View Full Version : WD2D+ developer

Dennis Smith
31-Mar-2010, 12:25
I am thinking of trying the WD2D+ pyro developer. I am currently using the PMK pyro formula with varying degrees of success. I am shooting Tri-X and rate it anywhere from ISO 50 to ISO 800.

I am looking for folks who have had experience with this developer/film combination, particularly in regards to development times.

Any help that can be offered will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Dennis Smith

31-Mar-2010, 13:52
What problems are you having with pmk that is making you want to change?
I started with wd2d+ and didn't like it because the negs were so thin so I switched to pmk and haven't looked back.

1-Apr-2010, 08:41
Dennis: with WD2D+, slow speed films require 8 minutes, medium speed films 9, and high speed films 11 minutes. If your first negatives are too thin, increase the time, if too dense, decrease. Properly developed negatives processed in any pyrogallol developer will appear thin to the eye, but will print as if they had more silver density due to the contribution of the dye mask (formerly called "stain"). Thus it's important to not evaluate them by eye until you have enough experience.

PMK and WD2D+ are very similar. They are both based on the 10:1 pyrogallol/metol ratio that I discovered in the early 1970's, along with the elimination of the sodium sulfite "B" solution of earlier pyrogallol developers. The only differences between PMK and WD2D+ are in the amount of dilution and the alkali. WD2D+ uses sodium carbonate and PMK contains sodium metaborate, which has barely enough alkalinity to activate the pyrogallol. That's why there's so much of it in PMK. Sodium Carbonate produces a much more "actinic" (by that I mean useful) dye mask than sodium metaborate, because it is yellowish in color. Yellow attenuates blue enlarging light much more effectively than the green PMK dye mask produced by sodium metaborate. That's why I didn't use it in my formulas.

Good luck with WD2D+! If you want to see some pictures that were processed in it, visit my website www.johnwimberleyphotography.com.

Jay DeFehr
1-Apr-2010, 15:08
When I was formulating 510-Pyro, I tested all the published, modern staining developers , and I found Wimberley's to be the best of them. As Mr. Wimberley notes above, the differences between his formula and PMK are almost inconsequential, and I agree completely with his explanation of the differences in the respective alkalis. My opinion based on extensive comparison testing, is that PMK offers no improvement in any measurable characteristic over Wimberley's formula. To the contrary, I found Wimberley's formula to be superior, despite the obvious similarities, which I also attribute to Wimberley's more appropriate choice of alkali. PMK is, to my mind, just a degraded imitation of WD2D. If I wasn't using 510-Pyro, I'd use WD2D.

Andre Noble
1-Apr-2010, 19:28
Dennis/Vinny, I have used Wimberly WD2D+ developer with Tri-X (400TX), rating the Tri-X at ASA 160 and 200 successfully. I used the recommended development time of 10 minutes at 68F. I "think" film in this developer benefits from more, rather than less, agitation.

I feel WD2D+ is a really well-researched developer.

I shoot in the harsh Southern California Sun. I don't think you will find a more capable developer for photographs of outdoors, sunlight scenes. I also think it is a good developer for subjects shot under studio strobe lighting.

It's strength lies in exquisite highlight control. If you have ever struggled trying to "burn in" blocked up details in highlights from traditional developers, such as D-76, once you get this developer working, you are in for a treat.

Doremus Scudder
2-Apr-2010, 01:47
This is a question for John Wimberly. (Hopefully an addition to the thread, not a hijack...) Maybe others would like to chime in here as well?

My question concerns the more "actinic" stain the WD2D+ produces. By this, I understand that the WD2D+ stain is yellower, thus blocking more of the blue (and green?) light that the photo paper is sensitive to, thus effectively creating more density. This would seem to indicate that it would also work more effectively as a contrast mask for VC papers. Logic suggests that a negative developed for printing on grade 2 graded paper would have to be developed to a lower overall contrast than a similarly exposed negative developed for printing on VC paper.

The question I have is: How much difference will the yellow stain make in attempting to print a WD2D+ negative optimized for graded paper on VC paper? Will I even be able to get the same results by adjusting contrast filtration, or will such a negative simply not yield the same print on VC as on graded paper?

And, while I'm at it... How different then is PMK in this regard?

The reason I am asking is that I have been using staining developers, primarily PMK, together with graded paper for quite a while now. Since graded papers are becoming ever more scarce, I am worried that I will be forced to turn to VC and then not be able to make the prints I once did on graded paper.

Thanks in advance for any and all answers.

Doremus Scudder

Gary L. Quay
2-Apr-2010, 01:53
I tried W2D2+ from Photographers' Formulary, and found the negatives to be thin as well. Rather than increasing development, I decreased film speed. That seemed to work just fine. As for PMK, I've used it off and on for a few years, and had mixed results. Maybe it's something in the water, but I've always gotten yellow stain from it, never green. I'm thinking about trying W2D2+ again or the 510-pyro, because I need to find a pyro developer that's a little more active in shadow areas.

I haven't tried W2D2+ with Tri-X yet.


