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Thread: My Zone woes

  1. #1

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    My Zone woes

    I "learned" the Zone System over the summer, and a couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Northern California/Southern Oregon to put what I had learned into practice. Well, while I wouldn't call it a complete bust, it wasn't what I had expected it to be. Now, while I call this a "silver lining" well, it's also part true; it is not that I can't apply zone system techniques to my photographs, I did, and did it well, when I wanted something to fall in zone VIII I did it, when I wanted something to fall in zone III I did it. That part I got. It's just that I simply made the wrong calls. What I mean is, choosing zone VIII or zone III wasn't always (most of the time) the best call. Which leads me to believe that I don't have a problem putting things in a particular zone, what I have a problem with is putting things into zones that will make my WHOLE picture look better. I guess my question to all of you expert zoners is, how do you properly apply zone techniques that make your photographs look better? Granted, I was photographing in two extreme situations, one were the Redwoods in Northern California. If any of you have been there, even if it's sunny bright during the day (which was when I was there), when you're down there, in the forest, because the trees are so tall, hardly any light filters down there, so it's pretty dark. the other situation was in Crater Lake, Oregon. Bright as bright can be. Blue skies and an equally blue lake. How do you pick your shadows? How do you pick your highlights? Thanks.
    --Mario

  2. #2

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    May 2013
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    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by macandal View Post
    I "learned" the Zone System over the summer, and a couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Northern California/Southern Oregon to put what I had learned into practice. Well, while I wouldn't call it a complete bust, it wasn't what I had expected it to be. Now, while I call this a "silver lining" well, it's also part true; it is not that I can't apply zone system techniques to my photographs, I did, and did it well, when I wanted something to fall in zone VIII I did it, when I wanted something to fall in zone III I did it. That part I got. It's just that I simply made the wrong calls. What I mean is, choosing zone VIII or zone III wasn't always (most of the time) the best call. Which leads me to believe that I don't have a problem putting things in a particular zone, what I have a problem with is putting things into zones that will make my WHOLE picture look better. I guess my question to all of you expert zoners is, how do you properly apply zone techniques that make your photographs look better? Granted, I was photographing in two extreme situations, one were the Redwoods in Northern California. If any of you have been there, even if it's sunny bright during the day (which was when I was there), when you're down there, in the forest, because the trees are so tall, hardly any light filters down there, so it's pretty dark. the other situation was in Crater Lake, Oregon. Bright as bright can be. Blue skies and an equally blue lake. How do you pick your shadows? How do you pick your highlights? Thanks.
    If you simply cannot get the range of tones to land on the right places. Default to making sure you have exposed enough to get the shadow texture or detail that you want, say Zone III. Make your exposure and then use a compensating developer, with a semi-stand routine to develop the negative. The highlights will not block because of the developer AND the semi-stand development, whilst the shadow detail will be there because you exposed for them.

    RR

  3. #3
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by Regular Rod View Post
    If you simply cannot get the range of tones to land on the right places. Default to making sure you have exposed enough to get the shadow texture or detail that you want, say Zone III. Make your exposure and then use a compensating developer, with a semi-stand routine to develop the negative. The highlights will not block because of the developer AND the semi-stand development, whilst the shadow detail will be there because you exposed for them.

    RR
    I've found PMK developer good for this.

  4. #4
    Andy Eads
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    Pasco, Washington - the dry side of the state
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    Re: My Zone woes

    Mario,

    Not all subjects will appear luminous just because you use the Zone System or VIDEC or whatever. Practice is how you get there. Keep taking images till you get that feel for what will work and what won't. At some point technique and inspiration will converge and you will get the result you envision.

    Andy

  5. #5

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    Re: My Zone woes

    Just use an incident meter or reflective with gray card and you'll be find 90% of the time.

  6. #6

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    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Eads View Post
    Mario,

    Not all subjects will appear luminous just because you use the Zone System or VIDEC or whatever. Practice is how you get there. Keep taking images till you get that feel for what will work and what won't. At some point technique and inspiration will converge and you will get the result you envision.

