Pyro for a beginner.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Doug K, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. Doug K

    Doug K Member

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    I have been lurking on this forum for awhile, and it's time for me to ask a question. I'm coming back to film after a long hiatus. I've started shooting B and W again recently, and I have an interest in Pyro processing. After looking at a bunch of photos, I really like the look of Pyro. I thought I'd just jump in, but there are several formulations available. What would the best be for a beginner to pyro, but someone who has experience with standard developers, and has a background in chemistry? I've been leaning towards getting the PMK/Gordon Hutchings book combo from the Formulary, but I'd be interested in other folks experience in learning to work with it.
     
  2. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    More info is needed.
    What format?
    Subject of images?
    What printing method,
    etc
     
  3. Doug K

    Doug K Member

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    Medium format, and mostly landscapes with some architecture. Printing in a standard darkroom with a Beseler 23 enlarger. But, you'll have to explain why these things make a difference as to which formulation of Pyro would be best for someone new to it.
     
  4. Doug K

    Doug K Member

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    I really think I've come to the wrong place, and I really don't have enough experience to be posting here. If a moderator could please delete this thread I'd appreciate it. Thanks.
     
  5. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I think your questions were reasonable ones. I believe that Jim's questions were aimed at finding out what your goals are in order to tailor his answers to your needs.

    We know that you are printing (or planning to print) with an enlarger. Do you plan to print on variable contrast paper?

    Please don't delete this thread. We'll be glad to help you.
     
  6. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Doug,
    I doubt very seriously if you've come to the wrong place especially if you feel experience is a critical factor. Experience is not a criteria. Nor is knowledge of the subject for that matter.

    APUG is made up of a lot of well wishing people who are very eager to share their experiences with you. And their knowledge.

    As to which Pyro formula is better for the beginner, the Hutchings book is invaluable in terms of source material but it will not answer your question of which is best...

    The Formulary offers a number of Pyro pre mixed developers that you might select from and give it a try. There are many threads here that discuss some variations on Sandy Kings' PYROCAT-HD but they presume a knowledge base of Pyro development.

    Rather than deleting a thread I would hope you jump in with both feet. Then maybe you will tell us what is the best...
     
  7. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I got into Pyro developing by reading the original Article in Peterson Photographic in the 1970's, where Wd2d developer was introduced. I just read the info, ordered the component chemicals and mixed some up. Processed some film at the times published in the magazine, then adjusted the time to reflect my shooting style, and it has been good ever since.
     
  8. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    This is probably the best place around to learn regardless of experience. I started using PMK Pyro from the Formulary, the liquid version. I used this with 35mm Agfa APX100 all the way up to 120 Tri-X. I print using a condenser enlarger with variable grade papers. I like PMK, it lasts forever. It's sharp. Once you figure out how to print it, they print very easily (for me atleast).
    I develope one to two rolls in a stainless steel tank. For rotary/continous development, rollo pyro or pycrocat hd work better as the PMK Pyro exhausts must quicker (though there are ways around it).
     
  9. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    Doug I've used PMK pyro for some years now and like many others it has served me well both for 4x5 sheet film and 120 roll. The only time its let me down is with 35mm and this is more a problem with 'streaking' caused by inproper agitation. So for 35mm I've started to use Pyrocat-HD and this certainly has improved matters with this format. However for sheet and 120 roll film I'll be staying with pyro for the time being.

    I print only on VC papers and with split grade printing these pyro negs. print so easily.

    All the best,
    Trevor.
     
  10. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Hi Doug,

    I was in your shoes about two years ago. I had just gotten back to photography after a decade long absence. I acquired an 8x10 camera, so I knew I would be doing contact printing. Somehow I discovered the Azo forum over at www.Michaelandpaula.com Many of the threads there discussed using Tmax-400 and Pyrocat HD. I ordered some Pyrocat HD from the Formulary and haven't looked back. There is a lot of info out there on this combination and Sandy King is a wonderful resource for anyone who has issues associated with Pyrocat HD. On a personal level, I didn't want to spend my life testing film/developer combinations so once I tried Pyrocat HD, I stuck with it. I would much rather spend my time getting to know my materials very well, then jumping from film to film, paper to paper, developer to developer. Is it the "Best"? Don't know and don't care, because the Tmax400/Pyrocat HD/Azo combination works wonderfully for me.

