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Thread: Paper Zones

  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    People talk about placing a subject value on a particular Zone, yet does this have any real meaning if there isnít a corresponding value on the print?
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    This would suggest Zones are not intended to appear to be a gray scale of equally perceived steps. From a sensitometric perspective, this is the approach that makes the most sense, but as the intention of the Zone System on this point remains vague, ...
    Adams, I believe, constructed the Zone System with the primary purpose of simplifying sensitometry in order to create a useful tool for visualizing final print values.

    I would tend, therefore, to submit that over-quantifying the system is somehow defeating its purpose and returning it to the science of sensitometry, removing the simplification and, possibly, the visualization aspect as well.

    As you have likely gathered from my earlier posts, I do all my Zone System calibrations visually, using no numerically quantified values at all. What I do have in the end, however, is a print of all Zones from a particular development scheme on the paper I use most often (made with camera and enlarger to take flare at both ends of the process into consideration).

    This enables me to know, within a certain acceptable margin of error, what print value a given reading on my exposure meter will yield in a print on that paper (with a particular development scheme). The fact that the print values corresponding to an exposure reading/development scheme/paper choice are not quantified does not deprive them of meaning. Just the opposite for me. I find that being able to "play" my scale of greys at the time of exposure, either from a good memory of where the tones fall (similar to a musician crafting a melody), or even directly from the Zone Ruler that I have printed, relates much more directly to what I will end up with in the final print than a lot of numerical data.

    The fact that paper scales vary with brand and with batch plus the fact that papers come and go (mostly go...) and are reformulated regularly, not to mention the different amounts of camera/enlarger flare, effects of print developers, etc., etc., suggests that an approach that takes the particular paper and grade and developer into account along with the entire work-flow from exposure to print is the only practical approach. Performing strict sensitometric tests on every paper I use with all my development schemes with all of those variables taken into consideration would be a daunting task, and the resulting data likely less useful to me in the field than the Zone Rulers I make from negatives exposed in my camera and printed with my enlarger.

    It is in this spirit that, I believe, Adams wrote, "It is my opinion that the photographer need not devote much time to the theoretical study of print sensitometry."

    And, while I agree that "the characteristics of the paper as well as the subject determines the aim contrast of the negative," I am not convinced that this needs to be sensitometrically quantified. The methodology need be no more complex than necessary to deliver desired results.

    One of the things I learned very early when printing Zones is that the print Zones are nowhere near equally spaced; nor do they correspond to many of the commonly used descriptions; Zone V rarely ends up being 18% grey... That is irrelevant; if one simply accepts the unevenness of the print Zones, that there is less separation in the shadows and highlights than in the mid-tones, and that Zones fall where they fall, then suddenly one has a very powerful visualization tool in hand. One uses one's knowledge of how the system works to craft a negative that will yield desired results. Being able to do this visually is, in my opinion, the central advantage of the Zone System. The simplification and the reduced (or eliminated) need for numerical quantification coupled with the ability to develop a keen sense of what print values given exposures will yield is, for me, the "intention of the Zone System."

    For me, there is a corresponding value in the print for exposure values I give a negative. They aren't linear and certainly aren't numerically quantified, but I know rather well, i.e., within the confines of the accuracy of my calibration, what print values I'm going to get. That, for me, is real meaning.

    Nevertheless, printing remains an art; slight changes in print exposure move the mid-tones more than the highlights and shadows, as you mentioned above. Subtle changes in contrast, dodging and burning, bleaching, etc., etc. all contribute, often in ways often too small to quantify meaningfully, to a fine print that really sings. My goal with the Zone System is to be able to visualize well in the field and create a negative that I can use these printing tools on (as opposed to one that is too badly exposed to be able to work with easily). Again, I think this is the primary purpose of the Zone System; we need not be more accurate than that.

    In closing, I guess I'm trying to say that, at least for me, placing a subject value on a particular Zone does have real meaning, but a directly visual instead of a numerical one. Also, I think the intention of the Zone System is purposefully imprecise (I wouldn't really call it vague). This allows for individual tailoring of the concepts of the system in order to achieve predictable and repeatable results within a manageable margin of error using one's own purposes, materials and procedures; and this without lots of lab work.

