Zone System for the 21st century

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Stoogley, Jun 22, 2011.

  1. Stoogley

    Stoogley Member

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    I'm finally at a point where I can once again pursue photography on a more intense level.

    At the moment I'm not set up to do wet printing. In fact, instead, I invested in a decent scanner to serve as my darkroom. [Though it's killing me to see the prices on the darkroom equipment these days..."Say honey, let's buy a new house!" / "Why?" / "I need a darkroom so I can get all this equipment and gadgets real cheap sweetums..." Yea, right]

    The other day I was flipping through the books and my notes on the Zone System in preparation for doing some calibration runs since everything is, well, now new. Then it dawned on me...How will this work without actual printing?? I don't have a densitometer. And I would like to have negatives that not only scan with relative ease but could be wet printed with ease as well at some point (either by me in the future or by a commercial lab).

    Any suggestions on how to do this effectively?

    Is there the ability to simulate a densitometer in Photoshop Elements {8 or 9} or one of the scanning tools?

    Stoog
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Two things,

    1- When I use a good lab, I have yet to find a reasonably well exposed negative that they can't work with.

    2- APUG is a site for traditional methods, DPUG is a place where you can ask about and discuss PS and the like.
     
  3. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    This seems like a question more appropriately posted at DPUG, since most of us here are "20th Century" photographers.
     
  4. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    Apparently you can use some scanners as densitometrereretseres ... However, that aint for APUG.That's for DPUG!

    You could try contact printing. You don't really need a darkroom or much equipment.
     
  5. Stoogley

    Stoogley Member

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    Well, I thought APUG was more appropriate since I'm looking to calibrate my film process.
     
  6. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    My question is "calibrate to what"?

    The zone system was designed to match/calibrate/fit a given scene brightness range (through exposure and development manipulation) into a specific paper's brightness range printed on an enlarger.

    If you want to calibrate to a scanner that is a very different question that is outside the scope of APUG.

    If you just want great negs a text like Dunn & Wakefield's Exposure Manual and APUG can help. http://www.apug.org/forums/forum48/91808-placement.html
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    DPUG is the updated name for what was formerly called "hybridphoto". I don't think I would be out of line in saying that it's particular strength is in serving the needs of photographers who both shoot film and use digital techniques like scanning.
     
  8. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Sorry if this is digital related but if you're going to scan your negative you don't need to calibrate anything. Most film scanner can get all the dynamic range the negative has.
     
  9. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    Yes, you are on the right track. The Zone System is a very very important thing to calibrate into your hybrid approach. A scanner's dynamic range is limited and you don't have the ability to do any dodging and burning during the scan. However, as noted by others, DPUG is the place to go for those answers. It's not that most here aren't doing it, but most here are not admitting that they are doing it. :smile:

    On a related note, I'm been mostly hybrid for the past couple of years because of the condo we purchased. Well, it's for sale and we're looking for a place that I can build a massive darkroom.
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    For me the major change is the availability of high quality multigrade paper, thus reducing the need for various alterations in the "N" development.
     
  11. Stoogley

    Stoogley Member

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    Ouch. Not the response I was expecting...

    [note to self: never use the word Photoshop around these guys]

    Maybe I've been confused all these years, but I thought the Zone System was a methodology for defining the parameters and procedures regarding the equipment, materials, and processing to allow a photographer to produce a visual presentation of a concept regarding a given setting. Be that a contact print, enlargement by diffusion, enlargement by condenser, or projection; all which require calibration and fine tuning nuances. And, now, a digitization technique.

    I'm quite sure many members here are scanning, be it negatives or prints.
    The galleries which are full of images are evidence enough.
     
  12. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Yes Stoogley, you've felt the WRATH of us APUG Luddites. You'd think that since transparency scanning only relates to film it'd be ok to talk about... but... well.. yeah. Sorry, don't take it personally.

    However, open up the topic at DPUG, because there needs to be more activity over there... it's quite stagnant.
     