    You mentioned that you had seen some photographs using pyro that you really liked. Try and find out what materials those photographers used...

    Good luck in your quest...
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I started off working with PMK Pyro. It is a very straightforward developer, and there is TONS of information out there on how to use it successfully. After using it a bit, and discovering its strengths and weaknesses, I switched to Pyrocat HD. I have since standardized on Pyrocat HD as my developer of choice. My reasons for this are:
    - lower base stain, which means that my shadows come out better.
    - more tolerant of rotary processing. I shoot almost exclusively sheet film, and I don't scratch my film when rotary processing, unlike in trays, where I always manage to scratch or ding it up somehow.
    - less toxic. PMK has more health risks than Pyrocat HD. This is not to say that either are immediately DANGEROUS, nor is it to say that Pyrocat HD is as harmless as distilled water. I wouldn't drink either PMK or Pyrocat, but I'm not worried about the occasional splash or spill either.

    You'll find that when you do develop pyro negatives, that they will probably look a bit thin by comparison to what you're used to with non-pyro developed negatives. Don't be fooled - the stain adds density that your paper can see, but your eye doesn't, or at least doesn't see the same way.
     
  12. dslater

    dslater Member

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    Hi Doug,
    I would recommend starting out with PMK primarily because of "The Book of Pyro". Gordon Hutchings book is an excellent beginners guide to using staining developers. While there is a lot of information on the net I found having an actual book to be very helpful.
    The other thing I lke about PMK is the stock solutions last indefinitely. Pyrocat-HD will go bad over time although the version formulated with glycol is supposed to last a very long time as well.
    One final consideration is how do you process your film? Do you use some kind of rotary processor like a Jobo or are you using a manual tank? If you're using a rotary processor, you may find Pyrocat a bit easier to use as it doesn't oxidize as quickly. Ultimately, you will probably end up trying both so whatever you decide, I'd still recommend getting Hutchings book.
    Dan
     
  13. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    Get a copy of The Book of Pyro by Gordon Hutchings. It is the most comprehensive source of info available. In the Free Articles section of the View Camera web site is an article explaining how staining develpers work. You can download and keep it for reference.

    TBOP is available from Bostick and Sullivan and the Photographer's Formulary. Before proceedng any farther i would read these resources.

    steve simmons
     
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  15. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    I have used many different pyro based developers over the last 60 years. The Book of Pyro is an excellent source for information much of which can be applied to more than just PMK.
    I find that pyrocat hd, or one of its derivatives, most easily produces negatives suitable for enlargement. The base stain is minimal which helps keep enlarging times reasonable. Although I mix my own, it is available from Photographers Formulary and Bostick & Sullivan.
    I can't help you with times on roll film as I rarely use it anymore and thus do not have a chart of times. The older I get, the larger the camera.
    Good luck. This is a good forum for you.
    Jim
     
  16. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    PMK is a great developer. (The P stands for "pyrogallol" so calling it PMK Pyro is redundant. :smile: ) It's very long-lived (up to a decade) so it's great for an occasional user.

    When you say you want to experiment with pyro, you have to decide what you mean. Pyro traditionally refers to pyrogallol. There is also pyrocatechin (which many people call catechol or catechin) which has some similar traits but not identical. Both are staining developers. (So is hydroquinone but to nowhere the same degree.) Each has a different flavour.

    The Pyrocat formulas seem to be the most respected of the pyrocatechin developers. To be honest, few developers have used this ingredient in recent memory. That is not to say that it's not a good developing chemical - it is. The number of people on here that are happy with the Pyrocat formulas seems to speak volumes as to the quality of them.

    I've tinkered with both. I know PMK a lot better, and I prefer it. I can't tell you why. Photography is sometimes a little like that. :smile:

    I'd recommend you try PMK first, because of its long shelf life and outstanding results, but no matter what, pick one and get to know it first before trying the other.
     
