Zone System with the Help of Photoshop, I thought I had a system...

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by lhalcong, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. lhalcong

    lhalcong Member

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    note: I was not sure if this forum is the right place for this question but I didnt know where else to post.

    Expecting to emulate the Zone System Steps using the help of Photoshop, I created a stepwedge of 11 Zones in aRGB space. The steps used were:

    0 - I - II III IV V - VI VII VIII - IX - X
    0 33 51 72 94 126 143 169 197 224 255


    Having printed this on Matte finish Cold Press Natural Epson professional paper using an Epson R2880 Pro printer from Photoshop Managing color and the right paper profile from Epson, I went outside under very even ilumination overcast sky, I spot mettered each of the steps with a Sekonik Light meter in reflective mode. To my dissapointment, the steps do not equal into a one stop difference between one step and the other. For some steps the difference was 1/2 stop or less, particularly towards highlights area. Also there seem to be a big jump in tones from Zone 9 to Zone 10 in retrospect to traditional darkroom. I don't think there is enough room in between steps to vary the tones in such a way that would accomodate the 1 stop difference.

    My idea was to shoot this with Film to study expansion and contraction all in one frame. In other words, I would shoot several frames of the same card, then develop them first Normal, then +15% time, +30% etc with the idea of arriving to my N+1, N+2 , N-1, N-2 times. I came up with this, first because I dont have a densitomer, neither do I want a super exact science, and I thought it would be good to be able to do this all in one frame.

    Thank you for any ideas regarding the steps in the wedge and zone system, or on why this will not work ?
    if everyone agrees that this will not work, what is a practical way to arrive at my N+1 N+2, etc times, without a densitometer.
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  3. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Make a smoother grayscale all the way from 0 to 255 and label the grays so you can find them.

    Then take spotmeter readings and LOOK for where the spotmeter says they are one-stop-apart.

    Those will be your printout steps. That's fine. Print a new target with the full stop steps you found. You might only really get 4 or 5 full stops of meter reading differences from White to Black. Probably best you can do with a reflective target.

    I think that's the mental block you are running up against right now. The rest will come easy.
     
  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    markbarendt is right. Look how "cheap" these transparent step wedges are. They last a lifetime. I've found no other cheap photo accessory as useful as a step wedge - considering how much cost of material and trouble it is to makeshift without one...

    But if the idea is a journey to understanding, then any path that gets you there is fine. Just like climbing straight up a rock gets you to the top, same as taking a walk up the backside.

    Considering OP wants to make a test pattern for traditional testing, I think it's OK to talk.
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    that's right. your paper does not provide large enough of a SBR to do what you want. the whites are not bright enough and the darks are not dark enough. also , a a digital zone scale is not linear. you need to work out a transfer function for your paper(not a simple task)i'd post my atempt, but APUG does not allow me to post filesthat large.
    rlambrec@ymail.com
     
  6. lhalcong

    lhalcong Member

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    Bill, thank you. You are right, I am trying to climb a rock possibly the sharpest edge... but I learned a few things from your answers. I guess what I was trying to do is jam up all the zones into one frame. My original idea has to do with trying to determine my n+1, n+2, n-1 etc times by jamming all the 11 zones into one frame and develop separetely (kind of more efficient). I dont have a densitometer or cannot spend too much film, paper, chemicals. thats why I came up with this idea. I figured if I would be able to jam all the zones into one frame, I would only have to shoot a few ones and I could reuse the chemicals since I am only developing one frame.
    Any ideas , if I buy a transmission stepwedge, how do I shoot that ? by transmitted light ? by the way I am using 35mm film.
     
  7. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    You could go ahead with your plan to create a printout with about 5 stops difference from dark gray to light gray, and then shoot two shots of this "short" grayscale at different f/stops to cover appropriate exposure sets. (Like Meter and Expose for the darkest gray to be Zone V, then you can get Zone VI, VII, VIII and IX... Meter and Expose lightest gray to be Zone V and get backwards Zone IV, III, II and I).

