About Beyond the Zone System

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Mustafa Umut Sarac, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I am judging every photograph with my visual memory and AA and EW photographs always impressed me. I dont know whether Edward Weston used zone system or I dont have knowledge how he managed the process. And I found BTZS system years ago and I did not see a good picture done with it , all were average. I found them like pencil drawings or gun engravings where the artists escapes from the black and everything is highly neutral.
    Am I missing a point ?

    Umut
     
  2. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Yes. You are missing a lot of points and/or not really looking. Try googling John Sexton for a start.
     
  3. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    BTZS is rather a clever system though it fills the blanks with lot of assumptions.
     
  4. JamesMorris

    JamesMorris Member

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    Weston did not use the zone system, or even a light meter. He estimated exposure times, and developed film by inspection.
     
  5. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Mustafa, Adams's/Archer's Zone System, Phil Davis's BTZS, and the many other variations on the Zone System since Adams, are all essentially intended to make exposure/development decisions more methodical based on the print you visualize in your mind. But even without a "system", with experience you end up doing this anyway "expose for shadows, develop for highlights, etc.". EW, Adams and others were doing this before there was any codified system. They did it with experience, but it is all the same thing in the end. Also remember photographers like Weston were working with earlier materials. There was less standardization, light meters were non-existent or primitive, etc.

    Perhaps most importantly, the quality of the final print has MUCH more to do with printing skill than which exposure/development system you use, if any.

    So to answer your question, yes I think you're missing the point. I don't think you can correlate print quality with specific methods of exposing and developing film. It is entirely dependent on the photographer and how he/she uses whatever system. You can get great results or crap results from ANY system.

    Incidentally, I would say the same thing about the relationships I often see you trying to make between prints and optics. It just doesn't work that way. For example a print which is contrasty with no shadow detail is related to negative exposure/development and printing (either intentionally or unintentionally). It has virtually nothing to do with whether the lens is Japanese or German.
     
  6. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Weston was an experienced photographer before photoelectric light meters were marketed, but later photographs often show him carrying a light meter. He was much less technically inclined than many of his friends such as Adams.
     
  7. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Only BTZS prints I have ever see an photo magazine article , first result when you searched and everything was awful , other source was their forum where there were awful pictures. John Sexton prints are amazing , I havent an idea he used the system , IMHO japanese optics are the enemy of good photography , if you want a good print , you must be 4 times luckier than german optics user. They always trace a wrong doing in the photograph , I want to talk about optics , if you change the distances between elements , you can get over corrected , high contrast images , this is for nikon and mamiya users , they dont design perfect lenses , they manufacture over corrected lenses and everything gets blown , colors goes ugly , high light details lost , ugly noise apeears and whats not.

    At classifieds a nikon em goes for 10 dollars and lens goes for 10 dollars. Real photographers only pay that price to them. I always discusted from nikon since I was 14. There were hundreds of chromatic not corrected pictures at photo technique and amateur photographer.

    I did not hear that Ansel and Edward Weston ever used japanese optics , in 1924 there were 3000 optics manufacturer at Germany and since that time they published highly technical 3500 books.

    If I was young and still working , own a Leica and money for film and travel , I would show you how German optics work. There are few pictures from that time at gallery and they speak for themselves.
     
  8. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I became interested in photography after accidentally happening on to an exhibition of 100 vintage Edward Weston prints at the then Friends of Photography in Carmel, Ca about 1970. I had no idea of who EW was nor had I ever heard of him. My only knowledge of photography at the time was a match-needle built-in light meter in a 35mm Voightlander Bessamatic camera purchased in a pawn shop ... take a roll of film and have it processed and printed at a local camera shop. While viewing the exhibition I remarked to my wife "look how good his pictures are compared to what we get back, I bet he has his own darkroom." Little did I know.

    I have since seen many prints done by the old masters as well as the more recent icons and feel they all had/ have common traits. They have a deep feeling for their craft, pre-visualize their subject as a print, are familiar with the properties of their materials and equipment, take the time necessary to strive for perfection and possess talent.

    Imagine, you can now have a phone that has a 41 megapixel camera that will do everything except hold itself in position for the perfect shot.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  9. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Right back at ya'.

    I am trying to follow this thread without comment, but your OP seems to be about BTZS, and your last about Japanese vs. German optics. Is it your contention that ZS's (any, I guess) and national optics are related, or are you making a sharp left turn (without signaling)?
     
  10. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Mustafa, John Sexton is not a BTZS user. He uses a straight Zone System approach.

    As for his fantastic prints, I'm glad you like them - because he uses Nikon lenses for virtually all his large format work. He's an excellent artist and printer. That's all that matters.
     
