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  1. #1

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    Zone system question

    I was out in Saturday making some landscape images. I used a spot meter to measure the area I visualised as zone III and set an exposure of two stops less on the camera. To make the initial print, I exposed a test strip of the film rebate against a portion of empty carrier to determine maximum black. I then made the print at grade 2 using the same time for max black. The zone III came out too dark, more like zoneII. Assuming my choice of Zone III was sound, does this suggest my meter is prone to over, or under exposure? I have tried, but can't figure this out in my head! Alex

  2. #2

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    Complex, lengthy topic of tone reproduction. There are lots of variables at work here. Film speed, the meter, flare in the scene, film curve, paper curve and on and on. And there are different interpretations of what "Zone" actually means when it comes to the exposure placement versus the negative density versus the paper tone (reflection density). Remember that just because you expose two stops below metered, doesn't mean the resulting negative density will produce a Zone III tone on the paper.

    I suppose a simplistic answer in this case is to give more exposure to the film (ie use a lower exposure index).

  3. #3

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    Zone system question

    I was hoping my zoneIII would be dark, but with full texture/detail. It was a large piece of brown sandstone. I do have two shots of the same scene, one stop apart. One is too light, and the other too dark. Perhaps a new EI between the two would be the answer? I thought I had my EI sorted out for this film, but maybe further testing is needed.

  4. #4
    Kevin Kehler's Avatar
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    Did you expose at box speed or a personal speed? I know one of my camera's shutter is consistently 1/3 less than it should be. Most advocates of the zone system (myself included) stress the need to test equipment/development routines prior to "fully embracing" the zone system to account for just such things. Thus, I know (from testing) that my 90mm lens will require a slightly different setting from my 65mm lens when shooting the same scene (and wanting the same zones).

    It is possible your meter is wrong or your equipment is faulty - it is also possible your development routine is different than what the film actually requires or that the box speed of the film is more optimistic than your situation warrants. Either adjust the meter for next time, remember the difference and adjust the exposure next time or test another camera to make sure it is not a mechanical issue with the first camera. The simplest answer is to adjust the speed of the film, as Michael suggested.
    Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.

    Andreas Feininger

  5. #5
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    As you probably already know, the foundation is expose for shadows and develop for highlights. You probably under exposed your film. Did you test out the true speed of the film with your developer?
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Muir View Post
    I was hoping my zoneIII would be dark, but with full texture/detail. It was a large piece of brown sandstone. I do have two shots of the same scene, one stop apart. One is too light, and the other too dark. Perhaps a new EI between the two would be the answer? I thought I had my EI sorted out for this film, but maybe further testing is needed.
    Remember that a "Zone" is a uniform density or "tone". A single tone has no texture. In the context of typical Zone System testing, usage etc, where (for example) "Zone III" is supposed to have full detail, is often helpful to think of Zone III as an average of all the different tones that together would show textured sandstone. A detailed/textured Zone III, therefore must contain minute areas of varying density - probably ranging from at least Zone II to Zone IV, and probably wider than that. So, to get a good detailed Zone III, you need to make sure there is good contrast between all the Zones below and above it. The "speed" point of your film is therefore typically one that ensures there is good contrast from below Zone I upward.
    Last edited by Michael R 1974; 01-15-2013 at 11:46 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7
    juan's Avatar
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    Try cutting your film speed in half - meter again for Zone III and see if you like the results. If so, you've found your personal film speed for that film, camera and meter.
    juan

  8. #8
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    alex, from my experience, this is a very commoninitial result. i think it has to do with the fact that it is not easy to visualize a Zone III.IT IS MUCH DARKER THAN MOST PEOPLE THINK. JOHN SEXTON AND OTHERS HAve suggested to visualAND FIND A ZoneIV Instead.without testing much,just half your film speed and try again.don't give up. it's not easy but you'll get there,and then, the rewards of the zone system are great.all the best and good luck.
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  9. #9

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    Zone system question

    Thanks for the prompt replies. I was using Tri-X rated at 200. I had previously carried out an EI test which suggested 200. I used the method described in a Kodak publication which requires a densitometer. Developer is Ilfosol 3 for 7.00mins. Recently, despite my test results, I felt that my negatives of real life scenes were overexposed. I was bracketing, therefore at personal EI and one stop under. The 200 negs print too light at the maximum black time, and look quite dense. The 400 negs lack detail in darker areas. Perhaps this is not a good developer choice for this film. I use it largely out of convenience.

  10. #10
    Kevin Kehler's Avatar
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    If you have already worked out an EI which you are satisfied with, I suggest the problem is either as Ralph suggests, that Zone III is actually darker than you are visualizing or that you are measuring the real life scenes incorrectly. For example, Canadian winters are full of snow and if I meter for shadows while taking a winter shot, all of my highlights are blocked up because the snow is so bright. I could reduce the development (N-1, N-2), try a compensating developer (stand development or a water bath) or I can accept the fact that the scene exceeds what my film/paper is capable of reproducing and make a decision as to what the most important zone in the scene is and use that as my baseline. Often (in winter snow scenes), I use the snow as my zone VIII basis and let the shadows fall where they may. I do this as snow without texture/detail looks worse than shadows with insufficient detail for a winter scene, in my opinion. For summer scenes, I can't live without the shadows.

    Thus, I am not trying to criticize your method but if you slavishly adhere to zone III being the only important zone (as many "zoners" are apt to do), I think you miss the point of the system. You need to decide what the final print is supposed to look like, what tones are going to be important in that print and then meter for what is important. While "expose for shadows, develop for highlights" is a good start (and end point), it is not a final methodology in itself. No one here is advocating having too rigorous a mindset that photographers too often fall into. If you read St. Adams books and printing methods, he often metered for something else besides zone III because that was what he wanted the final print to emphasize.

    That said, zone III is much darker than most people realize.
    Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.

    Andreas Feininger

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