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Thread: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

  1. #11

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Bob, out of interest, have you ever scanned a step wedge to see where the tones lose separation

  2. #12
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    how the Zone System pans out to a scanning workflow
    It doesn't. There is no relationship to scanning.

  3. #13
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Yes Ian

    this is how Ron Reeders method of making digital negatives is based on.. Many people use step wedges for this purpose.

    In my world I send a profile maker file to all my output devices and then bring in an expert with auto spectrometer to read and provide profiles, I use to own a Eye 1 spectrometer but frankly
    I prefer to give this side of the work to people who enjoy doing it and are technically better than me, applying the profiles to the print drivers or into rip programs.

    I do include an 21 step wedge that I create in PS to my workflow when testing pigments for gum printing, strip the wedge beside a common known image that I know prints well and I see where the pigments fail.

    Bob

  4. #14
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    What has got me wondering is, how the Zone System pans out to a scanning workflow rather than a wet darkroom workflow. For example, does an Epson V series scanner have a wider latitude than photographic papers. Is placing low values on Zone III and developing for Zone VIII high values still a good idea for scanners.
    I played with this long and hard, and posted quite a bit of what I learned on this website. Posts going back to the early 2000s. Search around and see what you find.

    The bottom line, for me anyway, is that scanning in general and drum scanning in particular, reacts to silver gelatin negatives in much the same way that optical enlargers do. That is, both experience Callier Effect, or light scattering due to the metallic silver (light can't go through it, so it bounces off it resulting in light scatter).

    Callier Effect increases with density, so it has a far greater effect on your highlights than it does on your shadows, or mid-tones. The visual effect is that your image isn't linear -- you get decreased contrast in your highlights, and some compression of tones. You can of course correct this (usually) with an image editor like photoshop. But it's an extra step you have to take, and it can be interestingly fiddly because it's not linear.

    What this leads up to then is that the old rule still applies: Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. Since this is that Adams and Archer used as the basis for the Zone System, I'd say that the Zone System certainly still applies if you want to use it.

    As I've said many times on this forum, if you're *ever* going to print your negatives in a wet darkroom, then optimize for that. Your negatives will scan just fine. If, however, you are *only* going to scan, you can may be able to tweak a bit more performance from your negatives by optimizing your development for scanning. What that usually means is developing for a bit lower Dmax for scanning than you would for darkroom.

    In my particular case, with my particular scanner (an old Optronix ColorGetter 3Pro drum scanner), I found that my optimum was a zone VIII density of around 1.0. With negatives like this, I could often go without any Callier Effect corrections, the highlights were much improved.

    That said, there are limits. If you reduce your highlight density too much, the compression of tones starts turning ugly and is quite difficult to correct (the few times I tried on experimental negatives). So you still have to actually do the work -- you've still got to figure out what works for you, your photographs, your development workflow, your scanning workflow, your printing workflow. Your optimal is unlikely to be the same as mine. Exceedingly unlikely. All I'm doing here is giving you an idea of where to start. Clearly, YMMV.

    What I ended up with was a complete heresay around these parts. I found that I could expose for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may. Makes "real photographers" cringe when I say stuff like that. Yet, it works beautifully for me. In Zone System terms, I set my "N" development time so that I can reliably hit a Zone VIII density of around 1.0 with my highest contrast scenes. Then I develop everything, and I mean every sheet of film, with my N development time. So my highlight densities vary a lot, but typically hover around 1.0. The film so treated scans really easily for me and the resulting image files are very easy to work with. Hey, I'm not the resident heretic for nothing.

    Oh, and read this paper by Tim Vitale, especially the bits around page 19. Quite the valuable resource, this paper. Explains all kinds of things. Just the photomicrographs explain all kinds of things. Enjoy!

    Bruce Watson

  5. #15

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
    . . . you can may be able to tweak a bit more performance from your negatives by optimizing your development for scanning. What that usually means is developing for a bit lower Dmax for scanning than you would for darkroom. . .
    Is it development, or is it highlight values in the negative? Bear in mind, development depends on the scene. So, there's no single development time to be optimized.

    I tend to stick with Zone VIII, because it's just about the lightest value in the highlights that still has some density to it, all be it, a very slight density. In terms of scanning, what Zone VIII density can render (after being scanned) that same kind or feeling of highlight on digital paper? That takes some testing, and Bob's comments in the second post become quite relevant in determine that Zone VIII density.

    The zone system can then be used in the field to render Zone VIII values in the scene at that density. More contrasty scenes may require pulled development; less contrasty scenes may require pushed development.

    Of course, some scenes may not have Zone VIII values. So, develop to place Zone VII values instead.

    As I understand prosumer scanners, they scan the same way every time. (It's only high-end professional drum scanners that enable one to adjust the gain, or perhaps some other attributes, at the time of the scan.) So, it's the negative that needs to be tailored to the scanner for different kinds of scenes. That's what the zone system is all about; providing a methodology by which this can be achieved.

  6. #16

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    At the risk of being flippant, I think you are all missing the point; or at least not mentioning it.

    The Zone System is a visualization tool. It helps you better predict your results and therefore allows better creative decision-making at the negative exposure stage.

