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  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
    The concepts of the Zone System are not hard to grasp
    it is not hard to grasp for those people who do not find it hard to grasp ... others find it extremely difficult to conceptualise, however much we read, and could easily become a stumbling block if we feel that we cannot progress without understanding something which we may be unequipped to understand.

    threads like this are useful "seminars" for others like the OP (me for instance) who are starting out, and much can be learned
    from them.

    However, I suspect that for some people (I'm thinking of myself of course) the Zone System may be learned as a later refinement of technique, rather than as a foundation step.

    Keeping things (explanations, suggestions) simple are key to helping those new to home developing and printing ...

  2. #22

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    [QUOTE=Gerald C Koch;1368063]Exposure does not determine contrast but rather density. QUOTE]

    +1

    You gain nothing by underexposing the negative. In fact, maximum contrast for a given development time is obtained when everything is past the toe of the characteristic curve, so underexposing can actually reduce overall contrast. Do not underexpose film to gain contrast.

  3. #23
    Diapositivo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
    Also, I have never understood why people believe that the Zone System is only practical for large format users.
    I am not a printer myself, but I understand that because the Zone System asks that for every frame a decision is made regarding exposure and development time in order to compress or expand contrast so that the final picture corresponds to the image visualized by the photographer, this makes it impractical with small format and medium format because you cannot develop each frame differently and so the ZS proper cannot work unless you carry 5 cameras with you so that in each camera you have frames that will have to be developed the same way for the same effect.

    If one uses variable contrast paper, or different papers of different contrast, then this is not any more the Zone System strictly speaking. As far as I gather at the time of Ansel Adams the contrast of the paper was basically fixed, so his problem was to expand or contract contrast while manoeuvring only on the negative lever. That requires fiddling with a different development for each frame.

    I side with those saying that talking about the ZS is overkill here. I think the OP should rather give details about film - developer - development time - development temperature and his exposure technique. Maybe there is an obvious mistake somewhere in his workflow.
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

  4. #24
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    Actually Fabrizio, I'll suggest that you actually use the some of the zone system's basic principles yourself.

    Spot metering, unless you always use a mid-tone as your target, requires applying an offset to find camera exposure.

    Finding exposure by measuring highlights or shadows or faces or whatever is essentially zone system work.

    Adams himself even taught the use of zone system principles for roll film shooters.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  5. #25

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    Wow, thanks a lot for all the answers!

    As some of you have correctly suspected (Bill Burk, Gerald C Koch, pdeeh, and Fabrizio Ruggeri, just to name a few), I am rather new to the analogue world, and I am really not familiar with the details of the Zone System. (Adopting Fabrizio's catchy words, please don't "overkill" me!) I definitely plan to dig deeper into the technical aspects of analogue photography, including reading the suggested classics by Ansel Adams, but for the time being, I am just looking for some basic guidelines.

    Speaking in layman's terms - and I apologise for doing so -, what I often experience is that I pick up the developed negatives from the lab and the scans lack in contrast to my eye/taste. What I do than, as a layman, is resorting to Photoshop and adjusting the gradation curve until the contrast pleases me. This almost always involves brightening the highlights and darkening the shadows, i.e. giving the curve an S-shape.

    However, I feel like tweaking curves in Photoshop is not what analogue photography should be about, and I would like to achieve the desired contrast by purely analogue means.

    Now, referring to the instructive answers by Doremus Scudder and smieglitz, and hoping I understood them correctly, here is what I came up with: If I under-expose, I will get strong blacks. (This is what I want.) However, I also want strong whites: In order to get these, I must over-develop the negatives. While the light grays will turn white (this is what i want), my blacks will still stay black, because - quoting smieglitz - "increased development doesn't change the shadow tones very much but has a great effect on the midtones and highlights."

    In brief, this boils down to pushing, i.e. under-exposing and then over-developing.

    Ok, experts out there, please tell the layman if he got it right.

  6. #26
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    Daniele,

    Welcome BTW.

    There may actually be no problem with your negatives, I'd bet part of the problem is the lab, this isn't rare.

    A simple conversation with them about what you want may solve the problem, if not a different lab may solve the problem.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  7. #27
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    Mark, I do use spot light meter for "zone" placement on the film curve, especially with slide film.

    To me, strictly speaking, "Zone System" is the Adam Ansel thing of setting exposure and development in each shot. That I think is something which is limited to LF and would "overkill" Daniele

    Every photographer should learn "zone placement" and behaviour of characteristic curve of film especially when using slide film.

    Daniele, to say it in highly scientific terms normal exposure and normal development should give normally contrasted negatives which would give normally contrasted prints using normally contrasted paper... if I were you I would try to understand what is "not normal" in my workflow rather than resorting to systematic under-exposing and over-developing
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    Daniele,

    Welcome BTW.

    There may actually be no problem with your negatives, I'd bet part of the problem is the lab, this isn't rare.

    A simple conversation with them about what you want may solve the problem, if not a different lab may solve the problem.
    +1

    If you are relying on scans, then the scans themselves may be the entire problem.

    In fact, your lab may be intentionally giving you "flat" scans, because those flat scans may be what their customers like.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Allen View Post
    The concepts of the Zone System are not hard to grasp and the associated testing is simply a way of eliminating the variables that the OP is currently confronted with. Also, I have never understood why people believe that the Zone System is only practical for large format users.
    Whether you find the ZS easy or hard depends on the book or teacher you use. In this case one must remember the Zen proverb, "When the student is ready, the Master appears."

    It's not really LF per se but whether you have control of individual negatives. In order for the ZS to work you must be able to adjust development for each negative individually. This is just not practical with roll film.

    With the development of VC papers that are just as good as graded papers the ZS has really lost most of its raison d'etre.
    Last edited by Gerald C Koch; 07-17-2012 at 12:22 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  10. #30

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    To add to what Matt said I find most scans that people place in their posts to be low in contrast. In addition most people just starting in photography find it hard to evaluate a negative. To make a judgement you either need to adjust the scan very carefully or make a conventional "wet" print.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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