    Best,

    Doremus

  2. #12
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Thanks Doremus,

    Many teachers and advisors stop short of doing sensitometry in the print stage. I recall reading where it can be used to provide "possible suggestions of paper grade to select" but ultimately the guide I was reading left the final stage up to the whim of the individual.

    But I don't want to short-circuit what you are suggesting, if you intend to carry forward the study that may have been dropped by other well-respected teachers... They didn't see a value in it. But even if the final decision rests with the individual, there is value in a well-rounded theory.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    You qouted the definition yourself, "Each single value represents a range of grays slightly darker and slightly lighter..."

    And I am attempting to explore the deeper detail that wasn't in the book. Actually, I'm attempting to illustrate conceptual implications and not define a specific set of reflection densities.
    Ok, I thought so, but I wasn't sure if I was on the same train of thought that you were getting at.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    One of the things I learned very early when printing Zones is that the print Zones are nowhere near equally spaced; nor do they correspond to many of the commonly used descriptions; Zone V rarely ends up being 18% grey... That is irrelevant; if one simply accepts the unevenness of the print Zones, that there is less separation in the shadows and highlights than in the mid-tones, and that Zones fall where they fall, then suddenly one has a very powerful visualization tool in hand."
    Doremus, I agree with much of what you've written. In fact the part that's quoted above is basically the point of this thread. The quantifiable aspect of the paper that is important is the LER. Along with the the subject luminance range this determines the processing. This is something that Adams doesn't discuss, although he has target negative density ranges for both diffusion and condenser enlargers which indicates he knows that there needs to be a way of defining the parameters of the materials. Why doesn't he just take it a step further and connect the negative density range to the paper in a more direct way?

    Individual Zones, either in the negative or print, are not possible to accurately peg in most circumstances. Flare and curve shape are two of the primary reasons. Yet there is a false sense of precision among Zone System practitioners. I believe part of the reason is because the Zone System is vague on the relationship between the negative and the print. Expression in the print making stage is very important. For me, the idea of testing is to define the working range and everything in between is fair game for printing. The world tends not to organize the relationship between scene luminances just to fit my creative needs. This is fixed in the printing. All the Zone System can do is to help determine how to fit the scene luminance range onto the paper log exposure range and that is basic sensitometry. The Zone System's innovation is providing a intuitive visual tool to help combine artistic expression with sensitometry.

    Negative Zones are about defining the luminance range and consequently the processing. Remember in my original post about placing a scene luminance on Zone III? Other than determining where the point of exposure is within the context of the luminance range, what does this really mean if there isn't a meaningful connection with the print. What I'm suggesting is not about attempting to quantify the print Zones, but exactly the opposite. The fact that there are a number of equally plausible examples is proof of that. There is no specific negative density for Zone III that has a corresponding reflection density on the print. A lot of people don't understand this and strive for, or believe in a precision that doesn't exist.

    Bill, something that I find very interesting is how the compression of the shadows is the opposite of what is desired visually. Munsell's studies found that the eye compresses darker tones, so in order for them to appear equally spaced, they needed to have more separation than the luminances alone would indicate.
    Last edited by Stephen Benskin; 04-27-2013 at 12:26 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    One of the things I learned very early when printing Zones is that the print Zones are nowhere near equally spaced; nor do they correspond to many of the commonly used descriptions; Zone V rarely ends up being 18% grey... That is irrelevant...........
    You say, "when printing zones", so I assume in the production of a gray scale. I agree with you on just about everything in your post. However, creating a grayscale is just about as easy a thing a person can do. Just to recap it, one has to print the Zone V negative to precisely match the tone of the gray card, then using the same print exposure time, proceed with printing all the other negative zones. In this way, Zone V will always match the gray card----the tone values and the commonly used descriptions will hold true when a textured gray scale is generated (like in the text)---I've done it as per the text, it works quite well. So, I'm compelled to question the assertion that zones are not evenly spaced, but I remain open to the contrary.

