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Thread: Zone System

  1. #21

    Zone System

    Pat, first off, let me apologize for being so cranky the other night.

    Ansel actually allocated 11 zones to the zone system (0-10)

    The amount of contrast in a scene relies more on where you will place the shadow detail, i.e., if I go for full detail in shadows that means my highlights will be way up out of the "normal development" range, if I go for shadows with little or no detail all shades of contrast (or zones) will move to the left on the scale (at least on my meter!) and the highlights will be more in the "normal range". If in the priest shot I didn't want detail inside the church, the priest's robe would have come down on the scale of contrast--simply because I placed the inside detail lower on the scale. Its all relative.

    To pull that kind of range into a normal scale takes a highly dilute development. Hc-110 from stock solution, diluted 1:30 (almost water) 18 to 20 min development time with agitation only every 3-4 minutes for about 15 secs. What happens is that the developer exhausts on the highlights much quicker than on the shadow areas, allowing the shadow areas to catch up, also you need to give an extra stop of exposure to help the shadows. The times are approximate; you should test this out for yourself of course.

  2. #22

    Zone System

    Mark, thanks for the info, I will try that in the fall, right now my darkroom as we speak is 92-F (no a/c), but I will set up the photograph and try it both ways. Pat

  3. #23

    Zone System

    This has been fun reading all the various responses. Lots of good discussion and ideas out there. Just a few quick responses.

    Actually Mark, Newtonian mechanics is not wrong, it is just limited in its application. Similarly, Picker's method is not wrong, I just wouldn't use it if my shadow detail to highlight detail EV range is greater than 5 or 6 stops.

    Jeff, it's good to hear from you and to see your work on your web page. (Jeff and I attended a Ray McSavaney/John Sexton workshop together 5 or so years ago.)

    Pat, to add to Mark's suggestion for compensating development technique and times, I'll e-mail you some additional times to start with that I got from Don Kirby, Ray McSavaney, and Bruce Barnbaum (all the info is at home right now). I'll also e-mail you the name of a compensating developer that Neil Chapman recommended for T-Max that he says easily handles a 15 stop EV range. He used it for the environmental portraits shown in Photo Techniques a couple of issues ago.

  4. #24

    Join Date
    Jul 1999

    Zone System

    Both Brett Weston and Imogen Cunningham said they thought the zone system was a crock; both they and Adams took pretty good pictures. You decide.

  5. #25

    Zone System

    Swelle, they all practiced the zone system to some extent, after all, it is nothing more than applied sensitometry. What takes a Cunningham or a Weston years of trial and error to learn about film and the exposure of the same can be grasped in a very short time by someone who studies the zone system.

  6. #26

    Zone System

    Swelle, I find the comment of Brett & Imogen a little humorous, since Adams is the person who invented the zone system, and Brett's father Weston came up with a light meter which was based on the zone system. Pat

  7. #27

    Zone System

    To answer Raven's question, you meter for the shadows and underexpose by the number of stops it takes to place the "important" shadow detail where you want it. Then the highlights will fall wherever they are. You place either highlights or shadows with exposure though I would always place my shadows due to how differently developement affects shadows and highlights. Most zone users place this shadow detail on zone three though some very precise techs place it on zone two which is the first zone with texture if not detail. Then you find out where the important highlights fall and process the film with the idea of how dense you want the highlights to be on the neg. In other words you expose for the shadows and process for the highlights. But you must test for your film speed to be able to know at what iso you will have shadows with detail on the print. If you meter a shadow and underexpose the two stops to set it at zone 3 but your film speed is too high, you will not have sufficient density to have shadows at zone three on the print. If too low a film speed you will have too much density to have the shadow at zone three. You must test to find this out. Ain't no other way. Been there and done it. Wasted lots of paper and film. It's an easy test. Shoot a neg and process it then print it. Adjust your iso setting and do it again till you have the shadow detail you want in the print. Next find a scene that has a 5 stop range and shoot it. Process using your normal dev time for that film. If your highlights are to dense to print with a number 2 filter then you have to subtract a little time from you dev time and shoot again. Process till you have your highlight detail where you want it. Now find a 4 stop range scene and repeat processing adding dev time until you are once again printing with detail using your number 2 filter. That is your +1 dev time. Same goes for your over 5 stop scene. Subtract till you get the densities that produce a 5 stop print. Easier than writing about it. And I would be careful using Picker's method without first testing it a bit. If you place the Z8 and let the shadows fall where they may it better be a 4 stop scene or you can kiss shadows goodbye. There are many out there that use a grey card and that's it. They get beautiful prints too. Learn a system and then try another till you know what works best for you. But in my wanderings about the countryside I see 10 photographers/printers that use the AA zone system to every 1 that uses something else. Take it for what it's worth. Those that use Picker's system usually use PMK Pyro or platinum/palladium printing so they don't worry to much about highlights or should that be shadows? Pat could tell better than me. Just don't get locked into just one system. It confines you just like shooting with only one lens. Man! What a waste of opportunities. Give me a zoom anyday. Of course they don't make zooms for 4x5/8x10 damnit! Happy shooting. James

  8. #28

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon and Austria

    Zone System

    Boy! What a long, involved thread!! For what it's worth, here's my 2-cents-worth on the Fred Picker method of placin g the highlight on Zone VII. Although I do not use this system, preferring the m ore flexible full-blown version of the Zone System, I do understand the advantag e of placing the shadows "too high", which is what the Picker system is all abou t. What one must first understand is that Fred Picker seems to have limited hims elf to subjects which didn't require N minus developments, i. e. ones with a les s than 7 stop range. Also, he limited his develpment schemes: He exposed two sh eet of film for each subject and developed one normally and the other at N+1-and -one-half and relied on changes in contrast during printing to take up the slack . Now, given a subject with a low brightness range where the areas you want impo rtant detail in are only, say, 3 stops apart, and you are planning on controllin g the contrast with paper grades, not development, you are much better off placi ng the high value in Zone VIII and letting the shadow fall high on the scale, e. g., in Zone V, even though you want it in Zone III in the final print, rather t han placing the shadow on Zone III and letting the highlight fall on Zone VI. Th is gets the shadow values up off the toe of the film (and the Tri-X Picker uses has a rather long toe) and up into the straight line portion of the characterist ic curve, thus allowing greater separation in the shadows when printed on Grade 4 paper or equivalent than the other scheme would have. Picker's idea was: Why s pend so much time worrying about negative developments to control contrast when it can be done in the darkroom, and I end up doing it anyway? Two development sc hemes were enough for him. I use 6 or more, but still place "high" when I really want that straight-line separation in the shadows. Also, for those who use roll film, Picker's simplification of the Zone System a ssures more printable negatives, or at least more negs with printable shadow det ail. Regards, ;^D)

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