BTZS Explored

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by mikepry, Feb 23, 2005.

  1. mikepry

    mikepry Subscriber

    Messages:
    413
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Salem, Wi (B
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    After several years of contemplating the investigation of the BTZS approach to photography, I decided, this winter to give it a go. My background is not an academic one by any means so I almost flipped out when I first opened the book when it arrived in the mail! Well, this was a waste of money, was my initial reaction. Tried to read book....put book down.......tried to read book again....put book down again.......tried to read again, but this time little bits and pieces started to sink in! Then more, and then a little more. Well after really giving it a fair chance and an honest effort I have to say I'm sold. What a revelation. Yes, it is a very complex approach, but we work with very complex materials, don't we? Very scientific materials, to say the least. But after one does some very EASY and FAST testing, the wealth of information is absolutely mind boggling.

    This is not a ploy to convert anyone to this system but rather just letting anyone know who has contemplated it as I did to try it and see if it isn't the "best kept secret in photography." I received great help along the way from Jorge as well as Fred and Dennis at the View Camera Store, and suggested to them they should consider being a sponsor on APUG which they did to my delight. Yes, this is technical at first but once through that, it really simplifies the whole approach and I must say that I have produced some of the nicest printing negatives I have ever worked with. Some almost print themselves! Way cool. What is different is that one starts with the paper and fits the neg to that. I had not done that in the past and it really works well.
     
  2. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

    Messages:
    284
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You lost me on the first sentance, forgive me, but what is BTZS?

    (something zone system?)
     
  3. Christian Olivet

    Christian Olivet Member

    Messages:
    188
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I have learned the develop by inspection method for negatives to be printed on AZO. I can not think of anything more simple than that. I feel that I am able to get the contrast close enough to make the prints that I want. I wonder if working with Pt-Pd needs a very different approach to making negatives??
    I can only think that part of the beauty of using the BTZS system is in getting the neg right on so that printing with expensive salts does not get discouragely expensive, especially with bigger prints.

    Is there anything else that the BTZS is good for?
     
  4. Zathras

    Zathras Subscriber

    Messages:
    578
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2004
    Location:
    SF Bay Area
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Mike.

    I remember the first time I tackled that book. I sure felt like a dummy but I plodded on through and finally got it. What really opened my eyes was when I got ahold of the Plotter program for the Mac. Everything fell into place at once and the really cool thing is that I don't have to drive myself nuts plotting the the curves myself. Another cool thing is that it only takes five sheets of film plus whatever paper you plan to use for the test and it saves a lot of film too. Really cuts down on waste.

    I have gotten ahold of a densitometer, but I need to find a manual for it and a transmission calibration standard for it so I know if it's working correctly.

    I think that it would be fun to test all the popular films so there would be objective and subjective ways to find out which film really really works best. You could do the sensitometric tests to find the best film speeds and dev time for the for the technically optimum negative, then go out and shoot the calibrated films in a real world situation, print the pictures and see what combinations work best for your particular style, or lack thereof.

    I think that Ansel Adams would have thought very highly of BTZS.

    Mike Sullivan
     
  5. mikepry

    mikepry Subscriber

    Messages:
    413
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2003
    Location:
    Salem, Wi (B
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Because of the work I do with Palladium was one of the main reasons I went into BTZS. And I know I'll have many people disagree with me on this but as far as AZO goes....it's merely another paper with predictable characteristics. Yes, it's a good paper but every film and paper is good....for something.
     
  6. Soeren

    Soeren Member

    Messages:
    2,436
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Naestved, DK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Beyond The Zone System :smile:
    Søren
     
  7. noseoil

    noseoil Member

    Messages:
    2,898
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2003
    Location:
    Tucson
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Christopher, BTZS stands for "Beyond the Zone System" which is a logical extension of what Adams was working with in his time. It is a synthesis of though which results in an approach to photography allowing the photographer ultimate control of exposure and development for any given paper, lighting or difficult situation out of the "normal" exposure range.

    It tends to be a bit on the technical side, but the end result is to match the film to the paper's exact scale in order to allow a full rendering of tonality in an image with a minimum of fuss and bother after testing is done.
     
  8. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,725
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Different ways of looking at the same horse. Adams was a musician, and a very fine one at that. His analogy was to steps of the musical scale. BTZS is more strictly numerical, but the essence of it can be put to use even without a densitometer.
     
  9. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    My thought exactly

    Photogra[hy has noting better to offer photographers who wish process contol than BTZS. It far exceeds the methodoly started by Archer and Adams. It is, in my opinion, to be highly recommeded to all B&W photographers,

    Unfortunately, a prime factor in any photographer's development will be their own personality. Many photographers have a personality that would make this photographic metod unsuitable for them. Thankfully, methodoly does not prevent any photographer from producing fine photography. The BTZS method makes photography a great deal more efficient but is no guarantee of an interesting photo being produced. An interesting photo is the result of physics, artistry and craftmanship.
     