    Andy
    Ditto

  7. #7

    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by macandal View Post
    I "learned" the Zone System over the summer, and a couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Northern California/Southern Oregon to put what I had learned into practice. Well, while I wouldn't call it a complete bust, it wasn't what I had expected it to be. Now, while I call this a "silver lining" well, it's also part true; it is not that I can't apply zone system techniques to my photographs, I did, and did it well, when I wanted something to fall in zone VIII I did it, when I wanted something to fall in zone III I did it. That part I got. It's just that I simply made the wrong calls. What I mean is, choosing zone VIII or zone III wasn't always (most of the time) the best call. Which leads me to believe that I don't have a problem putting things in a particular zone, what I have a problem with is putting things into zones that will make my WHOLE picture look better. I guess my question to all of you expert zoners is, how do you properly apply zone techniques that make your photographs look better? Granted, I was photographing in two extreme situations, one were the Redwoods in Northern California. If any of you have been there, even if it's sunny bright during the day (which was when I was there), when you're down there, in the forest, because the trees are so tall, hardly any light filters down there, so it's pretty dark. the other situation was in Crater Lake, Oregon. Bright as bright can be. Blue skies and an equally blue lake. How do you pick your shadows? How do you pick your highlights? Thanks.
    Mac,
    When I have a difficult situation such as you've described I do two things: Make a very simple sketch or map and plot in some zones of important objects to see where they fall. I usually measure a gray card as well. Second, I record all exposure info includings in my zones in a Zone VI pocket book for Field data Guide, so I can referece back to it later. The Pocket book is 3.5"X5.5" ring binder and can be easily carried, and blank pages refilled. You can refer to this data for comparison after printing. Then you can consider different developers or papers or film speed to achieve your desired results. Also remember the sky is different depending on where you are. You can be impacted by altitude and latitude.

    Steve, Happy Trails

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: My Zone woes

    With full sun in the redwoods, you often realistically encounter at least twelve stops of range. Some film and dev combinations just can't handle that very well.
    But I can't elaborate at the moment....

  9. #9
    ROL's Avatar
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    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by macandal View Post
    Which leads me to believe that I don't have a problem putting things in a particular zone, what I have a problem with is putting things into zones that will make my WHOLE picture look better.
    Exactamente! Eureka! You got IT my friend ...and it only took you one summer to realize it!

    You have to have good light to get good pictures, though ccasionally (rarely), a strong composition may trump good light. I expose for shadow detail where important to my composition. Often, in natural light, one or the other must be sacrificed within the limits of your composition and film development, and just as often, depending upon experience, the existing light will only result in muddy, unpleasant tones, no matter how well executed the eventual negative. In the case of a mostly shadowed environment, I decide what elements are important to resolve, highlights be damnned, or at the least tamed by contracting development. Same goes for highlight detail (i.e., snow, clouds, etc.). That's the beauty, elegance, and skill of executing fine art film work, not exclusive of printing, the other (more than) half of the equation. You get to decide the outcome (previsualization), visual and emotional impact of your lovely monochromatic tones. Really, congratulations on a successful summer!

  10. #10

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    Re: My Zone woes

    Quote Originally Posted by ROL View Post
    ... You have to have good light to get good pictures, though occasionally (rarely), a strong composition may trump good light...
    ____

    Very well stated Ben!
    __

    Yes... Photography is all about 'Light' and what it does and how you choose to capture it!
    It can most definitely transform the most 'Mundane' Subject into something quite 'Extraordinary'... And without it -- You have 'Nothing'!
    --
    Mario, keep learning and practicing!
    Your understanding and 'application' of Photographic Theory and practice (*Such as the 'Zone System' in your example)... Is already 'extremely advanced' -- For such a relatively short 'time period' of use.

    Also, carefully examine the work of other photographers that you personally admire!
    Look to see where they perhaps have 'placed' their Shadows and Highlights and how they 'deciphered and/or interpreted' the light at hand.

    Put yourself in their shooting situation and ask yourself 'leading' questions... Such as:

    'If I was shooting this specific image... Where would I have to place my shadows and highlights -- In order to duplicate this image'.

    Or...

    'What will I need to do different... In order to produce an image that suits my 'previsualization' of the scene at hand'? Perhaps you will find, that the 'respective' shadows and highlights were not always 'placed' -- Where you might have originally expected them to have been?

    Examine the scene carefully and the 'quality of light' at hand. Where are the 'Most important' Tones in this subject? The Shadows? The Highlights? The Mid-Tones?

    Ask yourself... 'What Film Developing Technique(s) will I need to employ... In order to best capture this image? Normal Development? Expansion? Contraction? Stand-Development?... Etc., etc...

    --
    Although not directly related to your original question Mario... I would perhaps 'suggest' (*If you are not already doing so of course)... That you pick just one (1) B&W Film/Developer Combination and stick with it -- And try to learn it 'inside out'.

    Then and only then, feel free to change it... If it is not able to do for you... What you require of it!
    --
    Keep up the excellent work Mario. Enjoy!!!
    Regards,

    -Tim.

    ________
    Last edited by Taija71A; 21-Sep-2013 at 07:33.

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