Obtaining print values as placed

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by CPorter, May 26, 2005.

  1. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Greetings:

    Since teaching myself the rudiments of the ZS and obtaining my personal film speed for T-Max 400 (EI 250), I have a printing question regarding the corresponding print values. I'll reiterate the old maxims for my train of thought here: with film, we expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights; with printing, the maxim is we determine the best exposure time under the enlarger that yields the proper highlight density or tonality for the important highlight in the scene.

    Example: A scene of normal contrast range where my important shadow can be "placed" high enough on the scale while still maintaining my important highlight detail that "falls" on zone 7 or 8 (with normal development; I have not established minus or plus dev times yet).

    My printing question is this: Assuming that the printing maxim is true and that my personal film speed and normal development time is correct for my equipment and technique, does it hold that when the exposure under the enlarger is timed to obtain the zone 7 or 8 print value, then similarly, should that exposure time also correctly (or nearly correctly) print the shadow value as "placed" during the exposure of the film? It is assumed that doding and burning will most likely be needed to achieve the desired "place" and "fall" print values as I have yet to expose and develop a perfect negative, but I am interested in knowing if my thinking is correct as I have described it. At this point, I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of the ZS, but perhaps maybe something has not clicked yet when it comes to putting the image on paper.

    Please, I am only interested in comments from those that consider themselves ZS practioners that have some helpful information to pass on. No ZS bashing please; it would be unhelpful to respond otherwise.

    Thanks and have a good day.

    Chuck
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Your reasoning is correct provided the contrast of the negative matches the exposure scale of the paper.
     
  3. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Or to put it another way, after determining the exposure to correctly print the Zone VIII highlight details, you then alter contrast (which, depending on your contrast controls, may require redetermining exposure) to correctly place the Zone III shadow detail values. And then you burn and dodge like the dickens anyway...
     
  4. BBarlow690

    BBarlow690 Member

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    If all's calibrated, values should print where placed.

    In my experience, however, that's nice, but not the end. I often feel different about an image in the darkroom than I felt in the field, so for me "pre-visualization" (I hate that term. What can be before you visualize a photograph?) is the starting point, but I deviate from it when I print to make a more emotionally expressive print.

    Example: I'm printing a lot of large format portraits right now of 8th grade students. I know what the proofs look like, but the prints are dead - so I'm lightening up the skin tones and playing with contrast just until they glow. Wow! They loook great, but that's not what I photographed, and my concept of the prints has changed since I began working with them (read: I had to redo some).

    Moral: get good negatives, and then follow your heart. Better to be moving and exciting than technically correct. The Zone System is only a tool. A good one, but just a tool.
     
  5. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    You are correct as long as you have exposed/developed correctly for a chosen paper grade or VC filter and the print is properly exposed to yield the high value selected. The print must also receive appropriate complete development. For best process control the paper should be frozen between uses since it will change contrast and perhaps speed if stored for a period of time at room temperature. The print developer must be at the chosen temperture and the agigtation technique should be a consistent one as well as the processing time.
     
  6. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Also remember that development of the print controls the low values - it's just the opposite of the negative. If, for instance, a correct exposure gives you the Zone VIII you want, but the shadows are still too light, you may be able to increase print development to darken the shadows. It depends on the paper and developer.
    juan
     
  7. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I think that it is important to amplify on what has already been stated. That placing values is only a beginning. If one literally translates a scene/object on the basis of the existing inherent luminance scale the photographic print is likely to be a literal translation as well.

    Truly moving images are usually at a departure from reality.
     
  8. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    "Truly moving images are usually at a departure from reality."

    Well said, Donald.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    I agree and so did Ansel. The idea was to place the values as they appeared in the mind at the stage of pre-visualization, not as they could be measured in the world. One tests one's materials and measures the values in the scene to know how to achieve the mental vision with the materials at hand.
     
  10. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Thanks for the responses.

    Regarding Claire's statement "....as long as you have exposed/developed correctly for a chosen paper grade or VC filter....."

