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Thread: zs clarification

  1. #1

    zs clarification

    I have read a few good explanations of the basics of the zone system, but I am unclear about something. Many say that if one places important shadow detail on zone 3, and the highlight detail falls on zone 7, then develop normally because this is a five zone spread. But is this not a 4 zone spread? I would have thought zone 8 makes it a 5 zone spread. I am sure I am missing something.

  2. #2

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    Re: zs clarification

    No, think of it this way: Z-3, Z-4, Z-5, Z-6. Z-7. Five distinct shades of grey, each being a zone.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.

  3. #3

    Re: zs clarification

    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Potter View Post
    No, think of it this way: Z-3, Z-4, Z-5, Z-6. Z-7. Five distinct shades of grey, each being a zone.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.
    Okay, thanks. I was reading Bruce barnbaums book last night and he suggested placing important shadows on zone 4. Since I did my film testing using zone 8 for my highlights, may work out nicely. I want to give it a try today so thanks for the answer

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    Re: zs clarification

    My tongue-in-cheek answer was going to be that, being a pianist, Ansel counted zones the same way that a musician counts the interval between two notes. I think that Nate might be saying that I was right.

  5. #5

    Re: zs clarification

    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Potter View Post
    No, think of it this way: Z-3, Z-4, Z-5, Z-6. Z-7. Five distinct shades of grey, each being a zone.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.
    I thought my question was probably a dumb one, and this explanation makes sense, but I have read several books recently where the authors count zones III to VIII as five stops. Using the method quoted, this would be six zones difference. So as a newby I am a little confused as to which one is right, as I am sure it makes a difference between a good negative and a really good negative? Perhaps I am wrong.

  6. #6

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    Re: zs clarification

    There's a bit of difference between a "five zone difference" and a "five zone spread."

    To me, a five zone difference could go from Zone III to Zone VIII, as the difference between them is 5.

    Alternatively, a five zone spread could go from Zone III to Zone VII since, as Nate did, when you lay them out, there are five Zones you're working with.

    Does this make sense to anyone? I'm a little sleepy right now...

  7. #7
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    Re: zs clarification

    Yep, a "spread" is five zones inclusive.

  8. #8
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: zs clarification

    Quote Originally Posted by coops View Post
    I have read several books recently where the authors count zones III to VIII as five stops. Using the method quoted, this would be six zones difference.
    This is a universal problem that crops up in all disciplines; nothing unique to photography.

    It's the difference between "points" and "intervals".

    A ruler is 12 inches ("intervals") long, but it has 13 points if you count both the starting and ending marks.

    There's always one more point than the number of intervals.

    - Leigh

  9. #9

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    Re: zs clarification

    I'd recommend following the examples in the book that you adopt. I think a great benefit of all ZS is the attention to giving shadows enough exposure and developing to control highlights. A nice side-effect is better record-keeping. If later you decide to change the system you adopt, you can always reconcile the different methods you tried by following your notes.

    I adopted classic Minor White ZS from a booklet printed by letterpress where the graphics are cut in lead type. The example of N+1 is this:

    ---quote---

    |..|..|..|..|..|..|..|..|..| =9 zones subject contrast

    Negative contrast developed to

    |..|..|..|..|..|..|..|..|..|..| =10 zones

    Which fits the paper contrast full scale

    |_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_| =10 zones

    ---end quote---

  10. #10

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    Re: zs clarification

    There is more incorrect information on The Zone System in print, and evne more on the web.
    Go to the source - either Ansel;s book "The Negative", or "On Portraiture" by Ansel's original partner in developing the system, Fred Archer. Archer's book is very short and simple to understand.

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