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Thread: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

  1. #1

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    High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    This was a subject with deep shadows on III and highlights on X. Scan of Agfapan APX100 processed as follows:

    D-23 1:1 - APX 100 ASA 50 - 1 min prewash 30 sec agitation, 5 sec agitation every 30 sec thereafter. 7 1/2 min total time @68F

    Pyrocat-HD: APX 100 ASA 100 - 1.5:1:150 - 3 min prewash, 2 min vigorous agitation, 15sec agitation @12, 21 min - 30 min total time

    These are scans of the negatives and are not perfectly matched but they show that both easily held the entire dynamic range nicely, Albeit the D-23 loses a stop of film speed.


    Click image for larger version. 

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    What is interesting to me about this is that neither of the negatives in question required going down the expose-contracted development rabbit hole.

    D-23 naturally compensates the highlights, and EMA - an expanded development method - protects both the mid-tone local contrast and reigns in the highlights.

    I did a similar comparison with negatives done in divided Pyrocat-HD and Semistand Pyrocat-HD - with similar good results, at least from an initial scan of the negatives. (Nothing really counts for me until I silver print for final judgment.)

    David Kachel has made the point in public and also in a private email to me that Zone system got contraction all wrong. If you do it the Ansel Adams way, you get muddy mid-tone local contrast. I think he is entirely right in this matter. Beyond the basics of composition and good focus, I have a basic model I want designed into all my negatives:

    Proper shadow exposure
    Preservation or expansion of local contrast in the dominant part of the image
    Protecting the highlights from blocking

    Having now explored (Semi)stand, EMA, divided development, and a compensating developer, I am entirely confident that it is possible to manage the last two of these very directly. One need only note which technique you are planning to develop with because it does affect film speed.

    So, all I now worry about is the first - making sure I give the shadows sufficient exposure. This is the #1 sin I see committed with many negatives (my own included). I no longer care if the highlights fall on X or even above - these techniques solve that problem. Instead, I make sure my shadows are properly and fully placed and exposed.

    As a general matter, if the dominant local contrast is OK in the scene, there is no reason to use low agitation techniques (unless getting full film speed is important for some reason). In the scenario where there is a high SBR and good local contrast, a compensating developer like D-23 1:1 or divided Pyrocat-HD is all you need. Low agitation is primarily indicated if you: A) Want to crank up local contrast and/or B) Want to exploit the adjacency effects these techniques produce.

    It's also worth noting that these techniques will not solve the problem that a negative holds far more range of light than any paper could possibly reproduce. What these techniques do provide, though, is more choices during the printing session about which range of light you want to reproduce in which sections of the print.


    Anyway, that's my story for the moment and I'd love to hear the experiences of others ...
    Last edited by tundra; 8-Mar-2021 at 11:09.
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  2. #2
    Steve Sherman's Avatar
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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Quote Originally Posted by tundra View Post
    This was a subject with deep shadows on III and highlights on X. Scan of Agfapan APX100 processed as follows:

    D-23 1:1 - APX 100 ASA 50 - 1 min prewash 30 sec agitation, 5 sec agitation every 30 sec thereafter. 7 1/2 min total time @68F

    Pyrocat-HD: APX 100 ASA 100 - 1.5:1:150 - 3 min prewash, 2 min vigorous agitation, 15sec agitation @12, 21 min - 30 min total time

    These are scans of the negatives and are not perfectly matched but they show that both easily held the entire dynamic range nicely, Albeit the D-23 loses a stop of film speed.


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Woodpile-D-023.jpg 
Views:	98 
Size:	85.5 KB 
ID:	213581Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Woodpile-EMA.jpg 
Views:	96 
Size:	84.5 KB 
ID:	213582


    What is interesting to me about this is that neither of the negatives in question required going down the expose-contracted development rabbit hole.

    D-23 naturally compensates the highlights, and EMA - an expanded development method - protects both the mid-tone local contrast and reigns in the highlights.

