Looking for some guidance on Zone System

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Jonno888, May 24, 2013.

  1. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    Hello all.

    I'm trying to wrap my brain around the zone system concepts at the moment. Before I take the plunge and try it out I want to confirm I have a basic understanding of the process used to actually meter a scene, check for contrast range and develop accordingly. So here goes....

    Say I have in my scene (my backyard) a dark fence which I meter 1/500th at F/4 and I want to place this at Zone 3. According to what I know thus far, I would reduce the exposure by two stops and make it say.... 1/500th @ F/8.
    Now this is the part where I think I need some clarity. Say in the scene there is also pathway in full sunlight and I want to place that on Zone 7. I take a light meter reading of the pathway and get 1/500th at F/22. I now have a difference of 3 stops between my Zone 3 and future Zone 7. To get to the 4 stop difference I require I now need to develop at my known normal development time plus 20% to get the extra stop ?

    What if my lens has max aperture of f/22 and I needed to add 2 stops to shutter speed and ended up with 1/2000th @ f22. I would now have 5 stop difference from my Zone 3 reading? I would then devel
    op my film at known normal development time minus 20% ?

    Hopefully above makes some sense. Pointers appreciated! (I have a zone system induced headache now :blink:)

    Regards,
    Jonno.
     
  2. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Oh no. You wouldn't do 1/2000th at f/22 - that would be like taking your pathway and placing it on Zone 3. I can get a headache thinking like that too.

    The very first thing you did was right, 1/500th at f/8.

    Relax, with the Zone System, you would try to leave the light meter there. Take the picture now if you like. No matter what, that would be the right shutter speed and f/stop combination to expose the film properly.

    With your shadow placed on Zone III your highlight would fall on Zone VIII according to your meter readings. If you really want the highlight lower, on Zone VII then yes, you want to develop less.

    But no matter what you shoot at 1/500th at f/8.
     
  3. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Why not an equivalent exposure of, for instance 1/125 @f16?
     
  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Oh, I didn't mean to lock it down that much. Of course any equivalent exposure.
     
  5. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    Thanks for the advice Bill. I'm trying to understand why the highlight is on Zone VIII from those meter readings. Could you explain that part ?

    Thanks.
     
  6. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I was using my Zone Sticker and placing the shadow on Zone III for starters.

    Then I looked at where the meter reading of your bright path would fall. You want it bright in your print...

    So you will "overexpose" the path. After the meter tells you what to do, you "open up" a few stops. Meter is V, Open up 1, 2 ,3 stops.

    So you go from
    500 f/22
    open three stops....
    f/16
    f/11
    f/8

    So if you use 1/500 at f/8 the shadow you place on Zone III would cause the highlight to fall on Zone VIII.

    Now you say you want the highlight to be on Zone VII. You could compress by developing N-1.
     
  7. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    Bill, thank you very much. I think I just had the "ahh hah" moment. :D
     
  8. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    One last thing. Just to make sure I get this....

    Say for some reason I wanted to put the shadows on Zone 4. That would mean I shoot at 1/500th at f/5.6. Therefore if I take the shot at this exposure I will overexpose my highlights by 4 stops and would place the highlights on zone IX (too high) if I continue with normal development So I would then reduce development by N-1 to pull them back to Zone VIII ?
     
  9. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Basically you are correct here.

    You might wish to get or make a Zone System sticker for your light meter or get a Zone Dial. Then you just place the shadow reading on the Zone you wish it to be in; no bothering with underexposing by one (for Zone IV) or two (for Zone III) stops. See here for downloadable stickers/Zone dial: http://www.darkroomagic.com/DarkroomMagic/Camera.html

    In any case, once you have determined your shadow placement, that is your basic exposure, regardless of whatever development scheme you choose later. You "place" the shadow where you want it, and then see where the other important values in the scene "fall."

    If you are shooting roll film, which I surmise you are from the aperture/shutter speed combinations you give, then don't worry about plus or minus developments. Those were intended for sheet film users who can develop each sheet separately, or for those who really want to carry around extra film backs/camera bodies for plus and minus developments. When I shoot roll film I just place the shadow, develop "normally" and use paper grade to deal with contrast. This works fine for many subjects of different contrast on one roll.

    If you do wish to have plus and minus developments, then here's how you deal with them: After determining your shadow placement and basic exposure, see where the important highlight value falls: If you need to move a subject that falls in Zone VII to Zone VIII, then you indicate N+1 development, make the necessary exposure adjustment (I underexpose 1/3 to 2/3-stop for N+1 depending on the film/developer combination) and shoot away. The opposite if you need to move a subject that "falls" in Zone VIII down to Zone VII; then you indicate N-1, make the necessary exposure adjustment (I overexpose 2/3-stop for N-1 with most films) and shoot away.

