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Thread: Where’s all my zone system experts??

  1. #21

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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    Personally I don't think you have to worry about the minutiae of the zone system with modern black and white emulsions. All I do with black and white film is spot meter the deepest shadow I want detail in and hang everything else off of that. Usually I set the shadow at zone 3 or 4 depending on the scene. It is very hard to block up the highlights on something like HP5+, but I do meter the highlights as well if I feel I need to. Broadly speaking, I try not to shoot in unfavourable lighting conditions anyway. I tend to shoot locally and pick and choose my light to suit what I am doing. For colour negative I err towards exposing one stop over box speed and meter a mid tone, just keeping an eye on the shadow areas.

    I haven't shot colour slide in a long time but I would definitely be very picky with lighting conditions. I would imagine have in a few grad filters to hold back exposure on the sky would be the way to go, there's not really much else you can do.

  2. #22

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    Re: The zone system. Do I have this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    The Zone System (by name) was designed for black and white photography. That said, it can be useful thinking in terms of zones for color.

    Back to your query, there's a substantial behind the scenes portion that's not included in your description. For using the Zone System in black and white photography, you really can't use the manufacturers recommended ASA. Moreover, nor will it serve you to use the manufacturer's recommended development times and temperatures. Behind the scenes, the Zone System involves conducting tests to determine the Zone System appropriate ASA for your film of choice, and to determine the different development times that correspond to that ASA.

    I use Ilford HP5 film, and my testing invariably indicates that the film speed is about 200 ASA. (Often half the manufacturer's recommended ASA.). My personal mantra for the zone system, is to expose for the shadows, and then develop for the highlights. How to expose for the shadows is relatively easy. For the Zone System, exposing for the highlights is a little more difficult. For the latter, one needs different development times that correspond to differing contrasts in the scene being photographed.

    A good book of how to test for film speed, and for how to determine the different development times, is The New Zone System Manual my White, et. al. It's long been out of print. But, used copies aren't hard to find.

    It's all a bit involved. But after getting the hang of it, one can get some great excellent black and white results.
    Thank you for the great response Neil. I’ve just ordered The New Zone System Manual, it wasn’t hard to find. When you say that your testing Ilford HP5 that the film speed is about 200, half the recommended speed does that mean it’s box speed is 400? Just want to make sure I’m following… Here is Alan Brock, about 8 years ag, in his youth, speaking to how he meters for the zone system. He starts with color then goes into c41 and E6. You won’t believe what an amazing photographer (and Pilot) he turned into.. https://youtu.be/IWeFSfQsNU0

  3. #23
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    Different opinions, to say the least. I think some of them are horrible. But whatever works for you, works. Regardless, it takes some experimentation exposing, developing, and printing with select SPECIFIC films to get to first base efficiently. There is simply no substitute for that. Juggling too many variables at once is a recipe for disaster, just like my wife handing me too tall a stack of empty cat food tins and expecting me to get out the back door to the recycle bin with all those at once.

    But I'm personally glad that I cut my teeth with one of the least forgiving media - printing color chromes onto Cibachrome. Had to learn how to handle tight unforgiving tolerances right from the beginning. No "latittude" nonsense or flimsy excuses. Do it right the first time of don't bother. After that, both the black and white Zone System as well as color neg printing was downright easy.

  4. #24

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    Re: The zone system. Do I have this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomsmac View Post
    When you say that your testing Ilford HP5 that the film speed is about 200, half the recommended speed does that mean it’s box speed is 400?
    HP5+ is ISO 400 under ISO criteria (and developed in ID-11/ D-76). The way that the Zone System (and the like) distort metering relative to ISO specifications often results in people claiming speeds somewhere in the region of 2/3-1 stop below the ISO speed. There is no special knowledge to be conferred from wasting time & materials finding this out - other than that many exposure 'systems' are rather reliant on the inherent latitude designed-in by the manufacturers - and that the Zone System rather belies its origin in the pre-1960 ASA film speed era.