2-Apr-2010, 09:31
Doremus, I'll try to answer your interesting questions. First, it's difficult to make an absolute comparison between the results with graded and VC papers, because their characteristic curves have different shapes. For example, most VC papers have less gradation in the toe (the highlights) than graded papers, and more gradation in the rest of the scale. So it's like comparing apples and oranges. But in practice, negatives developed for graded paper will print just as well on VC paper. The only exception is that with non-WD2D+ negatives, you may notice a decrease in tonal separation in the highlights. But you will be able to adjust filtration to get results that are close. I think you'll like VC papers. They allow fine adjustment of contrast that is challenging with graded papers, and you can print different areas of the image with differing contrasts.
I consider a yellow dye mask more effective than green because it is the complimentary color of blue, thus blocking it. And blue is the color to which the high-contrast emulsion of VC papers (and the emulsion of graded papers) is sensitive. This allows WD2D or WD2D+ negatives to have lower silver density resulting in finer grain and greater acutance than is possible with green dye masks, plus increases the desired effects of pyrogallol: edge effects, superb highlight gradation, etc. Most of my negatives were developed for graded papers, but now I find that I can make far superior prints on VC paper.
You may be interested to know that this summer I'm going to teach a "PyroTechnics" workshop at The Photographers' Formulary near Missoula, Montana, from July 11-16, 2010. For more information go to http://www.photoformulary.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=3&tabid=10 and click on "July".
Thank you for your questions and good luck!

Jay DeFehr
4-Apr-2010, 03:39

I've done a lot of testing regarding stain (or, dye mask, as you prefer) color and its effect on VC papers, and I caution you not to make assumptions based on perceptions of theory. There has been a lot of unsupported claims made for the differences in the colors of stains produced by catechol and pyrogallol based developers, and their effect on printing with various papers of differing sensitivities. These supposed differences are surprisingly difficult to test for.

Two things are certain: a stained negative will never print the same way on graded and VC paper, and a stained negative will always print with a split-grade effect on VC paper, with or without filtration. Shadow/low value areas will always print at an effectively higher contrast grade than the high values will, because stain is proportional to silver density.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Wimberley's suggestion that a yellow stain is more useful than a green one for printing on VC papers. Yellow = minus Blue= printing density in a simple subtractive system, as in printing on graded paper with a white exposing light, but things are not so simple when printing a stained negative on VC paper. VC papers are indeed sensitive to blue and green, and so the filters used to manipulate contrast in a subtractive system are Magenta (minus green) and Yellow (minus blue), but for printing stained negatives, only magenta matters. When the exposing light is balanced to white above the stained negative, the light falling on the easel is increasingly green from the shadow values to the highlights, meaning the effective contrast of the VC paper varies continuously, and increases with silver density. To increase the contrast, magenta filtration is added. The green stain filters the magenta because green = minus magenta in subtractive terms. Where X units of magenta meets X units of green, the result is neutral white, producing the equivalent of a grade 2 graded paper at that particular point; I call this the neutral point, and it can be placed anywhere on the density scale of the negative by the addition of an equal quantity of magenta filtration. Densities above the neutral point remain green, and produce a lower contrast on the VC paper, while densities below the neutral point become increasingly magenta (minus green= blue), and produce a higher contrast.

So, while a yellow stain might be ideal for printing with graded papers, a green stain is ideal for printing on VC papers, provided one desires a split grade effect. If you don't want a split grade effect, don't use a staining developer for printing on VC papers.

Drew Wiley
4-Apr-2010, 13:24
Matching a negative to an "ideal" paper can be rather subjective. But if I can be allowed a generality, I have taken a number of pyro negs which did well on old
silver-rich graded papers, and have now reprinted them on premium VC papers with
even superior results. The scale and silver content of the paper seems to be a factor
just as in graded papers. There are indeed subtleties among the various pyro choices, and I've used a number of them, plus invented a couple tweaks of my own,
but have virtually always obtained better highlight control and easier printabilty than
non-pyro negs. I can't specifically address the WD2D+ issue, but am eager to test it fairly soon with TM400 8X10's. With this particular film, I'm more concerned about
perceived graininess vs edge-effect acutance. Not expecting any trouble with 8x10
per se, but once you step down to 4x5 it starts beginning to kick in, at least with PMK and 16X20 or larger prints.

Doremus Scudder
5-Apr-2010, 02:41
John, and you too Jay and Drew,

Thanks for the informative replies. I'm sure there are lots of nuances to this topic, but it would seem that, with a modicum of printing skill, one could still get excellent prints from a PMK or other pyro neg on VC paper, even though the negative was originally intended to be printed on graded paper and even though the prints obtained will not be identical in the tonalities throughout the density range to the one on graded paper. This seems like it could be a topic for a thread of its own.

I've been putting off working with VC paper, since I've been so happy with the results I've got from the graded papers I've had to work with. There are still a lot of good graded papers available, but the number is decreasing rapidly. Plus, the reformulation of one of my favorites, Seagull G, makes it split-tone in a rather unsightly way in selenium.... I have some VC and will be doing some work with it this summer.

By the way John, I have no trouble getting intermediate grades from graded paper. It's just a matter of split developing in soft and hard developers. Split-contrast printing is another matter.

Thanks again,

Doremus Scudder

5-Apr-2010, 04:54
This is a very informative thread. Would anyone care to comment on how Pyrocat HD compares with WD2D+ and PMK?

Robert Brummitt
5-Apr-2010, 10:26
I use all three for different films and/or results.
I do use WD2D+ more then the others. I prefer its lighter masking effect.
When I run out of WD2D+. I want to try the newer version for my films and compare the results.

Hugo Zhang
5-Apr-2010, 11:16

I currently use WD2D and I tried it as a two bath developer for 15 sheets of film and found the negatives too thin. Maybe I go the developing time wrong. Any suggestions or developing time for two bath developing?


Robert Brummitt
7-Apr-2010, 16:46
I think John is up in the foothills of Bishop, Calif. Give him some time to respond. Otherwise, take his workshop in Colorado.
He's also planning a Oregon coastal workshop in August.
And another one called John's top Ten secrets.