View Full Version : Pyro Processing Errors

4-May-2017, 07:59
Hey guys, I'm having an issue with my negatives and I was hoping somebody here could help shed a little light on what might be going wrong. Check this out:


The first image is straight out of the scanner and you can just make out the foamy markings along the top edge, the second is with contrast boosted to make it more visible. This is one test shot from a group of four and they all showed variations of the same error, this being the worst offender.

This is Ilford FP4+ developed with Pyrocat-HD in a Jobo 3010 Expert Tank on a Beseler Motor Base. My process was as follows:

5 minute presoak
8 minutes in the Pyrocat-HD (1:1:100, 500ml)
1 minute rinse
5 minute fix in TF-4 Rapid Fixer
10 minute wash

I first thought I may have let the negatives sit too long after pouring out the developer and before rinsing, since I've seen my pyro developers generate bubbles in the past. I tried a new batch moving from the developer to rinsing immediately but the markings were still there (albeit too a much lesser degree). I went back and checked some older negatives as well, and the ones I had developed in PMK Pyro also had the markings, but some I had done in Rodinal did not. Has anybody ever seen anything like this? It's driving me crazy.

peter schrager
4-May-2017, 08:15
use trays..never have these problems again
I would gladly answer your questions but I don't use drums

4-May-2017, 08:37
use trays..never have these problems again
I would gladly answer your questions but I don't use drums

Well my darkroom is currently my bathroom, and sealing it up whenever I want to develop film kind of blows. From my understanding, Pyrocat-HD was created specifically to work better in drums/tanks than other staining developers, so it must be possible to get this to work. I appreciate the suggestion though.

peter schrager
4-May-2017, 09:04
it should work well in the drums...must be something to do with the drum itself..pyrocat is a pretty flawless developer

4-May-2017, 09:22
Usually, this kind of problem has to do with either incorrect mounting of the negative in the drum (emulsion facing out instead of in), contamination of the drum with a surfactant (eg. Photoflo), or insufficient developer volume/non-level placement of the drum. Furthermore, presoaking sometimes seems to create more problems than it solves (although some people experience the opposite) and speed of agitation influences development evenness, with particularly higher speeds (>40rpm) causing problems. I would hesitate to connect the latter two potential causes to the bubble pattern however and look in the direction of the other issues first.

bob carnie
4-May-2017, 09:45
I see this as insufficient developer and its foaming and adhering..

John Layton
4-May-2017, 09:55
Looks like photo-flo residue to me...likely acquired by using too much concentrate in the final rinse. Does not look possible as pre-soak residue, as you seem have decent density otherwise.

I process my FP4's in trays - with the first step being a three minute presoak with just a few drops of photo-flo added before going into Pyrocat HD (in glycol).

My experience with Photo-flo is that its generally better to use less than more, to help mitigate residue problems. This goes for both pre-soak and final rinse procedures.

Not sure if switching to Pyrocat MC would make a difference here.

I'd also pay attention to Korak's suggestion about correct drum placement.

OR...perhaps you have foaming issues with your TF-4? Hmmm...

Richard Wasserman
4-May-2017, 10:06
I've processed 1,000s of sheets of 4x5 (not 8x10 as you are doing) FP-4 in a JOBO and have never seen anything like this. I'm thinking that it is either insufficient developer, or a Photoflo problem as Bob and John have suggested. I found that the best way to use Photoflo is to use Edwal LFN instead. I always use it in its own separate tray so as not to have residue where you don't want it.

4-May-2017, 10:31
Thanks for all of the replies guys! I've never had photoflo in this tank, always in a separate tray, so that shouldn't be the cause. I thought 500ml would be plenty of developer, but I can try with more. Maybe I'll try without a presoak as well, and see if I can reduce the RPMs on the motor base. And maybe I'll try refixing some of these negatives in a tray... if the markings are caused by the fix, a refix should correct it, right?

4-May-2017, 10:36
Yes, if it's insufficient fixing, you could just fix them again. Fixer does have the tendency to flow a little less evenly in my experience, but on the other hand, the bubble pattern that you show here I've never seen linked to fixing but always to development.

bob carnie
4-May-2017, 10:37
FYI I always use 1000ml with the Expert tanks, I really think this will help...Also just after I pour in the developer I take the tank off the machine and manually invert the tank a few times to get the chemicals on the film asap then put back on the machine to finish.. I also split my developer into two sessions 1000 ml for 1/2 the time and another 1000ml for the last half.

