You're my hero. I would love to know what you are finding with all your testing.
What is it that makes you think conventional developers work better for enlarging? I do use pryo (PMK) for negatives to be enlarged. And, actually, i use Rollo for negatives to be contacted on Azo because I am only now really getting into ABC in trays.
Fine prints can be made on any paper, agreed. But none are quite as fine as those printed on Azo and developed in Amidol. This has been confirmed by hundreds of people. Even Adams in his 50 photographs book says that he made a print on contact printing paper and it was the most beautiful print he ever made (I'm paraphrasing here, but I quoted it correctly in my "Azo Update 2000" article). Said he never could duplicate it with any other paper. Makes me wonder why he didn't "get it" and why he kept making those crappy enlargements. His early contact prints from the 30s and 40s are exceptional. They were all made on contact printing paper.
Some personal stories:
When Fred Picker saw Paula's and my prints he looked at them for a very long time--about 10 minutes each. No one before or since has ever looked at our prints so carefully. We were seated way across the room from him. He had set our prints on his viewing easel with his back to us. We thought he would be finished with a stack of them in about 10 minutes, tops. Well over two hours later he was still on the first stack.
In 1991 I took Paula to meet Paul Caponigro, whom I had not seen in almost 10 years, We listened to him play the piano and I offered to replace a tape recording I had sent him years before. (My equipment was better and I felt I could now send him one with better sound.) He said he didn't want it--pointed to his shelves, which were empty, and said that he was getting rid of everything--paring down, simplifying his life. Sometime later we asked if he would like to see prints. Reluctantly he said, "Okay, but I'm tired--just a few--no more than six." Paula showed him about six and I did the same. (Both of us had over a hundred prints with us.) When I was finished he asked if he could see them again. I showed him the six and asked if he wanted to see more. The answer was no. When Paula showed him six he said, "Let me hold them--and he proceeded to look at most every one she had. Then, to our absolute astonishment, he picked out a couple of prints from each of us and said he wanted to buy them. And he did. It wasn't that Paul Caponigro collects photographs and in any case he was at a point in his life when he was deaccessioning things, not adding to them. (This was shortly before he left New Mexico for Maine.) It was obvious to us that he bought them because not only were they fine, well-seen pictures, which they assuredly were, but for the print quality, which was something he hadn't quite seen before.
So I'll trust David's assessment of his own prints. We saw enlargements David had made previous to the workshop he took with us. They were excellent prints. Absolutely nothing wrong with them as I recall, and I am not one to give praise where it is not merited. In fact, his prints were so good that I suggested he do a book (what he was photographing lent itself to a book). I never would have even thought of saying that if his prints were in any way not good enough. So if David says that his Azo prints make his prints on enlarging paper pale in comparison I would trust that. Get yourself some Azo and see for yourself.
To RAP: I have a hard time understanding how it could take 4 hours to make a print. Even back when I used enlarging paper it took at the most half that time (now takes an hour for 5 prints from one new negative, but that's Azo--it is so easy to work with).
Two stories about great printers: Paula Strand went to a friend's darkroom and asked if he could borrow some paper--he had a particular negative he needed to make one print of. He finally got it on the 150th piece of paper. In the article about Strand in which this story appeared the point was to show how demanding Strand was and what a perfectionist he was. To me, the story showed that Strand did not know what he was doing. 150 sheets of paper for one print!!!!????!!!!
And it is said the Steiglitx would spend days making a print. Some point as in Strand story is intended to be made. To me I have same response as I did to Strand story.
I am every bit as much a perfectionist about print quality as anyone. If every square millimeter is not right the print should go in the trash. With Azo it is embarrassingly easy to get it right. Try it. Take one of your negatives and contact print the damn thing on Azo developed in Amidol. See for yourself. And it won't take you anywhere near four hours. That's guaranteed.
Michael A. Smith
Please be sure to get your Azo from Michael. If it weren't for the commitment he and Paula have made to Kodak it would already have long since been discontinued.
thanks for your kind remarks. I attended Michael's and Paula's workshop in the summer of 2000. Seeing the prints convinced me that their combination AZO, Amidol, Super XX and ABC pyro produced prints with such a range, beautifully detailed whites, deep blacks and everything in between. One of Michael's 8x20 shots in particular, a black woman in a very white uniform, standing in doorway of her store, really took my breath away. It summed up for me a mastery of materials, technique, art, and a committment to the use of a large format camera as "your real camera for everything" rather just for architecture, rocks and trees.
