Zone system in color

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Ruvy, Nov 10, 2005.

  1. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Zone system in color & what happned to the exposue forum

    Hi

    I think this post should have been posted in the exposure forum but I couldn't find it so...

    In his book "Using The View Camera", Steve Simmons write about the similarity between zone system for B&W and color. For slides he suggest to place the dark areas in zone III-1/2 and the whites in zone VIII. I know how to do it with B&W where I have control over the developing time but color I send to a lab and they do exactly what is specified by the manufacturer of the film. Therefore, the idea of "placing in zone VIII" is something I don't know how to control... Years ago, before reading this book people suggested to shoot B&W for shadow and color for highlights... One of this approaches is missing something or, (most likely) I do.

    I have ordered a bunch of slide negatives and want to start shooting next week. Any advice on how to do it with LF camera will be most appreciated.
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    If you are shooting color transparency materials, the control that one has in developing for contrast control in black and white is not present in the same way.

    Since transparency is a positive image, the procedure that I normally have followed is to meter and expose for the highlights and allow the shadows to fall. Color transparency film is much more confining insofar as proper exposure. (1/3 stop can make a big difference)

    It seemed to be that when I was shooting a lot of K Chrome, E Chrome, and Fuji that we would normally uprate the film EI by 1/3 stop to achieve better color saturation. With the cost of materials today, I would test before shooting a lot of film.

    In an ideal world, Simmons' recommendations would work. Not many times is the world ideal. So highlights can be placed on VIII and shadows may fall on III or more often then not on II or I.

    You place exposure for transparency in the same way that you do for black and white negative film with one exception. Meter for highlights and give two to three stops more exposure.

    As an aside, if you are planning on printing your transparencies at some point, there are masking techniques that will help with the contrast issues.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Exposure forum still exists. I've moved the thread.
     
  4. steve

    steve Member

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    First, let me make a comment on the Zone VIII for whites on transparency film. Very few transparency films will hold detail at Zone VIII. I know Provia is nearly transparent on Zone VIII; while both E100G and E200 show some detail. That statement must include the caveat that with transparency film, the total Zone range needs to be tested and documented.

    The way I use the Zone system with color transparency film is as follows. I evaluate the scene to see the entire luminance range. I then look at the "key subject" (item of interest) in the scene and see where it falls within the luminance range.

    I then decide where I want the key subject to be placed. For example, it may be Zone V within the total luminance range, and I want it on Zone VI. I do an evaluation of how this exposure will affect the highlight and shadows within the scene. Can I afford to lose some detail toward the highlights, for example as I'm over exposing when compared to trying to render the entire luminance range.

    From doing a quick evaluation after quantifying the total luminance range you can rapidly determine how you want to expose the film; and you'll know how the exposure will affect shadows and highlights. If you have to accept some compromises, like a darker rendering of a subject to preserve an important highlight detail, you'll know that in advance.

    Let me also make the comment that I've pulled incredible detail out of what looked to be blocked shadow areas during printing; but once you've lost detail in the highlights it's gone forever. I always evaluate carefully and err on the side of under exposure with transparency film if the goal is to make prints.
     
  5. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    To just retain a slight tone in the highlights using Velvia I work on +1 2/3 stops (and 1 1/2 stops is safer) above the mid tone. So if I am not using ND grads to control the scene contrast I work backwards from this reading. Shadow detail is there for 2 stops under (and probably a bit more) if you look hard. This asymmetry about the mid-tone is an important fact since 1/3 stop really matters with E6 film as Donald has previously stated. Thus the useable range is under 4 stops with Velvia and may be slightly more, but not much, for other films.

    Of course the scene contrast can be controlled by ND grads as mentioned above to take light away from areas. This is where the keyboard ought to give way to the beermat to draw some examples.......!
    Depending on the placement of subjects in the scene you can have a range of options where having chosen a mid tone, or something that goes on mid-tone plus 1/2 or 1 stop (intentionally not using Zone nomenclature here) balance the sky with this with the correct ND grad, all of this can then be brought down to a level commensurate with the shadow areas by placement of another ND grad.

    In this picture http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=10149&cat=500&ppuser=3346
    I wanted to see the leaves on the diagonal pole in the foreground.
    The sky was 3 to 3 1/2 stops brighter than the reflections, so a 0.9 (3 stop) HArd ND filter was used. Then this was in turn 4 stops brighter than the leaves and pole. I used a 0.9 Soft ND grad down over sky and most of reflection so that the tones seemed reasonably even on the GG.
    Agree with Steve that erring on underexposure is safer since once those highlights are blown, that's it. Bracketing with 35mm or 120 saves the pull/push issue which I had here, but does not obviate the need for ND grads.

    Hope this helps. Tis a big subject!
     
  6. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Thank you Donald, Steve and Baxter for putting some sense in my confusion.

    Baxter, using ND filters is something i have never done though it is something I want to learn - mostly because the high contrast we normally have in the summer.Do you have any links I can go and read some about it?
     