    I agree with you that it could be completely irrelevant as long as one sees the "concept" involved, but for me personally, I find it very relevant.

  6. #16
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    Bill, something that I find very interesting is how the compression of the shadows is the opposite of what is desired visually. Munsell's studies found that the eye compresses darker tones, so in order for them to appear equally spaced, they needed to have more separation than the luminances alone would indicate.
    On my Zone Sticker for the Master II, the Zone 0 through III are all "black" basically. But only IX is "white". The Zones VIII through IV do all the work. Everything below plunges into shadow.

    Maybe the reason compression in the shadow Zones works is that people are not looking in the shadows, their eyes gravitate to the lighter tones.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    Individual Zones, either in the negative or print, are not possible to accurately peg in most circumstances.
    I find your thought here interesting, both wrong and right in my head.

    Very much right IMO, in the sence that it may be tough to define where every subject falls.

    Wrong in the sence that I can pick 1 point, 1 zone from the scene and place it a a specific point on paper, and similarly I can pick a single point to peg on the negative.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." AnaÔs Nin

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    On my Zone Sticker for the Master II, the Zone 0 through III are all "black" basically. But only IX is "white". The Zones VIII through IV do all the work. Everything below plunges into shadow.

    Maybe the reason compression in the shadow Zones works is that people are not looking in the shadows, their eyes gravitate to the lighter tones.
    It's subjective tone reproduction. As long as the mid-tone gradient is higher than 1.10, people can accept highlight and shadow compression.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    I find your thought here interesting, both wrong and right in my head.

    Very much right IMO, in the sence that it may be tough to define where every subject falls.

    Wrong in the sence that I can pick 1 point, 1 zone from the scene and place it a a specific point on paper, and similarly I can pick a single point to peg on the negative.
    1 point maybe. It's easy to key off a tone in printing. For black and white negative film, it's a little harder. The only knowable point is the tested speed point and that is influenced by flare. The density at the metered exposure point depends on the shape of the film curve.

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin View Post
    Individual Zones, either in the negative or print, are not possible to accurately peg in most circumstances.

    ... Yet there is a false sense of precision among Zone System practitioners. I believe part of the reason is because the Zone System is vague on the relationship between the negative and the print. ...

    ... All the Zone System can do is to help determine how to fit the scene luminance range onto the paper log exposure range and that is basic sensitometry. The Zone System's innovation is providing a intuitive visual tool to help combine artistic expression with sensitometry.

    Negative Zones are about defining the luminance range and consequently the processing. Remember in my original post about placing a scene luminance on Zone III? Other than determining where the point of exposure is within the context of the luminance range, what does this really mean if there isn't a meaningful connection with the print?

    ... There is no specific negative density for Zone III that has a corresponding reflection density on the print. A lot of people don't understand this and strive for, or believe in a precision that doesn't exist.

    Great discussion all; this is really making me re-evaluate and solidify my (often somewhat dusty) concepts.

    Stephen,

    I agree wholeheartedly that there is a false sense of precision among Zone System users. This was part of the point of my previous post. I think the amount of precision necessary to get the job done (that of making expressive prints), however, is much less than most practitioners of the ZS (not to mention the BTZS devotees...) believe is necessary.