In my subsequent work with AZO, I used Weston's amidol formula and BW-65 paper developer from Photographer's Formulary, and never came close to duplicating what I saw at the workshop. Only after actually using Michael's own Amidol formula years later, did I realize that it was the missing piece.
The problem is, though, that, to me, a 5x7 or even 8x10 contact print is so damn small. 11x14 seems to me to be the minimum print size I'd be happy with.
5x7 is my primary format which makes a nicely detailed 11x14 print. the format also allows me to print color with a reasonably inexpensive enlarger. Additionally, my spending days are over, I need to work with what I've got, which is fortunately considerable, unfortunately, it doesn't include an 11x14.
All that said, I started looking for a good film/developer/paper combination for enlargement that would replace pyro. I simply obtain too many uneven negatives with pyro, most obvious in the sky areas and with higher contrast filtration. My enlarger printer times with pyro were also too long. 45 sec at f8. I quickly settled on Bergger Warm Tone (VCCB) paper, to my taste, there is no close second. After Agfa APX in large format was discontinued, Plus-x became my film of choice in 5x7, but it too, is going away.
My testing is so far in a preliminary stage and I've made several detours. And of course the caveat that what looks good to me, may not look good to anyone else. About 3 weeks ago I bought a box of 5x7 Tri-x made a series of different exposures of a wide contrast scene (white sunlit snow to black iron railing in shadow) to be developed in WD2D+, Rollo Pyro, D76 1:1.
the results so far:
WD2D+ was disappointing, it produced a decent negative but requires individual tray development and the supposed advantage, enhanced highlight separation wasn't obvious to me.
Rollo Pyro in a jobo gave me better results, and much better throughput besides.
D76 1:1 was the easiest to use and in the jobo produced a fine negative.
D76 produced a good "Ansel Adams" result. plenty of contrast, good zip, adequate shadow detail and excellent highlight detail. this was the print that most people I showed it to picked as the one to hang on the wall.
WD2D+ the worst of the bunch, better shadow detail than d76, but inferior highlight detail and an overall lack of zip.
rollo pyro was between the d76 and WD2D+, a better choice for pyro developent, in my opinion, and works in the jobo.
looking at the 11x14 prints with a 5x loupe (10x total?) I confirmed that the edge effect attributed to pyro in no myth, both pyro prints were 10 to 20 percent (how do you assign a percentage?) sharper than the d76 neg. Although sharper, the pyro prints also looked grainer than the D76 print. this increased sharpness was noticible to the naked eye when I held the print 9 inches from my face. Interestingly, the D76 print had greater apparent sharpness when viewed from a foot or more away.
So now, how to get better sharpness than d76 with the longer tonal range of the pyro? A clue came from articles on Ed's Unblinking Eye web site in the articles about Rodinal. In the 35 years I've been developing film I've never used Rodinal. I had the impression that it was a real fetish developer, "for greatest accutance leave your reel in the tank for a week and let coriolis force do the agitation. if you sneeze while it's in the tank, you'll over agitate and ruin everything". Ed's article, indicated that the sharpness of Rodinal wouldn't be adversly impacted by agitation.
So far, I've only developed some medium format APX 100 and Fuji Acros in Rodinal. My plan is to print these negs this weekend and see how they look. I'll also expose some 5x7 tri-x to develop in Rodinal.
for very generous exposure (high contrast scene) of APX 100 and Acros (EI 32) I've got much shorter times in Rodinal then I've seen published. With 5 min presoak and developed in a jobo, I got times of 9 min at 68 for APX and 7 min at 68 for Acros. Rodinal was mixed at 1:50 if I did the math right (10ml Rodinal to 500 ml of water).
I'll get back to you after the weekend with further results, but I'm of the opinion that for enlargements, pyro is not essential. You can devote more of your time to printing if you use a conventional developer in a jobo.
Tom thanks for the analysis! After a break from doing my own development I was just going to get back into it. HC110 and D-76 were my developers of choice back when I was doing lots of it. I was thinking of trying pyro, but like any tool I don't think from what I've read that it should be used for all situations. Each developer has it's pluses and minuses but the more tools in the chest the better you can solve problems.
I will be very interested in hearing about your Rodinal tests.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Tom Duffy @ Mar 20 2003, 08:19 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>
...for very generous exposure (high contrast scene) of APX 100 and Acros (EI 32) I've got much shorter times in Rodinal then I've seen published. With 5 min presoak and developed in a jobo, I got times of 9 min at 68 for APX and 7 min at 68 for Acros. Rodinal was mixed at 1:50 if I did the math right (10ml Rodinal to 500 ml of water).
