learning to expose and develop

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by severian, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. severian

    severian Member

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    How did you learn to expose and develop film? How did you learn about the intimate relationship between the scene, the exposure and the development?
    They tried there best, I suppose, in undergrad scjool by making me expose, develop and graph a seemingly infinite number of gray scales. There were toes and shoulders and slopes and H&D's. Never made an exposure of the world. I guess they thought that I was only going to photograph gray scales. At the end of the semester I had a very professional looking 2 inch notebook full of multi colored charts and graphs that represented my knowledge of exposure and development. I got an A, but I DID NOT know a thing about exosure and development. Once the cobwebs cleared in my mind from this class I sat down with a spot meter and a grey card.and just thought about it.Then went out and applied my autodidactic thoughts. Bingo! Don't know what happened to that notebook but I know I never learned anything from it. All learning is experiential.
    Humbly submitted with Gassho
    Jack B
     
  2. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    The problem with making H&D curves without projecting them into the proper reproductin method is what happened to you. You learn a lot about logs, french curves or computer curve making, but in the end you have no translation into what you want to express.

    Until I read the BTZS I had a love/hate relationship with the Zone system. Sometimes it worked great, sometimes it did not and when it did not I would go back and test once more.....I must have burned 100s of sheets taking pictures of walls... I started with 35 mm and that was no problem, but no learning either. I would just bracket and one pciture was bound to be correctly exposed, the only thing I learned was not to rely completely in the camera's meter.... :smile:

    OTOH I would not say you did not learn anything in your course. You now have a thorough understanding of the relationship between time, temperature and developer. I am not sure that your autodidactic method is nothing more than all the concepts you learned comming together.
     
  3. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I am mostly self taught. After 30 odd years as an amateur I know how to use a camera to expose film. I can look at a scene and decide what exposure will best serve what I want on the negative, whether to expose for shadows or highlights, which filter to use, I'm gradually learning how to use an enlarger to get a pleasing print. As for all the technical terminology, 'toes and shoulders' etc. mean nothing to me, it baffles me completely! :confused:
    Maybe when I eventually get round to taking a class, I'll know! :smile:
     
  4. mmcclellan

    mmcclellan Subscriber

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    Jack,

    I don't know where you live, but the best book I have seen on the Zone System is Fred Picker's little book, which you can get on Amazon for about $13 or so. It's quick, simple, and is about PHOTOS, not curves. It's about tones as they appear in the print, not logs and H&Ds and all that other stuff. Except for one measurement to determine your exposure index, there is no densitometer work at all -- it's all done visually so you can relate it to the real world.

    Another nice thing about Picker's approach is it will take you all of one weekend to master the Zone System! You'll have your film speed test done, development tests done for both N and N+1 developments, proper proof, etc. Once you get that one weekend of work out of the way, you can concentrate on making photos.

    I followed his advice to the letter (after getting an MA in Photography from Syracuse) and finally got a grip on the ZS. I'm sure you will, too.

    Good luck and don't hesitate to write if you have any questions!
     
  5. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    For me, It was only when I was given AA's book The Negative, that I began to really grasp the relationship between exposure and development. This book opened doors for me in my total understanding of that whole process. I had been "exposing" and "developing" film for a long time, but I never really knew what the hell was going on in that process until I read and understood what is in "The Negative".

    Before, it was trial and error without really understanding my results. In chapter one AA wrote: "Approximation by trial and error is costly in time and resource." Man, he was right on the money with that statement---at least that sentiment is correct when I apply those words to my own experience. Now, I expose with confidence because I understand that crucial relationship with tons more clarity than ever before.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Chuck
     
  6. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    How true. He should have finished the sentence with,"so I recommend beyond the zone system by Davis"
     
  7. severian

    severian Member

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    got a grip

    Mac, Jorge et. al,
    All this happened to me 30 years ago. Nevertheless your advice should be heeded by all
    JackB
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Adams' _The Negative_ brought these concepts into focus, as it were, for me as well. I didn't spend too much time, though, doing tests, and I made sure to apply the results right away, so that I could see if it worked.

