Try compensating development with pmk, rodinal, or pyrocat hd (there are many others). This will reign in the highlights without glumping all your tonal values together like n-1.
It is debatable if you really need to use the zone system beyond a general understanding of where values are going to end up in the print.
Originally Posted by Marc Leest
art is about managing compromise
For Donald Miller,
In your post above you allude to "some arbitrary value that Adams published".
I don't understand this statement. Could you elaborate or reference in Adam's writings what you mean.
Originally Posted by Allen Friday
Ansel Adams published 1.25-1.35 Zone VIII density as optimum for diffusion enlargers and 1.15-1.25 Zone VIII density as optimum for condenser enlargers. According to his dissertation on this in "The Negative" this was based on his results printing. I don't see anywhere where he took the time to evaluate the exposure scale of any paper using densitometric testing of the material. Therefore I say that the values he assigned were an arbitrary value. Today I hear a lot of people who seem to want to emulate Ansel Adams and they continue to quote these values
I have taken the time to test present day papers and it is from this evaluation that I have determined that the values that Ansel published are not valid today...I am not sure that they were ever optimum. Since I don't have old papers, other then Azo, it is impossible for me to determine his accuracy today.
I think that you are supposed to understand that when he says that the values are based on this results from printing, that WAS his evaluation of the exposure scale of his printing paper, and not some arbitrary assignment.
Originally Posted by Donald Miller
I understand that.
Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
I assume that with your background that we can agree that subjective evaluations are worth just about the value that someone assigns to them. There is nothing objective about Ansel Adams statements that would substantiate his assertions. For instance I would be more inclined to believe a reflective densitometric evaluation that shows the paper requires that density range in a negative.
That is one of the reasons why I take his statements on the matter of density as arbitrary. Especially when my tests of current materials indicate that they are not valid.
I don't want to get into a pissing match over the validity of the Zone System, Ansel Adams or any of the other assorted and sundry stuff that contentious people can find to argue about. My original post was to inform the original poster of the consequences of certain courses of action. Nothing more, nothing less.
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" I think that you are supposed to understand that when he says that the values are based on this results from printing, that WAS his evaluation of the exposure scale of his printing paper, and not some arbitrary assignment." Kirk
I think this is a pretty fair statement of Adam's working system and numbers, and it is a correct statement based on his qualification of a specific paper as the print medium. I think that is the point Donald is making here. Not that Adams was necessarily wrong in any way, but that there is another step involved in this whole process which may not have been addressed in the overall system's approach. There is certainly a lot of leeway in the development of paper and film, on that we can agree.
The basic problem I can see in this whole process is the concept of the "normal" scene and how it relates to the paper's scale. If you meter any scene, there is a "normal" range of light which it may or may not fall into. Here in the southwest, where skies are blue and clouds are the exception, it is about 4 2/3 stops of light from shadow values placed at zone 3 and highlights at zone 7. This does not hold up in coastal areas where haze is the rule, or some areas where fog is the norm in morning light, so how can we agree on what a "normal" light scenario actually is? Is it 3 stops, 4 stops or 5 stops?
Since light varies so drastically in many parts of the world, we would have a difficult time finding agreement on a "normal" development time for a "normal" scene and contrast range. Add to this mix differing films, papers and developers (let's leave out rotary processing or stand development) and you have a rather large can of worms. To me this is the crux of the great debate about metering and development systems. We must first understand what a "normal" scene is, a "normal" development time is, and then define a "normal" print in terms of contrast. This is where some of us can get bogged down in our understanding of light, contrast and printing. What happens when one's only paper is discontinued? Are all bets off, or do we just change our paper and developmnet times accordingly and move on?
Personally, I've found the SBR numbers to be more flexible in their use than the concept of a "normal" scene in the zone system. Trying to relate everything to a "normal" concept is confusing at times, because light is not normal and scene brightness can change so much in a few minutes that "normal" has no meaning. tim
I have tried to duck this conversation in the past but... I will state that I am a Zone System user. It was the system I learned and have never felt the need to move off the dime in that regard. Some questions come to mind that I don't think have been addressed yet and they are: Wasn't Adams writings about the Zone System from the 1940's or so? Haven't the materials changed since then? There was no multi-contrast papers available then and if I am wrong I am sure someone will point out that fact.
Everyone I knew in the middle 60's used graded papers and when the first multi-contrast papers came out and the ones I tried to use were horrible. My thinking is that when Adams wrote what he wrote wrt densities in films and papers the info was valid to his time and the papers available to him. Since I have previously stated that I do use those guide lines as a starting spot, I am a happy camper if I do a zone VIII test the densitometer tells me my density is 1.30 >fb+f. Will it print on paper as a very light tonality? I don't know at that point and I am not sure Adams would have known either. Fred Picker (a follower to Adams Zone System techniques) wrote in his procedures to take that zone VIII negative to the enlarger and make a print of that tone and SEE if it fits the paper using a tested standard time. If it does not fit, adjust the time in developer or in the enlarger. Again graded paper and not multi-contrast as near as I can recall. Remember that the zones Adams talked about are not fixed points. That can mean that they can be different values within the Zone. The idea can be carried to the speed point. .10>fb+f only relates to a Normal 5 stop scene (Zone III to Zone VII) After that the speed point slips up or down the scale wrt what kind of exposure is given with what amount of developing time.
