Curious: Developer and Technique for 35mm
Old 04-25-2017   #1
roscoetuff
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Curious: Developer and Technique for 35mm

In continuing to read about developers and developing film as I learn my way through this thing one question keeps coming to mind - especially in terms of reading about folks waxing ecstatic about PYRO of various types.

My unabashed, unambiguous reservations / negatives about PYRO:

1) Toxicity: This is a big negative for me. Is PYRO's worse than others? Dunno. Assume so, but in any case, "No, I don't drink my solutions." But I'm beginning to think I'd have to up ventilation, contact avoidance practices, and security when it's out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

2) 35mm: Many of the ecstatic waxers are shooting 120mm while I'm stuck happily in 35mm. Suggestion in one or two places is made that PYRO can increase grain in ways less rewarding in 35mm with the explanation that "this is why you don't hear much about it from 35mm shooters". (Can't remember the specific sources, so please don't test me. It's on the internet somewhere with all the glorious dependability it conveys.)

But here's the biggest question or reservation - which really isn't PYRO specific... but more my wondering whether how to measure the relative benefits gained and their real attribution:

I wonder whether in some cases the accolades for the developing chemistry of PYRO may relate more to minds and practices opening to work a different and/or better, more careful way... and therefore more a matter of technique than the chemistry?

In other words, is there not more benefit to be gained in working with a single general purpose developer capable of a wide range of different techniques, times, etc. and learning to apply this range for different needs given rolls shot under different conditions... than in bailing for something else entirely and re-starting a learning process?

I have yet to step into the testing process advocated in various forms and degrees by the zone system afficionados, but will give it a shot. Nevertheless, experience teaches compensation for our mistakes, and nothing can substitute for that.

Just sayin'. Any thoughts? Meantime, I'm sticking to HC-110, HP5+, 35mm and their ilk. THanks!
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Old 04-25-2017   #2
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I'm not quite addressing your concerns, but I have to say I stay away from staining developers because of one major reason. Given that I wet print my negatives and that most papers are now variable contrast, the staining is altering the contrast in an unpleasing manner (in the highlights). That is why I gave up. Otherwise, I had no problems with the grain in 35mm negatives.
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Old 04-25-2017   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoetuff View Post
. . . I wonder whether in some cases the accolades for the developing chemistry of PYRO may relate more to minds and practices opening to work a different and/or better, more careful way... and therefore more a matter of technique than the chemistry? . . .
Possibly. But given that there are plenty of obsessive Zone System nutters who are also truly rotten photographers and make lousy prints, possibly not.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-25-2017   #4
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Possibly. But given that there are plenty of obsessive Zone System nutters who are also truly rotten photographers and make lousy prints, possibly not.

Cheers,

R.

I've used PMK for years, and for some films I think that the results I get are beautiful. Different developers do give different tonality, grain, and speed.

Being precise and careful in your working methods does not make me a 'nutter' or a 'rotten photographer who makes lousy prints' and neither does using the zone system.
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Old 04-25-2017   #5
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I agree completely with Chris.

I use pyro off and on with certain films usually in larger formats. It's a very good compensating developer but doesn't work well with every film.

Yes pyro is quite toxic and is absorbed through the skin so protective gloves are a good idea.

I wouldn't recommend pyro for beginners. Results depend on what film you're using and your skill. This is true though with any film but pyro works best with old school films not new technology films. Pyro works best with higher content silver films like HP5 and FP4.

Pyro works best if wet printing and I've had excellent results with variable contrast papers as have my friends. Scanners don't Work well with stained negs though.

You're much better off picking a conventional developer and film combination.
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Old 04-25-2017   #6
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Where are people finding merit in using of this weird developer. And where are people using poison to make photo emulsions. And where are those in gloves and goggles making selenium toning.

I don't think those people are doing it because they likes to walk on the edge of the cliff, but because they liked the view. Particular view.
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Old 04-25-2017   #7
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Originally Posted by x-ray View Post
I agree completely with Chris.

I use pyro off and on with certain films usually in larger formats. It's a very good compensating developer but doesn't work well with every film.

Yes pyro is quite toxic and is absorbed through the skin so protective gloves are a good idea.

