Exposure has to be adequate, even a bit generous. Setting the ISO on the meter is only half the story: the way one points the meter and makes decisions is the other half.
I should add that developing to a lower contrast makes the stain less extreme, and so avoids to some extent the drop in contrast in highlights that can be a problem when staining is very strong. I am sure that I'm still benefiting from the stain, though.
However, I have on scores of occasions emptied large waste baskets of both negatives and prints based on small adjustments and educated trial and error.
Technology is a wonderful thing 95% of the time but let us not forget the eye test as the final grade.
Not speaking for the other 7 here but you are right Gerald I cannot offer a scientific basis for my opinion.
What I can offer is over 30,000 roll processed in pyro , contacted then prints made from over the last 15 years. Not to mention the Sheets of film.
Some people make charts and plot curves, drink wine and pontify about printing
Others make a living from it and work 7 days a week at photography.
Which group do you fall into??
Next week I get to see Sherman's Semi Stand Prints in Louisville, I hope he dosen't let me down, he has been talking a big story on this thread. Apparently there is a case of Dumante ordered , I hope Gittings dosen't show up.
So, would "real" scientific information really help us in producing a great print from a Pyro negative or the advice of people who may have no clue about it but have printed thousands of negatives from it and can actually give their "professional" opinion?
I don't mean to sound harsh but I do speak my mind. This is of course a totally moot point if one is inclined to simply seek scientific knowledge/proof for the sake of it.
Years ago when there was a great deal of interest in the Zone System there were a handful of gurus for lack of a better term. Their every word was considered as holy writ. No one was allowed to question any of their pronoucements let alone supply any scientific criticism. Sadly, I think that the technique of stain development is at a similar point. It's a valid and useful method but people need to separate the facts from a great deal of fiction.
I Yams what I Yams , as Popeye would say.
Recently a 40 print show that hung in the Royal Ontario Museum which was viewed by hundreds of thousand viewers , got extended for one year due to the positive responses. All the negatives produced this show were done in my very unsophisticated method of dipping back into the developer.
I think the prints are pretty good using this method.
I think you are missing my point about the hardening effect of tannin developer, nowhere did I say the stain had any mystical properties and I must admit it took me years to understand the zone system, and my take on it is probably very different from the gurus here and back then.
How you make the prints zing is most important. That just takes practice and a few thousand negatives to work with.
You didn't imply anthing mystical and I think you are far too intelligent to do so. But after reading dozens of articles on the web you willl find such comments.
I think most people have problems understanding the Zone System, I know I did. Many of the books on the Zone System are not very good teaching aids. I have read others describe the difficulty. Some state that they have suddenly attained an epiphany when everything finally made sense.