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  1. #1

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    John L. Davenport and the Zone System

    Hi,
    In Ansel Adam's 1981 edition of The Negative, there is a rather cryptic acknowledgement to articles by John L. Davenport in U.S. Camera, as forming the basis for the Zone System. I was curious about these articles for some time and was able to track them down, with no small help from a librarian. For others who might be similarly curious, I have uploaded them to archive.org:

    http://www.archive.org/details/ConstantQualityPrints

    As far as I know, the copyright was not reviewed on these, and they should now be part of the public domain.

    I was very impressed by Davenport's articles, and hope that they will be of interest to others here.

    David

  2. #2

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    Cool! Thanks for posting this.

    Peter Gomena

  3. #3
    piu58's Avatar
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    Dear David,

    thank you for that interesting article.
    ---
    Uwe Pilz

  4. #4
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Thanks David for finding these articles. I have been wanting to read them for a very long time!

    Minor White also credited the articles in his orientation to Zone System Manual 1961:

    "Any artist or craftsman uses mental tools to guide himself as he molds his materials with his physical tools. Some of these concepts are codified such as color systems or harmonics. In photography such concepts have their counterparts in optics, which pertains to the image projection qualities of lenses; and sensitometry which is the study of the effect of light intensities on photographic emulsions. Other mental tools are more in the nature of approaches or working philosopies such as the Memory Recall school of acting. In this later vein John L. Davenport in an article "Constant Quality Prints" (U.S. CAMERA Nos. 12 and 13, 1940) opened a workable way between the science of photography and the art of communication with photographs. Shortly therafter..."

  5. #5
    Tony-S's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks very much David. This is a great resource that I'm sure will spread on the 'net!

  6. #6

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    That's great!

    Jeff

  7. #7
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Wow, page 3 (pg. 57) explains something that the Zone System ignored (which BTZS adds back in) -- scenes which require less than normal development need more than normal exposure.

  8. #8

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    Thanks, an interesting historical excursion and still valid.

    BTW Bill, Adams, Minor White/Zakia, and others do recommend different E.I.s for different development schemes. That's where I first learned it. I think of it as a "factor" (like a filter factor) for different developments, e.g., N-1 = 2/3 stop more exposure. That way I don't have to keep changing my meter dial :-)

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com

  9. #9
    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    Wow, page 3 (pg. 57) explains something that the Zone System ignored (which BTZS adds back in) -- scenes which require less than normal development need more than normal exposure.
    Yes, actually very interesting, Bill. I read a lot of Phil Davis there, more than Adams, especially with references to subject brightness range, etc. Good reading.

  10. #10
    CPorter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    Wow, page 3 (pg. 57) explains something that the Zone System ignored (which BTZS adds back in) -- scenes which require less than normal development need more than normal exposure.
    As you know, a scene that requires less than normal development is obviously a scene of long scale or considered to be of high contrast. It boils down to the placement of the important low value in the scene. I disagree with your interpretation of that portion of the article. IMO, it is more accurate to state that a contrasty scene needs the important shadow destail(s) to be precisely exposed, meaning, to ensure that they receive enough exposure, not necessarily more than what is normal. Then, most certainly, the high values will need to be controlled with development. IMO, the 1/3 stop exposure "increase" from the article was obviously made to boost the shadow detail of the sand, with the highllight density needing to be controlled with the proper gamma.

    The fundamental ZS application of such a contrasty scene would be to consider maintaining adequate shadow exposure (i.e., providing enough exposure to render the desired print detail), and to be careful of reducing the exposure in an effort to bring down the negative density of the highlight----because, high contrast scenes offer little, if any, "latitude" for exposure error of the shadows.

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