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  1. #1
    AndersPS's Avatar
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    The Zone system!?

    I´ve read about the Zone system and understanding there are many photografers that use this meteringsystem. I think it was Fred Picker who invented the system, am I right?

    Now to the question; How does it work and what do I need to use it? Is just for those who shoot in midformat and largeformat?

    ///Anders S

  2. #2

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    I'm not sure there are many exponents of the Zone System that frequent this forum, but I suspect there may be one or two

    The Zone System is a repeatable method of capturing your previsualised interpretation of a subject on film. It allows you to predict (with some certainty) what each tone in the scene will look like in relation to the other tones through the use of exposure, processing and printing controls.

    It applies equally to all formats, but because it's use calls for the processing of each negative to be tailored to the subject and this is easier when using sheet films. If it's applied to roll film, then (unless you cut the roll) the entire film is processed in the same way, thus removing the option to over or under develop according to the scene and your visualisation.

    You'll get lots of advice on what you "need" to apply the Zone System, but you already have what you need.......eyes and brain.

    It's just a case of applying your existing tools in the correct way.

    I doubt this will be the only answer you get!

    Mike

  3. #3

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    Hej Anders

    Well, the zone system is (according to me) the power of black and white photographing. It was developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in 1941, and it involved the study of negatives and what a developer can do during the development. Actually its very easy to sum up the zone system, expose for shadows develop for highlights. This mean that you measure for zone 3 (areas where you want deep shadows with texture) and expose according to this, then you measure where you want to have your high lights and measure this with your light meter, either they fall into your normal development time, or you have to push/pull the film.

    So there is no manual that you can use, because it depends on your equipment, your film, light meter, temperatur, developer, how you agitate, but you can very very easy find out these values for yourself and start exploring the zone system very fast. I would recomend that you get the book

    The Practical Zone System: For Film and Digital Photography, Chris Johnson
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/..._ya_oh_product

    it will explain the zone system using a hands on approach, and it includes detail description on how to figure out your own normal developing time, and push/pull. Its an excellent book (and the new edition also include a digital part, if you dont want that you can go for the earlier editions)

    Also, look into a spot meter, you dont need one (can use a build in meter) but it become so much easier,

    Har du några frågor får du mer än gärna skicka ett medelande, lycka till.

    cheers
    Anders

  4. #4

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    A good way to start is to understand your light meter, whether it is built into the camera or separate, and how to use it effectively.
    Then develop an understanding of how the film reacts to light and processing variables.
    The zone system was established as a way to systematically control those factors.

    Trying to understand the zone system without a good understanding of how the film reacts is difficult, at least IMHO.

    Another good book to look at is The Zone VI Workshop by Fred Picker.
    AA wrote about the zone system as well, of course, but I'd recommend you avoid his books until you've read more in general, or have gone through the Picker or Johnson books.

    The Zone system isn't remotely essential to making good photographs, but it helps in achieving more control, and translating what you see to a print, which is really what it's all about.

  5. #5
    Willie Jan's Avatar
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    The biggest failure people make is at the start. We light measure a scene and think this is the right value.

    You must find the best value for your situation.
    For instance when your light meter measures 1 stop less than the real value, you will have to adjust something to compensate. Most people say than that their film is rated as 50 asa (when it is a 100) in their situation. Others say probably a different value. Each developer is different and developer A is capable of getting a better shadow detail than developer B.

    Measuring with a spotmeter build in the camera compared to for example a pentax spotmeter gives a very different value.
    I now work only with a spotmeter to find out how the scene is build up in zones. It took me a year to get everything where i wanted it to be, but it was worth the trouble.

    So saying that the darkest value that must contain some texture place it in zone 3 is right, but who says that what you measure is right?

  6. #6
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    The simplest explanation I have ever seen is by Gem Singer, a member over on the LF pages. http://www.largeformatphotography.in...54&postcount=2

    After all the charts and graphs and chest pounding, this simple explanation really brings the fundamentals into reach of the average photographer who wants to take better pictures. Once you have this concept under your belt, you can get into the whole libraries of books written on the subject.

    I've quoted his whole post below...

    Aim the one degree spot at the darkest area in the scene where you still want to see some detail. Close down two stops.

    You have just placed the shadow area in Zone III.

    That's usually the proper exposure for the scene.

    Now, aim the spot at the brightest area in the scene.

    If it's a five stop range between the darkest and brightest reading, use normal development.

    Less than five, increase development.

    More than five, decrease development.

    No need to take a whole series of meter readings and average them. That's defeating the purpose.