  13. JamesDean

    JamesDean Member

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    These responses seem a bit harsh. Searching APUG returns hundreds of threads about scanning. It seemed like a reasonable question to me.

    On a related topic, I would remind everyone that APUG is a USER GROUP hosted on digital servers. If you insist on talking about APUG please go and do it on DPUG...
     
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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Fundamentally, the Zone System starts at the print parameters and works backward through the preceding processes that lead to the final print.

    So, the first thing to do is to pick a standard printing material, printer, and process. This may be Lightjet/Lambda prints from a lab, inkjet prints from a lab, inkjet prints from your own printer, or even alternative process paper via inkjet contact negatives. You then work backward from the printer to the files that you use for print. How do you optimize those files for printing with the chosen printing equipment/materials? You make your profiles, or use existing profiles. You calibrate your monitor.

    Then you think about how you get those files perfectly prepared for printing. What sort of contrast do you want in the file when you start Photoshopping it, in order to let you do the most in the program? You figure out how exactly your scanner interprets negatives. How do you get the scan that will give you the raw material to craft the file you need to make the print you want?

    Then, how do you get the negative necessary to get that ideal scan? What sort of contrast do you need on the neg in order to get that scan? What sort of film, exposure, and processing do you need to get that contrast?

    The technology used doesn't really change the basic theory. You work from the print backwards, calibrating every step to the last. And this is all easy in the grand scheme of things. The hard part is always deciding exactly what you want the print to look like when taking the picture. If you cannot do that, everything else is pretty pointless – just a bunch of time-consuming and fruitless technical exercises.

    At any rate, anything except the film, exposure, and film processing discussions belong on DPUG. But if you get to the point when you have decided what sort of negatives you need, this is the place to find out how to get them.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2011
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I'm actually quite skilled in PS and I'm happy to talk PS on occasion, but not here. This site is dedicated to traditional non-digital methods.

    Your arguments have all been considered and hashed out many times.
     
  17. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Stoogley, look at it this way: The whole internet is just filled with people who would love to discuss your subject, and they do it all over the place. APUG is about about the only place dedicated to film photography discussion. Some of the people here are included in those who love to discuss it, they just leave APUG as an oasis in the desert for those who don't.
     
  18. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    The Zone System is a method to examine the scene in front of you, analyse its brightness range, decide what kind of brightness range you want in your final print (visualise the final print), and then chose an exposure, and then a development, that - given the film you use, the developer you use, the developing process, the paper and the tests you made with them - you know will give you a negative that, when printed*, will give you that final print just as you visualised it.

    So the zone system asks you to make, for each frame, a certain exposure and development choice finalised to a certain desired result, especially regarding contrast.

    All this makes no sense when using slides, or when printing from scanned film. You have the basic exposure problem (how to make the brightness range fit inside the dynamic range of your film) and that's all. Once your slide is properly exposed, a good dedicated film scanner will capture all its dynamic range, and in postprocessing you will obtain the contrast that you want using what Photoshop calls "Levels" and "Curves". You only need to expose your film "properly" and to have a capable scanner, you don't need to make exposure and developing decisions frame by frame. Your question will be answered by the many threads about exposure here on APUG.

    A small variant might be that, if you really think that your slide will see no other use than scanning, then you might choose to underexpose them a bit, as a good scanner will be able to dig in the shadows and you'll be able to recover shadows but - as with digital - a clipped highlight is detail lost forever. I personally don't belong to that school, though, and I try to expose normally "for the highlights" figuring where they will fall on the slide, as scanning quality is influenced by density, and a darker slide is recoverable, but the result is not optimal, so I try to exploit all the (limited) curve I have on the highlights as well.

    I understand I did not answer your original question - a workaround for a densitometer - but I think I somehow gave an answer to the underlying assumption.

