

    6- Lastly, how "better" is Amidol anyway? Are we talking about a 10% improvement? 50% - 100%? You cannot put a % on it like that. Amidol does yield the best tones--longer scale and deeper blacks. Especially when used with a water bath it gives more control over development. It is also easier to use than other developers.

    "I've got my breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves and fans all at the ready for this nasty - but highly touted - chemical." No need to overdo it. Amidol is not that toxic--not nearly as toxic as metol or hydroquinone. Wearing a nitrile glove on your developing hand is the only precaution that is needed.

    There are no magic bullets, but the Azo/Amidol combination comes as close as possible to one. That being said, this past weekend Paula and I conducted one of our Vision and Technique workshops. Some of the participants brought prints on Azo that were developed in Amidol. Virtually none of the prints were really fine prints, or even very good ones. Printing requires much more than having the right developer or the right paper, although if you have those other things, then having the right paper and the right developer can make a gigantic difference.

    Do I know what I am talking about? Recently there was this exchange on another forum--on a mail-server list. The discussion was about ABC Pyro. One respondent wrote this:

    "There have been some discussions lately about using ABC, exclusively, with
    LF negatives for contact printing with Azo. I have seen Michael's and
    Paula's work using these materials and their prints are simply the very
    best on Planet Earth."

    I replied, "> Well Curt, many thanks for your kind words about our prints. Paula
    > and I certainly make prints that are among the finest
    > being made today, but the "best on Planet Earth?" We don't know about
    > that, but we will happily quote you nonetheless. (which I have done here).

    He then answered, "Well, Michael, you're just too modest. By all objective and subjective standards, the prints you produce are absolutely as close to perfection as
    humanly possible. You are a perfectionist and a master of the craft."

    My advice in any field of endeavor is to listen to those who have actually done the work themselves. Too many on various forums have many things to say, some of which may be quite useful, but without their having the work to back it up, much of it is also unreliable.

    Good luck with Amidol and Azo. I do not believe you will be disappointed.
     
  5. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    BTW Daniel I forgot to mention, Bergger is also making contact printing paper. If you try it let us know what you think (I wish william would hurry up and give us his opinion). Another alternative is using printing out paper made by Kentmere Ltd. and sold by the Chicago Albumen works

    http://www.albumenworks.com/

    Although they had some problems with coating they have been resolved and are now in full production. This is a wondeful paper and the range of tones and colors that can be acheived with this paper is far beyond anything you can get with Azo. This is my choice of papers when I wish to contact print in silver.
     
  6. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I tested the Bergger "contact printing" paper for them and found that it is not a contact printing paper at all. It is really an enlarging paper. It is NOT a silver chloride paper, which is what all gelatin silver contact printing papers are or were. Iodide is added to the Bergger paper. Iodide is found in films. Hence the Bergger paper is extremely fast. Although the Bergger paper can be a lovely paper I suggested that they not call it a contact prinitng paper since 1) it isn't and 2) the market for enlarging papers is far greater than the market for contact printing paper. All of the great prints by all of the great printers of the past who made contact prints, Weston, (Edward and Brett), Adams, Evans, are prints on silver chloride paper. Azo is the only paper made today that has the look of their great contact prints.

    I have also used the POP paper distributed by the Chicago Albumen Works. If you have perfect negatives and like the reddish-brown color, their paper can be lovely. Personally, I like a neutral black and do not like the "old time" feel of the POP, but that is purely personal taste.

    Too often prints on POP as well as prints on Platinum/Palladium are lifeless and dull. Those who make them think they are beautiful--just because they are on POP or Pt./Pd. But almost never does one see (do I see) a really rich POP or Pt/pd. print. Almost never. The Pt/Pd prints are usually weak with poor tonal separation and the POP prints are usually very flat. Perhaps it is the case the modern films just do not allow for the kind of negatives needed. Or maybe this is part of the reason: it is probably that those making these prints have developed their film in PMK. A developer that yields flatter, duller negatives I cannot imagine.
     
  7. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Sorry, jdef, but unfortunately Jorge and I seem to have gotten into this "thing." I have participated in many Internet forums over about 7 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. I'm usually quite gracious, believe it or not.

    I have seen many POP prints and know well Judith Joy Ross's photographs. While they are often quite lovely, they are almost never what I would call a "rich" print. And I have never seen one of hers without a slight purplish cast to it--hardly neutral black.