I wouldn't recommend pyro for beginners. Results depend on what film you're using and your skill. This is true though with any film but pyro works best with old school films not new technology films. Pyro works best with higher content silver films like HP5 and FP4.

Pyro works best if wet printing and I've had excellent results with variable contrast papers as have my friends. Scanners don't Work well with stained negs though.

You're much better off picking a conventional developer and film combination.

I've gotten incredible results scanning film developed in PMK. I agree with you though that for a beginner like the OP, a standard developer is best to learn on.
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Old 04-25-2017   #8
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Yep, no intention to go into Pyrocat or Pyrogallo for a looooong time - if ever. Do like looking at and admiring the output - all very nice, but surely a lot of these results are due to experience that translates into just plain good shooting and good developing/printing. No magic bullets: Technique where I've got a lot to learn.

Question though is also a matter of assuming all technique and experience were held equal - whether large and medium format PYRO provides similar incremental benefits in shooting, developing and printing 35mm? For example, you often see folks using semi-stand developer with PYRO and carrying on... but perhaps they might have had a different, but nevertheless similar pick up in pleasing results using semi-stand or stand with their everyday developer.

Appreciate your patience with these sort of questions / curiosities... as they tend to lodge in da so-called brain and become hard to dislodge.
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Old 04-25-2017   #9
Larry Cloetta
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Am certainly no expert, but have enjoyed using PMK and obtained some very nice results with it in 35mm with FP4, and PMK has become my main reason for even using FP4. Do I think it gives me tonality results-that I like- that I could not get with FP4 and any other developer? Yes. Am I sure about that? Not really.

If you are clumsy and always in a hurry and prone to spilling things, I would not recommend it, because it is toxic. A lot of things are toxic; I spent a fair amount of time working in a chemical laboratory, where this would hardly have made the scary list. Get some chemical impermeable gloves and proceed. You learn to be careful, and it poses no problems either in use or storage. For me.
Perhaps take a concerted look at some of the photos on the flickr Pryo group and compare results with various films and methods and see if anything appeals to you more than what you are doing now.
https://www.flickr.com/groups/pyrodeveloper/

The top contributor to that group is a member here, perhaps he will chip in.
I enjoy using it, for 35 and 120, but it's probably not a one size fits all solution.

You mentioned "re-starting a learning process". That's a good thing, right?
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Old 04-25-2017   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoetuff View Post
Yep, no intention to go into Pyrocat or Pyrogallo for a looooong time - if ever. Do like looking at and admiring the output - all very nice, but surely a lot of these results are due to experience that translates into just plain good shooting and good developing/printing. No magic bullets: Technique where I've got a lot to learn.
Only offering my personal experience here, so worth nothing more than that, but, like any new thing, especially one with the aura of danger, this may seem more intimidating when you haven't tried it than after you have done a bit of research, laid out your solutions, and done it once.
My first roll was lousy, using a film I don't recall offhand, and did not try again; the second roll was lovely, and convinced me it was something worth pursuing. For me.
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Old 04-25-2017   #11
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Larry: Thanks! Re-starts keep you fresh. Then again, I see a lot of folks say, "I tried X and nah..." which often translates into a miss of not really trying.

I've read and re-read John Finch's book which is a bit of an eye opener and admired many of the shots there. Yes, I'm impressed with Pyro, and in his case 510-Pyro that he candidly raves about in there. But some of his D-76 examples (and Chris's, too, btw) are no less impressive. Finch seems to be a fan of 2-bath developers for roll film.
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Old 04-25-2017   #12
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Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I've used PMK for years, and for some films I think that the results I get are beautiful. Different developers do give different tonality, grain, and speed.

Being precise and careful in your working methods does not make me a 'nutter' or a 'rotten photographer who makes lousy prints' and neither does using the zone system.
Dear Chris,

Many of the best prints I've ever seen were developed with pyro.

And no, of course "Being precise and careful in your working methods does not make me a 'nutter' or a 'rotten photographer who makes lousy prints' and neither does using the zone system".

