I still use a personalized variation of the zone system where I worry more about proper exposure of highlights than shadows in placement of zones.
I have no problem with letting areas of a print fall below ZII. I find that most people have no problem understanding pure black shadows but expect detail in highlights, as we can see detail in the brightest highlights with our eyes. So my testing of film, developers, paper etc are designed to give me very precise control of high values.
My testing protocols are not very technical. I have borrowed a densitometer a couple of times to establish film/developer curves, but have over time just use several test subjects in various lighting conditions and study prints made with those combinations. I have also made perfect negs without a meter by just using my experience with the lighting and type of subject and recording these details to determine developement.
If you are a beginner, even with 35mm gear it is a great tool to understand exposure and the effect of developement variables. Like any learning tool it is a starting point for further understanding
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
I was going through old posts and this is the oldest in this category. An oldie but a goodie. Why learn the notes on the tablature when all one needs to do is learn to hit the play button. Even if shooting a d****** camera, tried but true science relating to our craft, such as the zone system, familiarize ourselves with the characteristics of the very thing we record. Everyone here should at least have a working grasp of the zone system to lessen the choke on the flow of creativity by technical dams.
If for no other reason (and I certainly think there are many), the world around us is not monochrome - the ZS is the best balance between simplicity and comprehensiveness of any tool made to translate one to the other.
I truly dislike sweeping statements like the one made in the article quoted at the start of this thread... In my limited life experience, the scope of suc stements is inverstly proportional to the intelligence and/or ability of the person making them.
Then again, that's a pretty sweeping generalization right there
I use the Zone System all the time. I also Zone test every film with a densitometer so I know exactly how my film will handle and also personalize it to be able to print how I like to. I think it is a wonderful and valuable tool.
I don't consider myself a Zonie in the sense that I spend more time testing than I do making real images, but the knowlege of how my film is going to respond, and the concepts of how to meter and decide on exposure that one gets from the Zone System are elements of every image that I make.
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You will see from my question I'm a novice, but here goes:
I am trying to learn photography and know of the Zone System and basically what it entails. I don't have the time, space, or money to do my own developing, which sounds crucial to the use of the ZS. So other than trying to see the world in different shades of grey, how would I be able to actually apply the ZS to my photography?
Even if you have a lab develop your film, you can make use of the principles of the zone system in a modified way. If you're developing your own film (and developing your own film is not difficult or costly, and does not even require a dedicated darkroom), you would first test for film speed with your system and film/developer combination, and then you would test to see how much variation in development time you would need to effect predictable adjustments in contrast, and then over time, you might fine tune those results to your print method and tastes and to account for the small variations in film speed that are associated with adjustments in development time.
If a lab is developing your film for you, you can still do a film speed test in the same way you would, if you had developed it yourself. You can do this with a densitometer, or you can ask the lab to print contact sheets for you at the minimum exposure for maximum black, and determine visually what film speed gives you adequate shadow detail.
While you can't usually do things like figuring how much you need to adjust development time to get a 1 or 2 zone expansion or a 1 or 2 zone contraction of contrast, you can ask the question in reverse--"If I tell the lab to push one or two or three stops or to pull one or two stops while I actually keep my film speed constant, how much of an expansion or reduction of contrast will I get?" What the lab is calling a "push" or a "pull" is really just an extension or reduction in development time, and it does not change the film speed substantially--only the contrast. You might find, for instance, that what the lab calls a 1-stop push corresponds to +1, and maybe a 2 stop push corresponds to +1.5, and a three stop push corresponds to +2.3, or something in that ballpark, or maybe the lab habitually overdevelops and "normal" development is really +.5 (a common situation). The point is that you can still expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights with negative film, as long as you run a few tests to know how to control these factors.
This does not mean constant testing unless you are constantly trying new materials. Find what works, and stick with it.
ahhhh- now this is language I understand. So.... as a blank slate, should I learn ZS or BTZS? I *do* hope to get into B&W developing and printing sometime in the future, it just can't happen for a while. I actually don't have alot of interest to be honest, but it sounds as though it is maybe the more important/satisfying part of photography for many people. I'd probably end up divorced if I started puting more time into photography than I already do though!
When starting off with a new film I usually set my meter to the rated IE then shoot measuring for Zone II and exposing accordingly. If in the mood I will also note down some highlight readings.
Once the film is developed I determine the shortest exposure with which I get pure black on a blank frame (given col-hight and f-stop) and then print a few frames using that exposure and G2.5. If the measured shadow areas just show detail then the EI is OK, otherwise adjust a bit for the next roll.
If highlights were noted then compare how these come out though with my current developer (Prescysol) they seem to be OK most of the time. VG paper needs to take care of the rest.
Does this make sense? Seems to work OK, but then I'm just an ethusiast with limited time to spend on my hobby.
With the cost of analog photography going higher and higher the Zone System(s) and standardizing procedures seem more important these days than anytime in the past.
The days of going through a 100 sheet box of paper (or film) in a day or two as back in my carefree college days are long gone, along with the energy, stamina, and time required to pull off a good old-fashioned darkroom marathon!
I realize that any sort of dicipline (suggested or otherwise) has the potential of chasing newcomers away from our medium but without dicipline, the cost of pursuing our means of expression might well become out of the reach of many would-be enthusiasts.
Using the Zone System and/or variants thereof along with standardizing your personal film speeds and darkroom procedures can save very significant amounts of time and money. The real problem will then be how to keep all that money out of the pockets of the sellers over at "the auction site"!
"A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray