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Thread: ...another zone system question!

  1. #1

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    ...another zone system question!

    So, I have a fairly good grasp on the zone system. I understand placing the shadows in zone 2 or 3 and developing for the highlights. Normal developing is at a 5 zone spread yadda yadda yadda. But, I was taking a picture yesterday of my very blonde daughter in front of a whitish area and realized that there were no shadows, or anything dark for that matter! How do I apply the zone system when the zones are basically middle gray and up? Thanks for the advice.

  2. #2

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Place her skin on Zone VI and go. If her skin is darker or lighter, then place it accordingly.

    Unless the light is very extreme, you can adjust contrast to taste, later. In fact, if there are no other tones than her and the white wall, you can underexpose a little (like 1 stop) and place that data in the middle of the curve, rather than at the top (where things tend to flatten out). You'll get a better negative that way. (Shh... don't tell anyone).

    If the sun is shining on the wall, then you need to meter the shadows of her face and then develop so that the wall stays in the scale.

    As you know, the Zone System merely tells us what we are doing, and with that knowledge we are free to do what we like. We don't always have to have something at the low end of the scale.

  3. #3

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Thanks Ken, sometimes I feel that the the Zone System is a cult and I find it hard to think outside the commandments of its leader!

  4. #4

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    True enough !

    I presumed that you're shooting b&w film that you can process yourself.

  5. #5

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Yep, I recently switched from my beloved Rodinal to HC-110, I use tri-x 320 film and a 5x7 Conley camera. However, shooting film might be a moot point. Ever since switching chemistry (and all the new testing that brought) I've found it hard to get my groove back. I'm waiting for the day when Kodak stops making tri-x, (I'll probably just start drinking after that.) I'm taking a wet plate class next weekend and I hope this process will ween me away from The Cult.

  6. #6

    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Remember that the most important step of the zone system is visualization (that is from Ansel, not me). He said that the zone system without visualization is nothing but finger counting. So, in use, you first determine what you want the outcome to be, then use the various technical solutions it offers to help produce that outcome. You may not want those shadows all the way down in zone II or III. Maybe the picture you visualize has more open shadows, so you move them up to zone IV, reduce development, and create a different outcome, consistent with you vision rather than according to a rule that tells you where shadows belong. In your portrait example, if you want all the values to be up higher where you initially found them, the use that metering and development combination. If you want a different outcome, alter the technique. Reduce exposure and increase development to get a more contrasty negative that would allow you a more full range of tones.
    While I fully agree that the zone system tends to have gained a cult like status, it was developed simply to explain the behavior of exposure and development so the you can come closer to predetermining the outcome. It is not meant to be a set of rules, but a simplification of the science.

  7. #7

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Shoot high key.

  8. #8
    Landscape Addict
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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Quote Originally Posted by Old-N-Feeble View Post
    Shoot high key.
    What he said, place the bright wall at zone IX or IIX and shoot.... Nice for something different.
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 65/5.6 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Fomapan 100 & T-Max 100 in Rodinal
    Alexartphotography

  9. #9

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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    Thanks for all the replies! So, essentially, I should just meter her face, place the reading at zone 7 and develop normally? That seems WAY to easy.

  10. #10
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: ...another zone system question!

    The ZS is not a law. It's an analytical method that can be used, if desired, in appropriate situations.

    It provides a framework and regimen within which to assess the subject and the lighting.

    Given that information, it provides guidance regarding film development.

    The trick is to understand when it is NOT appropriate, rather than trying to fit every situation into it.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

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