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Thread: BTZS Explored

  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jorge
    I think you did not give it a serious chance.....but to each its own.
    We will never know if the people who made great prints before the ZS would have made better photographs knowing it, I dont think you can say it would not be likely, specially if you base your opnion on the Picker's writings. While he had some good ideas as far as equipment goes, his methodology was seriously flawed.
    They may have made better more consistent negatives but not better photographs. BTZS only allows you to control and understand your materials not make you a better photographer.

    I do not like the amount of numbers or tests involved, that is just the way I am. I like the metering technique because it makes sense in the right conditions, so I use it. Just like I do not follow the Zone system to the letter I do not follow BTZS. Use what works. Is this a wonderful little secret? Maybe for some and not for others. It is not a magic bullet.

    I think there are assumptions made in the system that, living where I do, makes it a pain in the ass and until I figured the problem out I made some real shitty negs. The BTZS metering method was where I was going wrong. The method assumes that that every scene contains an SBR of five and you have to make a value judgement on scenes that may have less. This is a falacy that I personally find to be one hell of a stumbling point for the method and since I live in the desert SW I have to make a hell of a lot of value judgements. I would rather use a spot meter on most days to isolate specific values in the scene.

    BTZS devotees try to rationalize this by talking about local contrast but under caertain contitions you need a spotmeter and the zone system. I will say though, that in the right conditions you can't beat the BTZS metering method. Makes some really nice looking negs with everytihing where it should be.

    Jorge, and francesco are living examples of good photographers who would be good no matter what they used, but in this case BTZS works for them.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  2. #22

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    The thing that bugs me about BTZS is that it assumes you do your process the same way every time. i.e PMK - 68deg for 12mins for normal scene. But in reality I may have water temps at 70deg, more or less agitation, change dilution to suit image, etc...

    The best parts I got out of the book were the metering (to guage lighting contrast), and the use of tubes. The sensiometry is for those who have means to control all variables, not my makeshift darkroom.
    Eric
    www.esearing.com

  3. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zathras
    I have gotten ahold of a densitometer, but I need to find a manual for it and a transmission calibration standard for it so I know if it's working correctly. Mike Sullivan
    Mike - check out these standards from X-Rite
    http://www.xrite.com/product_accessories.aspx?Line=17

    3 Step Certified Wedge (Transmission), Part Nr. 319-68, $41

    Calibration Step Wedge for Models 810-830, Part Nr. 810-68, $71

    3-Step Calibration Plaque (Reflection), Part Nr. 302-12, $39

    You can buy online from X-Rite which makes it really convienent.

    I bought a set of 810-68 and 302-12 for my Noritsu DM-201, and even though these are made by X-Rite, they work just fine.

  4. #24

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    for Mark

    If you prefer a spot meter the BTZS is set up for that. The incident system that you have described allows for development decisions. True it assumes a 5 stop brightness span for a flatly lit subject 5 stops from the blackest paint to the brightest white. A normal scene would be described as have a 2 stop difference in highlight to shadow areas....seven stops total. After doing your calibration work you would measure the shadows with the film speed doubled to get your exposure. You would measure the highlighted..non shadow area to get the difference in f stops. You then know your brightness range..if your shadow reading was 3 stops different than your your lit subject area your would process as if you had an 8 stop range. This of course would be a shortened development time. You would swithch to a lower film speed as indicated from your calibration and expose and develop as indicated.
    It is a very nice system to use.

    The same set of tests could be used for an advanced Zone system usage.

    Here are some of the pros of the both ssystem as I see them

    Incident.
    Very easily used and learned.
    Not as easily visualized when you are missing a black or a white...a subject that does not contain tones from pure black to pure white. But still visualizeable. Individual tones that are not black or white are difficult to determine.
    Meter is not sensitive to subject color
    meter is not as sensitive to IR light
    exposure is not determined by subject distance
    meter is not influenced by flare.

    spot
    direct visulazation of specific tones
    meter influenced by subject color
    meter sensitive to IR light
    meter is influenced by flare
    metering of a specific area has to be modified by distance from the camera placement. Ie a tree trunk 20 feet away and one that is 100 yards away will not read the same or require the same exposure.

    In the best of worlds you would use both methods.

    I do not live in the best of worlds. I have chosen the incident method.

    Either method is capable of being very much superior to traditional zone system techniques.

  5. #25

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    Claire, I understand the process, studied the hell out of it and the 5 stop assumption is just that an assumption. With the incident method there is no room for correctly figuring a less than five stop SBR without making a leap of faith. I just took a meter reading and guess what, I got an EV of 9 every where I placed the meter reletive to the lens of the camera. The BTZS does not work for me where I live a lot of the time. Especially these days. Lots of clouds no shadows to speak of but great contrast as long as I know exactly where I want individual objects to fall. I do what I do because it works for me. The traditional Zone system works just fine for many many people. No those folks are not wasting their time if they are getting photographs that they are proud of.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  6. #26

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    There is a little bit of misinformation here that I think needs to be clarifed. The BTZS does not assume there is a 5 stop range of low contrast subjects.

    The reason is simply explained in Phil's book and has to do with the reproduction ratio of printing materials. With few exceptions the maximum SBR that can be reproduced is 5 stops. So given this reproduction value we can say that no subject that we intend to photograph can have less than a 5 stop range if we are to get detail in the important areas.
    Phil then deduced that if we add this 5 stop reflectance range to the contrast difference in an illuminance measurement, we could then estimate the total subject brightness range.

