Well, I haven't got my hands on 'The Negative' yet, but found the following site:
I read it all, and the Zone System seems pretty straight forward to me (until the pre-exposure stuff). The problem is- how do you apply this to 35mm shooting? It seems to be a sheet film system, where you can develop each shot differently. I have extremely limited knowledge of other formats- they also seem very expensive. Can you get a cheap sheet film camera?
There are publications that I have seen in book stores and I have seen some that address the Zone System for 35 mm.
Originally Posted by timbo10ca
Basiscally to apply this to the format that you shoot, you would need to bulk load short rolls, carry more then one body, or target your exposures and development to print on grade three paper or filtration. This would enable you to use the grades either side of three as your N+ or N- adjustments.
For preexposure you would need a camera with multiple exposure capability.
You can find relatively inexpensive sheet film cameras. Crown Graphic being one that comes to mind.
Four ways to use 35mm with the ZS:
Originally Posted by timbo10ca
1) Use three bodies you have calibrated with the ZS.
2) Use 1 body and load your own film cassettes with short rolls, using an entire short roll with the same light ratios.
3) Use 1 body and give adequate exposure to each scene, develop the film for an average gradient and make up the difference with VC paper.
4) Expose and entire roll to the same lighting conditons and develop accordingly.
For me, I use the zone system in 35mm for exposure only. Though don't have the individual development control, I have produced much better results than when I relied on my on-camera meter only. It can make a difference in 35mm photography.
So do you just meter your main subject, place it in zone 3 and leave it at that, developing the roll normally and letting the highlights fall where they may? Do you shoot color as well, and if so, same technique as for B&W? I have read a post on the forums here (ruvy's) using the ZS for color (slides) and it sounds completely different- meter your highlight and place it in zone 7ish or use ND grads to equalize the scene.... This makes sense to me being a slide shooter- it's easy to blow out highlights, but I'm not really seeing it's practicality- zone 7 is pretty bright for a main subject on slide film.
Originally Posted by flash19901
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Slide film doesn't have the scale of B&W film. I don't know if modern slide films have changed, but the contrast range of slides used to be only about 5 zones. And with slides, empty shadows tend to look better than blown out highlights, so most folks expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may.
No, you don't meter your main subject and place it on Zone III. You meter the scene and decide (in BW or color negative) where you want shadow detail You place that on Zone III. You expose two stops faster - for Zone V. Then, yes, you develop normally - or if the entire roll is exposed in the same light, develop for whatever your tests have shown is correct for that light. You can make up for negative development control (at least in some ways) by changing the contrast of your printing paper.
I hate to be vague, but the Zone System is a tool to help you visualize and to get a good, printable negative. It's not a set of rigid rules that you follow blindly to get a good result.
Thanks for the comment- it's not vague at all, and made the little lightbulb go on. I see how a different technique must be used for slides.
Originally Posted by juan
The Zone System is simultaneously a simplification and a complication of basic sensitometry.
The naming of zones is a work of genius, as it enables anyone to get a quick, easy idea of what happens on the various levels of the D/log E curve. This is a wonderful simplification.
The rest -- the N+, N-, placing, falling, etc. -- is for my money a jargon-ridden complication.
Maybe three decades ago, I wasted a lot of time on the Zone System because I didn't know enough basic sensitometry to make sense of it.
Maybe a decade ago, when I knew a lot more basic sensitometry (dating back to Hurter and Driffield in 1890), I went back to the Zone System (1940s) and found it to be what I describe above: a jargon-ridden complication.
If it works for you, great: don't let anyone talk you out of it.
If it doesn't work for you, dismiss it without a backward glance, except perhaps at Zone III, the darkest zone with texture (in the original 9-zone system). This represents, near enough, the ISO speed point, and is all you need to get adequate shadow detail.
Meter the darkest shadow where you want detail and give 2-3 stops less exposure: find out by experiment which gives you texture in the shadows. Forget mid-tones and grey cards as no scientific speed system has ever been based on either.
For further refinement, give more development for low-contrast subjects (I suggest 50 per cent) and less for high contrast subjects (I suggest 15 per cent). By all means modify this 15/50 rule however you like, even unto 50/100 or 25/200.
For still further refinement, do full Zone System testing. See if it improves your pictures. My own estimation is that for every one person whose pictures get better, there is at least one other whose pictures get worse because they waste all their time 'testing' and don't take real pictures.
There's a lot more about this in the free Photo School module at www.rogerandfrances.com about why we (Roger and Frances) don't believe in the Zone System. If you do believe in it, don't let us stop you, but remember that there are at least as many great photographers who don't use the Zone System as do. We do not claim to be photographers in the class of Ansel Adams but equally we are fairly well informed about basic sensitometry. And remember that many of AA's best pictures antedate his promulgation (and, I suspect, formulation) of the Zone System.
I agree fully, except that I test film speed at 0.17 b&f and leave Zone III at Zone III. However, many fine-art photographers place textured shadows at Zone IV, which makes them easier to print. I just think that the ISO standard is testing film speeds to optimistically at 0.1 b&f.
BTW, without the Zone System, I would be lost. The visualization part alone is worth learning it. VC papers replace some of the original intent of the Zone System, but I still like to get negatives for grade 2 and have the rest of the VC gradation left for creative interpretation.
For what it is worth, I totally agree with what you say about the Zone System.
On the basis of the results that you display on your site, (and photography, after all, is about what is shown on the print) one can hardly argue with your methodology.
Too often, I have found, that the Zone System becomes the end all and be all of one's photography. Testing becomes a way of life...never totally finished and never totally predictable...at least on the basis of results shown in prints.
I prefer to determine what is required to produce prints in a predictable manner, once and for all...then to go on, thereafter, producing photographs.
Thank you for your post and your refreshing voice in the canyons of Zone Speak...