On the other hand, you can hardly deny that there are those who, despite working with the utmost care, still never make good negatives, let alone pictures. Or that there are plenty of them. In other words, precision and care are without doubt necessary, but they can can also tip over into obsession and looking for more precision than exists in the system.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-25-2017   #13
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. . . surely a lot of these results are due to experience that translates into just plain good shooting and good developing/printing. No magic bullets. . .
This is my feeling. But see my note to Chris above.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-25-2017   #14
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Pyro developers can be great pyrocatechol and pyrogallol are very different different stain color, different properties in regards to grain, etc... etc... One thing they have in common they are not for beginners D76, X-Tol and Rodinal are much better choices for that. One huge advantage of pyro both gallol as well as catechol is the hardening effect Efke and other films that are prone to scratches and soft emulsion really profit from using Pyro developers. Regarding toxicity Metol allergy is very common furthermore Hydroquinone and Pyrocatechol are somewhat related and both are carcinogens.

The Coffee Vitamin C based developers seem to be the least toxic developers and are also cheap furthermore they're also staining and tanning developers like pyrogallol and pyrocatechol and can be finicky sometimes.
Highlight control is one of the strong points of staining developers including Caffenol.

I use Jay De Fehr's Hypercat (pyrocatechol based) developer with 35mm film and the results are quiet good and not overly grainy. I also use Rodinal and D76 and definetly do not see pyro developers as magic bullet, they are very useful for alt process negatives though.
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Old 04-25-2017   #15
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Unless you have clients who are being very specific then please yourself. If you like the look you get with your current developer and you are satisfied with your prints, then enjoy your photography.

There are others who like to look around once in awhile and try something new or different. If you feel that way then you might like to give Pyro a try.

As for toxicity, a lot of the chemicals we work with in film developing have some levels of toxicity so care in handling and storing them should already be part of your procedure.

And then, as Roger has observed, some of us are still trying to learn how to make interesting photographs in the first place, so the actual developer we are using is probably secondary.

For my negatives I started with D76 and Rodinal and have now "moved up" to D23 and Beutler. I can't say for sure whether or not it has made my negatives better or worse.

For my prints I am still using Dektol 90% of the time with a bit of Liquidol thrown in once in awhile to help confuse me when the lights are out.

But everybody approaches this hobby from a different perspective. I am not really good at any of this so I am still learning. That is what makes it fun and interesting.
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Old 04-25-2017   #16
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RE: "...carcinogens..."

Speaking of which, I'm using "kitchen gloves". Any reason to beef those up? Hadn't really worried until seeing this as I'm using the liquid rather than dry form and tend to see that the greater risks lie in handling from the dry materials.
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Old 04-25-2017   #17
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Dan:

Love your tag line. Not Bresson's... yours. And as someone said, "Nobody wants to see your photographs...." at least that's true about 99% of the time - unless they're related to you or someone in the photo. So I have to remember that after all, this IS for fun... sometimes OVER serious fun, but fun all the same. And while maybe you claim you're "not really good at any of this...", I'm still working to make my first 10,000 mistakes, and I'll readily settle for moving up from "not really bad" to "not really good".
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Old 04-25-2017   #18
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Quote:
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RE: "...carcinogens..."

Speaking of which, I'm using "kitchen gloves". Any reason to beef those up? Hadn't really worried until seeing this as I'm using the liquid rather than dry form and tend to see that the greater risks lie in handling from the dry materials.
Using kitchen gloves should be enough, also using a mask while handling dry chemicals isn't a bad idea either. Carcinogen is one of these words that catches instant attention but in reality many chemical are classified as carcinogens but are actually pretty harmless unless you ingest large amounts of them for a very very very very long time. Metol and Hydroquinon allergy is most often encountered while use liquid developers it is caused by contact with the skin.
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Old 04-25-2017   #19
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Using kitchen gloves should be enough, also using a mask while handling dry chemicals isn't a bad idea either. Carcinogen is one of these words that catches instant attention but in reality many chemical are classified as carcinogens but are actually pretty harmless unless you ingest large amounts of them for a very very very very long time. Metol and Hydroquinon allergy is most often encountered while use liquid developers it is caused by contact with the skin.
I agree wholeheartedly with DominukDUK. Skin allergies from certain developers are probably the biggest risk for most of us.
Remember. Dilution is the Solution. Most of the chemicals we are dealing with are already pretty diluted so our exposures, though real, are very low.
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Old 04-25-2017   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoetuff View Post
RE: "...carcinogens..."

