Staining development

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by haris, Aug 24, 2007.

  1. haris

    haris Guest

    Hello,

    Please, can someone explain to me what staining development is, why and how is used and what (which) are staining developers.

    I read often here about it and would like to know what it is all about.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Some good articles about staining developers can be found on Unblinkingeye

    Ian
     
  3. haris

    haris Guest

    Thank you, Ian.
     
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Haris,

    A dye (stain) image is formed in direct proportion to the silver image. To put it very crudely, the dye is a product of the breakdown of the developing agent. The most popular staining developer is probably PMK, Pyro-Metol-Kodalk if I recall aright.

    In theory, you get 'something for nothing', density without grain.

    In practice, most staining developers deliver such coarse grain that even with the help from the stained image, they are not fine grain.

    They can however deliver exquisite tonality. Note 'can', though. Some photographers do much better with them than others, so (as usual) they are nearer to a useful tool than a magic bullet.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  5. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    The stained negatives print differently with different printing media than unstained ones. The yellow stain of PMK has the least increase in contrast on VC papers, the greatest on graded blue sensitive papers. The VC papers show a greater increase in contrast than normal as printing light is biased toward blue, as with the usual magenta colored contrast increasing filters.

    As to grain, it is usually theorized that the low sulfite content necessary to produce the stain also increases grain size, but that the spreading of the stain tends to smooth that out. You could try adding enough sulfite to PMK, for example, to minimize the stain just to test the theory. I have not done so, but I have my doubts that the grain will be greatly affected.

    "The Book of Pyro" by Gordon Hutchings is a good investment, whether or not you decide to use a staining developer.
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Things have moved on from the early coarse grained Pyro staining developers.

    People like Gordon Hutchings, Barry Thornton, Sandy King and Gadjet gainer have all produced much more modern formulae which produce excellent fine grain with modern films.

    Ian
     
  7. r-brian

    r-brian Member

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    I've not had a lot of experience with staining developers yet. But I've been using Barry Thornton's DiXactol after reading his book 'Edge of Darkness'. This is another book you might want to read through to get info on staining developers. Based on this book, I started using DiXactol to help control my highlights, which out here in New Mexico can be extremely bright. The staining builds up density on these highlight areas and make it easier to print without excessive dodging and burning.
     
  8. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I use Pyrocat HD (Sandy King's formula) with Ilford Delta 400 and absolutly love it. I don't endulge in the technical side of this so I'm not much help there but I would suggest some testing and experimenting with your favorite films and subjects.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Ian,

    I fully take your point about early Pyro developers, and how much better modern ones are; but even so, I was talking about such things as PMK, and I'd not call them remarkably fine grain. They're not bad, but they don't live up to the promise of 'something for nothing'; there are non-staining developers that deliver finer grain and sometimes more speed as well.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  10. haris

    haris Guest

    Thank you all.
     
  11. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Another formula called Rollo Pyro allows these benefits using the Jobo processor for developing roll and sheet film. The benefits of pyro are often connected to alternative processes such as platinum and palladium printing. However many of us are happy with what it brings to silver printing, in my own case Kentmere variable contrast paper using a cold light head.
    Enjoy,

    John Powers
     
  12. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Grain is not so much of an issue when you are contact printing. I use pyro on all my LF and ULF films. But these are aimed at contact printing in PT/Pd. I also use a pyro developer for intensifying glass plate negatives to achieve a higher density for printing with albumen. Now if you want to see grainless negatives... check out glass plate negatives
     
  13. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    The only staining developer that I have used extensively is Pyrocat HD. Because the stain is said to fill in between the grain some people seem to assume that it is a fine grain developer. In fact it is as grainy as rodinal, but the grain has a different pattern.
    Anyone who thinks it is fine grain should expose a roll of 35mm HP5, cut it in half, develop one half in Pyrocat,and the other in ID11. The ID11 half will yield noticably finer grained prints.

    Alan Clark
     
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  15. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I use the two versions of Prescysol with Ilford films, generally Delta 400, and would describe it as remarkably fine grained. I had been led to believe by others here that it is the same formulation or close to Pyrocat HD, so I'm puzzled by the references to course grain above. Can someone please clarify the issue?
     
  16. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Two points.

    First, grain is about 98% a film issue. Some developers do deliver finer grain than others, but the trade-off is sharpness. There really is no free ride on this, though people are always offering you tickets to nowhere. You want finer grain, choose a finer grain film. You want sharpness, choose an acutance developer.

    Second, many persons, perhaps even a majority, (though not on APUG of course) are developing film to scan. Scanning throws the grain issue way up in the air because of the masking effect of the stain, which is even more pronounced in scanning than in regular silver printing. I have tested and verified to my own satisfaction that if you compare scanned Xtol 1:3 and scanned Pyrocat-HD 1:1:100 negatives the Pyrocat negative is as fine grain, but sharper. Not by a lot, but definitely sharper. To be fair, Xtol does deliver a bit more film speed.