    Now, if you insist on doing this without a Zone System sticker on your meter, you need to count stops from your shadow exposure, which can get a bit confusing. However, let's go through scenario 1 above:

    ~ Let's place a shadow on Zone III. Let's say the meter reading for the shadow was f/11 at 1/15 sec. You want that in Zone III, so you underexpose two stops from that; let's say f/11 at 1/60th sec. That is your basic exposure, but isn't used for what follows, Remember it, write it down, or whatever, but go back to just reading the meter for the next step.

    ~ Now meter the highlight. Let's say it reads f/11 at 1/250 sec. (keep one of the parameters constant so it's easier to count; here f/11 is constant).

    ~ Now here we go, 1/15th sec. is Zone III (that was our shadow reading, not our basic exposure), so f/11 at 1/30th "falls" in Zone IV, 1/60th in Zone V, 1/125 in Zone VI and (whew, we've finally arrived...)1/250th sec falls in Zone VII. Now you know where your highlight (metered at f/11; 1/250) falls.

    ~ We decide we really want that highlight to be lighter in the print than Zone VII, say Zone VIII, so we indicate N+1 development.

    ~ Now, go back to your basic exposure (remember that, it was f/11 at 1/60th sec.), underexpose your predetermined factor for N+1 development (let's say 2/3 stop) and you arrive at f/16- (1/3-stop wider than f/16) at 1/60.

    ~ Now decide what aperture/shutter speed combination you really want; let's say we need more depth-of-field for this shot, so we stop down to f/22- and change the shutter speed to 1/30 to compensate.

    ~ That's all there is to it... Set that on your camera and take the shot.

    All this is predicated on having made tests to determine you own personal E.I. and development times, of course.

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus


    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2013
  10. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    get the little fred picker zone book and learn how to do it...easy
    best, peter
     
  11. seadrive

    seadrive Member

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    Or use the even-easier modified Picker Zone System:

    1) Place the highest value you want to show detail on Zone VIII;

    2) Take the picture;

    3) Use paper contrast grades to place low values where you want them in the print.

    I also recommend getting a copy of the Zone VI Workshop (aka the little fred picker zone book), just because Fred explained it so well, and because, well, it's a cute little book!
     
  12. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    Thank you for the responses everyone. Invaluable information for me....
     
  13. Jonno888

    Jonno888 Member

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    Thanks for this. Great post.

    Just curious about your printing methods. Do you use fixed grade papers or variable? Do you ever use split grade printing or just stick to the one grade ?
     
  14. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    For years I used graded paper only, but now am using more VC paper, especially when I need higher contrast. I try to avoid low contrast on VC papers due to the unevenness of the response in the mid-tones. I like Galerie grades 2 and 3, and used to use a lot of Oriental G, Slavich, Kentmere, etc., In VC I am now using the Adox 110 and the Foma 111. I like both of these. When I use VC papers, I still use the same printing techniques as with graded papers except I use intermediate filtration instead of split-developing to get intermediate grades. I will, however, burn an area with a different filter. Basic exposure, and dodging is done with one filtration; no split printing.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    The Zone System allows you to pre-visualize what the film sees. It's always placing a specific area in a zone and you'll have to figure out where the rest of your scene is going to "fall". You can expand and contract your range, but there's no magic to it. Always expose for shadows then develop for highlights. Take a looksy here.

    Ted Forbes is a great photographic educator.
    http://theartofphotography.tv/episodes/episode-60-zone-system/


    This is very useful too.
    http://vimeo.com/61485935

    Best of luck!
     
  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I fail to understand how anyone can comment on this without knowing how the original scene looks in terms of lighting ratio, luminance and contrast to name but a few, without even considering how the artist wishes to make the rendition.
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    you need to make yourself a zone dial, and let it do the thinking for you.You'll find it for freeon my homepage www. dark roomagic.com, or send me an email to rlambrec@ymail.com ,and I'll send you the PDF. It will do much to clarify the process for you and make it a lot simpler; it did for me and many of my friends.
     
  18. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    darkroomagic.com appears to be down
     
  19. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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  20. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    great!It seems that my website got hijacked by a Canadian photofinishing company;I'll find oout what I can do about it
     
  21. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

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    :laugh: Love the humor, Ralph