The Increasing Popularity Of Pyro.
I have noticed that pyro developers which use either pyrogallol or catechol are becoming increasingly more available and I have heard mention of a formula which included both in the same developer. On searching, I have found WD2D and WD2D+ by John Wimberley, PMK by Gordon Hutchins, Tannol, Tannol Speed and Finol by Wolfgang Moersch, Rollo-Pyro by Harald Leban, Pyrocat HD and other variants by Sandy King, 510-Pyro and Hypercat by Jay DeFehr and Prescysol and Prescysol EF by Peter Hogan. There are are also other developers designed by Barry Thornton and probably many more out there.
What is it about these developers that their users like or prefer to commonly available non-staining developers like D76/ID-11 and the many other powder and liquid film developers available?
I've been using Pyrocat-HD for a few months and find it delivers good film speed, low grain and high sharpness. However the negatives do print differently on graded papers as compared to variable contrast papers. ILFORD Galerie works well.
This article gives a good overview of staining developers: http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/PCat/pcat.html
Sometimes putting your observations into words just doesn't go well! I can only desribe a certain "smoothness" in my prints that come from pyro negs. Middle tones seem to get a boost from pyro. Now, some films react well to a staing dev, some not so well. IMHO, always unscientific, the more stain you have, the better the smoothness.
If you have any APX100 left, try that in Pyrocat HD and you'll see what I mean. Fuji Neopan 400 is another good one for stain. Pan-F does not stain well, but still delivers a good image, but IMHO, no better than D-76.
Edward Weston will be happy to read this.
Originally Posted by Keith Tapscott.
The debate concerning Pyro is likely to never end. Please take what I post with a "grain of salt". I am hardly an expert, and I have not done exhaustive studies seeking to uncover the merits of various developers. Many on this thread are much more experienced -and talented -than I. Nevertheless, I have read articles from those who say Pyro is a unique developer capable of achieving results in a print that are not realizable with the more mundane developers. I have read ripostes from those who have indeed done very careful, and in -depth, studies in search of objective information to support claims that Pyro produces negatives that have a unique ability to make prints that are not "achievable" ( sic ) from negatives made with other developers ( Howard Bond's exhaustive and careful studies stand out in my mind ). I am not pursuaded that objective studies show that Pyro developed negatives produce unique prints. Furthermore, studies in which prints are independently evaluated by "blinded" observers also fail to show meaningful differences in prints from Pyro developed negatives vs. prints made from negatives developed in more conventional developers. Having said the above, Pyro does have advantages: The developers have a long shelf life, and they harden an emulsion such that developing by inspection and using film with softer emulsions ( some of the Adox and Efke emulsions ) are less likely to be damaged during processing. Pyro developed negatives ( one of the major advantages of Pyro as cited by Mr. Weston and numerous other talented photographers ) can be used for both alternate process ( especially Platinum and likely Azo ) AND more conventional silver printing. However, judging from my own very limited experience, and more important the experience of others more learned and talented, I have concluded that for conventional silver processing one would be hard pressed to show that Pyro developed negatives do indeed possess a quality that renders a print unique. Of course, I respect and honor those who say that their prints made from their Pyro developed negatives have a certain "look" and "undefinable" quality that they cannot obtain from negatives made from D-76, Rodinal, DDx, etc., etc. One of the wonderful things about our photographic exploits is that all of us can find limitless possibilites to mine and explore.
So, develop your negatives in several different developers, and chose the process that yields the results that meld with your photographic vision. As was said in a different context, "all the rest is noise".
Last edited by Mahler_one; 06-14-2009 at 08:48 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: grammar and tense
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Just a few comments.
