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Thread: Pyro Developers

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    thefizz's Avatar
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    Pyro Developers

    I just saw a photo by jimgalli in the apug gallery which prompted me to ask what Pyro is all about. His pic has an unusual look to it which I like.

    Can someone give me a quick run down on what Pyro developers do?

    Are there certain films it works best with?

    Peter

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    Do a forum search for Pyro, PMK and Pyrocat. You will find all kinds of threads discussing various staining elixirs. In a nutshell pyro dvelopers provide better seperation in the highlights and some increases in apparent sharpness due better seperation at contrast edges.

    It has proponents that endorse it with relgious like zeal and others who claim it provides no real advantage over regular D-76 or XTOL when proper exposure and developing techniques are used.

    I have been using pyrocat HD for awhile now in addition to HC110 and Xtol. It really provides some adavantages with smaller formats IMHO. But as with with everything photographic your results will depend on exposure, brand and speed of film, developing technique, subject matter, lighting used, etc.

    I would read as much as possible and then get a kit of Pyrocat HD from Photographers Formulary. Easy to mix up and use and it is pretty economical stuff. Five it a try with your current methods and materials.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

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    Pyro devs (pyrogallic acid and catechol) can be wonderful and a PITA all at the same time. On the negative side (get it? of course you do) the stuff is toxic, stains everything, requires lots of agitation and often, and long dev times.

    On the positive (he we go again) side, I find that the grain produced by the pyros is sharp, but smooth. This is caused by the staining of the film; the stain is said to fill in the spaces between the grain. I've noticed that my midtones with PMK and WD2D are absolutely wonderful.

    Pyro is not a magic bullet; there isn't one. It can be good, even wonderful, but don't get too hung-up on devs. I try to spend my time finding a good subject to shoot using good techniques of composition. Any dev will give you a good neg if use properly.

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    There have been brutal ugly wars over which staining developer is best - about a year ago. When all was said and done the general conclusion was that a staining developer is better than a non staining developer. Historically there were many pyro developers. Edward Weston used one called D-1 which, now days, does not have too many advocates. In the early 1980s Gordon Hutchings developed a new formula called PMK which combined pyro and Metol (this was not the first pyro-Metol combo but many feel it is the best one). Gordon's book is called The Book of Pyro and is available from Bostick and Sullivan. I have used this formula since the early 1980s and have never felt the need to change. Pyrocatechin is another variation but some of us feel that the film speed loss with this is more than we want to workwith. If you do roller drum processing then the Rollo Pyro formula might be the best one.

    These formula create an oxidation stain that is proportional to the density of the silver image - there is more stain in the higher values. This means that you do not need to push the silver density as far up the curve thus keeping it on the straight line section and getting better high value separation.

    Again, when the fighting subsided we all agreed that a staining developer was better than a non staining developer.


    steve simmons
    www.viewcamera.com

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    My personal choices for films with PMK are FP4+ and Tri-X. Some feel, and I probably am one of them, that the benefits of a staining developer are somewhat waisted on T-Max as their grain structure minimizes the benefits of the staining process.

    steve simmons

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve simmons
    My personal choices for films with PMK are FP4+ and Tri-X. Some feel, and I probably am one of them, that the benefits of a staining developer are somewhat waisted on T-Max as their grain structure minimizes the benefits of the staining process.

    steve simmons
    While I haven't used ABC pyro in a while, I have gotten beautiful 400TMax negatives developed in it. Should my developer of choice become unavailable, I would use only ABC. (ABC is the more common description for what Steve refers to as "D1". D1 was Kodak's number for what they called their "Tanning Developer". The reducer in this formula is pyrogallol.)

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    Thank you all for the info. Sounds interesting.

    Peter

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    At the risk of starting a lengthy debate, is there any consensus on which dev would be good for a beginner to use to get his feet wet (and stained) with pyro?

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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoPete
    At the risk of starting a lengthy debate, is there any consensus on which dev would be good for a beginner to use to get his feet wet (and stained) with pyro?
    If you're going to be enlarging the negatives, I'd start out with Pyrocat HD, available from the Photographer's Formulary. If and only if you're planning to contact print onto Azo, I'd recommend ABC.

    I think you'll find, however, that the consensus on this board will be to use Pyrocat for everything.

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