    I did a similar comparison with negatives done in divided Pyrocat-HD and Semistand Pyrocat-HD - with similar good results, at least from an initial scan of the negatives. (Nothing really counts for me until I silver print for final judgment.)

    David Kachel has made the point in public and also in a private email to me that Zone system got contraction all wrong. If you do it the Ansel Adams way, you get muddy mid-tone local contrast. I think he is entirely right in this matter. Beyond the basics of composition and good focus, I have a basic model I want designed into all my negatives:

    Proper shadow exposure
    Preservation or expansion of local contrast in the dominant part of the image
    Protecting the highlights from blocking

    Having now explored (Semi)stand, EMA, divided development, and a compensating developer, I am entirely confident that it is possible to manage the last two of these very directly. One need only note which technique you are planning to develop with because it does affect film speed.

    So, all I now worry about is the first - making sure I give the shadows sufficient exposure. This is the #1 sin I see committed with many negatives (my own included). I no longer care if the highlights fall on X or even above - these techniques solve that problem. Instead, I make sure my shadows are properly and fully placed and exposed.

    As a general matter, if the dominant local contrast is OK in the scene, there is no reason to use low agitation techniques (unless getting full film speed is important for some reason). In the scenario where there is a high SBR and good local contrast, a compensating developer like D-23 1:1 or divided Pyrocat-HD is all you need. Low agitation is primarily indicated if you: A) Want to crank up local contrast and/or B) Want to exploit the adjacency effects these techniques produce.

    It's also worth noting that these techniques will not solve the problem that a negative holds far more range of light than any paper could possibly reproduce. What these techniques do provide, though, is more choices during the printing session about which range of light you want to reproduce in which sections of the print.


    Anyway, that's my story for the moment and I'd love to hear the experiences of others ...
    It's nice to see others pursuing a Minimal Agitation form of film processing. Since 2003 this type of film processing is the only manner in which I have processed my sheet film. So, I believe I can speak with some experience on the topic. Many of your findings are on point. There are, however, several items I don't completely find to be true in my experience.

    #1, almost never is local contrast adequate in a Normal contrast scene, therefore, the Minimal Agitation technique can alter and enhance those relationships without compromising the high values that are associated with Plus development. If by chance the final rendering of mid-tone contrast needs to be reduced, a simple addition of Green-light in the printing process with modern Multi-Contrast papers accomplishes that.

    #2, I have had conversations with Mr. Kachel regarding his philosophy, while in theory, his approach is valid, it does not take into account the difference between a film's characteristic curve compared to that of Multi-Contrast paper's potential curve. In other words and in my theory, I forsake compressing tonalities by way of development contraction so those same mid-tones can be exaggerated in a much more aggressive manner by way of MC papers. Adjacency Effects is the exact reason mid-tones can "survive" that much compression. So, while, it seems backward or unnecessary to "compress" negative tonalities only to turn around and "expand" those same tonalities in the final printing process. The steeper curve of MC papers brings those mid-tones to greater vibrancy, unlike that of simple higher negative densities. Similar to the end justifies the means." As the author states, nothing really counts until the final silver print is in hand, and that is the exact place that I speak from.

    #3, Just how much tonality a negative can "hold/record" is mostly associated with Adams's Zone System suggesting around 10 zones, that's more a product of Silver papers of the times and how much contraction the film can endure. Films have been tested to record 14-15 zones of contrast before their limits are realized. So, compressing that much contrast produces an extremely flat negative, yet, with Minimal Agitation and the exaggeration of tones by way of MC papers the limits are pushed to areas many film photographers are simply not aware exist.


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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Great observations Steve. I am well aware that film can hold 14-ish stops of light - I've done it myself. It is my philosophy to try and get as much onto the negative as I can and only later - in the printing phase - select the tonalities I want via split VC printing. You cannot print what isn't there.

    What I have come to realize is that even that is a bit limiting. THE central issue is local contrast. Once you master composition, focus, and shadow exposure, the problem to be solved in every negative is preservation of local contrast while managing highlights from getting blocked.

