I wouldn't get too hung up on Adam's books at this point. He goes deep into exposure theory, but as said above, today's films are so forgiving, you can keep things simpler.
I suggest you just set your meter at box speed, and go take some photos. If the lighting looks difficult, such as deep shadows or very contrasty, bracket your shots. It won't be long before you will be able to see what works for you.
Mark Barendt's thoughts on incident metering are something to try. This takes a lot of the variables out of metering, and lets you compare incident and reflective light. Sometimes, just walk around with a light meter and try some readings to see how they compare.
Then, show us some of your photos!
For a concise introduction to the zone system, I would suggest taking a look at:
Norman Koren's web page is primarily devoted to digital photography, and has not been updated much in quite a while. But, there is a lot of good information there on various aspects of photography, including this description of a "simplified zone system". I think that Koren does a pretty good job of describing the key ideas of exposure using ZS terminology, but doesn't get into film tests and development.
Hope this helps,
Shoot at 2/3 of box speed, develop normally an high contrast scene and see if it's suitable for you. Always consider the darkest region where you want details as zone 3. I always check for highlights too, just to be sure of what Im doing.
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I use the Zone system with large format and am very satisfied with the results. With roll film I used the concepts to determine an N exposure and development that prints on VC paper at grade 2 and use VC filters to get the result I visualized.
In his later years Ansel sometimes used a blad and had multiple backs labeled for normal, plus and minus development. In 35mm some prices are getting low enough that you could do the same thing with multiple bodies, may not be very practical though.
IME reading the The Negative to try and understand the zone system is pretty daunting.
Fred Picker's The Zone VI Workshop is a better introduction.
It's also worthwhile to keep in mind that the materials, especially papers have changed tremendously since either of those books were written. Neither Ansel nor Fred were working with variable contrast papers which give you a lot more flexibility than graded papers ever did.
I would suggest that you would do well to forget about the zone system for a year or so.
Here is a simplified approach which will take you very far;
Pay attention to the fact that your meter is paying the most attention to 18% grey, so point it at what you want to end up as middle grey in a print. Use that reading for your exposure. Start with the film's box speed or go slightly less. Then;
Develop the film
Study your result
After you get proficient at that, dive into all the rest of it. If and when you make changes know why you are making that change.
Last edited by bdial; 08-25-2013 at 09:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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ZS: Is a system with several components.
Pre-visualization - Metering(check: Calibration) - Camera+Lens(flare may be considered) - Film(test: To find E.I) - Development(test:film + pre-visualization + metering) - Target paper(fixed grade).
All-in-all it needs testing.
Last edited by baachitraka; 08-25-2013 at 03:18 PM. Click to view previous post history.
OM-1n: Do I need to own a Leica?
Rolleicord Va: Humble.
Holga 120GFN: Amazingly simple yet it produces outstanding negatives to print.
The Zone system is mainly a method of getting proper exposures. It involves measuring the brightness of the brightest and darkest important parts of the scene to determine the scene's contrast (brightness range) and then determining the proper exposure for the most important item in the scene by determining the value (Zone) you want it to have in the final print, measuring its brightness, and assigning the appropriate exposure. The development time of the (sheet film) negative is adjusted depending on the scene's brightness range so that the negative will have a normal contrast range. Today's roll films have sufficient latitude that average development will usually produce quite printable negatives for most of the scenes you encounter, although you could make an adjustment for the average scene on the roll. Knowing the brightness range of the scene can still be informative.
Again, for roll film, consider divided development.
A forum like APUG is not a good way to learn about basic photography, as you will receive much confusing and conflicting advice. Is there a local night school class you could attend?
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
I've been shooting, using a light meter, etc. for years...just not on film (take a look at my first sentence of my first post). In digital, ISO is almost meaningless (unless you are an indoor event photographer, are shooting at night, etc.). When I made the switch over to film, the first thing I read was about a trillion threads telling me that I need to understand my personal EI, test my chosen film for my personal film speed, etc. - that is what generated the initial set of questions.
Originally Posted by cliveh
I think I am going to take the approach of simply shooting at box speed, metering for the darkest part of the scene in which I want to preserve detail and then develop at normal, box speed recommended time. If I don't get enough detail, I will knock off a third off the box speed and try again. Once I am getting the right amount of detail, I will figure out the right development time based on how much contrast I have and how difficult it is to print.
"Once the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur." - Alfred Eisenstadt