Zone System made easy?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Thomas Bertilsson, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    In recently purchasing a 4x5 camera, I will take the LF plunge soon. I have been contemplating the best and most fool proof method to develop negatives so I have an easier task printing.

    The Zone System seems to be the logical approach. If it was good enough for Ansel Adams, then why not me? I also like what Weston did with developing by inspection, once again - good enough for Weston, why not for me?

    I try to study up on the Zone System, but find a lot of extremely complicated advice. It can't be that hard to record light on film in an effective manner.
    What I have discerned is that I should use the Zone system to expose for the shadow details, because whether I under- or overdevelop, the low values will pretty much remain the same. On top of that, if I develop for the highlights, which the 'develop by inspection' method calls for, I should be covered?

    I realize that nothing is as easy as one, two, three. But perhaps with a little trial and error this would be quite a successful way. Based on my own research, how can I go wrong? Is there something I'm missing?

    With this post I am merely trying to discern the most effective way to make good negatives. I am not experienced with the Zone system, so my theory could be dead wrong.

    Thankful for advice and information,

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
     
  2. david b

    david b Member

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  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I like Adams's _The Negative_.

    The advantage of developing by time and temperature using a densitometer, is that it's something you can learn relatively quickly from a book.

    DBI can get you the same results, but it helps if you have someone who can look at your negs so that you can learn what a good negative should look like.

    In either case, it's important to be able to look at fine prints in galleries or museums so you know what you're aiming for.
     
  4. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Thomas,

    You are approaching this question with a clear head, and I think you are on the right track. But then again, what else could I say? I do the very same thing: Expose the film as per the system espoused by AA to control the contrast, then develop by inspection to get the appropriate highlight detail.

    Good luck,
     
  5. fhovie

    fhovie Subscriber

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    you really need to get a spot meter - for most subjects the best procedure is to locate the shadow area that you want to record detail in. Spot that area and set it for zone 3 or 4. Then check to see what your significant highlights will be and if they are much past zone 8, you know you will need to compensate for the extra contrast in development.

    spot your low and check your high. simple and painless.
     
  6. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    fhovie,

    That is what I do when I'm shooting B&W. Checking the high value allows me to determine if I'll need contraction or expansion development. If one of those are required, I'll need to allow for that when I'm exposing the film, under or over exposing as per the suggestions from AA's book.

    Cheers,
     
  7. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    I found Fred Picker's Zone VI Workshop to be an easy to understand text. Adams's The Negative was a more difficult text for me initially, as I didn't have the background to understand what he was saying in simple terms.
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Thank you very much for your contributions everybody. Hopefully I'll be out there with some images within a few weeks. We'll see.

    Thanks,

    - Thomas
    Saint Paul, MN
     
  9. Robert L

    Robert L Member

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    I went through the zone system process to calibrate my negatives, and by just doing that I improved my exposures dramatically -- even using an incident meter.

    Barry Thornton (The Edge of Darkness) recommends that by overexposing by one stop (eg. using iso 200 vs. the rated 400) and underdeveloping by 20% will show improvement. I verifed that this is true for me. Try this with your B&W film, and you should see an immediate improvement in exposure control with no muss or fuss.
     
  10. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    There are a variety of books available with several people mentioning some helpful ones, you might also looked at a book by Bahman Farzad "The Confused Photographer's Guide to Photograhic Exposure and the Simplified Zone System". Several of my students have found this book helpful with its diagrams to clear up the "fog" that can arise from reading about this method. It is more difficult to read than to do.

    As a rule of thumb i suggest to my students that they shoot a roll at half the ISO and the other half at the recommended ISO. Then we print an image from each to get a sense of how their equipment is performing with regard to the ISO standards.
     
  11. Robert L

    Robert L Member

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    I have that book, and it is helpful in many exposure situations. Shooting a roll at half ISO and the recommended ISO is a great idea that I used in high school (back in the middle ages). Just by doing that alone can make a difference in exposure quality.
     
  12. argentic

    argentic Member

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    IMHO the best book dealing with the zone system at this moment is "Way beyond monochrome".

    G.