What do you think about philosophy of the zone system?
How do you use zone system or similar approaches?
Do you honestly only use zone system for ensuring that your pre-visualized print will be easy to print?
Or do you fell to the pool of groving masses which uses zone system only as an tool for handling different contrasts?
How often you found yourself measuring a scenery/subject with a spotmeter and thinking if the readings suits for your previsualization?
When you see a majastetic valley from the hill, is your first thought that I wan't to capture this! Or is it that "wow! This is beautiful. What if I could get print where those shadows are so dark that I don't see any texture in them and still that beatifully lighted area is very bright with full textures?"
How do I use zone system?
To me it is heavily a tool that I use with pre-visualization.
I learned that approach first from Adams's books, then in the times when I had to survive without a densitometer, I learned empirical approach.
In that approach the developing times were calibrated by examining final print tones and when I got developing and printing time that gave good tones from 0 to X, that was my N development. The 0 was pure black, X was paper white, the V matched a Kodak gray card when compared each other.
Ofcourse this was really precise only with one paper, enlarger and paper developer, but it teached me to approach negative from the pre-visualization. As this kind of system allowed printing of my exact pre-visualization with using always same paper, grade and printing time, it was like a photographing with a slide film; What you exposured was what you got (in the limits of precision so the actually calibrated value gave good proof print).
Later, when I got familiar with BTZS and sensitometry, I was wondering where all the pre-visualization has lost? I learned to use a spotmeter as an densitometer, begun to draw graphs... But I was too much with my original approach so I could not adapt the 0-IX scale instead of 0-X so the knowledge I got from practicing BTZS turned to the basics of my current zone system usage.
After I had slowly abandoned pure BTZS approach, I begun to learn Adams's original zone system with a sensitometry. Since then, I have used densitometer (now I have real one) for measuring charasteristic curves, calibrating my developing times.. But not more precise than usual guidelines for densities (1.25 - 1.35 for VIII with diffuser).
What I do is to put effort to the pre-visualization. I always think carefully what I see and how. How would I draw this scene if I would be using charcoal? Would I interrept this shadow as black or dark with texture?
How with the highlights?
I always write exposure notes about scenery, my thoughts and feelings. And my ideas how I visualize the final print and if the exposure is difficult, then I wrote it also down so that I know to give special developing or I know immediately when begun to printing that this negative has shadows that need to be dodged, ...
Not forgetting that notebooks also works a kind of diary