The Zone System is actually a fairly simple system of managing exposure and development to squeeze what you want out of the scene first onto the film, and then onto your preferred paper - ideally consistent with what you wanted in the first place. Once you understand the core concepts, the practical application amounts to taking a couple of readings to determine exposure and corresponding development.
Originally Posted by zenrhino
The problem is that the basic concepts leave room for a lot of technical precision, and a wide range of interpretations of what is necessary to get to the desired result. The details relating to the technical precision can get confusing, so various people have made money from writing "better" explanations, or devising related, but somewhat different, systems. Consistent with human nature, fanaticism for one approach over another tends to creep in, too.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
The basis of the Zone System is really quite simple:
In the days of developing by inspection, the rule was "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights". That was easy, because you could see the highlights developing. Some of us still do it that way.
Then along came panchromatic film, and developing in total darkness... The ZS was an attempt to answer the logical question "all right, but how long is that? How do you know how much to develop the highlights?"
And that's all it is. No mystery, no magic, no mumbo-jumbo.
Since there are some people who blanch at the sight of a logarithm, BTZS was devised. It's just as good a system, but in 1% of the cases it just doesn't work. It shouldn't trouble you, since that 1% all ends up on my films (extreme contrast ranges seem to be normal whenever I'm out with a camera!).
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Agreed. The ZS is how the science of our art works. You can determine iso, dev time etc. in one afternoon. Practice with real photographs until you can intuit the exposure. Then throw away your meter and any previsualization concepts and enjoy the act of making photographs. Phil Davis books should only be approached while wearing a wreath of garlic around your neck
Originally Posted by Lee L
I asked simmilaer question (expose for shadows, develop for highlights), thread http://www.apug.org/forums/forum48/21044-expose-shadows-develop-higlights.html
Read all, but especially Les Mclean's answer on my question. His writting will make things much more clear and simple. Thanks Les.
Whatever system you decide to try, there must be a way of dealing with light, film and paper. After working with the zs and btzs, I'm staying with the btzs approach. If you don't figure out a way of handling other than "normal" scenes, your results will be hit or miss at best. tim
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I sorta always use a zone system. I expose for the shadows, but then as I'm using a 120 roll camera typically don't worry about the highlights.
I shoot Ilford FP4+, this film has more than 5 stops of over-exposure capability, so why on earth would I pull development time by 2 stops (the famous N-2 development).
I just adjust when printing, and use dodge/burn techniques to get the result I desire on paper. End result is the same, the image is still not in the knee of the film or the paper, and happy customers send me christmas bouquets.
Understanding the zone system is worth the effort, blindly foillowing it is the task of a puppet.
The words of a master
Originally Posted by gbroadbridge
The zone system gives you an overview of how everything between film, exposure, film development, paper, and paper development exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Change one thing, and it gives you an understanding how all the other links in the chain may be affected.
As for the myth it will allow you to print everything on grade 2...check out Ansel's many examples in his books to see how often he used other grades.
No system is better than experience. Here's an example; you come upon a creek at dusk with a mountain in the background. The sun has set behind the mountain making high wispy clouds glow orange, and everything in the foreground is illuminated by deep blue skylight. You don't have long because the clouds are just moving into position and the mosquitoes are insane.
As you're setting up the camera you think, if I use a red or orange filter the foreground trees in shadow are gonna crap out, so a yellow one is probably better, but it's not gonna deepen the blue sky enough to make those clouds pop out, but that's OK because I'm not gonna give this one minus development but give it normal development because of the weak shadow contrast, so I'll expose and develop for the shadow contrast and let the clouds land somewhere around zone X or XI as they are orange and with the filter factor applied the clouds are going to expose the film proportionally more than any other element, which is OK because I'm gonna burn in the sky and the mountain anyway to get some detail in that glacier, so that'll darken the blue parts of the sky while I'm burning in the cloud detail and then those clouds are just gonna sing! Then you meter it to confirm your hunches, and add a bit to the filter factor just in case you're wrong about the shadow detail.
They don't teach that in books. (Like I really know what I'm talking about!)
Last edited by MurrayMinchin; 12-13-2005 at 02:17 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.
The zone system is about visualizing your image before you snap the shutter. All the rest of the testing, endless discussions/arguments on the subject, numbers and graphs, etc., only serve to help you understand your materials and limitations which may or may not validate your visualization.
As Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry once remarked: "A man's got to know his limitations." In another film he also queried: "Ask yourself: Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, Punk?"
The first is the Zone System and the second is trial-and-error.
Don't you think this is a nifty little wind up Gents? I suggest hanging fire.
If zenrhino is not prepared to read the book which has the benefit of illustrations/photos over a text orientated forum, probably hasn't asked the lecturer, hasn't read any wider from AA or whoever for B+W, so far hasn't managed to reply to the thread......
Has he even bothered to read your efforts?
Have to give credit - It is a good thread title though.