    I think you allude to this throughout all your posts, using terms such as "vague," "no meaningful connection with the print," "no specific density for Zone III" and so on. I agree with you on this point as well. I think that having a specific negative density that relates to a particular print Zone is unnecessary and, often, undesirable. (and is, likely, ephemeral). An example: I shoot Kodak 320 Tri-X quite a bit. I often rate the Tri-X differently depending on the amount of shadow separation I'm after. This is because the film has a very long, sloping toe, which tends to compress shadow values and when exposing at "maximum" speed (by which I mean the minimum exposure to reach a Zone I density that is a barely discernible step above FB+Fog when proper proofed). However, Tri-X will hold detail well into Zone X and above. So, if I want maximum separation in the mid-tones and highlights, I'll expose at that "maximum" E.I. However, if I want a lot of separation in the shadows, and feel that some highlight compression is a fair price to pay for that, I'll "overexpose" by up two two stops. This gets "Zone III" up into the straight line portion of the film and gives me a lot more "room" between my shadow values. My "Zone III density," therefore, can fall anywhere in a two-stop exposure range. One could say that I'm placing important shadows in Zone V and then printing down... which is, in essence exactly the same thing except that my visualization is based on a print value that corresponds to my "imagination" or "feeling" of what a Zone III print density is: a dark but detailed shadow value. The description is admittedly vague, but the vision in my mind's eye is much less so.

    Moving the exposure around on the film curve for expressive purposes is just one reason why there is no "specific density" for a given Zone. Others include variations in paper curves; there is no "standard" grade 2 paper curve, and the tendency of some of us to tailor negatives for paper grades other than grade 2. E.g., I like to print some subjects on grade 3 (or higher) paper, and indicate N-1 (or N-1/2) development for negatives of such subjects. I'm thinking all the time of print densities and local contrast, but, again, there is no specific density in the negative that corresponds to, say, Zone VIII. They are obviously different in a negative intended to be printed on grade 2 paper in one tailored for grade 3. My point is simply that having the flexibility to use different densities to achieve a desired print density is an advantage if one knows their materials and has a clear idea of the desired results. Other considerations such as shadow separation and local contrast (among others) are determining factors in the choice.

    The fact that I can print any negative density to a Zone III print value (or whatever value) is, for me, liberating. I don't have to "expose by the book."

    Quote Originally Posted by CPorter View Post
    You say, "when printing zones", so I assume in the production of a gray scale. I agree with you on just about everything in your post. However, creating a grayscale is just about as easy a thing a person can do. Just to recap it, one has to print the Zone V negative to precisely match the tone of the gray card, then using the same print exposure time, proceed with printing all the other negative zones. In this way, Zone V will always match the gray card----the tone values and the commonly used descriptions will hold true when a textured gray scale is generated (like in the text)---I've done it as per the text, it works quite well. So, I'm compelled to question the assertion that zones are not evenly spaced, but I remain open to the contrary.
    CPorter,

    We are saying much the same thing here, just using different reference points. One important concern of crafting a good negative is adequate exposure. I, therefore, make sure I have a Zone I density (which I use as a starting E.I.) that gives me a "hint" of separation between the Film Base + Fog density when proper-proofed, i.e., printing an unexposed area of the negative at "maximum black" (actually, maximum black is also a rather flexible concept... I "choose" a black value for FB+F that is "black enough" for me. I will also adjust E.I. to give me a useable Zone III, even if it moves Zone I a little bit from my original placement). The "proper-proof" exposure and my chosen E.I. for a given development are my reference points for making Zone Rulers, or grey scales in your terminology. For "Normal" development, I target Zone VIII to give me some highlight detail and Zone IX as close to paper base white as I can get while not losing detail in Zone VIII. Again, all this is unquantified, subjective and personal, but not imprecise.

    With this method, Zone V most often falls somewhat else than 18% grey; and it can be lower for N and higher for N+1... Furthermore, the difference in perceived density change in the lower zones, say between Zones II and III, is much less than the perceived difference in density between, say Zones VI and VII. This is what I mean by the scale being uneven.

    The only problem I see with matching a Zone V film exposure to an 18% grey print value is the possible loss of shadow detail, i.e., effective film speed. If printing the Zone V density to 18% grey dumps Zone III to a place that has little or no detail, then it can no longer be used as a reference point for exposure. If you are exposing to Zone V (incident or averaging metering) and you know what you will get in the shadows, then fine, but the Zone System was really designed to ensure adequate shadow exposure and detail; this, I believe, should be the exposure reference point we use most, not Zone V.


    Best,


    Doremus
    Last edited by Doremus Scudder; 04-28-2013 at 06:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.

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