    Of course, Phil explains it much better and in more detail in his book, but there is actually no assumptions made for the basis of his system. Some knowledgeable people argue that he does do a little of data massage in the flare factors, and strictly speaking they are correct. But I cannot argue with success, it works for me.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikepry
    Yes, it is a very complex approach, but we work with very complex materials, don't we? Very scientific materials, to say the least. But after one does some very EASY and FAST testing, the wealth of information is absolutely mind boggling.

    I'm one of those math-challenged English majors that Garrison Keillor is always poking fun at, and I eschew with horror any approach to photography that demands that I master graphs and curves. So I know that while the BTZS system has much to commend it, it's definitely not for me.

    Besides, what happens when (as it has very often and still does) after making a negative exposed and developed to match the characteristic curve of a particular paper, that paper becomes unavailable? Do you not print that neg anymore because it doesn't quite match the paper you do have available?

    Having just seen the big Robert Capa retrospective in Berlin, where his film was processed by Time's lab rather than by himself, and where it's possible to see scratches, dust spots, and other defects on the finished prints, it didn't lessen the power of his work for me at all. Granted not all of us are war photographers, and we expect a higher quality result from our prints than the gritty, sometimes grainy, and less-than-perfect prints in Capa's oeuvre, but it's his work rather than most of ours that is hanging on the walls of the Martin Grobius Bau museum drawing enormous crowds.

    My philosophy of photography is, do the work that interests you, do it as simply and as carefully as you can, remembering that it's the image in the end that is the main goal. Does it enable those who look at it to see what you saw or see it in a new and powerful way? All the systems in the world, scientific or seat-of-the-pants are meant to serve that end. None are ends in themselves.

    Larry

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jorge
    ........specially if you base your opnion on the Picker's writings. While he had some good ideas as far as equipment goes, his methodology was seriously flawed.
    Seriously flawed in what way? Having been to one of Fred Picker's workshops, I can say from personal experience that his methodology was empirical. He was also open to a better way with the only catch being "show me a print". Few did.
    He simplified the zone system to make a practical, simple tool for making good printable negatives without all the hype associated with it. IMO BTZS has gone the other way with it. With all the calculations, charts, and tubes; one wonders when there's time to take some pictures.

  9. #29

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    Like many I was at first reluctant to delve into BTZS. It seemed overly complicated and the mathematics seemed to get in the way of artistic expression.

    But I found that I was making this out to be far more difficult then I needed to make it.

    Put simply the Zone System, as developed by AA, established an arbitrary density value for a Zone VIII density (above FB+fog). That value, in my experience is no longer a valid value with todays papers. So taking the previous poster's question, what occurs when the paper changes? With the Zone System we have no idea of what went wrong. The reason being is that in the Zone System the exposure scale of the paper is never determined.

    That is the basic difference, at it's simplest, between BTZS and the Zone System. In BTZS the process begins with the characteristics of the paper. That and the difference in metering. Both very simple differences. One may or may not want to get caught up in all of the plotting that the BTZS affords. Obviously the more detailed one becomes the more controls are afforded. My approach is of the simpler variety. I have found that it affords me better, more consistant prints then the Zone System does. I am not saying negatives, I am saying prints...and that is, I think, the bottom line.

    Now I will agree that the best technique used on the crappiest photograph will afford one a technically great crappy photograph. By the same token I think that poor technique coupled with a great photograph also detracts from what is possible. I continue to strive to encompass both considerations. Not that I succeed always...but I continue to strive.

    For those who want to continue with the Zone System or no system...I have no argument with what you choose. By way of information, I have found that using JandC Polywarmtone and Oriental VCFB and my condensor enlarger that the Zone VIII density had better be up near 1.35-1.40 rather then the value that Ansel Adams proposed. Obviously when I use my Saunders VCCE diffusion enlarger the values that I indicated are still too low.

    I will agree with Jorge's view of Fred Picker's later recommedations. While his approach to "key day" exposures is good, in my opinion, for those who want a ultra simple approach. His later "minimum time for maximum black" falls outside of what I want to accept for myself. But then again, I recognize that some view him as one of the latest greatest prophets in the photographic medium. My opinion of him is not quite at that level.

  10. #30

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    Each to his own

    I certainly agree that when has what works for them then they are "good to go". I think that the metodology of photographing in tools and techniques have to serve the person emotions and personality. Even David Vestal advice to avoid underexposure and over development is a technique that can serve a person very well. BTZS is not for, example, the street photographer if his/her work does not allow determination of contrast ranges and exposure determination do to the rpad changes of scene. The BTZS system will not be useful to a person that has a personality that prevents them from wanting to do the testing etc or interest applying it tho her/his work Even though they may realoze how useful it would be. People are not totally logical.

    A good example is myself. The manner in which I work would be more sensible to work with a view camera. Instead I bulk load short lengths of 6 frames of 35mm giving 4 identical exposures so that I have spares in case of physical damage because putzing around and setting up my tripod in just the right place makes the extra film, in my opinion, well spent. If the original 4 frames were without a filter, then I use each of the remaining frames with a filter that seems it would be interesting and one that seems very unlikely to be useful. If the original 4 identical frames were shot with a filter then one of the two remaining frames will be without a filter. The investment, weight of the gear I carry etc would certainly indicate that a 4x5 thru 8x10 camera would be a more logical choice. But there I am a human being doing things the way I do because I feel drawn to doing them that way.

    So, if one has something that "works" for them, then they are better off, by far, then those that do not. I certainly do not wish to convert anyone. I do wish though to share my experiences and viewpoint to those that are interested in a particular photographic aspect because it may either be helpful or interesting.

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