First, while I won't question the methods of Howard Bond I think it is fair to comment that he was not a proponent of pyro deveopers, and as in "identity politics" our opinions are influenced by an original position so I don't think he was highly inclined to find an advantage with Pyro. However, even with that Bond did find that the pyro negatives were capable of sharper prints if printed large enough. This does not surprise me because I have carried out tests where I contact printed high resolution targets (225 lines per mm) to compare resolution in several traditional developers (D76, Xtol and HC-110) and several pyro staining developers (Pyrocat-HD, PMK and WD2D+). The pyro staining devlopers consistently delivered about 10-15% more resolution.
Bond also found and commented on the most fundamental difference between traditional and pyro developers, i.e. the way the stain provides compensation in the highlights of a print when using VC papers. There are perhaps other ways to obtain the same result with VC silver papers but the pyro stain provides a prety simple mechanism of toning down the highlights in scenes of high contrast.
There are other qualities that I find that are more subjective. For example, the stain in many cases appears to add smoothness without detracting from sharpness.
However, even if one were to debunk all of my comments the fact still remains that pyro developers are certainly "at least as good" as traditional developrers, they have very long shelf life (as you point out), and are among the least expensive developers on the market. The long shelf life is particulary important to me because I tend to go three of four months between shooting assignments and knowing that I can use a devleoper mixed 9-12 months ago and still get perfect results is important to me. There are of course some traditional developers that have long shelf life, but most of them are propriety formulas that must be purchased pre-mixed and cost a lot more than most of the pyro formulas.
Originally Posted by Mahler_one
Last edited by sanking; 06-14-2009 at 09:42 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Pyro developers are indeed good developers. I am not in a position to judge if they are superior to any existing non-pyro developer, but here are 3 cautions I have learned.
1. Pyrogallol and Catechol are two of the most toxic of all developing agents used in B&W.
2. The "stain" is a dye and as such can both improve and degrade the image. It can introduce a "blur" to the silver grain thereby reducing grain, but due to other effects it can appear to improve sharpness.
3. The stain is a dye and can fade with time. This is similar to a color film, no different.
My only objection to the pyro wave, is the notion that it's a magic bullet that some seem to embrace as the key to wonderful photographs. It isn't, of course, nor is D76/ID11 or any other chemical. A number of years ago I bought the PMK pyro kit including Hutching's book, but I've never used it. Instead, I've attempted, and usually succeeded in solving the problems that pyro offers solutions to using VC papers, and of course, enlarging, so I've not felt I have missed anything.
However, I have seen a difference between prints from pyro negs, and others. The ones I've seen seem to have a very faint veil to them which keeps them from being as crisp and contrasty as prints I prefer. (That aspect could just as well be a consequence of the negatives not being printed properly, I don't know.) But, that's just my personal taste, and is certainly not being offered as definitive for anyone but me.
Yes, pyrogallol and catechol are very toxic developing agents, but nearly all of the developing agents are toxic, and hydroquinone, about which one almost never hears any warning, is almost as toxic. The primary danger is in mixing the chemicals so if you mix from scratch I recommend doing that with a hood or outside. Once the reducers are in liquid form the main danger is ingestion. Skin contact should also be avoided, but that is also true for most reducers.
I agree that the dye stain can fade with time. However, I have seen many 100+ year old pyro developed negatives on glass plates that still retained a lot of the stain.
From printing pyro stained negatives with UV light sources I know that some of the stain is lost with repeated printing with long exposures. However, the actual density loss is very small, and in any event the negative could be bleached and re-stained again if necessary.
In my opinion the only major disadvantage of pyro negatives is that the sensitometry is very complicated for VC silver papers. It is primarily for this reason that Phil David and many BTZS type folks have avoided them.
I agree with you about this and this has been one of my major complaints about the way some people have promoted pyro developers. But the compensation you can get with VC papers in the highlights can be pretty magical. I have been in some pretty heated exchanges with so-called experts who simply totally failed to understand the fundamental difference in using pyro negatives with graded (blue sensitive) and VC (blue and green sensitive) papers.
Originally Posted by jovo
Definitely have not seen any kind of veiling in prints that could be attributed to pyro. But I have seen plenty of bad prints that were bad for a variety of reasons.