    With a transmission stepwedge, there is a 4x5 sheet that you can tape to glass and light up from behind. Or you can get the 1/2 inch strip and lay it in contact with a strip of film pulled out in the darkroom under your enlarger for about a 1 second exposure.
     
  8. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Is there a formula to calculate the resulting print density? Is the 126 is about 0.75 density?
     
  9. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Technical considerations like this are easily done with photoshop, but aesthetic ones are not.
     
  10. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I'm suggesting nothing more complicated than printing out a few patches of gray that the spotmeter says are one zone apart. This for the purpose of creating a camera test. You could do same selecting patches of construction paper. Technically speaking, the values that correspond to the patches you create are part of a "transfer function" but I don't say take it that far. Just go far enough to create something you can shoot.

    I have a two-tone target painted on plywood ... one zone apart to the spotmeter. This goes with Minor White's teaching.
     
  11. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    hey how come no one is on him for not using "traditional methods" and sending him to DPUG? :/
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    See post #2.

    And the use of Photoshop here isn't really a photographic one.

    It's similar to the thread on using LEDs to build an enlarger light source, or the thread on Iphone based meters.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    lhalcong you are working against two basic problems.

    One, is that it seems you are assuming "1 zone" is equal to 1 stop, that is not true. In classic zone system thought, zones are properly described by the characteristics that they will have in a print, like "shadow with detail", not a specific luminance measurement. Again in classic ZS thought a scene luminance/brightness range may be 7 stops or 14, either way there are always 11 zones.

    Two, you seem to be expecting the paper to have the ability to display an 11 stop range, it can't and PS can't fix that. About 7 stops real luminance is the absolute limit of what a high gloss paper with ultra dark blacks can show. Use matte paper, as you did and you may only get 6, maybe less.

    All 11 zones can fit on the paper but the paper displays them in roughly 1/2 stop steps. (This is an over simplification but think 6/11.)

    The other question that pops into my head is "how will you be printing?"

    I ask because plus and minus development are only significant/important when a specific paper grade is the target.

    If you are using VC paper or digital methods to print, plus and minus film development has a reduced value and can actually be a detriment. With your 35mm roll film, if you are like most of us, typically subject matter and lighting situations will be mixed on a given roll, when that's true adjusting development for one situation on the roll messes with all the others.
     
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  15. Usagi

    Usagi Member

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    Is there?
    If luminance is 9 stops and I use N+2 delopment, should the result be 7 zones?
    Or in case of N-2, 11 zones?

    My unferstanding is that ZS is only a simple tool that makes it easier to modify subject tones to closer the tones of final print. Not a tool for fitting whole subject luminance to printable density area.
     
  16. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    It simply relates subject luminance values to exposure zones and ultimately to print values; that is the essence of the ZS and is essential in visualization of the final print values. It should not be made any more complicated than that, but I'm not surprised that it most always is......just a general overall observation.
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The number of classic zones does not change, each zone is descriptive of certain print characteristics.

    Zone Description
    0 Pure black
    I Near black, with slight tonality but no texture
    II Textured black; the darkest part of the image in which slight detail is recorded
    III Average dark materials and low values showing adequate texture
    IV Average dark foliage, dark stone, or landscape shadows
    V Middle gray: clear north sky; dark skin, average weathered wood
    VI Average Caucasian skin; light stone; shadows on snow in sunlit landscapes
    VII Very light skin; shadows in snow with acute side lighting
    VIII Lightest tone with texture: textured snow
    IX Slight tone without texture; glaring snow
    X Pure white: light sources and specular reflections

    The intent of using "zones" is to purposefully disconnect them from stops that's why they are denoted in Roman numerals, personally I think if Adams had used letters instead it would have been less confusing say:

    Zone Description
    A Pure black
    B Near black, with slight tonality but no texture
    C Textured black; the darkest part of the image in which slight detail is recorded
    D Average dark materials and low values showing adequate texture
    E Average dark foliage, dark stone, or landscape shadows
    F Middle gray: clear north sky; dark skin, average weathered wood
    G Average Caucasian skin; light stone; shadows on snow in sunlit landscapes
    H Very light skin; shadows in snow with acute side lighting
    I Lightest tone with texture: textured snow
    J Slight tone without texture; glaring snow
    K Pure white: light sources and specular reflections

    No matter how many stops are in the scene there are 11 zones.

