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  1. #1
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Working idea - Zone System exposure - Time/CI darkroom

    I've been working up a system with the help of Stephen Benskin and other APUG members as we go along...

    It's close enough to working to discuss...

    My idea is that different sides of the brain are involved in different aspects of photography.

    In the field taking pictures and in the darkroom making prints - creativity is important.

    In the lab testing and developing film, deciding film speed - analytical process is important.
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    So I picked pieces from different concepts and chose processes that I like according to how well they work with how my brain works at different times.


    Taking pictures, I use traditional Zone System nomenclature. I spot a shadow and place on Zone II. I spot caucasian flesh and place on Zone VI. I can spot highlights and place on Zone VII. All the placing and N developing nomenclature is available and usable pretty much as is.
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    Then I go to the darkroom. Here it's sensitometry all the way. Film tests are run and graphed. Time/CI chart is devised. Control is established so that I can hit any CI that I desire (or at least know when I'm out of control). I also can know the effective EI from the graphs.
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    EI - the variable I change to place my exposures where I want them on the film curve. I originally started arbitrarily at half box speed (primarily to give shadows full exposure), but I found results consistently denser than necessary - I now use one-third stop up from half box speed.
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    Film developing. Knowing my Subject Brightness range - after all I did mark each sheet N, N+1, N-1 or made notes about the overall conditions for the roll.

    I target either 1.05 or 0.95 Log Exposure Range (LER) because my specification for a quality negative is to never have a worse negative than two real negatives of mine. They were difficult but successful prints. I call them my upper control limit 1.18 and lower control limit 0.86. You must choose your own specification for a quality negative of your own. Because I use Galerie 2 and Galerie 3 on a DII with Omegalite that's where I came out with my own aim point.

    In the Zone Placement thread...

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum37/9...placement.html

    Stephen Benskin provides a chart that tells what CI to develop to in order to get a desired LER

    http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=1234293

    So I develop according to my Time/Contrast Index chart (derived from family of sensitometry).
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    Then it comes to the darkroom for printing. Creative mind takes over the high-tech analytical side shuts down...

    Now I have negatives that are likely to fit Grade 2 or Grade 3 paper. That's all I have. So I make a call. Is the neg kind of thin or kind of contrasty. Not a tough call. I pick Grade 2, make a test strip by F/Stop times in third-stop increments. Take a look at the result, try to estimate dry-down (I use Fiber Based paper). I sketch out my burns and dodges.

    This is where having a negative that prints well on Grade 2 is a pleasure. The burns and dodges have the effect I was going for. Usually I will see "something" wrong and have to print again for an improvement. Like Bob Carnie, I make 3 prints. Like ROL, sometimes I make a noticeable improvement each time.

  2. #2
    chriscrawfordphoto's Avatar
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    The only problem I see is that EI is related to developer. You can't really say "I'll shoot at half box speed, or 1/3 stop from box speed or whatever." The same film may need totally different EI in different developers. For example, I shoot Tri-X at 320 for normal developing in D-76 1+1, 250 in Rodinal 1+50, and 200 in PMK. These speeds give the same shadow density for negs developed to the same contrast in each developer.
    Chris Crawford
    Fine Art Photography of Indiana and other places no one else photographs.

    http://www.chriscrawfordphoto.com

    My Tested Developing Times with the films and developers I use

    Become a fan of my work on Facebook

    Fort Wayne, Indiana

  3. #3
    Stephen Benskin's Avatar
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    Bill,

    It all sounds good to me.

    I have a feeling you are using a general purpose developer in a one shot capacity which tends to produce speeds comparable to the ISO speeds. Field testing should be sufficient. Besides, as I've pointed out many times, the accuracy of most people's speed testing is highly questionable.

  4. #4

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    When speed testing film, it's a personal rating. Your shutter may not be functioning perfectly, your meter is not the same as even they varry brand to brand as well as type. Your interpretation of a shadow in ZIII vs a highlight in ZVIII is subjective n open to personal interpretation.

    By testing you are compensating for all these personal variables. The science n technique just has to be good. You should have posted "results may varry."

    Nice work, you've got me.

    .
    Anyone can make a Digital print, but only a photographer can make a photograph.

  5. #5
    Stephen Benskin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paul ron View Post
    By testing you are compensating for all these personal variables.
    I believe this is an urban legend. Does anyone test every lens, at every shutter speed, at every f/stop? There are a bunch of other variables that aren't even considered most of the time? If a person is concerned about the meter calibration. Get it checked. Same goes for the lens and lens or camera shutter. Then if necessary factor it in.

    Your interpretation of a shadow in ZIII vs a highlight in ZVIII is subjective n open to personal interpretation.
    I agree that metering preferences have the greatest influence on exposure and that can be determined in the field.