  7. roteague

    roteague Member

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    The latest issue of Outdoor Photography (UK) has a good article on using split neutral density filters. There doesn't seem to be a lot of 35mm photographers who are aware of using these filters, so you really don't see much written about them. I did find one article that seems straightforward: http://www.barbeephoto.com/using_split_neutral_density.htm

    There are a number of manufacturers, the best being Lee (from the UK), but the easiest to find in the US is Cokin. It would help if we knew what country you are in.
     
  8. steve simmons

    steve simmons Inactive

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    My use of the zone system for color is to allow me choices about each end of the scale. It is the spread between the important high and low values that i care about. The mid values will always fall inbetween. By knowing what that spread is, and by knowing what my film can handle, I can make choices. With transparency film you have to protect the high values, usually. By knowing the range of important values in the scene I can actually choose to protect either end of the scale if it exceeds that of the film. In theory, simply taking an incident reading may cause you to lose both ends if the scene is contrasty and at best you will not know the range of contrast in the scene simply by takng an overall average reading. If the range of the scene is less than what the film can andle you can slide the tones/color saturation, up and down the scale of the film according to the results you want to achieve. In color density means saturation.

    As to how much scale the film can handle this depends on the flm and requires testing by each individual for each ilm they want to use. I try and discourage people from joining the film of the month club - either black and white or color. Constantly switching films looking for the magic one simply means you will never learn how to use any of them. When I wrote the book many people were shooting outdoor scenes with tungsten film corrected for daylight. This film, used in this manner, had a long scale and could handle tones up to zone 8 if necessary. This is a less common practice now and I would suggest holding important high values at or below zone 7.5 but I strongly recommend testing and selecting one film to work with.

    steve simmons
    www.viewcamera.com
     
  9. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    About 12 years ago, at the suggestion of Bruce Barnbaum (who is, unbeknownst to many people, just as accomplished a color photographer as he is a black and white one) I bought a box of Kodak Ektachrome 64T (EPY) Readyloads. Except for one roll of the Fuji 64T, which I found inferior to EPY, I've never used any other chrome film.

    Here's what I do:

    1) Filter outside with an 85B.
    2) Place the darkest shadow on Zone III.
    3) Normal then falls on Zone VIII.
    4) For every zone of minus development, add 1/2 stop of exposure. Don't pull more than two stops.
    5) You can expand up to two stops in development. If the highlights fall on Zone VI, go ahead and take the picture.

    I tell my lab to either push or pull up to two stops in the first developer only. When the lab said they couldn't do that I went to a better lab.

    My chromes are full scaled with perfect color balance. Very easy, minimum fuss. The lab does the heavy lifting, leaving me to concentrate on the picture. Try it. I'd be willing to bet that if you do you'll never use anything else.
     
  10. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    I started learning about use of ND grads from UK Outdoor Photography and in particular the Lee Filters advertisements by Joe Cornish which had a helpful notebook diagram showing filters used and more importantly how and why they had been placed alongside the image. They can be seen at http://www.leefilters.com/downloads.asp

    Inspired by this, I have subsequently been on several Joe Cornish workshops, some of which were held jointly with David Ward another LF and ND grad expert. Metering discussions can run for hours, hence my difficulty in trying to type it all down! The information from my first post essentially comes from these two experts. Joe uses the above figures for latitude, David agrees, but feels that the range is perhaps slightly wider.

    Reflective spot metering is essential to choose which filters to use and offers many advantages over incident for this application.

    I haven't seen all of Phil Malpas' series in recent issues of UK Outdoor Photography, but he knows his stuff - also learnt from and with JC and DW!

    The reference to which I most refer is Joe Cornish's First Light (different title in USA) and I know Robert loves this book too.

    Other sources would be Charlie Waite books and Galen Rowell references their use in his excellent "Inner game of Outdoor Photography".

    I do not doubt that c6h6o3's method does work, but can see some limitations. Pushing and pulling during processing to alter contrast will inadvertently alter colour balance for Velvia and is not practical for smaller formats. It is not easy to do well and my Jobo Atl-1000 only offers pulling by 2/3 stop for 3 bath but can push by 1 2/3 if needed.

    ND grads offer a wider choice, I certainly doubt that the image I used as an example couldn't have been taken solely using development as control for the 6 stops of ND grad I employed. However ND grads do have limitations especially where there is a subject element which crosses the filter transitions and thus the eye can detect that this bit of tree/pole is darker than that bit.

    In such cases I have been investigating the use of colour neg film with the significantly wider latitude it posesses. The colour palette and rendition is very different from transparency film, but a useful get out of jail solution!

    I suppose that it is a case of finding a method that best suits you and your way of thinking in the shortest space of time. Good luck you have to get cracking if you are to start next week!!!!!
     
