I've been cogitating about this for a while and have a couple of thoughts: I agree wholeheartedly that having a grasp of the grey scale is one of the fundamentals of learning to visualize. The problem I have with centering around Zone V is the possible lack of "accuracy" of the scale, or more precisely, the lack of correspondence of grey scale tones to meter readings.
Originally Posted by CPorter
I spend a lot of time coming up with an E.I. that gives me satisfactory blacks and the desired shadow detail in Zone III. Finding this is done visually, using proper proofing, and is subjective and a practical compromise between the two variables. (Stephen, I don't use 0.1 over FB+fog, nor do I obsess over achieving D-max in the printing paper -- in essence, I agree with you about the vagaries of proper proofing; it is a subjective tool and requires practice and a certain flexibility in application.)
Arriving at my final E.I. is a process of tweaking development time and exposure and making Zone Rulers (grey scales). As mentioned, I strive for an E.I. and development time that gives me a benchmark of sorts at Zone I (erring a bit on the side of overexposure if there is any question), detail in Zone III and Zone VIII and as close to a paper-base white in Zone IX as practical (all this for "N," of course; other parameters guide tests for expansions and contractions).
Therefore, my Zone Ruler for "N" is keyed to those parameters, which directly correspond to exposure values, i.e., to meter readings. I proper-proof the Zone Ruler, printing all shades of grey at the same exposure. My result is a grey scale that shows me the print values I will get at a particular E.I. and placement/fall of subject luminances. I try to keep the accuracy of the Zone Ruler exposures at 1/3-stop or better (try is the key word here).
So, my Zone Ruler is not matched to Zone V = 18% grey density, but rather to the speed point I have subjectively chosen. This usually results in a Zone V density that is not exactly 18% grey. However, the values on the Zone Ruler do correspond rather closely (within a fraction of a stop if I've been careful) to actual print values for a given meter reading. That, in a rather bloated nutshell, is my reasoning for not keying the grey scale to 18% grey.
Enough about Zone Rulers...
Back to the negative density vs. print value discussion. I was out shooting yesterday and worked with a subject that may provide a good example of what I'm trying to say about the flexibility of subject value placement and negative exposure vs. print value and the role of visualization in the process:
Subject: an old storefront/facade in glancing but veiled sunlight. The marquee is jet black glass that is really inky in areas of no reflection. There is also weathered wood (an obvious mid-point in my visualization) and a large white sign surface with black lettering. I place the darkest area of the black marquee in Zone II- (1/3 stop less than Zone II) and see where the other values fall. Oops, the value I wanted as a mid point falls in Zone VI-, whereas I would like it in Zone V, and the white surface that I would really like in Zone VIII is VII+; a bit low. Now, if I expand to get Zone VII+ up to VIII, I raise the mid-point that I want in Zone V as well; no-go... And, the luminance spread between my Zone II placement and my desired Zone V "mid-point" is too great. (A good example of reality not matching visualization.)
Solution: I really want to compress the distance between Zones II- and V, and expand the distance between Zones V and VII+ in order to get my visualized print, which is not possible with exposure and development alone, however. I, therefore, base my exposure on Zone II-, keeping the lowest values down on the toe but still giving me detail in Zone III. I also really want the white sign front in Zone VIII or a little higher, so I decide on a bit of expansion; N+1/2 in this case. This gets me a bit more density in the highs, but my mid-point now falls even higher than I want it. But, I've decided on an approach to printing already as well, which I note on my exposure record: Center print exposure on the mid-tone (essentially printing Zone VI and Zone V, which gets most of the values where I want them). This, however, dumps the shadows and results in the high values being printed too grey, so I plan to dodge up the shadows to compensate (I'll have good detail there, since I based my exposure on the lowest value), and deal with the still-a-bit low high value by either dodging or bleaching or a combination of the two. Often, in cases like this, printing a tad dark and then using an overall bleaching in a weak rehalogenating bleach gets the whites where I want them without affecting mids and shadows too much.
Point of the entire example: Negative densities correspond to no particular print values, rather I plan to use print manipulations to alter the "natural" scheme of things and print negative density values in other print zones than they would "fall." This is only possible because I am able to make an informed visualization of the scene based on my knowledge of materials and techniques. And, even if my planned strategy doesn't work, I can further refine my manipulations in the printing process to maybe still get a great print. (No matter how carefully I work, there are many more failures than successes in achieving a really expressive print. I believe, however, that I have a much better chance of success because I know what I want before exposing and have a good knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the medium.)
Print zones are fluid and subjective and subject to many variables, as Michael points out. I think we can, however, really plan, or at least try to plan, what print values we want and craft a negative to allow us to do that.
Doremus, you take it further than I. The only notes I take are for processing and those are in 1 stop intervals. I feel that flare as well as other factors makes it unnecessary to be any more precise. I can also make an argument on the problematic nature of defining expanded and contracted development.
Good example though.
Last edited by Stephen Benskin; 04-29-2013 at 02:58 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Good example Doremus, Even the lowly Zone Sticker on the Master II can't adjust for expansions and contractions like you do intuitively.
Early editions of Beyond The Zone System include instructions to cut a radial pattern of slivers into goldenrod masking paper to expose onto your print paper which would be the base for a PowerDial that would show the tones you get at the meter readings for expansions and contractions.
I don't know if anyone had completed that project, but it sure looks like a great project for a weekend...
I have not even bothered to read this thread. The reason? There is really no such thing, in practical terms, as paper zones. Now, you may not believe me, but this is so because you want to get the full gamut of the paper to reveal your image. And, You dodge or use VC methods to get them. Think about this. Please.
I give up though on this sort of stuff for the most part.