  6. #6
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chriscrawfordphoto View Post
    The only problem I see is that EI is related to developer.
    My film developing lab, is in the "left-brain" system. I test by exposing 5 sheets of film sensitometrically and developing to varying minutes, graphing and plotting the Contrast Index. (Same test Fred Newman can provide as a service).

    Stephen you are correct, I am using D-76 1:1 one-shot and obtain rated speed where the graph fits the ASA triangle.

    So Chris, If you use a different developer, then the "obtained" speed on the graph could change. I would take the "obtained speed" as the "box speed" and make my arbitrary adjustment to EI from that.

  7. #7
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paul ron View Post
    When speed testing film, it's a personal rating. Your shutter may not be functioning perfectly, your meter is not the same as even they varry brand to brand as well as type.
    Thanks paul ron,

    Boy do I know it. My wife keeps asking me if I haven't memorized the little yellow Minor White book. My painted plywood two-tone target still reads one stop different tone-to-tone by my analog Pentax V - but the digital Sekonic says it's a lousy target.

    So I depart from tradition when it comes to testing. I use a sensitometer and densitometer and graph the results on paper. The camera tests took an hour or more to setup and shoot (great for learning but very difficult to maintain in practice - for over a year I shot TMAX-400 at 64 because of vignetting in my test setup) - with a sensitometer it only takes a moment to expose a test strip.

    My arbitrary change to EI is where I think the personal adjustment for camera and lens comes in. Or maybe it is built into the "standard flare model" that the SBR/LER/CI chart is based on.

  8. #8

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    I don't know, guys. I think people make too much of this stuff. People like to dump on Adams these days but really, his zone system basics are all people need to make good negatives, as long as we realize targetting a paper range is not always the best way to a fine print. It only works for scenes of average luminance ranges. Even without precise flare factors etc, the basic testing methods in Adams's book are pretty good, and that was with graded paper. VC papers give us even more flexiblity.

    I believe when plotting H&D curves and such, it is wise to test in-camera (as Adams suggests) rather than with sensitometers and/or step tablets. In-camera testing introduces some flare, and shutter speed/aperture errors - the kinds of things we ultimately face in the field. Sensitometers are efficient and precise, but represent "lab conditions".

    All this business about CI, BTZS, and log exposure ranges to two decimal places?? I highly doubt anybody can control their processes with such precision. In the field, I'd argue anything much smaller than half a stop amounts to quibbling, and is within the normal margin of error. My educated guess is people who measure their film speeds, SBRs and density ranges for development times etc in 1/3 or 1/4 stop increments are fooling themselves, and wasting time instead of mastering printing controls.

    Thoughts?

  9. #9
    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
    I don't know, guys. I think people make too much of this stuff. People like to dump on Adams these days but really, his zone system basics are all people need to make good negatives, as long as we realize targetting a paper range is not always the best way to a fine print. It only works for scenes of average luminance ranges. Even without precise flare factors etc, the basic testing methods in Adams's book are pretty good, and that was with graded paper. VC papers give us even more flexiblity.

    I believe when plotting H&D curves and such, it is wise to test in-camera (as Adams suggests) rather than with sensitometers and/or step tablets. In-camera testing introduces some flare, and shutter speed/aperture errors - the kinds of things we ultimately face in the field. Sensitometers are efficient and precise, but represent "lab conditions".

    All this business about CI, BTZS, and log exposure ranges to two decimal places?? I highly doubt anybody can control their processes with such precision. In the field, I'd argue anything much smaller than half a stop amounts to quibbling, and is within the normal margin of error. My educated guess is people who measure their film speeds, SBRs and density ranges for development times etc in 1/3 or 1/4 stop increments are fooling themselves, and wasting time instead of mastering printing controls.

    Thoughts?
    I think that you are correct on all counts, Michael. These tools are to be used to make a good final print, if one chooses to use them, but they are certainly not to be obsessed over. Close enough, is usually good enough for me in the darkroom. The rest I can fix with VC and other gimmicks, if they need to be fixed at all. A "perfect" negative, whatever that means, certainly doesn't guarantee a winning image/print so why agonize? Frankly, the when it comes to photography, a great negative is the least of my concerns. I'm more interested in finding something worth shooting and printing.

  10. #10

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    It's funny how my personal approach has evolved over the years, particularly since in my work I'm often dealing with extreme contrast lighting. When I started, before I did comprehensive testing, I developed most of my negatives to anywhere between N-1 and N. Of course, the prints often required serious darkroom work, but I learnt how to do it. I worked my ass off on printing. I took a John Sexton workshop and he thought the prints were great. Then I went through the zone-obsessive phase, testing a million and one compensating and other contraction methods because obviously that would make printing easier and perhaps lead to better end results. One of the most frustrating realizations was that this didn't improve things. In fact, it was worse. I gradually came full circle and now find the farthest I need to go on contractions is N-2, even for subject brightness ranges of well over 10 stops. If I need N+1 I develop normally and selenium tone the negative. That's about it. It's not nearly as fancy as my earlier processes, but the prints are better.

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