    Sandy King
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 24, 2007
  17. lee

    lee Member

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    I have used PMK and now Pyrocat HD for the last 10 or 12 years now. Pyrocat HD and is brothers are a much better pyro developer than PMK. If grain is an issue then do as Sandy says. With larger format films it is not as important in my opinion.

    lee\c
     
  18. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    Dave,
    I think you are getting confused here. Roger Hicks used the term coarse grained. But he never mentioned Pyrocat. I talked about Pyrocat, but didn't say it was coarse grained.

    When you describe your results with prescysol as fine grained , is this with 35mm film?

    Alan Clark
     
  19. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    I used PMK for a couple years. After that, I used Xtol exclusively for about 8 years. Now I'm using Pyrocat-HD. One of the issues with these evaluations is how long you develop your film. For example, on graded silver gelatin paper the pyro stain gives density without cause a loss of contrast in the highlights. With variable contrast papers, though, I found that I had to develop significantly longer to get good highlight separation with PMK. So my PMK negatives developed for VC printing have large but sharp grain. The xtol negatives give finer grain. I mainly scan my Pyrocat HD negatives, and so I don't need to develop near as much as for VC paper.

    Btw, I recently paid for a 5000dpi 16bit RGB scan of a PMK developed neg. The different color channels show significant variations.
     
  20. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    Did you use contrast enhancing filtration when you printed on the VC paper? A stained negative that prints well on grade 2 paper should print well on VC paper with grade 3 or higher filtration. The blue in the filter attenuates the yellow that the graded paper sees as black.
     
  21. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    Hi Patrick, Yep I used both a color head (changing settings to change contrast) and under-the-lens Ilford MG filters. PMK's stain effect on contrast is density dependent, as I'm sure you're aware. So simply upping the contrast filter on VC paper will not give the same results as the negative on graded paper. In particular, using the higher filter will increase mid-tone and shadow contrast on the VC paper more than those areas on the graded paper.
     
  22. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    It is said that the overall stain of PMK that gives so much problem with printing is the result of returning the fixed negatives to the used developing solution, and that Hutchungs no longer recommends that. I have also heard that Pyrocat MC has the least overall stain of current staining developers. As you may know, I had a little to do with that formula, but seldom use staining developers. When I wrote for Photo Techniques the article "More Pyro Tecnics" I bleached away the silver part of a PMK negative and made a print from the stain image using VC paper and maximum magenta. It was not a good print, but it showed that there was a printable stain image. I did not use the stain intensifying process IIRC.

    The best way to intensify the proportional stain IMO is to bleach the silver back to silver chloride or bromide and then redevelop in the staining developer. I tried that also. But if there is an overall stain density, like a fog, it might only compound the problem. It's probably best to look ahead and make two negatives of the same scene.

    If the filtration for properly simulating graded paper with VC paper could be found, it might make life easier for users of both alternative processes and silver printing.
     
  23. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Thanks Alan, I'm easily confused. :sad:

    I only use 120 now, but have used Prescysol on 5x4 and 35mm in the past and would describe it as a fine grain developer. That's not to say there arn't other equally "fine grain" developers available, but none that couple the advantages of an off the shelf staining developer with fine grain, easily printed results. Sorry if I sound like an advert for the stuff.:smile:
     
  24. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Sandy,

    We are saying exactly the same thing. Staining developers are a useful tool, not a magic bullet, and there is no such thing as a free ride.

    I'll add one other thing, not for your benefit as you no doubt know already: a finer-grained film in a speed-increasing dev usually gives finer grain than a faster film, in a fine grain developer, and the speeds may be very similar, eg. FP4 in DDX 200 or so, HP5 in Perceptol 250 or so.

    I should have been clearer in the original post. The stain adds density, allowing less development than if you were using the silver image alone, allowing finer grain -- BUT, even the more recent formulations are so inherently coarse-grained that even a less-developed neg is roughly comparable, from the point of view of grain, with any normal developer, and not as fine-grained as fine-grain developers (which are not as sharp).

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  25. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    We should remember that one of the primary reasons for using a staining developer is that it allows use of the same negative with printing processes that require a negative that is high in contrast to violet or UV light as well as processes that require a lower contrast in yellow light. A user of large cameras who would like to be able to print the same negative on platinum or silver POP as well as on VC paper would have more use for the stained negative than I would as a user of 35 mm, which is not likely to be used with any contact printing process except for proof sheets.
     
  26. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    My starting point is the "look" I want to achieve in the finished print. Format, film, developer, paper, enlarger type etc.are chosen with this in mind.
    When I want to make grainy atmospheric prints I choose 400 speed 35mm film and develop it either in Rodinal , which gives very crisp grain, or Pyrocat HD which gives a more variegated expressive grain that I find very pleasing.
    To refer back to points made earlier about Pyrocat being a fine grain developer: if it was, I wouldn't use it. I love the subtle, variegated grain that it produces.

    Alan Clark