  10. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have read all of the material that AA included in his various books. I bought them and I own them today. They were excellent inasfar as they went. It appears to me that whereas Adams determined that the Zone VIII density of a negative as being the logical conclusion of the process, Phil Davis more correctly determined that the exposure scale of the paper was the logical conclusion of the process. I would tend to believe that Davis was more accurate in his procedure. Once the characteristics (exposure scale) of the paper is determined, the negative density range can then be determined to match the characteristics of the paper. Without knowledge of the paper characteristics, the negative density range is an ill conceived and nebulous value.

    I have also developed film by inspection. I do not believe, in my actual experience, that I or any one can arrive at the accurate targeted density range on the basis of visual inspection with a fifteen watt lamp filtered through the green filter.
     
  11. donbga

    donbga Member

    Messages:
    2,084
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2003
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    An interesting photograph is determined by the viewer, not the photographer.

    Don Bryant
     
  12. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,725
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2002
    You can find the exposure scale of the paper and the contrast index of the developed film image of a step density wedge by contact printing both the step wedge and the film image of it on paper. You can translate these values into scene brightness range that can be printed on that paper from a negative developed as your test was developed. All without a densitometer, to accuracy as good as you can guarantee by measurements of the original scene with a good spot meter.
    I agree about development by inspection, but I'm not about to try to convince anyone who has done it successfully for years that they cannot do it. I have people trying to tell me that I cannot do some of the things that I have done, so I know both sides. The moral is that some people can do things others cannot. But we all knew that. Many professional violinists know exactly what they are going to hear when they put a finger on the string and draw the bow across it. So do I, but I wouldn't want anyone else to hear it.
     
  13. Paddy

    Paddy Member

    Messages:
    338
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    Vancouver, B
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That has to be an understatement! If you're like me, i.e. seriously math/numbers challenged, then you'll be lost after a couple of pages into Phil Davis's much vaunted publication. Prior to looking this book over, I'd heard all of the usual reverent hub-bub floating across the web about what a miracle BTZS has made for my work, etc,...

    Well for myself who's number & math challenged, it flopped hard and fast. I found it unbearably dry. It's not for everybody, and in fact I think that it's not for many at all, because it requires quite a technically competent user, in order to grasp/gain the results. I'm not saying that the BTZS approach isn't valid, of course it is,...for the right person. There are many roads leading to Rome. And for a right brainer like myself it was a dead-end.

    It's not that I'm not committed to the art & craft of this medium,...nothing of the sort. I study and teach photography, the Zone System in fact, and my experience as an instructor is always pushing me to find better and clearer ways to present the theoretical & practical material. I've seen it so many times, with the students and even myself: the tendency to want to pursue film/materials testing to the 'nth degree, obsessing over target densities, when ultimately what any visual artist must be doing more than anything else is practicing their craft. Doing it's where the real learning gets integrated.

    I was recently given the collection of Fred Picker's Zone VI newsletters, and beyond whether or not his approach was valid for many or few, I really liked what he had to say about the fact that so much utterly brilliant work, both aesthetically and technically had been produced long before someone had ever uttered the sacred phrase "the zone system". Would their having known about the Zone System improved their images. Not likely. They knew their medium inside out, in a way that I don't think we can truly appreciate today.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I think you did not give it a serious chance.....but to each its own.
    We will never know if the people who made great prints before the ZS would have made better photographs knowing it, I dont think you can say it would not be likely, specially if you base your opnion on the Picker's writings. While he had some good ideas as far as equipment goes, his methodology was seriously flawed.
     
  16. hortense

    hortense Member

    Messages:
    612
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Location:
    Riverside, C
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    For a much simpler but EFFECTIVE method (and far less expensive) try Fred Picker's Book, "Zone VI Workshop", published by Amphoto. Amazon shows it at $2.99 plus shipping.
     
  17. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    :rolleyes:
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format

    While one can get into the same universe without the benefit of a reflective densitometric determination of the papers exposure scale, I don't believe that a truly accurate appraisal can be made. I say this after visually inspecting developed projections of a step tablet on paper and then comparing that to a densitometric evaluation. Truth is that while my vision is not seriously impaired, my eyes just are not as accurate as the instrument.
     
  19. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,725
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Therein lies another problem. How accurate is the instrument? Yet another, how accurate must it be? Where is the weakest link? If you know the scale of the paper to a gnat's eyelash, will that insure that you can expose and develop the film to take advantage of that precision? After all that, how many times will you get a negative that just "falls" onto the paper without dodging, burning or other manipulation? If you had a choice, would you rather have a densitometer or that new lens you have always coveted? I don't want to spoil your fun. I always wanted a densitometer, so I designed and built one. That was part of my fun. Mine is not like any other, and that too is part of my fun. I'm just trying to get you to think about priorities in a level-headed manner. If your head is not quite level, welcome to the fraternity.
     
  20. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format

    The point that I was attempting make is that my reflective densitometer, which I already own, is far more accurate then my visual inspection of a developed print of a step tablet projection. But then my eyes are not as young as they once were...perhaps therein lies the problem. I have found, through my personal experience, that I have far more negatives that print without serious manipulation now then what was once the case.

    As far as lenses go, I already own what I want. But then maybe that isn't the case for everyone.