    Using your numbers, plus development is used to stretch 9 stops from the scene across the 11 printable zones. Minus development squashes say thirteen stops from the scene into the 11 printable zones.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2013
  18. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    The reason why zones are denoted in Roman Numerals was so that the zone could not be confused with the numerical values of the meter scale----to say Zone 5, for example, could too easily be confused with a luminance reading of 5 on the meter scale, this is specifically stated in The Negative in the piece before the start of the chapters. Of course, the luminance reading of 5 on a particular subject luminance, can certainly be used to determine the camera exposure----- to place that luminance on Zone V. A luminance reading of 3 in a darker area of that same scene, automatically means that area must fall on Zone III with the "3" and the "III", in this example being coincidental, but can never be confused in practice. So a luminance reading of 3 is simply two stops or two zones lower on the gray scale. Once the "placement" is made, all other luminances are read relative to it to visualize where they fall on the gray scale, hince facilitating the final print tones in your mind. It's so easy in application, but often can be convoluted in a written description.
     
  19. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Step wedges are not usually labeled with "zones" they are more frequently labeled with reflection density. You made a good step wedge. Now measure the reflection densities of each patch and record that. Proceed with your tests. You will go crazy trying to make a perfect wedge of 0.3 log d per step with the equipment you have.
     
  20. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Heck, he could have labeled them like they do Stars... O, B, A, F, G, K, M... and we'd have to make it work... Even the old Weston Master meters are labeled with incomprehensible sequence U, A, (arrow) C, O.

    Mark Barendt,

    I know you are trying to clarify but I think the main point that needs to be clarified here is the two places where Zone is considered:

    ...What you see and meter at the Original Scene

    0 Pure black, open doorways
    I Near black, dark objects in deep shadows
    II Darkest part of the image in which slight detail is recorded
    III Average dark materials and low values
    IV Average dark foliage, dark stone, or landscape shadows
    V clear north sky; dark skin, average weathered wood
    VI Average Caucasian skin; light stone; shadows on snow in sunlit landscapes
    VII Very light skin; shadows in snow with acute side lighting
    VIII textured snow
    IX glaring snow
    X light sources and specular reflections

    ...Where you place them or they fall on the Finished Print

    0 Pure black
    I Near black, with slight tonality but no texture
    II Textured black
    ...
    V Middle gray
    ...
    VIII Lightest tone with texture
    IX Slight tone without texture
    X Pure white

    ---

    The same Roman Numeral series is used in these two different contexts. Usually the context is clear.

    ---

    But when you look at a grayscale printout, it is very easy to get the contexts mixed up.

    It kind of short-circuits your brain if you aren't careful to keep the scene and print contexts separate.

    Here is kind of what happens when you take a print and use it as a subject:

    The print, in even lighting, only reflects about seven zones (I just metered my grayscale chips from the "Grayscale and Cat" and they barely covered seven Zones on the meter)

    Meter reading Zone I = Zone 0 chip
    Meter reading Zone II = Zone I chip
    ...
    Meter reading Zone V = Middle gray chip
    ...
    Meter reading Zone VIII = Zone IX chip
    Meter reading Zone IX = Zone X chip
     
  21. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Bill,

    I believe you already know this but I'm going to take a stab at a different explanation.

    I think what you are measuring in the print is a 7 stop change in refletivity from black to white. That's not 7 zones.

    Zones do not equal stops in a print.

    The print always has all 11 zones regardless of the luminance difference between black and white.