Son of a gun!!
APX in Rodinal 1:50 for 9 minutes @ 20deg. C in a JOBO ("P" rotation) is what I arrived at after much testing!!!
The only difference I have is with pre-wetting. I don't, after reading a few articles advising against it.
We may have been separated at birth.
I experimented with Rodinal once and found it to be unbelievably sharp but very grainy. I have a 11x16 print on Agfa Portriga from a 6x9 negative developed in Rodinal 1:50 that is grainer than most 8x10 enlargements from 35mm negs. I guess I gave up the experiment after that. I never tried Rodinal in a jobo.
Other than that, here's where I am:
1) I used Xtol and ID11 for years, and then tried PMK for both rolls and sheets. I found that the PMK DOES give better highlight separations and the edge effects are noticeable. I found that I get more grainless rollfilm enlargements with PMK compared to Xtol or ID11. I assumed this was the stain masking the grain, as we've all heard about. Also, for me, PMK is easier to use because I get it in liquids and it's so temperature tolerant. I previously found myself stirring forever to get those last few grains of developer to dissolve because I always feared some hydroquinone or metol chunk would land on the cheek of a person's portrait as it developed.
2) I saw ABC negatives for the first time in Michael's workshop. Compared to a PMK negative there was a pretty significant difference. More detail in both highs and lows. Sharper. But MUCH grainier. I can see how you wouldn't want to enlarge an ABC negative and I wouldn't even consider doing a roll in ABC if I was going to make an enlargement of any significant magnification.
3) Azo. After hearing all the lore on this and P.N, I went to the LA County Museum Of Art to see some of Michael's prints, to get an idea of whether to spend the money on the paper, and to get a sense of what I was shooting for. And without commenting on content and composition, I was blown away by the prints technically. The level of detail apparent in both blacks and highlights, and the range in between. Just the DEPTH of the blacks, which is what my friend Per Volquartz comments on every time he sees my Azo prints.
So I bough the Azo and tried it in Neutol. Nope. Bromophen. Nope. Something from Zonal Pro. Nope. Clayton. Dektol. No way. I had been skittish about mixing Amidol at the kitchen sink, so I tried everything else first. Finally, I tried Amidol. Interestingly, I could not and STILL cannot get it to work with the grade 2 Azo paper. It comes out muddy and blue and untoneable. But on the grade 3 paper, it was like magic. And easy, just like I had heard. It is those first grade 3 Azo prints...practically the first time I used the stuff...that are right over there on the wall making the enlargements pale by comparison.
Like you, Tom, I wish everything could be a cool contact print but in the real world it just isn't going to happen. I like to photograph people and I like to photograph my small children, and I travel all the time and find that I just can't lug the 8x10 everywhere I go.
So that's why now that I see the huge difference between what I have enlarged and what I have printed on Azo I want to re-think everything about enlarging. My technique, my vision, my chemistry, my paper, everything. I have a new standard.
And, like you, I saw that Smith print of the woman in the doorway in New Orleans and was stopped cold in my tracks. Her dress was brilliant white yet you could see the detail of the fabric. And the store behind her was dark yet you could see everything in it. And her face did not look burned or dodged or too dark or too light. And the highlights on her wrinkles and in the whites of her eyes popped.
One More Thing...
Take this for what it's worth. It is my experience in photography that there is very little significant difference between materials and tools, that most of the differences are nuances. You can't tell a Rodenstock from a Schneider just by looking at a print. You can't usually tell HP5 from TXP just by looking at normal print. Even pyro versus non-pyro is more of a nuance thing: highlight detail that maybe you wouldn't notice wasn't there if you never saw the pyro print.
But in my (limited) experience I can tell Azo from any other paper I have seen, my own work or that of others. THAT is why I am approaching enlarging as a re-tool exercise, not just a fine tuning exercise. And as I said earlier, I hope I am not sounding elitist here. My own methods and limited vision are the first thing I am rethinking.
David, I really enjoyed the visual pictures that you painted in your post. I agree that there is much more of a difference in Azo-Amidol compared to any other material that I have used then there is between any other combination in the silver arena. Thanks again.
You all should know that there will be a light source coming soon (the patent has been applied for) that will enable one to enlarge on Azo. The light will not be hot, exposure times will be relatively short, and the whole thing will be reasonably priced. So then your only question will be about which film to use and how to develop it. if I were enlarging, I would probably use D-76 to develop the film. Why make it difficult if it is not significantly better.