    I don't want to be contentious. I am just pointing out that accuracy comes from using the most accurate means. Perhaps that isn't thinking rationally from your perspective. But then as I already mentioned one needs to determine the accuracy of the evaluating means.
     
  21. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,405
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2003
    Location:
    Norwich, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    These pre-zone system photographers had either luck or a good working knowledge of their materials. Thats all the zone system is, a method of arriving at a good working knowledge of your materials and then applying that knowledge to arrive at the results you want. BTZS just takes that knowledge a step deeper technically (IMO)
    Phill
     
  22. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,264
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    They may have made better more consistent negatives but not better photographs. BTZS only allows you to control and understand your materials not make you a better photographer.

    I do not like the amount of numbers or tests involved, that is just the way I am. I like the metering technique because it makes sense in the right conditions, so I use it. Just like I do not follow the Zone system to the letter I do not follow BTZS. Use what works. Is this a wonderful little secret? Maybe for some and not for others. It is not a magic bullet.

    I think there are assumptions made in the system that, living where I do, makes it a pain in the ass and until I figured the problem out I made some real shitty negs. The BTZS metering method was where I was going wrong. The method assumes that that every scene contains an SBR of five and you have to make a value judgement on scenes that may have less. This is a falacy that I personally find to be one hell of a stumbling point for the method and since I live in the desert SW I have to make a hell of a lot of value judgements. I would rather use a spot meter on most days to isolate specific values in the scene.

    BTZS devotees try to rationalize this by talking about local contrast but under caertain contitions you need a spotmeter and the zone system. I will say though, that in the right conditions you can't beat the BTZS metering method. Makes some really nice looking negs with everytihing where it should be.

    Jorge, and francesco are living examples of good photographers who would be good no matter what they used, but in this case BTZS works for them.
     
  23. esearing

    esearing Subscriber

    Messages:
    142
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Northern sub
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    The thing that bugs me about BTZS is that it assumes you do your process the same way every time. i.e PMK - 68deg for 12mins for normal scene. But in reality I may have water temps at 70deg, more or less agitation, change dilution to suit image, etc...

    The best parts I got out of the book were the metering (to guage lighting contrast), and the use of tubes. The sensiometry is for those who have means to control all variables, not my makeshift darkroom.
     
  24. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

    Messages:
    3,268
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Mike - check out these standards from X-Rite
    http://www.xrite.com/product_accessories.aspx?Line=17

    3 Step Certified Wedge (Transmission), Part Nr. 319-68, $41

    Calibration Step Wedge for Models 810-830, Part Nr. 810-68, $71

    3-Step Calibration Plaque (Reflection), Part Nr. 302-12, $39

    You can buy online from X-Rite which makes it really convienent.

    I bought a set of 810-68 and 302-12 for my Noritsu DM-201, and even though these are made by X-Rite, they work just fine.
     
  25. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    for Mark

    If you prefer a spot meter the BTZS is set up for that. The incident system that you have described allows for development decisions. True it assumes a 5 stop brightness span for a flatly lit subject 5 stops from the blackest paint to the brightest white. A normal scene would be described as have a 2 stop difference in highlight to shadow areas....seven stops total. After doing your calibration work you would measure the shadows with the film speed doubled to get your exposure. You would measure the highlighted..non shadow area to get the difference in f stops. You then know your brightness range..if your shadow reading was 3 stops different than your your lit subject area your would process as if you had an 8 stop range. This of course would be a shortened development time. You would swithch to a lower film speed as indicated from your calibration and expose and develop as indicated.
    It is a very nice system to use.

    The same set of tests could be used for an advanced Zone system usage.

    Here are some of the pros of the both ssystem as I see them

    Incident.
    Very easily used and learned.
    Not as easily visualized when you are missing a black or a white...a subject that does not contain tones from pure black to pure white. But still visualizeable. Individual tones that are not black or white are difficult to determine.
    Meter is not sensitive to subject color
    meter is not as sensitive to IR light
    exposure is not determined by subject distance
    meter is not influenced by flare.

    spot
    direct visulazation of specific tones
    meter influenced by subject color
    meter sensitive to IR light
    meter is influenced by flare
    metering of a specific area has to be modified by distance from the camera placement. Ie a tree trunk 20 feet away and one that is 100 yards away will not read the same or require the same exposure.

    In the best of worlds you would use both methods.

    I do not live in the best of worlds. I have chosen the incident method.

    Either method is capable of being very much superior to traditional zone system techniques.
     
  26. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,264
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Claire, I understand the process, studied the hell out of it and the 5 stop assumption is just that an assumption. With the incident method there is no room for correctly figuring a less than five stop SBR without making a leap of faith. I just took a meter reading and guess what, I got an EV of 9 every where I placed the meter reletive to the lens of the camera. The BTZS does not work for me where I live a lot of the time. Especially these days. Lots of clouds no shadows to speak of but great contrast as long as I know exactly where I want individual objects to fall. I do what I do because it works for me. The traditional Zone system works just fine for many many people. No those folks are not wasting their time if they are getting photographs that they are proud of.