  11. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Another take on any of the Zone System approaches is that with our materials and the exposure / development process, we must do our best to capture as much of the original scene as possible into the range of the film/negative material. From there we can interpret with printing (similar to what Michael says re the print).
    +1 what Jim said - I remember a story about EW. He was shooting a sand dune scene, the story teller (don't remember who - maybe AA or Minor White, my personal favorite) says Weston took a reading (this would be an old Weston general purpose, photo voltaic non spot meter, just read the whole scene). He saw the reading and said, "I'll give it 3 more. . .". He intuitively knew that a scene consisting mostly of very high values would require more exposure to overcome the meter's tendancy to treat all subjects as a normal landscape, and "place" the values more appropriately on the film. This kind of thinking and intuition might be what led AA to develop a more exacting and systemic approach.
     
  12. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    The bottom line here is fairly straight forward. When it comes to talented and skilled photographers/printers, ultimately the tonality of the print has essentially nothing to do with which exposure/development "system" is used, and nothing to do with which country the optics come from.
     
  13. NB23

    NB23 Member

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    I'm a die hard Leica user. Tried all the best Leitz lenses. And believe it or not, the two lenses that are the most leica-esque are the... Noct-nikkor and the 28 f1.4. Magical. They beat anything leica I have ever tried.
    The only problem is that I have serious objections to using my F6 when there's an M next to it.
     
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  15. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi Umut,

    I think you might be disappointed by the average quality Black Ink Offset Lithographic reproduction, compared to other higher-quality Duotone art editions that you are used to seeing. But even if not that, you are missing the lessons BTZS teaches by holding the example photography by teacher and students... to higher standards than necessary to see the points being illustrated.

    When you use an exposure system, the result is often a negative that holds enough detail in the shadows to show texture IF DESIRED... And control of the highlights (again IF DESIRED) to avoid bleak whites. You can take that negative and do anything you want with it.

    For exciting examples of the capability of the Zone System, I look at Minor White's examples and illustrations. In fact BTZS includes a reproduction of "Moon and Wall Encrustations" on page 4... quite possibly a very drab gray wall when the camera was setup in front of it.
     
  16. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    That is the most ignorant pile of bigotry I've heard here in a while, and it's got what to do with BTZS? Are you here just to troll and whinge about things that are different from what you do?

    We know you venerate Ernst Leitz and while I can agree that his lenses were excellent for their time, there is more to the world than 35mm and a hell of a lot more to the world than german lenses. And I say this as someone who has used most of the classic brands (Mamiya, Zeiss, Nikon, Schneider, Rodenstock and Minolta) pretty heavily: if you have blown highlights, ugly colours (probably clipping on one channel), missing shadows or bad contrast ratios, it's 100% operator error.

    The quality of a photograph is all in the artistry of composition and control of light. Professional equipment from any of the major manufacturers (i.e. not a Lomo or Seagull) is quite capable of rendering anyone's vision well enough that you'll never be able to tell which brand was used. There are no magic bullets.

    BTZS is all about choosing an appropriate exposure and contrast for a scene, in order to capture all of the detail you intended to. Following it says nothing about the artistry or content of an image and has nothing to do with which brand of lens you used.
     
  17. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    Is this thread a discussion of lenses or BTZS? :confused:
     
  18. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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    May I suggest that we all get the book 'Quit Light' by John Sexton, a good cup of coffee (not the developer type, mind you), sit down and just gaze at the images for - let's say - half an hour?

    Then we all come back here and share what we saw .....

    To help you to get started, just finish this sentence in max 5 lines:
    "When I looked at the images I saw ......."
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2013
  19. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    Polyglot, don't waste your time feeding the troll... This guy is hopeless.
     
  20. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    'Quiet Light' - John Sexton.
     
  21. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    John Sexton is an expert at the Zone System having worked as Ansel's assistant for several years. I have never heard him mention BTZS.
     
  22. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    John is not a BTZS user. Standard 1 degree spot meter/Zone System.

    And I'll mention again he uses mostly Nikkor glass - just because Mustafa seemed to like his prints even though for the most part they aren't made with German lenses :smile:
     
  23. TheToadMen

    TheToadMen Subscriber

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  24. Harold33

    Harold33 Member

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    Adams, Archer, Minor White, Phil Davis (and many others) offer a rational method to expose film, nothing else.
    It's not a method to take interesting photographs.
     
  25. jetcode

    jetcode Member

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    Sexton makes great art. I love his work.

    I found the AA's zone system and a few books on the subject: Chris Johnson, Minor White (nice, small, and to the point) were much easier to digest than BTZS and I have a copy here. At the time I was most interested I did not (nor do I know) have access to a densitometer and it matters for this particular process. Nevertheless Phil was dedicated to this work and it makes an interesting read if that's your cup of tea. While nailing a perfect capture will always challenge in reality the choices become limited through personal experience.
     
  26. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    Just another voice to stress an important clarification, which has already been made in this thread: John Sexton does not use BTZS. He uses the Zone System, pretty much as described in AA's "The Negative."