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  1. #1
    Markok765's Avatar
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    Learning zone system for 35mm B&W

    After i figure out my film speed, is there anything i need to know except,
    1. look at a zone chart
    2. meter varous areas with a spot meter
    3. decide what zone you want your shadows\highlights be
    4. ajust exposure accordingly and shoot.
    For color slides, im sticking to white+1 black -1
    Marko Kovacevic
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  2. #2

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    After figuring out the ideal film speed to render full shadow detail I then make tests to find the ideal highlight rendition provided by various developing times..

    Using the ASA/DIN you determined in your film speed test make some exposures of a gray card in lighting conditions youd normally shoot in.. meter as normal getting a zone 5 reading off the evenly lit out of focus gray card (we dont want to record texture in this test). Then alter your aperture/shutter speed to change that zone 5 reading to a zone 8.

    Doing this on 35mm I take a 36 exposure roll and expose the whole roll with alternating zone 8 exposures of the gray card and photos with no exposure, with the lens cap on. Then in the darkroom I chop the roll up into 4 equal length pieces and place them into a light tight container until I am ready to develop each one.

    one piece I develop using the time the manufacturer (or other resource) suggests, using their times and my own method of agitation

    one piece I develop with -20% the suggested time (again using the same agitation method as the first)

    one piece I develop with +20% of the suggested time (using the same agitation)

    I save the last piece if the results from the previous 3 are not satisfactory..

    once developed and dried I take each of the 3 developed film pieces (making sure to note which was developed which way) and go back into the darkroom and take one of the clear unexposed (but developed) pieces of film and do a test strip with it in the neg carrier (with the enlarger at a height I normally use). I make a test trip on photo paper I normally use trying to find the first maximum black, I then take this time (lets say it was 24 seconds at f/11) and use this time to test my developed zone 8 exposures.

    I print each of the 3 different pieces of zone 8 exposure film (just one of the frames from each is fine) at 28 seconds at f/11, covering up half of the paper with a board so its white and unexposed and letting the dense zone 8 expose the other half through the enlarger. After developing each of the pieces of paper and allowing them to dry (remember, keeping note of which paper corresponds to which development time) I decide which development time gives me a zone 8 highlight that I LIKE..

    for some, they like a dark zone 8 highlight, for some they like a light one..

    I like a zone 8 that is a bit dark when compared to the paper base white (which should correspond to a zone10)

    If none of the pieces of paper produce a zone8 you like develop the last piece of film accordingly...... i.e. one sheet of paper shows NO difference between the paper white and the exposed area, too much development.... one sheet shows a very very dark zone 8 and a bright white unexposed paper, too little development..

    find your happy medium and then use that development time as your development time in the future..
    "Where is beauty? Where I must will with my whole Will; where I will love and perish, that an image may not remain merely an image."

  3. #3
    Markok765's Avatar
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    Ive done the film speed test and have found iso 400 is good for 11 min in d76 1-1 with presoak
    Marko Kovacevic
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Markok765
    After i figure out my film speed, is there anything i need to know except,
    1. look at a zone chart
    2. meter varous areas with a spot meter
    3. decide what zone you want your shadows\highlights be
    4. ajust exposure accordingly and shoot.
    For color slides, im sticking to white+1 black -1
    The zone system involves two things and you have disregarded one of the two. In addition to film speed and exposure you must decide about development. Because development determines the D R of the negative. Density Range (DR) is the amount of differential between shadow density and highlight density and must come near the Espoxure Scale of the paper that you are printing on.

    For 35 mm it is usually best to develop your negatives for a normal equals grade three paper. From there you can vary filtration or paper grade to match density ranges that fall outside of the normal development times.

    Exposure is about shadows and development is about highlights.

    Color slides (transparencies) are metered for highlights and allow the shadows to fall where they will. Black and white negatives are exposed for shadows and developed for the highlight values that you want.

    Since you are using roll film and it is not possible to develop individual frames separately, it may be best to just determine your film speed and meter shadow values...don't worry about every possible midtone and highlight exposure reading. The development will take care of that.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  5. #5

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    Hello Marko,

    You've certainly gotten some great advice from Christopher and Donald. Another option you may want to consider is the method taught by the late Fred Picker for use of Zone System and 35mm/roll film; that is, after determining proper film speed, pick a high value zone--most use Zone VIII, but quite a few great photographers like Alan Ross are recommending calibrating development to Zone IX these days--and get your development time/temp set. In the field don't worry about +/- development, etc, simply place your high values where needed, check your important shadow (adjust to taste), then expose and develop per your test above.

    Fred always preached to get the exposure as far up the curve as possible without blocking up your high values. Mid-tones and shadows will fall where they may. As I said, nothing is set in concrete...many times I'll give a little more exposure if my shadows are teetering on the edge. Sure, this pushes the high values a little closer to the shoulder, but not to worry (especially with Tri-X) exposure affects the shadow values much more than the other end of the curve. I've used this variant on the Zone System for years with MF and never had a problem. If the SBR (subject brightness range) is too great, then you must decide if you want to favor the shadow end or high end of the curve; or, use other methods such as filters to adjust the overall brightness range.

    Hope this helps. Happy shooting!
    Regards,
    Alan Huntley
    www.silverscapephoto.com

  6. #6
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    Hey, Marko. I don't have a darkroom yet, so the development/printing end I must at this time leave up to chance. But I do use the Zone System to control what is recorded on the negative. I agree that you should definitely include the highest detail that is important. Lose it on the negative and you can't get it back, well, almost. But don't forget those shadows. Detail can be coaxed out a Zone II exposure, sometimes even a Zone I, but try to control the contrast. This is even good advice for color. THough most color films don't have the exposure latitude of say a Tri-X or an FP-4, minding your exposure values can lead to desirable negs regardless of film or format.

  7. #7

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    The zone system is really geared to LF and the use of a single paper grade. With this format you have the luxury of dealing with a single negative or a small number of negatives taken under the same lighting conditions. It is therefore practical to vary development time to fit exposure and paper grade.

    The ZS has very limited usefulness with the other formats particularly with 35mm. The average 35mm roll usually contains a mix of negatives taken under differing lighting conditions. The best one can then do is to adjust development for the average negative and use multiple paper grades.

  8. #8

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    I agree that the Zone System works best with sheet film. But learning it will improve your exposures with roll film too (even if you don't vary development time for each shot).

  9. #9
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    Exactly. Gerald is right about the LF being ideal for the ZS. But learning the Zone System on the exposure end has slowed me down and made me take my time exposing the shot. Besides, now I have a log and can tell you what I did to get the shot. Before i could only tell you I got it with a Minolta and a lens (since all i have are minoltas, well, duh!) Ooops. A photographer said duh.



 

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