35mm / 120 & Zone System
As a recent convert to the zone systems way of thinking and working, I am wondering about the use of 35mm and 120 roll film.
What if I have a mixture of low and high contrast negatives on one roll? This is particularly likely with 36 exposures, although with only 12 on a 120 film it would be more likely they would all be of similar subject and contrast.
Do people simply try and limit using one roll for one type of subject matter and occasion, which might, for example, be predominantly low contrast, and then develop based on the fact that most negatives will benefit from a N+1 development or something?
Would be interested to hear how others operate,
Film is quite cheap. I generally don't use 35mm, but with 120 I just shoot similar scenes and discard the rest if another shot requires different dev. Not sure how practical this is for 35mm though. You don't really want to discard 32 frames. But I guess if it is important... What you could do is be more general. If you have shots ranging from n to n+2, dev at n+1 and do the rest in the darkroom.
A suggestion: buy 35mm film in bulk and make short rolls of those.
Digital is best taken with a grain of silver.
Second thoughts: If you have bright conditions you could estimate n-1 and expose at that. If conditions change, change film.
If you have a camera with removable backs, you can mark each back normal, N-1 etc. As clogz says, 35mm can be bulk loaded in short lengths and each cassette marked.
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Zone System and 35mm is somewhat limited owing to the impact of graininess withe extended development (unless you are looking for that.) Even if your film is capable, it is unlikely you would like the results of an N+2 in 35mm. I used two short (12 exposure hand-loaded) rolls - one for N-1 and the other for N and N+1. You achieve the N+1 with selenium intensification after development.
Selenium intensification is a wonderful tool which is surprisingly underused. It provides an honest one zone increase in density with the added benefit of not increasing grain. In the larger formats, you can even attain local intensification by carefully applying the solution to a small portion of your negative with a fine brush. (A bit risky as the change is permanent and irreversable. Practice on a throw-away first!)
With medium format equipment, interchangeable backs are the answer. Given the cost and the weight, I worked the same system two-back system. For me, the step up to 6X7 served only to speed the decision to go to 4X5. I used the 6X7 for second job commercial work to finance the 4X5 addiction.
At the price of some 35mm bodies nowdays, you could quite possibly buy another, and even then you could shoot short rolls as well.
I"m not a particular fan of shooting in overcast conditions. If anything I would be shooting in sunny bright conditions with deep shadows. I'd would prefer to shoot a second body for this latter condition. Overall, I think your best bet, in order to really be able to get the maximum detail when going + or - in developing is to shoot 120 with seperate backs and skip the 35mm.
It is simple to build a single negative curve that allows full exposure, correct local contrast, and a long straight line to hold a 14 stop scale.
Through the use of a soft and hard paper developer, and variable grade fiber paper, one can, with a single film/developer combination, meet the needs of all the common circumstances one encounters in picture taking, from ZS descriptions from N-2 to N+2. or beyond.
To do this, it is convenient to use Zone V, at .75 density, as the pivot point of your system, rather than Zone I or II. You also, obviously, build a negative of higher density than old-school thinking suggests for 35mm, but today's materials minimize any shortcoming while making the densities sufficient for tremendous control with MG papers.
This is not an alternative to ZS, but a simplified expression of large format shooting applied to 35mm with contemporary materials.
The biggest obstacle to this is adherence to conventional values and thought patterns. By following the process of the ZS as Adams, White, Kachel and others have taught, I found the effective answer - for me, with 35mm - a single, well crafted film curve and a cohesive system of visualisation, exposure, development, and printing.
Attached are two examples of this 35mm system, a single negative type designed to ZS principles. The first, Rosa Park's Bus is an N-4 scene. The second, APUG's esteemed mrcallow, an N-1. Both printed on normal paper, with different paper developers. Both, straight prints, and rich detail in large prints.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
For 35mm and 120, I use a "half-fast" adaptation of the Zone System, and usually make no attempt to adjust development from "normal". Essentially, I do Zone-style spot metering of each scene, and then "place" Zone V based on whether I want to give precedence to shadows or highlights.
As noted above, the full ZS, including development adjustments, can be used easily with interchangeable backs on a 120 camera. Short rolls, multiple bodies, and/or switching back and forth can make it work for 35mm, too. But, that's a real PITA. Plus, for me at least, the "emotional content" or subject matter of 35mm and 120 shots is usually more important than full control over tonality and contrast.
KISS whenever possible. :o
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
For 120; duplicate exposures and cut it in thirds or in half. You could do a snip test also.