  17. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Doug, I must agree with everyone here. When I came back to Photography after a long period I did a lot of research. Read as much as you can and use Google a lot. There is a lot of information out there. Then post a question on this forum. We are all here to help. I have posted some dumb questions in the past but I have learned a lot by asking! The wealth of information on this forum is astounding. I came back to my photography using my 120 camera and now I'm using 4x5 through 8x20 ( which I built myself with the help of generous people here) not knowing or ever developing film myself. I now use Pyrocat-HD that I mix from scratch and do things I would have never ever imagined without the help I received here. It is all a learning process for all of us, from the one's first starting out to the most accomplished professionals here. My passion for my craft has grown by leaps and bounds by all of the help I've gotten here. I can't thank everyone enough. Keep posting, please.

    Jim
     
  18. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Welcome to APUG Doug. I hate to start off with a new member by telling them they're wrong, but in this case, happily, you are. :smile: (thats about it, everyting else is JMO)

    The experience that is here at APUG is cumulative, so you can ask a question and get a hundred years worth of experience in reply.

    Regarding Pyro developers, I would recommend PMK as well. It is very basic, very forgiving, very predictable, and very stable. If you use a Jobo or some such, a a Pyrocat developer is more stable, and is a fine developer, but has a different stain (brown) than PMK (green/yellow). All pyro negs look kinda weird, and can appear to be unprintable. The only way to really judge them is printing.

    Hope this helps, and please ask question you have a mind to.
     
  19. Chris Breitenstein

    Chris Breitenstein Member

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    In the interest of full disclosure I use pyro. Pyro is like all other things in photography, you need to try it for yourself and see it if works for you. Some swear by it others see no difference. I have tried Pmk, pyrocat Hd, and have finally settled on my personnal dillution of ABC ( which is roughly 1-1-1-10/11). compared to other developers I found that pyro yields a better print (more midtones, more highlight and shadow detail), and the negatives are more sharp (not that it matters for my work).

    Give it a go, and take all opinions with a grain of salt.
     
  20. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Just for the opposite opinion: I used pyro, but no longer use it except in very special cases.

    But that decision was made because I prefer to use graded papers, and a pyro negative that gives a decent print on G2 graded is useless for anything else. I also like to be able to switch between graded and MC papers, which you cannot easily do with pyro stained negatives.
     
  21. bruce terry

    bruce terry Member

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    Doug - I entered the Pyro realm years back via Gordon's book and B&S's chemicals. Always been pleased with the beautiful PMK negs from single-sheet tray development – but if your development is 'tubular' your likely ticket is "Rollo Pyro, Pyrocat, etc. Also, the good book's guidance to post-stain for a minute or two in used developer is not necessary and no longer recommended (I found this out the hard way).
     
  22. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Since you're working with medium format film and will ostensibly be enlarging your negatives, I would avoid pyrogallol based developers, such as Michael and Paula use. Their negatives are too dense to be printed on enlarging paper.

    I think your best all around choice would be Pyrocat HD, which has already been suggested. It can be tailored for negatives to be enlarged and has the extra advantage of also being good for contact printed large format negatives with a little fine tuning. If you ever decide to contact print bigger negatives you'll have your developer.
     
  23. dslater

    dslater Member

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    This is simply not true. I print PMK pyro negatives on enlarging paper all the time. I believe Michael and Paula use ABC pyro which I think tends to have more general stain than PMK does.
     
  24. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    PMK, Pyrocat, and WD2D+ negatives all print fine with an enlarger, in my experience. YMMV.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 17, 2007
  25. Brook

    Brook Member

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    Fresh mixed ABC has almost no visible stain if used with an acid fix and stop. PMK has tons of general stain if an alkaline fix and water stop are used as often is done.
    ABC would be a pretty grainy developer to use for enlargments, unless you like that look.
     
  26. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    I have found that PMK used in an inversion tank does not produce much general stain. I don't have a lot of air in the tank, and I don't agitate a lot.

    The OP needs more general info at this stage, I think. The articles by Sandy King at unblinking eye are a good place to start.

    Introduction to Pyro Staining Developers

    http://www.unblinkingeye.com/Articles/articles.html

    If the OP is going to use variable contrast papers, the effect of stain colour on achieved contrast needs to be studied.