If you had bothered, you would had realized that was basically my point.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
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Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin
I don't think I'm really overly precise; I just use the 1/3-stop markings on meter and shutter as reference points for placement and exposure and use the intermediate stops when exposing. This kind of lends itself to thinking in third-stop intervals, which I indicate by plus and minus signs. When I test a shutter, I make a sticker with actual speeds rounded to the nearest 1/3 stop as well.
In my example, I didn't mind fudging Zone II down a third of a stop to try and get the mid-tone closer to where I wanted it. My point was simply that, by using the meter and my visualization skills, I am able to recognize where subject luminances didn't align with my desired result and then plan, somewhat at least, a printing strategy to achieve the desired print values. I realize that my attempt at precision is likely to be off by up to a stop. I like to think, however, that trying to be precise at least reduces the error somewhat. And I know that my printing strategy will likely change once I get going. But, at least I have a starting point, and, more and more often, I end up doing something rather close to the original plan.
I've been indicating paper grades in my exposure record for some years now. Some negatives like the smoother rendition of grade 2, but for many, I like the grittier look of grade 3 (or higher). This is basically just subtracting a zone of development for whatever would be appropriate for grade 2 and making the appropriate E.I. adjustment at the time of exposure.
It seems, however, that I may have misunderstood your original intent in starting this thread. It looks like we are basically saying the same thing; that print values can be achieved from many different negative densities and that, in practice, the choice of how to print a particular density depends on a number of more subjective and flexible parameters than the science of tone reproduction might suggest.
Although the example I gave may seem complex, it's really just about aligning the meter dial mentally to one's imagination of tonalities in a finished print. I think being able to generate a good idea of what tonalities I want in my final print and how I want the print to feel before I make the exposure helps me better choose which development scheme and paper grade to use, as well as point up the necessity for print manipulations. This, of course is subject to change as my idea of the print changes during printing and as I come up against the constraints of the medium. I think, still, that the initial visualization is important, and I like to note those things, partly as a guide and partly as a game to see how close I'm really getting.
I indicate N+1/2 development every now and then when a subject just seems to fall in the middle between N and N+1. I really don't like expanded development much, so I'm always trying to fudge toward N or less whenever I can.
I have a Zone Dial on my Pentax meter, but that just helps me place the shadow values and see where the other values fall more easily than counting stops from Zone V. My visualization happens in my head. I really do hope I can get certain parts of the scene to be rendered with a certain shade of grey in the print that has a specific feel. A dark textured Zone IV has a real feel to it for me, as does an open Zone V shadow and a frothy white-water Zone VIII, etc. My plans are more hopes, and don't always work out. Like Ansel Adams recognized when he said "one good print a month" was a realistic expectation for him, I know that most of my negatives will not make it to the fine print stage. Without the attempt, however, there would be no result (who is it here that has the Wayne Gretsky quote in their signature, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."? I like that quote).
I guess my entire point, after trudging verbosely through this thread, is that one can visualize print values and do it fairly well; and that without referring to numbers. I have the greatest respect for the science of sensitometry; I'm just not sure it is necessary to carry its quantification and data into the field any more than a good musician needs to dwell on frequencies and acoustics when performing.
Thanks all for putting up with, and even reading, my lengthy ramblings.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
And I believe the same can be said of negatives and scenes. No single point or range can be defined as a specific anything for all cases but oh so many try.
Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin
Zones for me are a reasonable artistic concept that can help me express to someone "how". "They/we" ask the question "from this scene, what do I want to print and how am I going to get it there?" Zone talk is a reasonable way to try and answer that good question. That it is problematic to portray in mathematic models is irrelevant to the value or existence of zones.
There are zones in the scene and on the paper when I or whomever chooses to define how they want the subject matter to fall. Zones work in specific cases and can be defined for individual shots in artistic terms, defining them mathematically is irrelevant unless one is designing an assembly line.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
I agree very much, I don't make gray scales anymore, but I did early on, it's a fantastic way to become efficient at visualizing the desired final print.
Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
Done come this far to conclude that it doesn't matter. It is true that sensitometry is often ignored in printmaking, but Zones do fall on the print. They aren't evenly spaced. But it's a fact, if you print, they get on the print. You do have some correlation between your plan and your result. Hopefully with practice you get better at calling your shots.
Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin
No, this thread should hold the information that someone interested in exploring Zone System more completely than others have carried it.
Tools exist to carry Zone concepts to the print. We just discussed a few: the Zone Sticker (which I applied to my Master II), the Mental image how subject will carry through negative to print after planned development and manipulation (which Doremus Scudder has explained), and the BTZS Power Dial (I have never seen one, and I don't believe more than a few exist, but a documented possibility to take you "Beyond the Zone System").
I did say basically. So far in this thread I've been accused of being too technical and not technical enough. I propose certain concepts and sometimes act as devil's advocate to challenge people to re-evaluate their perspectives. I think I have a pretty good understanding of exposure and tone reproduction. Wouldn't you think that would include its nuances. Beginners tend see things in black and white. With experience it is more about shades of gray (not 50 shades though).
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
From a sensitometric perspective, the subject luminance range can be theoretically followed through to the print. This gives us information on how a scene will generally be presented. It's a way to understand what's going on, nobody expects a person to take curves into the field or that the scene will perfectly conform to the sensitometric models. This is a straw man type argument. Doremus doesn't require the Zone System to understand his materials nor is it only possible to understand the materials using the Zone System. The Zone System is a good way to help visualize this process, but exposure is place and fall, and there is a tendency to believe there is more control with the Zone System than there really is. As with most things, the reality is somewhere in the middle.
Last edited by Stephen Benskin; 04-30-2013 at 12:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.