Pyro: PMK, ABC or What?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by lew, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. lew

    lew Guest

    In another thread, Rich says that he has standardized on the Formulary's ABC
    pyro developer. I've just started using PMK myself so I wonder what the
    preferences for pyro developers of other list members are and why.

    lew, Aug 5, 2005
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  2. I use PMK regularly, more than any other developer. I made up a batch of Parts
    A and B some years ago. I refrigerated Part A and it has proved very stable
    over time. Part B I have did not refrigerate and have occasionally replaced it
    as it crusts up around the mouth of the bottle. But that is the cheaper end of
    the formula. Indeed, the whole thing costs only a few cents per usage.

    I have used PMK with traditional films and with t-grain films and like the
    results in both cases. I use an all alkaline process, i.e., no stop bath (a
    water rinse instead) and an alkaline, ammonium thiosulfate based fixer. This
    holds the stain well.

    The only drawback is the long development time when used with t-grain films.
    But if you run it at 75 degrees instead of 70 degrees, you can reduce the time
    considerably. See the chart in Anchell and Troop, The Film Developing Cookbook.

    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Aug 5, 2005
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  3. I just processed some T-Max at 1600 using the Formulary's pyro chemistry.
    It was about 20 minutes at 70 degrees, but boy the results were just
    amazing. Nothing like anything I'd experienced using D-76 for push
    processing. Just beautiful.

    David D. Berkowitz
    David D. Berkowitz, Aug 5, 2005
  4. lew

    lew Guest

    What was the name of the formula and what impressed you most about the
    lew, Aug 5, 2005
  5. I never particularly liked ABC as it has a tendency to irregularly
    stain negatives, its an older formula. Pyro developers Btw
    are some of the oldest in photography.

    PMK as it is incarnated now is a result of the study and formulations
    of Gordon Hutchings. The ABC is three parts and the PMK is a two part
    developer. I use PMK as a primary developer for LF negatives , but I
    like to do two additions to the standard PMK formula.

    A) I'll add Amidol to the mix prior to use. (just a small pinch)

    B) I Mix the formula as Rollo which incorporates Ascorbic acid.

    Both of these variations seem to be about the best & most stable
    formulations for T Grain film use. I also mix the part A and then
    divide the Parts A& B and mix half at a time. The second half is
    mixed half way through the total development time, I then empty the
    spent portion of PMK and replace it with the fresh mixed second half.
    Gregory Blank, Aug 5, 2005
  6. lew

    John Guest

    One thing I have always though odd is that there are numerous two-part
    formulas that virtually mirror Hutchings work but they never seem to be
    John, Aug 5, 2005
  7. lew

    dan.c.quinn Guest

    What about WD2D and the Plus version? The first
    is public domain the second a P. Formulary
    exclusive. Dan
    dan.c.quinn, Aug 5, 2005

  8. I used Gordon Hutchings two-part PMK formulation. The T-Max 400 was pushed
    to 1600, shot at night, with 2-5 sec. exposures and having done lots of
    similar work developed with D-76 I expected the commensurate amount of
    grain. I didn't get it. The PMK formulation seemed to hide the grain
    giving the negative the appearance of one processed at a much slower speed.

    David D. Berkowitz, Aug 5, 2005
  9. Even in Stephen's books?
    Gregory Blank, Aug 5, 2005
  10. lew

    Ken Smith Guest

    I tried most of the pyro formulas for two years. Wimbley. Pyrocat,
    ABC, and
    PMK. I convinced myself that I was getting superior tonality, but
    after dull whites in snow scenes, and flashed looking dull whites in
    other scenes, I decided that this was not doing what I wanted, which
    "atmosphere" and a vibrant long tonal range. Extending development
    for more
    contrast negated any advantage. Richard K had said once that he felt
    people were just developing more awareness and control of their
    by engaing in this more tedious process. I disagreed and began the
    common to most users of the magical pyro. I now withdraw any such
    claim, and
    use Rodinal 1:100, or D-76 1:2 with my FP-4. And no UC, Acutol 1:15
    did not
    leave the Rodinal in the dust by a longshot. Rodinal does all I ever
    for any contrast range, and the grain is negated by the dilution. I
    Pyro, despite the VC paper effect, belongs with the films of yore. If
    is more to it than I was capable of finding in a thousand negatives,
    I'd like
    to know what that might be.
    Ken Smith, Aug 5, 2005
  11. lew

    rsheparduhoh Guest

    The PMK formulation seemed to hide the grain giving the negative the

    That's supposed to be one of the advantages of pyro: the stain fills in the
    spaces between the grains. It may also be that you've seen the increased
    acutance of using pyro.

