How many Zone Systems are there ?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by argentic, May 20, 2004.

  1. argentic

    argentic Member

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    Hi,

    I'm writing an article about the zonesystem. But the more I read about it, the more I lose track. Even "Saint Ansel" had two different versions. The first one with 9 zones and the second one with 11. But it's worse: it seems every author tries to invent his own zonesystem. I have seen variations by Phil Adams, Fred Picker, Fisher Piel, Roelfsema, YOB, Norman Koren, etc.

    Some zonesystems start at Zone 0, and in others at Zone I. Zone VIII is off-white, in others it's Zone IX.

    How many zonesytems are there?

    And where do they fundamentally differ?

    Gilbert
     
  2. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Probably as many as there are photographers. The Zone System is a way of visualizing and a way of working and a way of achieving predictable results. It requires testing and experimentation to determine what works best for each photographer. It is not a step by step method to be blindly followed.
    juan
     
  3. argentic

    argentic Member

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    Hi Juan,

    Ofcourse you are right. Everybody has to test his own films, developers, equipment, preferences etc. But that's not exactly what I meant. It makes a difference when you consider zone 0 or zone I maximum black, when talking with another zonie. Both use the same expressions, but mean different things.

    So, let me reformulate the question:

    How many documented variations of the zonesystem are there? And where do they differ fundamentally?

    Gilbert
     
  4. gma

    gma Member

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    As far as I have ever been able to determine from the various explanations of zone theory is "expose for shadow & develop for highlights". Everyone seems to agree that if the scene is too flat the contrast needs to be expanded and if the scene if too contrasty the contrast needs to be compressed. The result (in theory) is that every picture will have the fullest range of zones from full black to full white regardless of how the original scene actually looks. I think the variations are in how black and how white do you want to go. Full white often looks like a mistake in printing.
     
  5. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    In my opinion, the Zone System as originally conceived by Minor White and greatly embellished (and promoted) by Ansel Adams is only one method one may employ to allow the greatest control of the process from visualization to final print. It certainly will not improve the photographer’s visualization or their competency in processing. The number of “zones” is arbitrary. There may be as many as 20(+/-) or as few as 7. What you “name” them is arbitrary as well. One does not have to use Roman Numerals :smile:.

    For my work, I choose to set clear film or unexposed paper at zone 0, or barely perceivable negative grain at zone 1. This rarely will be seen in the final print. The maximum zone may be anything but I usually assign zone 10 to the brightest ( e.g. specular reflections in daylight or filamentary emissions at night) BUT NOT ALWAYS!!! All this depends on the subject, lighting, film, developer et c., et c., et c.

    Only by practice in this art will the photographer become proficient and then they may choose to ignore the whole mess or even invent one of their own. I agree that those who work at the various zone systems as a religion may be satisfying their unique needs, but it will not automatically make you into an Ansel Adams.
     
  6. garryl

    garryl Member

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    where did you get the idea that Minor White invented the Zone system?
     
  7. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Now that you mentioned it, I can't remember which of Ansel's colleagues it was (old age sucks), but it wasn't Ansel either. He brought the idea to the peak of technical performance through extensive experimentation to the point where the photographer could understand and employ the technique.
     
  8. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    i think Ansel's co-heart was Fred Archer. He never said he invented the system, at least I never heard that come from him directly. He indicated it was an attempt to develop (no pun intended) a language and method to communicate to other photographers and students using sensitometry as the bases. Sensitometry had been around for awhile and they used that a starting point as it made sense to their logical way of thinking.
    Before Ansel and Fred there was a fellow named Davenport (first name skips my fixer loaded brain cells). And of course there have been toooooooo many since the 60"s to add to the library.
     
  9. garryl

    garryl Member

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    Fred is the one I remember and that is mentioned in Ansel's books and interviews.
    Fred seems to be the inventer , while Ansel was the refiner- at least according to my readings.
    BTW you forgot "The Glen Fishback Zone system". The first to postulate that there might be only 9 instead of 10 zones.