    While the calibration between exposure/development of the negative to final tones/tonal separation in the print is undoubtedly different to some extent between analog and digital workflows, the value of the tool remains: it helps you visualize the final result.

    Those who only use the Zone System to cram high and low values between the goalposts of Zone III and Zone VIII are simply not understanding the essence of the system nor reaping the full benefits thereof. It really doesn't take that much skill to make negatives that aren't over/under exposed or over/underdeveloped. However, there are a whole lot of negatives with "correct" contrast ranges that just won't make an expressive print. And, there are a whole lot of creative opportunities lost because people don't use the Zone System as intended to deviate from "normal" in order to achieve results better fitting their creative purpose (not to mention those that simply don't have a creative purpose!).

    If there is any correlation between negative exposure and development and final output, one can use the Zone System. It's that simple. While the original system related to making silver-gelatin prints, there's absolutely no reason why adapting the system to use with scanning and digital workflow won't yield the same advantages.

    Whether one is aware enough of the potentials of visualization to make use of those advantages is another issue.

    Best,

    Doremus

  7. #17

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    Those who only use the Zone System to cram high and low values between the goalposts of Zone III and Zone VIII are simply not understanding the essence of the system nor reaping the full benefits thereof
    Isn't the idea to get everything to fit properly between the goal posts at the time of exposure/development and then make the creative decision at the print stage ?

  8. #18

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    My view is that all debate about exposure systems is due to not considering what a sensitometric curve is.

    IMHO all exposure systems have the same goal, my view is that we need no exposure system if we have an spot meter an a chart with the familily of curves, then we can know what particular density will have every spot of the scene depending on any development we may use, and also we know if an scene spot is in the toe/shoulder compresion, or even if it is in the TXP bump in the mids...

    At the end ZS tells how to set the minimum exposure for shadow areas in order to conserve detail, and then it tells what development we need to have highlights with a particular density, so we can print that easily and also conserving highlight detail. What else ZS says ?

    Exposure systems are practical conceptual simplifications to take decisions, but by knowing how sensitometry works all mistery and debate about exposure systems disapear.

    IMHO something changed in the early 1980s. As Variable Contrast papers got popular additional printing control was possible, as it was possible to burn particular areas with different contrast filters. This delivers local contrast control, beyond local exposure control.

    Before that a photographer had to use more film toe and/or shoulder as control parameters for the tonal scale. With Variable Contrast papers it was possible to take more linear captures (TMX/Y) and later controling the print better with VC paper. This is IMHO...

    IMHO, the single "failure" of ZS is considering behaviour of all films "equal", and this is a simplification. It happens than some films have a shoulder for Z-VIII while other (like TMX) still are linear there, and regarding toe, it can be long, medium or short... so Z-II may be different depending on the film.

  9. #19

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by IanBarber View Post
    Isn't the idea to get everything to fit properly between the goal posts at the time of exposure/development and then make the creative decision at the print stage ?
    It depends, you can use film/toe shoulder of film to obtain a look, Karsh was using toe with a lot of wisdom. You can shot to obtain an straight print with what you want.

    Since Variable Contrast paper got popular some may prefer to control tonal scale more in the printing process, for flexibility, IMHO this is the way John Sexton would prefer, at least it is what I "understood" by listening what he says in some videos, also this is suggested by his involvement in TMX, a very linear film, still I can be wrong, this is just my interpretation.

  10. #20

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    Re: Your Thoughts On The Zone System For A Scanning Workflow

    I preface this with in the 1970s I first learned to use the Zone System as per the ZONE SYSTEM MANUAL by Minor White. Super XX and Edwal FG-7 with a 9% Sodium Sulfite solution... served me well for years until my stash of Super-XX was used up. Later using an attenuator as per George E. DeWolfe. Then calibrating per Arnold Gassan in his handbook for Contemporary Photography. Then Bergger 200 with various developers. Fast forward to the July/August 2008 issue of View Camera magazine and an article by Sandy King on "Two-Bath Development: Exposure and Development Strategy for Scanning". Kept the article on file and a few years ago tried it. Quote from the article: "A scanning to print digitally workflow essentially means that there is no compelling reason to continue to expose and develop with Zone or BTZS type controls. Excellent results can be obtained by simply exposing in the field for sufficient shadow detail, developing in a two-bath solution, scanning the negatives, and adjusting tonal values in Photoshop." So come to the present. If I'm going to print Platinum/Palladium, I just expose for the shadows and process in Diafine A & B and make digital negatives as described in The New Inkjet Negative Companion by Dan Burkholder. By including a Step Tablet in each of my digital negatives, the high cost of Platinum/Palladium chemistry for me has become very affordable. For some of my work (almost always roll film), that is still going with the traditional wet darkroom route, I do still use the Zone System and print with split filtration. More and more (from fall to spring here in New England) I've been shooting RAW digitally and making digital negatives for Platinum/Palladium, but come late spring through the fall almost exclusively shoot LF and ULF film. So I still use the Zone System today but just greatly modified from how I used it back in the 1970s. I do really miss Super-XX and Bergger 200. I do still have a box of 11x14 Bergger 200 in the freezer, and look forward to shooting with it next summer using the Zone System, but in the end will scan the negatives and make digital negatives for Platinum/Palladium.

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