amen to that
Originally Posted by Kevin Kehler
Zone system question
I'm re-visualising zone III as a darker tone in future. I will also try metering different zones, depending on subject matter. There was some fast-flowing water in some of my scenes, and this has come out virtually white. I suppose this is similar to snow, and requires to be carefully rendered in order to avoid large, featureless white areas in the print. Metering tones above zone V, and adjusting accordingly may have given better results. Thank you for all the helpful advice.
Alex, One thing that has helped me in my recent film tests is to shoot a white brick wall at my tested film speed, expose for 10 zones, and then print a 4x5 of each one of the negs, using the film base/max black time for every single frame. In the New Zone System Manual, they suggest a white towel as the subject. Adding some relatively uniform area with texture gets you out of thinking of the zones as solid patches of gray.
Wow! Bind them together and you have a portable Zone Book that shows the exact tone you will get when you meter and shoot that film/dev combo. It's pretty cool.
I've no idea what the toe of the curve looks like with a Tri-X / Ilfosol combination........a long toe or a short toe, the shape of the toe will influence the tone reproduced at a given low zone, with a long toe on III being darker than a short toe on III. You're being given so many things to think about, but here's something, straight out of The Negative. You can know what the tone should be at Zone III with the film/dev combo you state (rated EI 200) by making a Zone V exposure of a uniformly textured surface that is evenly and diffusely illuminated, also make a Zone III exposure too. Do all zones if you like.
Originally Posted by Alex Muir
Develop the film normally, print the Zone V frame so that the dried print precisely matches the tone of a gray card. Now print the Zone III frame for the same printing exposure time----this is the tone value for that combination. I would definitely do this for Zone II as well, if you have the "slightest suggestion of texture" in that printed frame, then an effective speed of 200 is good for that combination and your process. In the II frame, if the rendering of texture is more akin to full texture, then perhaps the EI is too low, bump it up by 1/3or so. It does not take long, I've done it and it works wonderfully.
Last edited by CPorter; 01-15-2013 at 11:20 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Have you tried less print exposure or a different grade?
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
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Originally Posted by Alex Muir
the key to your problem is the method you are using to test for minimum black exposure. The rebate of a film has not received any in-lens flair and is generally totally clear whereas a true Zone 0 area of a negative will have received flair during exposure and this is compounded by the affect on this tone during development. In effect your minimum black time is too long resulting in your Zone III coming out too dark.
As you are clearly aware, the key to achieving consistently good negatives is the correct placement of your shadows when exposing the film and ascertaining the correct development time for achieving good separation without losing the highlights. A simple and relatively quick way to way to pin all this down for the future is to do the following (WARNING: reading these instructions is more time consuming and a lot more laborious than actually doing it!!):
1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
2. Using the box speed, meter the darkest area in which you wish to retain shadow detail
3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this shadow area
4. From the meter's reading close down the aperture by 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by two stops and then expose 6 frames at: the given exposure then +1 stop, +2 stops, -1 stop, -2 stops and -3 stops less than the meter has indicated
5. Process the film
6. Using the frame that was exposed at -3 stops less than the meter indicated (which should be practically clear but will have received lens flair and fogging - i.e a real world maximum black rather than an exposed piece of film that has processing fog) and do a test strip to find out what is the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black - Print must be fully dry before assessing this
7. Do another test strip with the first exposure being what you have selected for achieving maximum black minus your dry-down compensation then plus 1 second, 2 seconds, etc
8. The time that achieves full black inclusive of compensation for dry-down is you minimum exposure to achieve maximum black for all future printing sessions - print must be fully dry before assessing
9 You now know the minimum time to achieve full black inclusive of exposure reduction to accommodate dry-down
10. Using this minimum exposure to achieve maximum black exposure time, expose all of the other test frames.
11. The test print that has good shadow detail indicates which exposure will render good shadow detail and achieve maximum black and provides you with your personal EI for the tested film/developer combination
12 If the negative exposed at the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 400)
13. If the negative exposed at +1 stop more than the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/2 the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 200)
14. If the negative exposed at +2 stops more than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/4 box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 100)
15. If the negative exposed at -1 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) double the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 800)
16. If the negative exposed at -2 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 4x the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 1600)
You have now fixed your personal EI but there is one more testing stage to go.
1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
2. Using your EI, meter the brightest area in which you wish to retain highlight detail
3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this highlight area
4. From the meter's reading open up the aperture by 3 stops or decrease the shutter speed by three stops
5. Expose the whole roll at this setting
6. In the darkroom, process one third of the film for recommended development time
7. When dry put negative in the enlarger and make a three section test strip exposing for half the minimum black time established earlier, for the established minimum black time and for double the minimum black time.
8. Process print and dry it.
9. If the section of the test strip exposed for 1/2 the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% more development
10. If the section of the test strip exposed for the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film is correctly developed
11. If the section of the test strip exposed for double the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% less development
12. You can use the rest of the exposed highlight test film to fine tune the development time.
YES - it is VERY boring but . . .for the investment of minimal materials and a few of hours you will have pinned down so many variables that it is really worth doing.
Back in the real world, all you need to do in future is meter the shadows that you wish to retain good detail with meter set at your EI and then stop down the aperture 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by 2 stops (i.e. what you have previously done but with an incorrect minimum black time). In the darkroom start your first test print with the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black (inclusive of dry-down compensation) and go from there.
Hope this is of some help and can I suggest that you try using Barry Thornton's Two-Bath developer as this will ensure that your highlights (such as the fast flowing water that you mentioned in a later post) always remain printable
It is also worth noting Richard Henry's tests showed that (at least for graded paper) the "maximum back" exposure time is not a reliable way to determine the proper print exposure to produce the expected print densities from negative densities.
Michael has a good point. I think you had two issues. One you understood. 3 is pretty freaking dark. The second is the printing technique you used. You say you printed at grade 2 but did not say if that was on graded of VC paper. When I shot and printed 35mm (I assume you shot 35mm b/c your profile says 35mm shooter) I discovered that grade two never really gave me what I wanted but grade three did when using VC papers. When I split printed the angels began to sing. 35mm is not super conducive to zone system exposure, and when I realized this I began to aim for maximum information on the neg and split printing in the darkroom.
In the darkroom you lose contrast as the image is enlarged. Not only do you make the image larger you make the spaces between the silver crystals larger as well. Tri-X was the biggest culprit of this and one of the reasons I stopped using it. Because of this contrast loss you need to bump the paper grade up one as the image gets over say 4x5, or you split print and get better overall more successful prints. JMT on the matter.
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
I did something similar. I read a lot of articles about finding your personal film speed and almost all of them came to the conclusion that half the box speed (double the exposure) combined with a 20% reduction was the ideal method.
Originally Posted by juan
So rather than do the tests myself, I just tried out that method and liked the results.
The Zone System is an approximation model only, allowing you to get a ballpark worthy negative,
and not a religion! Zone III can mean completely different things with different films, depending on
the lower part of the characteristic curve. With straight-line films appropriatedly developed, it can
be quite open. I've gotten good shadow separation clear down to Zone 1 or even 0 with some films
at box speed! With something like Trix-X or HP5, you've got a substantial toe, so either have to rate it at a lower speed to get the exposure further up on the curve, or else end up with III and below relatively blocked up in shadow. But overdo it, and you'll get problems reproducing the highlights.
There are way too many variables to make an oversimplified explanation here. Just experiment and
practice based on all the advice you're getting until things make sense. Then perhaps look at other
film and developer options if you're still having issues.