    * When printed on a paper of a certain contrast. This original version of the zone system is somehow made redundant by the introduction of variable contrast papers as far as I can read, but I'm no printer (yet).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2011
  19. JamesDean

    JamesDean Member

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    No arguments here, just an attempt at jocularity. I'm a new comer here so still finding my feet.

    Pointing the OP to DPUG is helpful if it helps him find the answer to his question. Repeating the pointer again and again makes this group appear less friendly than I give it credit for. Whilst some people may believe that APUG is only about exposure and chemistry, I enjoy it for discussions about aesthetics, morality, legality, locations, culture, people and humour (and I can do all of this whilst calling myself an analogue photographer). I hope I've come to the right place...
     
  20. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    You're fine and welcome. People can get antsy about it, mainly because we do try to keep things in the scope of darkroom, camera, film, chemicals realm solely out of the fact that there are millions of users talking digital all across the interwebs, hence the somtimes hasty and poignant responses: we like it all about Analog here.

    To the OP. You have two very good responses to your original question above me. I think the advice to work backwards knowing your print media, methods, camera, and then scene will greatly improve your images.

    Welcome guys, and don't be skirted, there's plenty to learn here and we like our fun!
     
  21. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi Stoog,

    If you want to make negatives that aren't useless in a darkroom, that seems like a respectable APUG question.

    Some scanning software, such as VueScan, can give you density readings.

    Just don't save the file.

    A reasonable question might be what is a good aim point for gelatin silver printing.

    I aim Zone VII for 1.6 density for graded paper using enlarger with a fluorescent light source. Next time I calibrate, I expect that number to go down closer to 1.2 density. But I still might run denser than the usual member because of my paper and enlarger choices.
     
  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I'm slow in catching humor so I missed that.

    APUG is a great place to learn all kinds of things.

    Glad to have you and Stoogley here.
     
  23. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    The OP's question does bring up a good subject--one of which is directly related to APUG criteria. How does the Zone System fit in the 21st Century? The reality is, this is a critical issue and the scanning part of his question became noise in the discussion.

    A scanner is effectively a very limited version of enlarging paper, except you have no ability to dodge and burn during the scan itself. Also, the scanner, unlike paper emulsion, has no effective toe or shoulder. Learning how to optimize to the hard limits a scanner has is where applying the Zone System is welcome.

    But what does this have to do with APUG? Several things come to mind:

    1. The same techniques used to calibrate the scanner is the same techniques used to calibrate normal paper. Very very few of us use just one film and one paper. I ask this question: When is the discussion of techniques that improve our ANALOG process ever off-limits? Some people believe that once done, that there is no reason to ever explore using it again. If that's the case, why don't we just always use the same settings we've used for 75 years?

    2. Some of us use the digital realm for image experimentation. We scan the negative to figure out what we want to do with it or figure out a way to handle a complex dodge, burn or gamma adjustment. 20 minutes in the computer and I've got a guide print from the computer to use in the darkroom for the final print on very expensive fiber paper.

    Finally, there is an issue with DPUG. It's getting a little better, but the culture over there is not like it is here. Where we are open to discussing a rehashed topic over and over again. Makes sense, really, since nothing is really new in decades. But over at DPUG, you ask a question like this and you'll get two answers. Use the stinking "search button" or "buy the book".

    But that's life as we know it. We had to split the forums a few years ago to stop the warfare.
     
  24. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Dpug or hybrid was formed because the name APUG suggests Analogue and the owner of this site wanted and still wants to keep it that way, analoque discussion only, I am ok with this and participate on both sites.

    I do not remember the war's you are speaking of.
     
  25. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Wouldn't refer to them as wars. But there have been some rather heated discussions on this topic in the past. The things to realize here is that all are welcome, that there is a scope of discussion that is appropriate for this forum, and that nothing personal should be taken be remarks guiding you in a different direction on This SUBJECT ALONE.
     
  26. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I'm starting a new campaign as of right now; advertised by my signature. If you love APUG, but own a scanner, you should sign on to DPUG at the same time as APUG. Myself included...