    I use VC paper with a Kodak Polymax filter set. My understanding goes like this: filters are speed matched to return a middle gray value given the chosen exposure time i.e, meaning, a change from a #2 to #3 filter should provide the same mid-tone value at,say, 10 seconds-----with the noticeable contrast change mostly occuring globally and locally with the shadows getting darker and not the highlights necessarily getting lighter, perhaps some. Given that, how do I expose correctly for a particular filter number, when the paper's contrast is not fixed? Have I misunderstood the statement?

    Donald, is her statement along the same meaning of your first reply? I would appreciate some elaboration on both of those comments.

    Thanks
    Chuck
     
  11. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Claire is saying the same thing that I said earlier.

    To answer your other question,

    In printing one does not print the 18% gray (zone V) density as the primary exposure and filtration parameter. Usually most printers will establish the highlight values as their base and then adjust contrast to establish the lower values.

    There are some print with a "maximum black" as their base and then adjust contrast to establish the highlight values. I personally do not favor this method.

    Once the base tonal value is established then the rest of the values will fall where their densities determine that they should fall consistant with the filtration chosen
     
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    I prefer graded paper, but when I use VC paper, I use the same procedure as Donald--expose for the highlight values and adjust contrast for the shadows.
     
  13. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Donald,
    I was unclear about my statement regarding the mid-tones. I didn't mean to imply that I was printing the 18% gray value in the manner that you indicated. I was referring to some reading that I have been doing (Anchell) and saw where he states that "papers are speed matched for similar reproduction of a chosen mid-tone print density, not for highlight density. He further indicated that "changing from a #2 to #3 will give the same mid-tones". So, I was unlcear on how to go about exposing/developing for a particular VC filter as indicated by Claire.

    I print for the desired highlight value first as one normally does. I was just wondering if the "place" and "fall" principle was actually supposed to work in reverse at the printing stage. Meaning, to time the exposure to place the desired highlight denisty on the print as visualized. Then, wondering if that exposure time will allow the density on the negative to print close to where it was visualized and placed during film exposure.

    Thanks for all the helpful comments. I feel that I've been rambling on the subject, probably making it more difficult than it is suppoed to be.
     
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  15. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Let me clarify, that should read:

    Then wondering if that exoposure time will allow the zone 2 or 3 shadow density on the negative to print close to where it was visualized and placed during film exposure. And let's assume for now, that I am desiring a literal representation. Understading fully that departures from literal values is usually more expressive.
     
  16. WarEaglemtn

    WarEaglemtn Member

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    "printing, the maxim is we determine the best exposure time under the enlarger that yields the proper highlight density or tonality for the important highlight in the scene."

    Try printing for the dark values & see where the highlights land. Then you choose your paper grade so the high values are right. This works with both graded and variable contrast papers & helps you keep the good shadows and controls the highlights.
     
  17. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Let me clarify, that should read:

    Then wondering if that exoposure time will allow the zone 2 or 3 shadow density on the negative to print close to where it was visualized and placed during film exposure. And let's assume for now, that I am desiring a literal representation. Understading fully that departures from literal values is usually more expressive.


    Again I will reiterate...If you negative density range is corresponding to the exposure scale of the paper at the desired grade or filtration then the low values will fall where you placed them in the exposure.
     
  18. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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  19. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Quote: That maxim for printing I think is incomplete. For the negative both
    low and high density areas are provided for by the maxim " expose
    for the shadows, develop for the highlights.

    For the print the maxim is, "expose for the highlights". Period. What
    are we to do for the shadows? Are we supposed to "develop for the
    shadows"? How about "expose for the highlights using the correct
    paper grade develper combination for the shadows"?

    In the print we expose for the desired highlight tonal rendition and we choose the contrast grade to achieve the desired shadow tonal rendition. This would apply to variable contrast materials.

    In graded materials we would still choose the paper contrast grade and then depart from that with split developers, water bath developing, flashing, masking, burning, or dodging to achieve the desired tonal rendition.
     
  20. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    "we choose", "we would still choose". I don't agree. We've no
    choice. The subject and it's proper rendition DICTATE A proper
    contrast. We must only, through proper manipulation, choice of
    technique, materials, and chemistry, achieve that proper rendition.
    As I mentioned in my first post this thread the negative is
    supposed to fit on Grade 2 paper and be processed in
    Dektol. That is my understanding of the ZS. Adams
    himself though did nudge the contrast a bit.