Speaking of which, I'm using "kitchen gloves". Any reason to beef those up? Hadn't really worried until seeing this as I'm using the liquid rather than dry form and tend to see that the greater risks lie in handling from the dry materials.
Though I might have sounded a little dismissive about hazardous chemicals above, I do use gloves made of Viton layered over butyl, and they go up to my elbows. https://www.grainger.com/content/qt-...oves-guide-191
Maybe it's overkill, but since I haven't seen tests on permeability of items in pyro formulas, maybe it's not. I don't know either way. Use them for everything from acetone, to herbicides, to pesticides, to benzene, to pyro. A pair of good gloves, is one reason I don't worry about Pyro, and since I already have them, it's what I use.
Obviously, others don't and they are still alive, so perhaps it is just as well to make do with gloves designed for Palmolive.
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Old 04-25-2017   #21
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I used PMK for more than 5 years, and as a mountain guide, I've got lot's of photographs with snow & clouds in them. The quality of my printing especially in highlights improved dramatically. For the last 5 years though, I've been using Pyrocat HD in glycol, and have equally good quality negatives & ease of printing in the highlights.....with less concerns of toxicity.
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Old 04-25-2017   #22
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Something about "being stuck with hc-110 and HP5+" kinda gave me a slap , I use those
more than any of the others I've tried ! ( one mans' heaven is another's hell I guess )
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Old 04-25-2017   #23
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Moto: Refs include - "stuck happily" and "meanwhile I'm stickin' to HC-110, HP5+ and 35mm" and these aren't comedowns... 'cept of course how and when I use them. :0
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Old 04-25-2017   #24
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Where are people finding merit in using of this weird developer. And where are people using poison to make photo emulsions. And where are those in gloves and goggles making selenium toning.

I don't think those people are doing it because they likes to walk on the edge of the cliff, but because they liked the view. Particular view.
There are a lot of poison chemical in photography. Just take care in using them and keep them locked up away from children. I've seen people on this forum saying they use food containers to store chemicals. NEVER do this.

I'm one of those folks that make emulsions and use dangerous chemicals. I have a degree in chemistry and microbiology and feel safe in handling them and use great care when doing so. I do collodion photography and use cadmium compounds and potassium cyanide. It has nothing to do with walking on the edge. It's all about the look of the image.

Just exercise care and if you don't know how to handle chemicals either stay away from ten or lear from a competent source ho to do so.
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Old 04-25-2017   #25
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^^ Glad to hear it ! Peter
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Old 04-25-2017   #26
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. . . I've seen people on this forum saying they use food containers to store chemicals. NEVER do this. . . .
Why not? A bottle is a bottle. The important thing is to remove all labels, and add new ones, to avoid any possibility of confusion. Also, avoid bottles that are normally recognized by shape or size, rather than by label.

And yes, I am familiar with dangerous chemicals. I just take bloody good care with them (as I was taught by very good chemistry and biology teachers even in my teens). It's not really all that difficult.

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Old 04-25-2017   #27
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Metol and Hydroquinon allergy is most often encountered while use liquid developers it is caused by contact with the skin.
I use nitrile gloves now when I work with certain chemicals. Over the 60 or so years of processing and printing I've developed a sensitivity to sulfites. I theorize it's due to absorbing sodium sulfite in the skin and has resulted in a sensitivity that causes benign cardiac arrhythmia's. It may or may not be due to absorption but the end result is unpleasant so I use more caution when handling and mixing chemicals with sulfite.

It's interesting to look at other uses of chemicals used in photography. Sodium Thiosulfate was used at one time to treat ringworm and is an antidote for Potassium Cyanide. Hydroquinone is currently used in cosmetic creams to bleach age spots. It can be purchased in cream form over the counter at cosmetic counters. Propylene Glycol is used for wetting agents for film and used to make medical compounds more soluble and used in vitamins. It's also used in human and dog food to make it more moist. Ethylen Glycol is toxic and used in photo flo 600 and stronger concentrations and is the primary ingredient in antifreeze for your car. Sodium sulfite is one of the key ingredients in developers, hypo clearing a gens and other photo compounds. It retards oxidation and is a silver solvent to reduce grain. Sodium sulfite is most often used as a food additive to reduce oxidation wine.
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