    I think the attraction of the Zone System and the densitometer is that they makes it possible to learn what a good negative looks like using a book. If one doesn't have an experienced instructor who can say that one's negs are under- or overexposed, or under- or overdeveloped, and if one lives in a place where there might not be many opportunities to see fine prints, the densitometer provides some control over the process and can put the student in the ballpark.
     
  9. severian

    severian Member

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    BTZS and Davis

    Beyond the Zone System by Phil Davis is an interesting read but there seems to be something missing. Conversation I had with a BTZS person at the Houston Center of Photography while we are both looking at a print:
    I paraphrase
    BTZS Guy(It seems they are always male):Fairly nice print.
    Jack- Fairly?
    BTZS Guy- The blacks don't really make it
    Jack- Make what?
    BTZS GUY- dMax, my friend
    Jack- Looks pretty black to me
    BTZS Guy- A reflection densitometer reading would prove me right.
    Jack- My eyes prove me right
    BTZS Guy- Well your eyes are wrong
    Jack- My eyes are a window to my aesthetic sensibilities
    BTZSD Guy- I can guarantee you that this was printed on Azo and developed in amidol.
    Jack- Thats bad?
    BTZS Guy- developeing azo in Dektol would produce a blacker black
    Jack- developing azo in produces a more emotional black
    BTZS Guy- Huh? what is an emotional black?
    Jack- it's beyond words
    BTZS Guy- nice talking to ya
    Jack- have a nice day
     
  10. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Well, I would not say this guy is a typical example of the BTZS practicioner. Both Phil and Arentz talk about a "convincing" black, which is never as black as the paper or printing method of choice is capable. As a matter of fact it is set at 90% of Dmax.

    OTOH I have to agree with the guy, what is an "emotional" black? Seems to me you both had different taste in what is a good print and there was not going to be a meeting of the minds reagardless of what you you or he said.

    Having said that, my experience with the HCP is that they show work that is "expressive" and many times weak on technique. I have seen some work there that I had no idea why it was shown, other than the fact that it was supposed to be "contemporary."
     
  11. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've always found Ansel Adam's books rather poorly written, and was never quite able to get my mind around the zone system just from reading them. It wasn't until I had some hands on instruction, that I finally started to understand it. When I first started in photography, I learned more in the Helen Levitt mold... expose enough, and don't overdevelop. After some experience, I can see when a negative is good... it should simply be luminescent.

    That said, I've been fumbling around pushed film in X-tol lately, and have come up with some rather dense negs. Suppose I should stop being "intuitive" for a moment, and run a few tests to determine a good developing time. (Save some time and film, as St. Ansel so nicely pointed out!)

    As for evaluating prints... well, I love a technically perfect print, but not as much as an expressive one.
     
  12. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Can the Zone System be applied to 35mm? I ask because I have only seen it discussed among lf photographers.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Knowing the Zone system is useful for 35mm photographers, but it's not as convenient (being harder to control development times of individual exposures), and there are some effects of the Zone system that don't lend themselves well to 35mm enlargements (i.e., for maximum enlargability, you would in general be better off underdeveloping a bit and controlling contrast by paper grade and other printing controls).

    If you wanted to try using the Zone System for 35mm, you could mark several rolls of film for -2, -1, N, +1, and +2 and swap them in and out, and if you found that it worked for you, get a few inexpensive camera bodies and use them as you would use interchangeable backs on a medium format system.
     
  14. severian

    severian Member

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    Class?

    Andy
    Don't take a class just take more photos
    Jack
     
  15. severian

    severian Member

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    Biography of Ted Williams

    My bottom line is that thinking you will learn anything about making photographs by reading Phil Davis or AA is like thinking you will hit .400 by reading the Biography of Ted Williams
    Jack