    BTW, I don't consider masking, burning, or dodging legitimate
    print control methods, contrast control or otherwise. My list of
    approved whole print contrast control methods includes a few you
    did mention plus SLIMT, A. Adams' split Ansco 130, and Dr. Beer's
    VC print developer. The direct negative method is involved but
    does qualify. OH! I almost forgot LITH! Dan
     
  21. photoguy

    photoguy Member

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    "Moral: get good negatives, and then follow your heart. Better to be moving and exciting than technically correct. The Zone System is only a tool. A good one, but just a tool."

    Well said.

    I use the ZS (for about 15 yrs. now) and it's JUST A STARTING POINT to creating a beautiful print. Yes, getting the shadow densities correct when exposing the negative is very important, developing correctly to put the highs where you want is....somewhat important (can be adjusted when printing), but DO NOT let yourself get obsessed with charts, graphs, temps, etc! We are NOT scientists, but artists. I often print on Grade 3 beacuse, heck, I think it looks better for my images- gives them some "snap" I don't care what the densitometer thinks, it's the final print that matters. I often burn the crap out of a zone V area of my print, to make it zone 2 or 3. Sometimes I even dodge radically to get a zone 6 up to an 8!. Would Ansel approve? I don't care, it's what makes a good print in the end. A photographer once told me (when I was learning the ZS) "It's not a perfect science, but it's a good starting point to making a quality print". Radically interpreting a print in the darkroom is 90% of the fun!

    www.diehlphotography.com
     
  22. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I certainly acknowledge and respect your right to your opinion. I would hope that you would extend the same respect to me.

    In response to your disagreement I would say that if we (the printer) do not choose the filtration or the contrast grade of the paper then who does? I have no gremlin in my darkroom who makes those choices to me. The contrast grade or the filtration do determine how the negative will print insofar as tonal rendition once the highlight exposure is determined. The contrast grade of the printing materials are the first choice we must make.

    I have worked with the Zone system for over twenty years. I have more recently moved to using BTZS because in my experience the recommendations of Ansel Adams are no longer valid in regards to the materials that I use.

    I definitely stand with my earlier position on the methodology of controlling contrast. Masking is all about varying contrast either throughout the print or more specifically in certain regions of the print. If burning, dodging, or flashing do not alter the tonal rendition of the print then I would appreciate it if you would tell me because I apparently failed to grasp something over the years of doing this.

    Ansel Adams might just as well have targeted the negative density to print on Grade one or Grade three paper. It makes not difference other then that the negative density range corresponds to the exposure scale of the paper. It is very easy to elevate the teachings of the Zone System to biblical proportions and it does not deserve this position. Very simply put one hopefully will achieve an exposure and development regimen that will derive a negative density range to match the exposure scale (contrast) of the printing paper that one is choosing to use.
     
  23. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If one conducts tests for film development and exposure I find it difficult to imagine that they would do so without have a particular aim point. That aim point can be any paper contrast or exposure scale that they want but if a target is not chosen then they are not doing much of anything that corresponds to a coherent system. They would be at least as well of to follow David Vestals dictum "do not under expose..do not over develop". If they want after printing the negative to choose a different interpretation than what was initially aimed for that is ok.
     
  24. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Coherence. That's what Otis Sprow manages in the third step
    of his ZS calibration methods. He 'glues' the negative to A paper.
    His article Zone System Photography - Prediction, Consistency,
    and Perfection, is a good read. See, Photo Techniques Vol, 1
    "Mastering B&W Photography".

    David Vestal's article The Non-Cosmetic Print I find sympathetic
    to my approach to print making. Perhaps you've read it. Dan
     
  25. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    Is it your aspiration to become cemented into the picture making process so that no human interpretation takes part?
     
  26. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    It seems that there is a great deal of idealogue being expressed here. It is very reminiscent of what a good friend of mine once characterized as "all hat and no cows".

    I agree with what JJ stated. If we make expressive prints then we will depart from a purely literal representation of what existed before the camera lens. It is easy to make purely illustrative prints. It is another matter indeed to have the means to expressively print something that did not exist.

    Illustration is about things. Art is about ideas.