Hello. This relates to enlarging 35mm negatives with difficult highlights that cannot be burned in precisely using the usual methods, and where flashing would be detrimental.

Masking can often be quite helpful with this sort of situation. I've been working recently on "perfecting" some masking techniques for small format films (based on the typical large format procedures but scaled down and altered slightly). They are pin registered and sandwiched in printing.

Most of the masks I find useful are burn masks (or dodge masks depending on how you think about it) exposed/developed to put a relatively small amount (say a stop or two) of essentially featureless (as much as possible) density everywhere except in the brightest highlights which are clear. A potential variation on this occured to me and I wanted to run it by the forum for comments.

A typical Pyro negative from say PMK, has greenish imagewise stain which acts as a variable density low contrast filter in highlight densities when printing on most VC papers. This can sometimes help to bring in subtle highlight detail if the flattening effect is not too pronounced. However, I don't like Pyro with small format negatives. They are just too grainy for me for most subjects. So how do I combine the PMK stain with a solvent developer like XTOL? Well, what if I took the XTOL image negative, made a mask in my usual way, and then continued with this:

1. Use first mask as an interpositive to make a second mask (a "negative" mask)
2. Develop the negative mask in Pyro
3. Bleach away all the silver in the Pyro mask

The Pyro mask would be mostly featureless film base, but with some green stain in the highlights. When sandwiched with the original negative, the highlights would print as though they had some amount of #00 filtration built in. Obviously this would require quite a lot of trial and error in exposure and development at every stage.

The main issue I'm stumbling on in these initial thought experiments: Although the Pyro mask would add only "color" density to the highlight silver densities in the original negative, in the end would this additional printing density more than offset the contrast filter effect and actually worsen the entire situation?

Other issues/thoughts I'm going in circles on:

-I've never bleached all the silver out of a Pyro negative. What does the remaining stain look like, say under a grain magnifier? Is it just smooth dye coloring?
-Suppose you use something like Wimberley's instead of PMK, and you get more of a yellow-orange stain?