    In my direct observation and testing, EMA is one of the techniques that does this well. So does Semistand. Stand does not work at all with any consistency with modern films. But I think compensating development like D-23 and divided Pyrocat-HD also can be powerful tools in their own right.
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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    A good comparison, but since Agfapan is no longer available, I would like to see similar info regarding more commonly used films such as FP4+, HP5+, Plus X and Tri-X.

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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Well, Plus-X isn't available in 4x5 anyway, anymore ... except for the 100 sheets I have frozen.

    I think these other films would show similar results. I've done a fair bit of low agitation testing with FP4+ and the results are quite good.

    Tri-X is a bit more problematic. First of all, there is no single Tri-X formulation. Sheet film Tri-X is a very different beast than 35mm Tri-X. The former is a long toe film that was originally more oriented for pro studio shooters. The latter is a shorter toe, general purpose film. I have done limited low agitation development with both. The 35mm responded beautifully. The 4x5 TXT worked well too, but it absorbed a LOT of Pyrocat-HD stain. However, these were not carefully controlled tests, so I'd have to do more with TXT to really draw a meaningful conclusion.
    Last edited by tundra; 9-Mar-2021 at 11:08.
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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Quote Originally Posted by tundra View Post
    (unless getting full film speed is important for some reason).
    If the situation calls for a 400 speed film, why would I want to shoot it at EI 150-200 and not have those extra two stops over my normal 100 speed film? HP5+ @400 with Pyrocat-M is about the best I have found to avoid mud in the middle, but have to careful with shadow detail or I just end up burning it in during printing. Bergger 400 I have not found the best time yet, but I haven't really tested it fully either, it just may not work well with staining developers. Delta 400 in 135 is always beautiful but I rarely shoot 135 anymore.
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  7. #7
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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Serious photography is many things to many photographers, therefore much of what happens on these forums is of little consequence.

    For me, in spite of the EMA method of film processing being an extremely delicate set of relationships, I don't consider myself to be a technical person. I learned what was necessary to carry out what is most important to me. I'm a visual person who greatly enjoys the large film processes and the challenges it presents. That doesn't change the fact that many times I form an image in my mind easily accomplished with a cell phone but a hopeless exercise in futility with a view camera. The film and darkroom photographer always seems to win that battle!

    Back around '97 I switched from HC 110 to PMK and saw an immediate improvement in my negatives. What I detested at the time was a new learning curve over what I had accomplished with HC 110 and Tri-X. I want to make photographs, not test the process of making photographs. All that matters to me is to make the best-looking silver image that I possibly can. Within reason, $$ is not at the top of my priorities.

    Ten or so years later the film and silver printing techniques were second nature to me, little mystery was left in what I could accomplish in the darkroom. I believe by creating SOPs, standard operating procedures, or Priorities got me to where I wanted to go as quickly as possible. Those priorities are Tonality, Mid-tone separation, and managing the Mid-Tone separation in Silver prints, and more recently using only Ilford products, they cater to LF photographers better than anyone, I choose to support them completely.

    A medium-speed film is known to produce better tonal separation than low or high-speed films. If my photography style was in line with Brett Weston, the tonality of the final print would not be that big a factor, I embrace his father Edward's tonalities, hence the FP 4 film medium speed is best for my application.

    Mid-Tone separation in the final Silver image is the single most difficult area of a Silver print to control, hence EMA or Semi-Stand film processing. The Minimal Agitation technique significantly alters a film's characteristic curve, both creating a shorter Toe, longer, and Steeper Straight line (where the mid-tones live) while the PyroCat chemistry separates the high values as well as any developer. I believe the so-called traits of one film over another are greatly reduced because of Minimal Agitation methods of film processing. The technique plays directly into separating all tonalities better than conventional methods of processing film. The inconvenience of time to process a single sheet of film is far outweighed by managing mid-tone separation. People often say, "what if I don't like as much Mid-Tone contrast as you do." Easy, simply add a bit more Green or Soft contrast filtration to the printing formula with Multi-Contrast paper.