    Regarding my comments about POP and Pt./Pd. When printed well, both POP and Pt/Pd prints can be among the finest the medium of photography is capable of. But as I said, "too often" (not always) they are dull and lifeless, but the photographers delude themselves into thinking they have great prints just because they are POP or Pl/Pd. I'm not criticizing the choice of materials. I am trying to wake people up to look honestly at their prints. Most don't see it. Should I just sit by and let them delude themselves? Stieglitz said it best, "If you place the imperfect next to the perfect, people will see the difference between the one and the other. But if you offer the imperfect alone, people are only too apt to be satisfied by it."

    Since you know Judith Joy Ross's work, perhaps you live nearby. (She lives less than an hour from me.) I invite you, and anyone else reading this to visit me and Paula here at our home/studio and we will show you our prints. And happily look at yours as well if you would like us to do that. If anyone is interested, please respond off-forum.
     
  8. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    You guys are amazing! Let’s add up the number of fine art photographers in the US. Maybe a hundred. Now let’s take into account if they make their living purely through fine art photography. Maybe a dozen or so. Ok, how many make their living contact printing on silver materials. Fits on one hand.
    As far as I can tell Jorge’s remarks about POP and Bergger ‘contact paper’ were unsolicited, the poster was specifically questioning about AZO and Amidol. I think either of you must admit that Michael probably knows more about this subject than any of us combined. Why would you decide to split the thread? Jorge should really start to think a little bit about the responsibility of a moderator.
    I am truly thankful that Michael is so active in these newsgroups and on his site. (most aren’t). His experience and knowledge has been extremely helpful to me, without it I would be spending many hours and dollars experimenting just to find the results that I am now capable of. I don’t discourage people from experimenting with different media, this is just an approach that I am not interested in.
    Do I follow everything Michael says? No. I don’t use straight ABC pyro. I don’t use his amidol formula. I don’t shoot the same type of subject matter that he shoots. His comments about AZO and other contact printing media are correct though. AZO has a scale just like other silver papers when developed in normal developers. When it is developed in Amidol, the scale becomes much wider. You can see some experimental data on this at the unblinkingeye site and on Michael’s site.
    http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Azo/azo1.html
    http://www.michaelandpaula.com/DJ_curves_article.htm

    As far as art photography is concerned, I believe and I think just about everyone agrees there is more than one approach to photography. I have plenty of Salgado and Bresson books that knock my socks off. However, I am content to have their books. I would not buy one of their prints, because the book reproduction IMO contains most of the value of their image. Conversely, a reproduction of a fine print cannot capture the beauty of the print, and it must be viewed in person for their full effect. When people talk about contact printing with AZO and amidol they are most certainly pursuing the ‘fine print’ that you deride.
     
  9. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (avandesande @ Oct 16 2002, 08:28 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>As far as I can tell Jorge’s remarks about POP and Bergger ‘contact paper’ were unsolicited

    Jorge should really start to think a little bit about the responsibility of a moderator.
    </td></tr></table><span id='postcolor'>
    It seems there is some confusion as to my role in this forum. As a moderator all I do it "try" to keep the reponses on topic (which by the way this one has gotten way off topic), delete double posts and make sure all responses are within a minimun "civil" standard (e.i. no cussing, insults etc).

    As a member I beleive offering additional information on similar processes and alternative papers is a good thing. As I stated before Bergger is marketing his paper as "contact" paper and I thought it might be an alternative Mr. Grenier might want to explore. The POP paper is not widely known and it is also another "silver" contact paper thus my mentioning this alternative also. I beleive both fall within the context of amidol, azo and contact printing which is what this forum is about.

    In the end once the responses started getting off topic I could have moved this thread to the "off topic" forum, but I hesitate to do so since the "opinons" expressed in some way are part of the discussion about the benefits and/or lack thereof of the amidol, azo combination.

    So please lets get back to the question at hand if you wish to continue exchanging comments about your thoughts you are more than welcome to start another thread in the miscelaneous section.
     
  10. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Thank you all for the feedback - especially you Michael.

    My purpose in asking questions of this sort is to simply save me a great deal of effort, time and expense which would inevitably result, should I not be so lucky as to have such generous feedback from experienced artists, in less than ideal prints.

    After a 5+year period away from photography, I have recently shot a project on a 92 year old lady who lived on her own in the country (she has since died). She was supremely interesting and I've attempted to capture her and her environment on film (8x10 Tri-X processed in HC110... haven't tried Pyro yet). Now, my "struggle" is to find the right paper in the right developer to translate this project into b&w prints of (hopefully) some relevance.

