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.