    My interest in this post is not to pound my chest, rather to hear the words Standard Operating Procedures, wherever your interest lies in B&W photography. Nothing at all wrong with checking out many different films/developers to see if they play to one's likes, simply identify where you want to go and move forward.

    Purely by coincidence, there is an in-depth article I wrote for an online resource that is being edited by the publisher as I write this post. The article details the historical as well as the evolution of my discovery in 2003 about Semi-Stand and other forms of Minimal Agitation. I am sure to publicize that link here on the LF forum when it is complete.

    Cheers,


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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Quote Originally Posted by esearing View Post
    If the situation calls for a 400 speed film, why would I want to shoot it at EI 150-200 and not have those extra two stops over my normal 100 speed film? HP5+ @400 with Pyrocat-M is about the best I have found to avoid mud in the middle, but have to careful with shadow detail or I just end up burning it in during printing. Bergger 400 I have not found the best time yet, but I haven't really tested it fully either, it just may not work well with staining developers. Delta 400 in 135 is always beautiful but I rarely shoot 135 anymore.
    There is no such thing as a "right" workflow. Each of us works in our own way and get desired outcomes. I think its more important that we each find a workflow that is consistent and repeatably gives us what we want.

    While getting full film speed may be desirable, there are two downsides to Semistand and EMA: 1) It takes a long time to develop film and 2) Not everyone likes the adjacency effects this technique produces - at least not for all subjects. I have also found (and I suspect Steve Sherman would disagree here) that, if a scene has good mid-tone separation and contrast and you use low agitation techniques, you can get a sort of cartoon-like
    quality in the mid-tones, but this happens fairly infrequently.

    There are also subjects where you want a long exposure - moving water leaps to mind - where a high ASA gets in the way.

    Finally, different films have different characteristic curves. I haven't used HP5+ in ages but I seem to recall that, like Tri-X sheet film, it has a lower contrast HD curve than, say, FP4+ (I may be wrong about this, I am reciting from fuzzy memory here.)
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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    Quote Originally Posted by tundra View Post
    There is no such thing as a "right" workflow. Each of us works in our own way and get desired outcomes. I think its more important that we each find a workflow that is consistent and repeatably gives us what we want.

    While getting full film speed may be desirable, there are two downsides to Semistand and EMA: 1) It takes a long time to develop film and 2) Not everyone likes the adjacency effects this technique produces - at least not for all subjects. I have also found (and I suspect Steve Sherman would disagree here) that, if a scene has good mid-tone separation and contrast and you use low agitation techniques, you can get a sort of cartoon-like
    quality in the mid-tones, but this happens fairly infrequently.

    There are also subjects where you want a long exposure - moving water leaps to mind - where a high ASA gets in the way.

    Finally, different films have different characteristic curves. I haven't used HP5+ in ages but I seem to recall that, like Tri-X sheet film, it has a lower contrast HD curve than, say, FP4+ (I may be wrong about this, I am reciting from fuzzy memory here.)
    I would not characterize as disagreeing. Merely that the
    Technique has become very intuitive for me. Simply adding more Green exposure in the printing formula goes directly at reducing mid-tone contrast if it is deemed too much.
    In the article I talk about being criticized by a big name LF photog when comparing my prints to his, so, yes the technique can be taken too far. Because Silver printing is the most contracted process, you want options. This type processing, for my workflow provides superior flexibility in the final rendering.


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    Re: High SBR: Comparing D-23 1:1 vs. Pyrocat-HD EMA

    "The Mud in the Middle"...I like that. A combination to avoid that and get good middle tone separation was suggested by the late Terry King; FP4+ and Ilford Universal PQ Developer. Primarily the advice was towards negatives for platinum printing. And I do find it an excellent combination and I may go back and do a better comparison of negs/prints using it and those using PyrocatHD, with mid-tones in mind. I have also used it to get a higher DR for carbon printing. I am always expanding the SBR, so that is a critical difference between my needs and silver gelatin printers.
    Last edited by Vaughn; 10-Mar-2021 at 14:34.
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