    Of course, as Michael said, there is far more to this than "just" papers and chemicals. Artistic flair is the prime ingredient here but the basic foundation must be there in the right paper processed in the right developer. I am well on the way to finding the right combination for this project due, in part, to valued assistance found here. As for Artistic flair ???? Time will tell if I had that.

    I sure know what a good print should look like having seen countless works in countless museums and galleries over my 30+ year interest in the medium (for unexplainble reasons though Michael, I've yet to see your work "in person"..... I have to rectify that real soon). Further, I own a number of excellent images (silver and platinum) and I have hundreds of books on the subject. But, the hard part for me is to create my own "look" and "feel" to my work. Sure I've had some success in a number of shows, grants and awards but my prints are really not where I want them to be at this time.

    Platinum is not suited to my style of photography (yes, I've tried it and I fully agree with you on this Michael). POP? I don't like it (tried it when the CAW POP came from Fance rather than from England). Bergger Contact? I've got some of that too and I don't care for it either (agreed again Michael, it's not a true "contact" paper at all - you could enlarge this stuff quite easily. BTW, I much prefer the Bergger NB papers to their Contact). I also have some of their (very expensive) Silver Supreme which has disapointed me more than any other paper before (Pictorialists would love this stuff though). I've also tried Oriental, Brilliant, Forte, Ilford and Agfa products. Many are quite nice but none are taking me to where I want/should be. Perhaps Amidol/Azo is where my efforts need to be concentrated. I'll soon find out.

    In closing, I must say that it is a true blessing to have an established Artist such as Michael take the time and effort to so generously contribute to my, and other posts, here and elsewhere. You can only be commended for this Michael.

    THANK YOU.

    Daniel
     
  11. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Thank you Aaron and thank you Daniel. I'm happy to offer whatever help I can. Daniel, Where are you located in Canada? Paula and I plan to get to Canada in a few weeks. If we can connect, we'll be able to show you lots of prints. If not, you are invited to visit us down here in Pennsylvania, where you can see for yourself what the Azo/Amidol combination is capable of.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  12. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    You're welcome Michael.

    I live just outside the Nation's Capital, Ottawa. And when/where will you be in Canada Michael? Do you have a show coming up? Visiting PA also sounds like a fine idea as I've not been down your way in a good while.
    Hummmmm planning in motion!

    Cheers - Daniel
     
  13. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    We were thinking of going to Toronto, after a quick stop in Rochester. If you come down this way, you might want to combine it with a trip to NYC. I'm sure there are many wonderful photographs to see there and we are only an hour and a half away. Here or there, Paula and I look forward to meeting you, Daniel. We probably should continue this off-forum.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  14. fparnold

    fparnold Member

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    Just curious, but I've read the Unblinking Eye article on Azo + Amidol, and it's curve doesn't look radically different from the Ansco 120/130 curves. According to "The Print", those are closeish (give or take an ish) to Selectol Soft from the Yellow Peril.

    So..., what are people's opinions on Selectol-soft + Azo, rather than the pricier and less stable Amidol?
     
  15. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    After watching Michael Smith print one of my negatives on Azo and develop it in amidol, a negative which is in my opinion incapable of yielding a fine print, I threw out my supply of Agfa Neutol WA working solution. I still have a bottle of stock solution (unopened) in the closet somewhere which is yours if you want to come by the house to pick it up.

    After the early 1920's Edward Weston developed all of his negatives by inspection in pyro and developed the contact prints he made from them in amidol. He was dirt poor for much of those last 25 years of his working photographic life. Don't you think there must have been a reason why he would use such an expensive developer for the rest of his productive years (and have his sons use it to print his negatives for ten more years)?

    Michael Smith and Paula Chamlee make the finest photographic prints being produced by any living photographer, and they make an awful lot of dead ones look pretty bad. The only prints that I've seen to even equal theirs are some Westons (both Edward and Brett) and a few Wynn Bullock prints. Also a very select few of Steiglitz's prints. They are driven to produce absolutely the finest prints possible and will take no shortcuts, make no compromise and will use only the materials across the board which will result in the finest possible print no matter what the cost or inconvenience. They use every conceivable advantage they can get in the pursuit of perfection. They print only on Azo paper and develop the prints in amidol. Don't you think there might be a good reason?
     