  11. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Yes, indeed I do. I have studied this book over and over again, attempting to learn Joe's technique with split ND Grads. The book is titled "Light and the Art of Landscape Photography" here in the US. I even had it with me when I was in New Zealand last month (I visited Lindis Pass specifically because of an image in this book). And, I'm jealous that Baxter gets to take Joe Cornish workshops.
     
  12. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Thank you Baxter for all this helpful (and new to me) information and for your greetings re. next week shooting.

    I was wondering, where did you take these workshop? I often read about them but seems like they are all so far away it makes me wonder how effective are they- sounds like in this case they were exceptionally helpful. I will try however to start with the book. Thanks
     
  13. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Thank you Robert, I'll try to get this book. In reply to your first question I live in Israel
     
  14. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Thank you Steve for expanding on this issue. After reading your book I have started to experiment ( a lot) with black and white films which was one of the best experiences I have had recently. The topic you have expanded upon here came out quite clear in the book too but after the wonderful experience with the B&W I was wondering how can I repeat it in color. I plan to experiment and with your info and others as well I think I have enough to get started.

    What a treat it is to have you respond here!!! Thank you so much
     
  15. Ruvy

    Ruvy Member

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    Thanks - sounds like its worth trying indeed though there is a part I am not sure I understand. In line 2 you say "normal fall on zone VIII" is that what you meant? I would think you have meant highlight fall on zone VIII but even that is something that doesn't happen automatically... or is the idea same as B&W where instead of adding or subtracting time in the developer you do it in first developer at the lab?
     
  16. Baxter Bradford

    Baxter Bradford Member

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    Hi Ruvy

    The courses which I have attended have all been run by http://www.lightandland.co.uk/ a company owned by Charlie Waite. Based in the UK they offer courses in many parts of the world as can be seen from their website. They have a global customer base. In Tuscany this May, a lady came from Hong Kong, another from Holland, a gent from Texas. In Cornwall we had people from Denmark and Eire. The circle is starting to close as I have been asked to lead a course for them in 2006 to the Jurassic Coastline of Dorset. I am not employed by them and have stayed loyal because I feel they are quality lead, which I appreciate. The downside is that they are not cheap either. They have an extensive range of courses available on teh website and I undersatnd from talking to David Ward yesterday that some are already full, before the 2006 brochure has come out!

    In addition to the L+L courses, Joe Cornish also runs workshops from his website www.joecornish.com and also through the Centre at Inversnaid in Scotland.


    There are obviously many holiday companies, but should you choose to go this route at some stage, perhaps you should look to attend a course with a tutor familiar with LF, filtration and metering (but don't see that it has to be a dedicated LF course) to get the most from it in your current quest.

    Another LF guy is Tom Mackie an American based in Norfolk (UK) of whom I have heard positive reports.

    Have fun!
     
  17. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    You place the shadows and see where the highlights fall for that placement. If they fall on Zone VIII, that's a normal negative. If the brightest highlight falls on Zone VII, tell the lab to push one stop. If the brightest highlight falls on Zone IX, add 1/2 stop exposure (if you don't do this your shadows will go green) and tell the lab to pull one stop. Capice?
     
  18. roteague

    roteague Member

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    You may also look for a book published by RotoVision titled "The World's Top Photographers: Landscape" by Terry Hope. Published in the UK I believe.

    Since you are in Israel, you might consider Robert White UK as a good source for buying Lee filters. As does Baxter, I use Split ND filters to control the contrast range of my images. At minium, I suggest you would need a holder, .3, .6 and .4 hard grads, along with 81A and 81B filters (for landscapes).
     
  19. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Just to demonstrate that there are many ways to separate a feline from its wrapping, here's my method of using the ND grads I have. I use it most of the time, but there are several situations in which I follow Baxter's method.

    I prefer to use incident metering for my trannies when I can because it is quick and rarely wrong. However, it doesn't account for subject brightness range. So I cheat and use both methods.

    I set my incident meter to read in EV mode, take a suitable reading and note the EV required for my main subject. That forms my base exposure for the scene.

    I switch to spot meter mode (still reading in EV) and measure the parts of the scene I suspect might exceed the upper limit of my contrast range. If they are more than two EV above my base exposure, I make the appropriate choices from my selection of filters.

    For instance, if I want the sky to be only one stop brighter than my main subject, and it reads as three stops brighter, I select my two stop filter to pull it back.

    I know there will be those asking why I don't just use the spot meter to assess the base exposure. My answer is that incident metering is quicker and often more accurate: when the light is quickly changing on my scenery, I need to be ahead of it. When conditions dictate the use of a spot meter (or more correctly, dictate against incident metering) I will use it and do a more "conventional" spot meter and "zone system" assessment.

    Cheers,
     
  20. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I have to admit that sometimes, I will use my Nikon F5's built in meter. But, I prefer to use a spot meter, I see using the Nikon as more of a crutch. I meter by looking for what I consider to be an 18% grey within the main subject area, then looking for highs and lows and then use the filters to balance the scene - although not trying to make the entire scene simulate a flat scene.