  5. #25
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    Due to the long toe of HP5, there are indeed high contrast conditions where it might be advisable to reduce its speed rating to in effect give more exposure, driving shadows further up onto the curve. But I prefer to reserve HP5 for less contrasty applications where its otherwise special qualities are advantageous, especially with pyro development, and shoot something else like TMY400, with its longer straight line, for high contrast problems. Different strokes for different folks. But this being a rather introductory sort of thread, things can get overcomplicated pretty fast, so I won't dig any deeper into my toolbox.

  6. #26

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    Re: The zone system. Do I have this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    . . . I wouldn't get too hung up on expansion/contraction (N+, N-) development with B&W film. If you do your own darkroom printing, much can be done with the MG papers we have at our disposal nowadays. And, if you're scanning and working on the desktop contrast is easily manipulated to taste.
    Expansion and contraction is the point, especially with black and white film. It's too bad that we can't do the same thing to the same degree with color; but, color tolerances are too tight.

    I hope we can come to common ground by agreeing that Ansel Adams knew his way around in a darkroom. But, there's no way he could have achieved so many spectacular results without film expansion and contraction. Even with variable contrast papers, we're limited by what we can achieve controlling paper exposure and contrast. And, he was primarily using graded papers, which don't have near the flexibility of VC papers.

    To obtain good results, we need a good negative. If at all, we can obtain a good negative by how we expose negatives for the shadows in the field, and then develop negatives (through expansion and contraction) for the highlights in the darkroom.

    After all, we control for both exposure and contrast with black and white photographic paper. We probably would never think of using only a single contrast grade of paper for all the photographs that we produce.

    So, why should we not do the same for black and white film?

  7. #27

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    Re: The zone system. Do I have this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomsmac View Post
    . . . I’ve just ordered The New Zone System Manual, it wasn’t hard to find. When you say that your testing Ilford HP5 that the film speed is about 200, half the recommended speed does that mean it’s box speed is 400? Just want to make sure I’m following…
    Yes. With the testing I've done, that tends to be my experience.

    But, we can probably say that the 1/2 ASA guideline has it's limitations. I do calibrations once every couple of years, and I'm about to begin calibrations for medium format HP5 and medium format Ilford Delta 3200. I might skip the ASA testing, given the experience I have with that film. And remember, that's for the particular developer that I use. Venture to a new developer, and I would never skip testing for ASA. Moreover, I will absolutely test for ASA with Delta 3200, regardless of developer. In fact, I'm very intrigued to see what I learn from testing Delta 3200 for ASA. That will indeed be interesting.

    Another observation, I spoke with an Ilford technician long ago, and he told me that medium format HP5 film and large(r) format HP5 film have the same sensitometric characteristics. So long ago, I conducted medium format calibrations for medium format film and applied those results to 4x5 film. But, it didn't work out too well. So, I eventually followed up with separate calibrations for 4x5 HP5 film. I got better results after that.

  8. #28
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    Expansion vs contraction might be the rote ZS mantra, but I use it only sparingly, especially with respect to the stomp-the-peanut-butter-sandwich-flat-enough minus option. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, and I'd rather develop the neg for full tonal expansion, then tame if for printing via unsharp masking, than sledgehammer it into whimpering submission using seriously minus development. But that is one of
    the relatively advanced toolbox kits beyond basic development options. It's how I prefer to deal with HP5 negs shot under relatively high contrast settings; but it has many other potential uses for it too, especially in color printing.

    As per Delta 3200 roll film, their own tech info makes it apparent it's really about an ASA 1000 film, but adaptable to higher speeds at some qualitative loss to the shadows, just like Kodak TMZ. I shoot it at 800 for pyro.

  9. #29

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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    I suspect that sledgehammering your negs to whimpering submission would probably result in finer grain, but I have to admit it's the first time I've heard of this technique. Is it in the official Zone Sytem manual?

    .... and if some duct tape doesn't fix it, a sledgehammer surely will

  10. #30
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Where’s all my zone system experts??

    Depends on the developer. Finer grain is seldom a priority in LF work due to the sheer surplus of square inches of real estate involved; in roll film applications it can to be more important provided acutance is not compromised. But significantly less development (the "minus" ZS sledgehammer) does tend to flatten all that wonderful midtone and highlight microtonality I personally seek.

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