  16. William Levitt

    William Levitt Member

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    I too made the "mistake" of wasting some of my valuable Azoo paper on Agfa Neutol WA developer. But I only realized it was a mistake after I started using Amidol. The difference is amazing. Amidol is expensive, but it yields fantastic results.
    I tried Michael Smiths Amidol formula, and then tried Peckhams. I am currently staying with the Peckhams formula, which happens to be somewhat less expensive to make, because the amount of amidol is substancially less than in the Smith formula, (and uses catchetol as a second form of developing agent) but that is not the reason I've chosen to stay with the Peckham formula. I just find it easier to control the development compared to the more robust/powerful Smith formula. The development in the Smith happens so fast that I find it difficult to reproduce the results when making a series of prints. The Peckham formula allows me a little more "breathing room" if you will, because the time in the developer is somewhat longer, around 1- 1 1/2 minutes comnpared to 30 seconds to a minute with the Smith formula.
    The tone of the final print using Peckhams formula comes veryclose to what I consider to be ideal, and after a quick Selenium toning, well....I'm convinced.

    I'm hoping to be able to attend an Azo printing class with Michael and Paula sometime soon. I'm sure that after seeing how they handle the development, I will be giving their formula another look.

    Oh yeah, I have 2 liters of Neutol WA concentrate in the closet as well, but picking them up in Germany might not be that practical. [​IMG]
     
  17. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Do you use a metronome? My consistency improved greatly once I began using one.

    One thing I've noticed about Michael's printing is that he 1) starts the metronome, 2) covers the printing frame with a big cardboard sheet and turns the lamp on and 3) waits a couple of seconds before removing the cardboard. In this way he knows that the lamp is always burning at the same maximum intensity when he begins exposure. Likewise he stops exposure by throwing down the carboard to cover the frame and THEN turns the lamp off. The results are remarkably consistent. He also uses a cadence of 72 beats per minute instead of 60 so that the effects of missing the beat are attenuated.
     
  18. William Levitt

    William Levitt Member

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    Metronome? If that question was directed at me, no I don't. To be quite honest, that is the one part of Michaels method that I just cannot seem to "understand". That the use of a metronome can be more accurate as my timer, well...hmmm.
    But what I was referring to as far as "inconsistancy" is concerned, was more the development time as opposed to the exposure time. Amidol is so powerful, especially in the Michael Smith formula, that the image comes up so quickly that it's hard for me to work with. Maybe I'm using too long of an exposure time, but as Michael Smith reccomends, the time in the developer should be about 30-45 seconds when used with a water bath. With the Peckham formula, I can just seem to take a few seconds more time to evaluate the development process.
     
  19. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    I'm unfamiliar with either formula. Could you elaborate?
     
  20. William Levitt

    William Levitt Member

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  21. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    The use of a metronome when printing will yield much more precise results than using a timer, especially when dodging and burning-in.

    The developer we use is a fast acting one--one you want with Azo. Developing for more than one minute is not recommended. With our formula, a one or two second difference in the devleping time will yield different results. That is very precise. And easy, really. I would not print like this if it were not easy.

    Michael A. Smith
     
  22. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    I noticed someone mentioned that Amidol was "unstable." It is not; in fact it last longer than a tray of Dektol. There is a complete thread about this on the Azo Forum and it is discussed it in one of my articles on Azo.

    Michael A. Smith
    www.michaelandpaula.com
     
  23. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    I have used Cole Weston's formula up to two weeks after making it. At two weeks the first print got some pink goop on it, so I dumped it.
     
  24. William Levitt

    William Levitt Member

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    After having a nice phone conversation with Michael Smith last night, I decided to try his formula in todays printing session. Michael commented that my exposure times might be too long, leading to a certain uncontrollability in the developer.

    I shortened my exposure times and used a timer to accurately monitor the time in the developer. I must say, things went MUCH better than in the past. The average time for the image to start appearing was about 10 seconds, and I averaged between 30 and 40 seconds in the developer and the remainder of the one minute development time was in the water bath.

    So, now I've got the hang of Michaels amidol formula, but am out of paper...the next shipment is hopefully on it's way :smile:
     
  25. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    As we discussed on the phone, William, many things can be imprecise about photography, but there are some things that must be exact. The developing time for Azo in Amidol, using my formula, is one of them. A minute is a minute. Not 61 seconds. Yes, an additional second will make a noticeable difference. From your post I got the feeling that you think that using a water bath is always necessary. It is not. I probably only use one about one out of every 20 prints.

    Michael A. Smith