    Just make certain that you have given enough exposure to get some detail in the shadows. Then, develop for the highlights.

    That's the Zone System in a nut shell.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Toffle; 01-11-2010 at 09:43 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada

    Ansel Adams had the Zone System... I'm working on the points system. First I points it here, and then I points it there...

    http://tom-overton-images.weebly.com


  7. #7
    Willie Jan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toffle View Post
    The simplest explanation I have ever seen is by a Gem Singer, a member over on the LF pages. http://www.largeformatphotography.in...54&postcount=2

    After all the charts and graphs and chest pounding, this simple explanation really brings the fundamentals into reach of the average photographer who wants to take better pictures. Once you have this concept under your belt, you can get into the whole libraries of books written on the subject.

    I've quoted his whole post below...

    Aim the one degree spot at the darkest area in the scene where you still want to see some detail. Close down two stops.

    You have just placed the shadow area in Zone III.

    That's usually the proper exposure for the scene.

    Now, aim the spot at the brightest area in the scene.

    If it's a five stop range between the darkest and brightest reading, use normal development.

    Less than five, increase development.

    More than five, decrease development.

    No need to take a whole series of meter readings and average them. That's defeating the purpose.

    Just make certain that you have given enough exposure to get some detail in the shadows. Then, develop for the highlights.

    That's the Zone System in a nut shell.

    Cheers,
    But,
    when decreasing the development, your zone III will be downgraded to for instance a zone II because it needs the complete development time. So this will lose details in the shadow, therefor you will have to overexpose a little to compensate the development time loss.

  8. #8
    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdial View Post
    A good way to start is to understand your light meter, whether it is built into the camera or separate, and how to use it effectively.
    Then develop an understanding of how the film reacts to light and processing variables.
    The zone system was established as a way to systematically control those factors.

    Trying to understand the zone system without a good understanding of how the film reacts is difficult, at least IMHO.

    Another good book to look at is The Zone VI Workshop by Fred Picker.
    AA wrote about the zone system as well, of course, but I'd recommend you avoid his books until you've read more in general, or have gone through the Picker or Johnson books.

    The Zone system isn't remotely essential to making good photographs, but it helps in achieving more control, and translating what you see to a print, which is really what it's all about.
    I would not worry about the three Ansel Adams books. They are pretty simple and from the horse's mouth when it comes from the Zone System. But, don't expect to find too much about the Zone System. It is only covered in one chapter in the second volume. This, by the way, shows how easy it is and how little is involved in understanding it. Many tried to make a science out of it and went beyond what Ansel developed it for.
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Jan View Post
    But,
    when decreasing the development, your zone III will be downgraded to for instance a zone II because it needs the complete development time. So this will lose details in the shadow, therefor you will have to overexpose a little to compensate the development time loss.
    Well, yes and no. Its true that your zone III will be effected but not as much as your highlights, so you might lose maximum 1/4 of a zone.... never tried it out with a densitometer but for me it changes more or less nothing. I should also say that i only "use" five options,
    n-2
    n-1
    normal development (5 zones between shadows and highlights)
    n+1
    n+2

    so if you do something like n-3 (have anyone tried?) you might have to start compensating for underdevelopment. For n-1, n and n+1 I cant see any changes (not even on my test rolls which i just checked)

    I really recommend the book, he Practical Zone System: For Film and Digital Photography, Chris Johnson
    because he explain how to start using and calculate the developing times for your methods the film you use.

    cheers
    Anders

  10. #10
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    The Basis of the Zone System is the concept of Visualisation,
    which, after all the spot meters, densitometers, computers and workshops are washed down the drain,
    remains the most elusive part of the Zone System to master,
    because it is the most repellent part of the ZS for propeller heads to accept.

    Visualisation is the process of forming an image in your mind's eye which will create in the viewer
    the same sensation you experienced when you looked at the scene before you.

    Visualisation is the process of interpreting the range and brightnesses of the scene
    into the negative necessary to make the print with the emotional power to move the viewer.

    Visualisation is, therefore, the transformation of a physical reality into an emotional image.

    The technical stuff is the ensuing process of altering the tonal relationship of the scene into a negative which will probably be very different from reality.

    Adams devised the methodical approach to give himself a way to fully express himself as his intuitive friends and mentors (Stieglitz, Strand, and Edw Weston) could do. The Zone System as we began to know it was taught when Adams began the Photography Department at the San Francisco Art Institute.

    If you wrap your head around Adam's Preface to the ZS before you go on to the testing, the graphs, the numbers and stuff, it will make a lot of sense.
    "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"

    -Bertrand Russell

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