From the first time I heard about a developer named Pyrocat HD, I was hooked by it is look. I wanted to buy some to try for myself but the only online store initially found was Photographers’ Formulary selling Pyrocat HD. Perhaps this was because it is a known formula and lots of photographers simply create it by themselves.
I was not that ambitious and although I would have liked to buy a great many things from Photographers’ Formulary, shipping from the USA to my small European country, is just too much (then custom/taxes…you know the drill). So, I did a little research on eBay and found somebody from Lithuania selling it (with reasonable shipping charges). It seemed legit, and I bought my first Pyrocat HD in glycol.
This was December of 2016…yeah, it took me 10 months to actually try it! I intended to use it with ILFORD FP4+, but never find myself using it these days. I’m not sure what got me focused back, maybe EMULSIVE with his great photos of Bergger Pancro 400 developed in Pyrocat-HD, and another YouTube channel that I had been watching, which featured some interesting stuff with Pyrocat-HD as semi-stand developer (more on this at the foot of this article).
For my first attempt, which I describe in this article, I chose ILFORD Delta 100 Professional shot at EI 100. All shots are taken same day in area near where I live in Rijeka, Croatia. It was really beautiful sunny autumn day, with lots of clouds in the sky.
Those who know me will probably already know what camera I used. For those of you that don’t, I used my beloved Mamiya RZ67 Pro II.
Here’s what I cover in this article:
Before I developed the film, I spent some time reading a various forums and websites. The notes below describe the process I settled on for a Pyrocat HD semi-stand development.
3 min – 5 min should be better.
General rule: it is mandatory for rotary and stand development. Bergger also recommend a prewash for this film.
Developer / dilution / times
Pyrocat HD in glycol, diluted as 1+1+200 (Solution A + Solution B + Water). Pyrocat HD creator Sandy King recommends 1.5+1+150.
I used a development time of 45 minutes – for slower films 45 min, for faster 1.5 to 2 hours.
1 minute constant agitation at the start start followed by 10 seconds of agitation every 11 minutes.
Sandy King recommends starting agitation vigorously for 1 minute, and 15 seconds of further agitation at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 points of development.
Water for 1 minute.
Ilford Rapid Fixer for 5 minutes.
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30 seconds pre-soak in water, 1 minutes of Photographers’ Formulary Hypo Clear.
Running water for 15 minutes.
Rollei RWA wetting agent.
It seems my Ilford Rapid Fixer concentrate is few years old, or at least, I needed more than 5 min fixing. The negative came out with a magenta cast and partly foggy.
I dried the negative and then put it back to tank; repeated my fix, hypo clear and water rinse steps and the negative looked much better, no fogging and only avery slight magenta cast.
My first exposure was on a large field, with some interesting trees and chain of mountains in background. I used a 0.9 Graduated Neutral Density Soft filter and a #8 yellow filter. It would have been nice had the clouds filled sky, but they didn’t, so I chose this diagonal cloud composition.
Next I shot a few exposures at lovely place by a riverI visit frequently – I will not name it, your tongue might twist. It was highly detailed scene and very contrasty, but didn’t stop me from using the #8 yellow filter :).
I was wise to shoot two exposures here, the second with no filter. What I like about this scene it is mostly in the shade of trees and the sun just breaks into it.
As I was setting this scene, my girlfriend called me. She currently works abroad, and we were speaking for an hour. I’m happy I took my headphones with me, because I’m not sure how else I could have taken these exposures. I metered, shot and recorded notes for three exposures, all while talking on the phone with her!
For the first scene the exposure was without any filter, even though both were a bit overexposed.
The negatives for this two exposures look really interesting (for lack of better word), here is one for you to judge:
The second scene is a tree, again with lots of details, and even more contrast. The sun was breaking from top left, so I used the 0.9 GND Soft filter, at that top left side. I metered for the tree trunk shade and set it to Zone II.
I had chance to get this scene with less direct sunlight (the sun briefly slipped behind clouds), but I missed my chance. So in the end it is very high contrast scene and I’m not very pleased with it.
I use a Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder. It’s an interesting app for those with big guns like my Mamiya RZ67. The viewfinder app is mostly used by cinematographers and large format shooters. Interestingly enough, while I was speaking on the phone, I took a snapshot of this two scenes with the app. You’ll likely easily figure out the sole purpose of this app and see how it looked in reality (and colour).
After this I moved to completely different location. As I was driving there and moving uphill, I stumbled upon a view of this entire area, with plenty of what I call “small scattered skies”. I took rest of my shots here.
I had problem with winding from my 5th to 6th exposure and in the end, the 5th exposure is multi-exposure of same scene. I played with Circular Polarizer (CPL), #8 yellow and #21 orange filters. The one I liked most was with the yellow filter.
On the final (10th) exposure, I’ve changed lens to get narrower field of view. Sadly when I changed to 180mm lens, I did something with focusing – not sure what – because it should have been set to infinity.
I like this photo, it has bigger clouds and better composition, but this one is to remind me to quadruple check focusing before shooting. Sadly it is slightly out of focus, maybe not that much noticeable on screen, but it will be visible on print.
If you are interested, here are my field notes on this, my 172nd roll of film (excuse my not so beautiful handwriting!)
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments of ask your questions in the comments below!
Very recently I’ve stumbled upon this YouTube channel of Steve Sherman, with interesting videos.
From what I have read in forums, he is regarded as a master of Pyrocat HD semi-stand development and he called this technique “minimal agitation”.
He has used and refined Pyrocat HD semi-stand development for years and has some interesting printing techniques – interesting to watch.
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Hi, how did you develop the Ilford Delta 100? I mean time and agitation.
This article is well presented with relevant details. thanks for posting,
I used experimented with Pyrocat in 35mm with delta 4oo. I got pinholes from the combination, and used distilled water for all processing other than the final wash. Never used Pyrocat again because I decided to stick with Delta film, but would continue with Pyrocat if committing to a different film.
Thought I read that others had similar experience, and that there is something in the delta emulsion that reacts to Pyrocat. If your doesn’t have the pinholes, maybe 120 format is different enough from 35mm to not have impact.
You have achieved great results. These look like negatives that are easy to work with, and there appears to be flexibility to achieve the results a photographer would be happy with.
I’m curious why you chose not to put the negatives back in the spent pyro developer as I’ve read you’re supposed to. It supposedly causes a stain that enhances something about the negatives (can’t remember what at the moment).
Almost bought some Pyrocat today but couldn’t justify the $40 after just making fresh Xtol 😉
Thanks for the article. Hope to hear back.
Loved the article. Fantastic images which makes me want to try this developer/method.
Odličan članak, meni došao kao čisto informativni ali itekako interesantan. Bravo Kornelije Sajler…
Thanks Kornelije and EM! Very interesting stuff. I will try all that as son as the construction of my new lab will allow.
I am just surprise about the dev time… the slower is the film the short is the dev time… is it?
Regards from Brittany
Glad you liked it. According to what I was gathering through various forums and pages it is. Never tried with faster films, I don’t used them that much.
Problem is that there is a variety of information, and when compiling my notes I used what my gut feel told me. I think time for faster film that I found somewhere is a bit exaggerated. Here for sheet it states 50-60 min for faster films (http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Pyrocat/pyrocat.html). seems more reasonable.
My advice is choose a film you want to use, try to find how others did it and then try to make your own start point with that film. Probably you’ll need few developments until you get feel to it.
Hope it helps!
Very good! Thanks