Now after saying all that, I can make a case that using Pyrocat HD and a the multi-contrast paper available to us now days, one may not need to use all those controls on exposure and film development. Using split grade printing techniques also helps get us to the proper look on the print. Also, remember that these procedures are just to get you into "the ball park" and get all information on the film that the photographer wants when s/he makes the exposure. The work does not stop at the film development stage it has to be carried on to the printing stage. Also, remember that this is a VISUAL medium. We look at tones on paper that can represent visual ideas not density readings.
For my way of thinking the Zone System or BTZS will work and it is up to the individual to carry out the craft part so that the artistic part can be realized.
Both systems work and it is not an either/or situation. In determining exposures in the field I may use either the Zone system with reflected readings or the SBR method with an incident meter. Some circumstances favor one or the other of these two systems.
On the other hand, BTZS is clearly the easiest and most precise method of film testing, and the data derived from it can be used for either Zone reflective metering or BTZS incident metering as the situation may dictate.
Originally Posted by lee
I think Sandy hit the nail on the head above when he stated, “Some circumstances favor one or the other of these two systems.” Both the Zone System (ZS) and BTZS are systems comprised of two parts: (1) Testing Procedures, (2) Metering System-which aids the photographer’s visualization. They are both designed to allow the photographer a way to produce negatives which print well on the photographer’s chosen paper.
I disagree with Donald in his characterization that Adam’s created a standard which must be met to produce such a negative. I pulled “The Negative” off my book shelf and found the page to which Donald refers. On Page 220 Adams lists 1.25 to 1.35 as his Normal Development value for a diffusion enlarger. The last paragraph of the page is illuminating:
“I must stress that the density values are approximate and relate to materials available at this writing. You may have to establish somewhat different standards if you find these do not suit your working method. What is important, however, is determining the appropriate range of densities on the negative so that your normal negative can be expected to print satisfactorily on your standard paper in most instances.” Adams, “The Negative”, p. 220.
It seems clear to me Adams is simply listing the density values that worked for him to match the negative of his day to the paper of his day. This is far from a universal standard. He clearly states that this applies only to “materials available at the time of this writing.” Also, the values expressed apply only to the grade 2 silver paper he was using at the time. Obviously, if you were printing on Azo in 1945 (a grade 0 paper by objective testing) you would need a much different negative than the one described above.
The wonderful thing about the ZS, however, is that by doing the testing on different papers, you could craft a negative to fit that paper. The ZS applies to grade 2 silver, Azo and platinum all of which have different exposure scales.
Today, we also have BTZS. This system developed by Phil Davis is wonderful. It does what the ZS does regarding testing in a few easy steps, and it is more objective as it does not rely on visual assessment. It has its downside, however. It requires access to a densitometer. Adams fully understood densitometry and he used it. Hence the published density figures in his book. He discusses densitometry on pages 84 to 97. He developed the ZS to be a practical expression of the principals of densitometry. In other words, he developed the ZS so that photographers who did not have access to a densitometer could test their films and papers and approximate the results they would have obtained using a densitometer.
Today densitometer are much less expensive and more readily available to the average GWP--Guy/Gal With Camera. But, they are still expensive. If one does not want to buy one, the photographer can still get good, repeatable results using the ZS. If you can afford one, then BTZS is a much easier way to test. Neither system is inherently better than the other. It depends on the circumstances of the photographer.
I also disagree with Donald when he says the ZS in not concerned with the exposure scale of the paper. He is correct in that the ZS never makes an independent determination of the exposure scale of the paper. You never put a step tablet down on the paper and measure it to come up with a number. But, a given ZS test is valid only for the paper you are testing. The maximum black test only works for that paper. The zone V print test only works on that paper. The determination of how zone VII prints is valid only for that paper. (Although, one can extrapolate the data and apply it to other papers with the same characteristics.) By crafting the negative to fit the paper, you are in fact crafting it to fit the paper’s exposure scale, whether a separate determination of that scale is made or not.
In the past, I have done ZS testing to match negatives to grade 2 silver paper (ES 1.05) and to platinum (ES 1.80). If the tests ignored the difference in these papers, then the tests would not have been possible.
Today, I do all of my testing using BTZS. I find it much simpler and quicker than the ZS testing. For me, it made sense to get a densitometer. If my circumstances were different and I could not afford one, I would use the ZS.
For my metering, I tend to use ZS metering (spot metering) most of the time, but I do use BTZS (incident metering) on occasion. I find that the ZS metering helps me to visualize better than BTZS. Another photographer (Sandy for example) may prefer the BTZS metering. Use what works best for you. One thing I like about the BTZS software is that it will provide zone numbers for you to use.
As Sandy said, both systems have merit. It is not an either/or situation. For those who avoid ZS metering because it is inaccurate or out dated, I leave you with the words of Phil Davis, the man who literally wrote the book on BTZS:
“Although these two systems are based on very different technical concepts, they’re both capable of dealing successfully with SBRs of any reasonable length, and both permit prediction and control of image density and contrast. The Zone System provides more direct comparison between subject luminance values and print tones and facilitates free interpretation, but it also allows the careless or inexperienced photographer to make potentially serious mistakes. The incident System is conceptually simpler and relatively foolproof, but beginners may find it less supportive of visualization and manipulation. In other words, both systems have strengths and weaknesses; you’ll be more competent and versatile photographer if you learn to use each of them for what is does best.” Davis, “Beyond the Zone System,” Fourth Edition, 1999, p. 133.
Allen - good post. It's always nice to go back to the original sources.
I do a mix of each. I'm ZS based when it comes to metering and BTZS for film testing as it gives so much info in just a few tests.