4-May-2017, 10:59
Like Richard, I have processed many, many sheets of FP4+ in a 3006 drum on my CPP-2 without issue. The mottling issue to me suggests to fast rotation of the drum causing either foaming and/or increased aerial oxidation of the developer. Lots of good suggestions here. These types of problems can be somewhat of a pain to resolve...good luck!

brad martin
4-May-2017, 17:02
BTZS Tubes for Pyrocat.

Doremus Scudder
5-May-2017, 00:36
I don't use drums, so I'm just conjecturing here.

However, in order to get a pattern of foam/bubbles on the neg like you show, the negative has to sit still a while with the bubbles sticking to it. That would point to both foaming developer and a substantial amount of time where the tank/tube is not being agitated. The fact that you mention that letting the film sit less time before "rinsing" reduced the problem supports this.

If the tank is partially filled with developer, i.e., if the negatives are not completely submerged all the time, and you let the film sit for a while, even a very short time, you are likely to get artifacts. If you drain the tank and some foam remains, and you let that sit a while, you are likely to get artifacts. You really need to make sure you are a) keeping the film submerged or moving during processing and b) not letting the tank sit after draining, especially after development. That means pouring out developer and pouring in whatever else comes next without a rest period at all.

I would recommend that you use a weak stop bath as well. If you're worried about affecting the fixer, don't, TF-4 does just fine with a stop. If you're still worried, rinse with water after the stop.

The fact that your developer appears to be foaming indicates that the agitation is too vigorous. Slow down your motor if you can.

A side note: one of the advantages of using pyro developers is the edge effects that they can produce, which increase apparent sharpness in the final print. Continuous agitation nullifies this. You could hand agitate your tank at intervals and promote the formation of edge effects. That would require that the negatives are completely submerged during the rest periods though, which may be impractical or uneconomical.

If Bob Carnie uses the Expert tanks, then maybe he can give some insight into a proper and successful work flow.



bob carnie
5-May-2017, 06:51
One of the issues with PMK - (I have only used this type of Pyro since the days Gordon Hutchings introduced his great book) and I pretty much follow his methods to a tee). Is foaming issues and road ruts.

some of the following are deviations.

One thing that I immediately grasped about Mr Hutching's writings which I believe to be true and in my small world the most important detail about PMK is the tannin effect, and I have seen
how as the development progresses , highlights harden , midtones come up and finally shadows reveal themselves. Most PMK combinations I use are 14 min normal and I think this developer
oxidizes or wears out very fast. This is significant as I have learned the hard way that unless I took some action the film was less than optimal for my printing needs.
I think this phenomena is actually the most important benifit of this process and as well the achilles heel.

If you do not cover the film quickly and completely to allow the developer to reach all areas of your film run you can indeed get artifacts- therefore I use full tank, as well hand agitate for the first 15 seconds of development off the machine.
I also am aware that the drums must be completely level front to back or you will get shorted somewhere. This is very important factor with all film
I also have reduced rotation as some have suggested.
I use distilled water presoak, and distilled water to make the developers- the rest is tap water
I split the development in two to compensate for exhaustion of developer over a long development time - my normal is 14 min - push is 18 min - drop 10-12 min. ( 7min 1000ml dump- 7min 1000ml dump)
I use the first developer as final stain as per GH recommendations , many workers here do not recommend the stain step , but I have always done this and have seen wonderful prints hanging .

When using any 120 film I never and I mean never double roll film as per Jobos recommendations as I have only seen problems with this .. the internal roll is too close to the center of the tank and
I have seen foaming marks like what the OP shows in his initial post . I will never do this again, the last time I did this I got foaming issues and that was that.
Also with 120 film I have seen what I Call Road Ruts going in the direction of the agitation... It took four months to figure out initial hand agitation and distilled water for all developers, this caused me much

I hope this helps


5-May-2017, 07:17
Thanks again for all the help everyone, I really appreciate it! I'm going to try another test run tonight with a distilled water presoak (as Bob suggested, I had been using tap water), and probably double the amount of developer to a full liter (as others suggested). I've got a speed controller ordered so I can reduce the rpm of my motor base. I had the same initial thought as Doremus, that I had let the negatives sit too long after draining the developer before moving on to the next step, so for my second test I made sure to refill the tank after draining immediately. That didn't fix the issue, so I'm hoping it's just a case of not using enough developer or too vigorous agitation.