Gordon Hutchings is a well known black and white fine art photographer living in Granite Bay, California. Gordon is a master printer and photographer whose work is dominated by the large format camera. He is the inventor of the PMK pyro developer and is largely responsible for the insurgence of interest in this developer in recent years. His articles and photographs are published in many countries and his book "The Book of Pyro" is well known all over the world. He has taught extensively in one-man workshops and co-taught with other well known photographers such as Ralph Talbert and Morley Baer. Many of his workshops have been through the University of California, extension. His work is represented in private collections and permanent collections primarily in California.
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I've used Oriental Seagull paper for several years. Initially the paper I used was Seagull G. A couple of years ago this started showing up in boxes labeled GF. Now it appears it is back to G. I noted a slight warm tone on the GF paper, which I liked a lot, but I don't know what to expect with the "Seagull G" paper. I'm involved in a series of photos spanning years and I hate to move back and forth between these papers for matters of consistency. Do you know anything about this? The folks at Oriental Seagull can't help and others I've asked don't know. Thanks.
Dear David, I wish I knew the answer to your question, but I haven't used Seagull for many years ( I gave up on it during one of its withdrawals from the market) and haven't gone back. These days you cannot count on consistency from very many companies. There has obviously been a change, and then another change. This can mean several things, none of which is privy to you and I. The possibilities are that they had to change the chemistry, or they tried a slightly warmer emulsion and decided to go back, or perhaps they have somebody else coat the paper or make it for them. The latter is not uncommon these days. If you like a slightly warm tone paper that has not changed and looks like it is going to be with us for a long time, I can highly recommend Bergger warm tone fiber. I develop it in a cold tone developer, Dektol, and with or without Selenium toning it is beautiful. Untoned it has a slightly golden undertone and with selenium it runs from warm eggplant to brownish black. Be careful with toning, it tones fast. Hope this helps,
Dear Gordon, I have been greatly encouraged in your photographic contributions and publications. I have a couple request that perhaps you may have time or ability to respond to at your convenience? These request pertain to photographic education and workshops, and also my more recent use of pyro with large format negatives. In the past I've worked exclusively with the Leica-M system for documentary and fine art work. I began serious work with 4x5 a little less than a year ago, and have learned so much in composition and the realization of such great negative information to work with in printing. Now my work is more focused upon the importance of tonality. I print with an Omega D2V on Bergger or Kentmere VC/FB paper generally. Cameras: Sinar F1 and Fotoman 45PS. I also desire to work with alternative processes in the future, and thus see the value of pyro formulations in both silver and alternative metals. While photographing for about 30 years and occasionally teaching basic photography, I feel like a newbie to photography all together! This time in my life is both rewarding and frustrating, for I know what I want to achieve and yet feel like an adolescent. I would ask for your kind assistance and recommendations. What workshops would you recommend that I could tie into for your instruction, looking at the Fall 2007? I live near Seattle, Washington but could travel outside the region. What would be a recommended pyro formula to self-formulate and work with as a foundational basis in my work? I tray process currently with the Farber recommended-- pyro triethanolamine formula and love the results that I obtain, but receive little stain, I presume, to the high concentration of sulfite in the formula. This has me worried that the negatives might not be benefiting form the correct amount or quality of stain for both silver and platinum. I have considered using the WD2D formula or the Herbst pyro (variant) formula as shown in the unblinkingeye article: The Effects of Pyro Stain in Platinum Printing. I plan to purchase your book again, since my old copy has been misplaced in a past move to the Pacific Northwest. In the digital age, I have decided to dedicate my life to preserving the traditional side of photographic arts and to hopefully master skills in this arena in the years to come. Thank you for your kind assistance. Sincerely, Mark
Dear Mark, You are working with large format, good for you. There are many years of wonderful learning and exploration ahead of you. Q1. In your area, I would suggest a workshop from Bruce Barnbaum. He does not like pyro but he is a great artist and knows the subject throughly, including finishing, mounting and dealing with galleries and shows. Q2. Of the formulas you have mentioned, I would recommend John Wimberley's WD2D. It is available from Photographers Formulary and their distributors like Freestyle. John's formula gives a lovely stain to negatives. If you want to mix your own, his latest version is proprietary but earlier versions are not. You will find his formula in the Darkroom Cookbook. I would also suggest that you use traditional film like Tri-X, Ilford FP4, Bergger 200 etc. The traditional films seem to work best with pyro developers. You might also consider using my PMK formula. The stain and film speed is very similar to WD2D. The PMK formula is in my book "The Book of Pyro", available from Freestyle. Hope this helps.
