I understand that. But ZS has no real place in the discussion of film and paper design - even at the most basic level. One would hope when it comes to the why and how of film and paper design, students would become acquainted with real sensitometry (including at least some basic scientific method fundamentals). Once you get into that, you have less and less need for a simplified, non-standard model like the ZS which would lead to all sorts of problems when it comes to testing and coming to meaningful conclusions about the properties and characteristics of the materials.
I just don't think the ZS has anything to do with it.
Perhaps we need to step back a little, read Adams carefully, and evaluate the ZS in the context of what it is and is not. If one studies exposure theory, speed methods and tone reproduction, the shortcomings and inaccuracies of the ZS become fairly obvious. But few people want to study sensitometry, so the ZS provides an alternative - a reasonable, simplified framework for exposure and development of the negative to support visualization. It isn't meant to be more than that. As I've said before, it's the many bastardizations of the original Adams/Archer system, the so-called improvements, extensions and other gimmickery that give people the impression it is "hard core" sensitometry, and imply a level of precision it cannot deliver.
Everyone wants to sell their own ZS book. This has done a real disservice to Adams in my opinion. And I say that as someone with an interest in sensitometry, tone reproduction theory, speed methods, test design and methods.
Michael, you are right as far as you go. I go another step and say that the zone system is not necessary with a neg-pos system, and that is the crux of the matter.
As an example, with a film with a straight line H&D curve except for toe and shoulder, due to the latitude of the paper itself, any exposure on the straight line can be printed on the paper with the correct adjustment for density and the zone is unimportant.
If you insist on using the film toe or shoulder, then zones may be useful, but you lose so much information that it is best to stay on the straight line of the negative.
The quality of the print is brought out by using the correct paper contrast and by dodging and burning if needed, and the correct film quality is gotten by correct development.
PE it may not be necessary but it can be useful even if not bumping the toe or shoulder, in a specific case I can design my system to peg to a zone or point to make proofing much easier, more consistent using a standardized metering methods, development, and printing setups.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
I appreciate the clarification. Your challenge is valid, and makes a user of the Zone System like me, aware of the fact I need a good reason to continue using the system.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
Just off the top of my head, I can say a valid continued use of Zone System in the field is to evaluate the scene to see what is likely to be printed effectively on the paper. And to decide what is and is not important to record/print. I also believe that it is a strong tool for planning abstract renderings.
And of course, it's fun.
PE, fair points, but I think it can still be helpful to have a ZS framework. What about subjects with wider than normal luminance ranges? Not really a problem for most current films unless we're dealing with an extreme contrast subject, but there are decisions to be made. Also the ISO standard pretty much assumes you are using at least part of the film toe. And the paper has a relatively short straight line (from a reflection density perspective) in comparison to the film. What is correct film development? Etc.
I know I'm being a little argumentative here. Apologies for that. I don't believe in print zones, but still like the ZS inspite of everything I've learnt about exposure, speed methods, tone reproduction etc so far (much of it thanks to Stephen).
Perhaps the most important thing is to understand what one is doing, and know the variables and limitations. That has been the most valuable learning outcome for me when it comes to this stuff. I still use the Zone System, but I have a better grasp of what is actually going on when it comes to film speed vs a Zone System EI, the transitions from subject to negative to print, etc.
Last edited by Michael R 1974; 05-01-2013 at 03:12 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Ok, lets assume a very wide luminance range. The paper still has a fixed range even though the film image is spread out over more of the curve. You dodge and burn to move things around on the paper!
Now, if you are doing still life or landscape, you have the time to work with the zone system. Ansel Adams did this, and did it very well, but remember it was his method used to explain something to others less adept as he was. Well, to continue, imagine that you are a news photographer following a breaking event. No time for the zone system. Overexposes a tad and you have no problem. Fire away. I've said this before, at near the speed of sound and upside down, you can't worry about the zone system. You are expected to turn out 35mm color and 4x5 B&W and every shot must be perfect. You don't worry about the zone system.
Or, you are laying out 25 - 60 cameras on a pad and are expected to get perfect photos for a launch 24 hours from now (if lucky). We did not have auto metering. So, we set a best guess which was overexpose!
All of this moved the negs up the straight line and as long as that was so, the photos were fine.
Okay, now we are getting into a discussion about degrees. Does anybody need to do anything? No, "you push the button, we do the rest." And Ron, I could easily question the need to make your own emulsion since I could just go out and buy a box of film. This shouldn't be about which tool should or shouldn't be used.
I agree with you, Bill. Lately, I have started a more conscious consideration of dodging and burning, at the stage of negative exposure, and I try to optimise negative development to make its printing easier. What I mean by that is that I may indicate N+1 etc even if I have enough overall contrast (so otherwise N), but if I would like to add local contrast, which could be a bit harder to increase through local print manipulation. Having very recently discovered selective masking (for dodging and burning) and masked flashing, I am happier to be "accessing" parts of the straight-line of the curve which were previously too hard to burn or dodge, and therefore necessitated overall, global contrast adjustments. So, in some way, I would expect to need ZS less, but, on the other hand, it helps me decide what I want to labour on during printing.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
Nonetheless, the understanding of ZS, BTZS, and a healthy dose of sensitometry learing spurned on by yourselves, here on APUG, will be with me for as long as I practice this form of photography, which to me, is priceless.
Originally Posted by Stephen Benskin
Here is my reasoning. All textbooks on emulsion making omit items or commit errors. All! And, the art of emulsion making is dying out and may soon be gone. Therefore, I am trying to teach as many to make and coat as possible. I may not get it all right and I may not reach all those interested, but I am trying.
And, part of the art includes photographic system engineering. That is why I devote some time (for those students interested), to this art, otherwise it will be lost.
So, that is the workshop rational. As to how it is used, it does pertain to H&D curves and the use (or lack thereof) of the zone system. It just is not needed.
For those who have been listening and recognize the limits of paper prints, go take another look at the Haist diagrams and now I will add more. ECN has contrast one full 0.1 lower than the Portra family, and more latitude. The ECP can yield a Dmax of up to 5.0, and thus these two products approach the ideal in photographic image capture.
All a double edged sword.
If I may quote Michael.
“students would become acquainted with real sensitometry (including at least some basic scientific method fundamentals). Once you get into that, you have less and less need for a simplified, non-standard model like the ZS which would lead to all sorts of problems when it comes to testing and coming to meaningful conclusions about the properties and characteristics of the materials.”
I believe the ZS etc are the stepping stones to get deeper into sensitometry if one wishes. I agree that many problems can arise using or believing a system. Believe me I experienced it. Learning a lot from some discussions here.
This is a wide and intense field. Otherwise these discussions wouldn’t take place. There is always something new to learn and think about. Thank goodness.
To quote PE “Well, to continue, imagine that you are a news photographer following a breaking event. No time for the zone system.”
I have to disagree in part, I believe the ZS can help one using 35mm film. Not in the classical sense but getting an understanding how materials work, even if partly wrong will always help at least at the exposure stage.
Just getting involved with this subject opens the door to go further.
One thing I have noticed, the more I learn from you guys and various books, the more relaxed I get.