    In the print you measured; "7 stops = 11 zones". That means that each "print zone" is only 7/11ths of a stop wide on that print.

    In the field we may have a scene that from black to white is actually 13 stops wide, 2 stops wider than the normal 11. In that case each zone in the scene is 13/11ths of a stop wide. We could also have a scene that is 9 stops from back to white, the scene zones would be 9/11ths of a stop wide in that case.

    The magic of the zone system is that if you have 11 subjects in the scene that you want and they are evenly spaced running from white to black, and our development and printing are done properly those same subjects will print perfectly from black to white on paper. 11 zones in the scene = 11 zones in the print regardless of how many stops are measured in the scene or across the print.

    Side Note, which will not add any clarity, the math here isn't perfect, though I believe thinking about it this way is reasonable and it is how the zones are illustrated normally, all 11 zones being equal in width. The real width of 11 zones; could actually be 9 plus pure black and white. Zones zero and ten may not have any "width" in the real world, they may simply be points at which the the tone starts.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2013
  22. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hey Mark,

    I know in a few rounds we could probably come up with an explanation that is clear and simple.

    We have these 10 Zones in our subject that the meter says are 10 stops apart from black to white in our scene (give or take).

    The black in our scene is blacker than the blackest black on any print. Because the black in our scene is in the shade.

    We use the Zone System to make these 10 Zones fit our print so it goes from blackest black paper to whitest white paper on the print.

    But you're not supposed to go and use the light meter to measure the print... I want to make it clear that it is not necessary, and that it is absurd.

    You're just supposed to see that the print goes black to white (as much as you envisioned).

    Anything 2-dimensional in even lighting, will only measure about 7 stops difference. The reason our scene measures 10 stops or more sometimes is that a lot of scenes have parts that are in the shade.
     
  23. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I hope I don't sound like I'm harping, it's just that I don't feel like I explained it very well, so I keep rephrasing
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Me too.

    We may very well choose that black you describe as our print's black point though. The whites in the scene may also be a lot more luminant than the paper can physically represent too. That doesn't mean we won't try to get those two subjects/points on the same sheet of paper.

    If we choose to use those points to define our photo and to straight print; the black you describe becomes zone zero, the white I described becomes zone ten; regardless of if they are 8 or 15 stops apart.

    A print is always an abstract representation and it is dependent on its own lighting too. Under soft general lighting it will have one look and measured set of characteristics, if under a halogen spot with a dark surround it will appear and measure differently.
     
  25. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    Another crack at an explanation:

    The goal of the Zone System is to capture as much of the scene as possible onto the film, so that it holds detail in both the shadows and highlights. In effect, you're making a "master copy" of the scene. These zones are 1 stop apart.

    However, paper has a narrower range of reproduction. Think about trying to interpret a Rembrandt with Crayola crayons: it just isn't going to fit, visually, since you can't reproduce all the range of colors. Paper is similar: it won't reproduce the entire range of textures you have on the film, so compromises have to be made somewhere. So, a one-stop difference on the film "master" may be more narrow on paper. So of course if you then scan those tones on the paper, they wouldn't translate back to one stop between themselves.
     
  26. Usagi

    Usagi Member

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    If you use Zone System only for capturing as much of subject brightness (scene) as possible on the film, you could just skip Zone System and use BTZS or similar. As there's no use for zones, just the the both ends of the (zone) scale.


    Where is visualization which should be core of Zone System as I understand?


    As for print having always 11 zones.. I don't agree with that.


    If I have subject, say caucasian people and some important shadows. The skin is usually at VI. My visualization may differ, but if in this case I place important shadows to III. The skin fall's to V which is too low.
    If there's not any important highlights, I can expose and develop by using N+2 and I will have negative which (in theory) is easy to print grade 2 paper so that shadows are detailed and rich, the skin has right value. Highlights may require some burning, depending on situation.
    That print doesn't have 11 zones.