    rsheparduhoh, Aug 6, 2005
  12. lew

    rsheparddoh Guest

    I never particularly liked ABC as it has a tendency to irregularly stain

    Folks have dropped the '+' from my original post. I use the ABC+ Pyro --
    Rollo Pyro -- with the ascorbic acid.

    While I have short experience with which to make comparisons (coming back
    to photography after 30+ years), I do prefer pyro developed negs.

    rsheparddoh, Aug 6, 2005
  13. lew

    pgg Guest

    OT: Anybody know of a FAQ or something that explains what "Pyro" is and
    why I would want to use it?
    pgg, Aug 6, 2005
  14. lew

    rshepard99 Guest

    Have you tried to search using google?

    Your local library may have -- or can get via inter-library loan -- a copy
    of Anchell and Troop's "The Film Development Cookbook." That has a great
    explanation. Also, Gordon Hutching's "The Book of Pyro" has extensive

    rshepard99, Aug 6, 2005
  15. Ken I suspect that whatever I say or anyone else you have your own take
    on the results. A lot depends on how one handles the processed images
    where snow is concerned, snow it the most difficult of subjects and yes
    more contrast is better a lot if the time. You obviously know that
    adding VC filtration does improve the image when adding contrast, since
    PMK and Pyro developers tend to subdue highlight values maybe
    all snow images where direct sun, is not included should be avoided in
    using PMK. After all you don't want to take a three stop range and turn
    it into two.
    Gregory Blank, Aug 7, 2005
  16. lew

    John Guest


    I've always been under the impression that this is only with VC
    papers. With graded papers the yellow staining acts like extra density
    and since it's proportional to the amount of silver in the image, the
    highlight contrasts are actually enhanced. Probably even moreso with a
    John, Aug 7, 2005
  17. I only use VC paper. I see them (highlights) as separated with low
    contrast snow pictures like on overcast days PMK probably is not going
    to separate the highlights enough, I'ved used it for low contrast snow
    several times and always find the results somewhat flat. Even with more
    exposure. What's more snow is always a problem to print; regardless of
    film developer chosen,.. when I say problem I mean it takes more prints
    for me to make a perfect one ideal to my mind of what I want to see.
    Gregory Blank, Aug 7, 2005

  18. Pyro is shorthand for Pyrogallic Acid, a developer with staining properties.
    The stain is yellow-green and varies proportionally to the density of the
    developed silver. When printed on variable contrast paper, this variable stain
    density creates a variable yellow filter in the negative and helps reduce
    contrast on the variable contrast paper.

    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Aug 8, 2005
  19. lew

    Ken Smith Guest

    I've made some wonderful pictures with pyro, but I'm quite sure now I
    could have had the same results with other developers. Long tonal range
    had been my quest for years. Thats what I like in my landscapes.
    Unfortunately I stuck with the HC-110 Tri-X combo for years because of
    who was using it. I was doing high dilutions and short times, but still
    not getting the look I wanted, regardless of the many beautiful papers
    tried. When I finally tried pyro I thought I was in heaven. But then
    heaven started looking a little grey. I figured all I really have here
    is a slightly flashed highlight. Now the Rodinal 1:100 does the same
    compression with a crisper looking image. I shot many scenes, snow and
    others and put them through six developers to compare. Acutol was a tad
    grey also, N-2.The Rodinal and D-76 1:2 maintained the greatest shadow
    and the most detail in highlights, while still showing nice contrast.
    My experience only, but I'll have to agree with Richard K on the issue,
    Ken Smith, Aug 8, 2005
  20. Hi Ken,

    With PMK you can have it both ways. If you use graded paper, then the
    dynamic range compression disappears and you get the long tonal range.

    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Aug 8, 2005
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