Dear Gordon, We spoke a few months ago about using Unicolor roller bases to get more even development with PMK, especially with 35mm in stainless tanks. Was it model 352 you recommended? Thanks, Brad
Hi Brad, As far as I know Unicolor made only the one Uniroller. It works great, but all of the used ones I have seen require a little re-hab in the innards. Simply take off the base and clean the grunge off of everything. Then lube the axles and the reversing-switch-paddle arm thingus. After that, it should run for years. Good luck,
I recently tried your MaxPyro developer from Bostick on 4x5 Fuji Acros in my JOBO CPE2 processor. Exposed at ISO 80, and processed for 7 minutes, it yielded a zone I density of 0.02 (not perceptible by eye), and at 12 minutes, a zone I density of only 0.04; at 12 minutes the zone VIII density was 2.20. The mix was 25 ml each of A and B in 500 ml of distilled water. My standard developer T-Max RS 1:1 produces nice prints and consistently yields a zone I density of 0.11 and zone VIII of 1.5 to 1.6. I reconfirmed this using identically exposed film processed in the two developers. All processing is carefully controlled at 70 deg and the chemicals carefully measured. Although I recognize that densitometry measurements are different using Pyro, these values suggest to me inadequate shadow detail because of the very thin zone I values, and blocked highlights (at 12 minutes development). Is there a way I can modify the developer to get better zone I density and lower zone VIII values? I suppose that less agitation than the JOBO produces might help at least to reduce the highlight density, but I have found the JOBO so reliable and reproducible that I would prefer to continue to use it. Would appreciate any suggestions. Richard B
Dear Richard, Sorry that MaxPyro doesnt seem to be working with Acros film. I have never used Acros film, it is a tabular film and I do not generally like the flat local contrast from tabular films. To make Acros film work with MaxPyro, it looks like you would have to reduce the exposure speed of the film by at least a full stop. This may work but it defeats the reason to use Acros if you are getting good results with other developers. Since MaxPyro works technically very well with T- Max, which is also a tabular film, I simply do not know why it is so weak with Acros. I used a JOBO extensively during the development of MaxPyro and it worked very well and the agitation was not excessive. I always use the slowest speed setting on the JOBO. Have you tried the MaxPyro with a different film just to be sure that the developer is OK? It probably is good, but it wouldnt hurt to be sure. If you try more experiments, I would like to hear how you are proceeding. Your problems with Acros are a surprise to me, MaxPyro has been terrific with every film I have tried. Sincerely,
Dear Gordon, I have been a BW photographer on and off since the 60s. I havent done much photo work since 1992. My work that I am happiest with was a group of mug-shot style portraits I did in San Francisco bars and street scenes around that time. Done with 8X10 Tri-X/D76 N/N mostly. I do not use enlargers anymore because contact prints seem much richer. In 2005 I attempted to get back into photography, but ran into a huge brick wall with film. I rried HP5, Fuji Acros, Tri-X, with different developers, and all looked horrible. I gave up. Want to start up again now, but before I spend huge amounts of time beating my head against a wall, I thought I might ask someone who been working with BW thru the years when it seems BW films may have had some sort of demise. Was this bad luck I had in 2005, or has film quality deteriorated? As I try to get back into photography, can you recommend films? I am trying Plux-X and Delta at this point with limited success. I know that photography involves constant trial and error, and since I am quite rusty, I know alot of the problem is just that. But a certain percentage of the problem also seems to be a change in film quality. My pictures tend to have alot of greys- somewhat like Adams photos. Newer films and work Ive looked at seems flat with very little color- highlights especially chalky and appear overexposed but are not. I will be trying Adox or Efke (same?) soon and will probably try Pyro formula from Freestlyle. However, developers may matter little and be incapable for making pictures that I am used to if the film has changed for the worse. Have been doing alot of research on internet. If you have any thoughts on this, Id appreciate it (I know this is a loaded question for someone involved in the BW/film business). It may save me excessive experimenting. I can email samples of my work for clarification if you like. Much thanks in advance for any help you might have, Kip.....
Dear Kip, Yes, you are probably a little rusty, but there is a germ of truth in what you have experienced. With the loss of Super-XX and lately Bergger 200 all but one of the current films are tabular grain. That flat look is from your trained eye that remembers the chunky grain film of long ago. I went through the same experience 25 years ago. That is one of the reasons I went to pyro, it helped bring back the three dimensional look of long ago. Some modern photographers have learned to do quite well with the new flat grain film, but to my eye their pictures look grayish and a little bit flat. Also there is little separation in the highlights, hence a white-paper look instead of the sparkle and shine of objects in bright sunshine. There are some films that are a mix of tabular and chunky grain. Ilford FP-4 and HP-5 are examples. I have used these films and do quite well. But if you want that old time three dimensional look there is just one film left: Efke. It is the last of the Mohegins. Since I am almost out of Bergger film and there may not be anymore, I too am looking for a new film. I ordered a few boxes from Freestyle and am testing it in several sizes and I love the tonality. Local contrast is the best I have seen since Super-XX and Bergger. The only problem is the relative slow speed for 8x10. But then, if Edward Weston could use a film of ASA 32 the rest of us should be able to use a film of EI 100! Try it with a developer you are familiar with and after you get used to it and want more highlights and deep shadows you might want to try a pyro developer. Good luck and let me know how you are doing, dont give up!
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