I had a couple of shots to develop from a hike in January. A nice fallen tree near Preacher Rock on the Appalachian Trail near Suches, Georgia, and a spot along the Cooper river near Suches as well. I decided it was time to see what all the fuss is about Pyro negatives and FP4. My traditional developer is HC-110 and it is very predictable for development times regardless of dilution.
Pyrocat HD on the other hand seems to have a wide variety of users with differing dilutions, times, agitation methods, and films. So I consulted an expert via a post in Facebook large format group, Steve Sherman. Steve recommended 1.5 : 1 :175 for 25 mins as a starting point for normal development agitating at 1/3 time points (semi stand). After more research I learned that development time is a factor of not only temperature but also agitation methods used and desired contrast. Normal dilution is 1:1:100 by the inventor, Sandy King, but he likes to use rotary agitation and has much shorter development times. However, he also has recommendations for increasing times for other methods. So what to do? I hate film testing and just decided to guesstimate and see what happens.
I knew I had rated Ilford FP4 at 80 vs box speed of 125 so would need to reduce time a bit. This is habit and yields a better negative with HC-110 for me. I had used an average meter reading dark and light spots so felt I was well within the film latitude so no time adjustment needed. If I were doing a single sheet I may have added time for the River shot to boost contrast.
My 4×5 tank needs 475ml to cover the film but 500 overflows it so I would use slightly less dilution than Steve’s recommendation and would have to adjust time downward again. Less dilution = more activity of the developer.
Indoor temp was about 70 degrees so I aimed for that and figured a little less time.
So with all the input I came up with roughly 4.5ml A+3ml B+470ml Water = 477.5ml (1.5:1:157) @ 20Mins with 4 minute agitation intervals(30 seconds of tank inversions at 4,8,12,and 16 minutes). I also estimated I could have used 1:1:100@12mins with 1 minute agitations for normal contrast.
Overall procedure: Pre-soak 5 mins. Pyrocat HD as described above. Plain water Stop bath for about a minute. TF4 Fixer from Photographers Formulary (mix 1:3) for 4mins. 20 minute wash with fill and dump every minute, with last minute using photo-flow in the rinse. Hang it up to dry.
First Impressions: The negatives are lively but a little thinner than I am used to with HC-110. I can see so much more shadow detail on the river shots but it was fairly low contrast to begin with. The tree shot is well within the latitude of the film. The stain is a nice golden brown color even in the dark areas of the film. No obvious scratches or problems from the tank or agitation method. In the future I will likely make 2 of each shot where feasible so I can learn how to adjust the final product without too much formal film testing.
First Prints: Contact prints showed the images were very printable and had about the contrast that I expected. The images enlarged easily but were short exposure times as I expected. See Fallen Tree at Preacher Rock and Cooper Creek images.