With today's excellent variable contrast papers there is little need for developing roll film to different contrasts.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
If you meter for the snow with an incident meter (such as a cheap handheld meter rather than a builtin), you won't have to "overexpose the snow."
Expose normally. Develop normally and consistently.
With a wide brightness range film like tmy2 and a developer that tames highlights like PMK, I shoot snow (in bright sunlight) as described with other stuff on the roll as well. Obviously get things right in the negative without being a slave to the process, and do the final contrast minor adjustment with multigrade paper if needed.
To the OP (mporter012).
I definitely wouldn't suggest starting with Zone system developing controls if you have never developed film before.
It isn't a bad idea to read some of this sort of stuff, but I would hold off of applying most of it until you have a bit of experience.
The two things to understand most clearly are that:
1) by controlling exposure, you control the most important variable that is most easily modified by you; and
2) past a certain minimum point, changes in development only really change contrast.
When you use a snow scene as an example, the biggest challenge is determining the exposure. A standard, reflected light meter will get fooled by snow, and will try to convince you to set an exposure that will result in a middle gray result. The suggestion that you give the scene two extra stops of exposure will help you turn the snow back to white.
By itself, snow in itself won't mean that you need to adjust development. You only need to adjust development (N -1, N, N +1) if you need to adjust contrast. A snow scene might lead to a need for that, because:
a) a brightly lit snow scene will generally have a very wide range of tones, and be very contrasty. A development time that tends to lower contrast (N - 1) would most likely help, but regular development (N) plus printing controls will come close; or
b) a cloudy and misty and snowy day will generally have a very narrow range of tones, and be very low in contrast. A development time that tends to increase contrast (N + 1) would most likely help, but regular development (N) plus printing controls will come close.
Although there certainly is some relationship between the two, it is probably best to deal with exposure issues separately from development issues.
But most important - have fun!
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Process all the film for the same time and print with multigrade paper or have a selection of graded paper available when printing.
Thanks for the great advice.
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Don't give up on the Zone System though. It's very useful for previsualization which will help you expose better and make better decisions. Make it serve your photography and don't be a slave to it. The Zone System make me realize how much dynamic range the human eye has.
"Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
mporter012, what kind of light meter do you have?
Incident, the kind with a white dome, gives reading of light falling on the scene (so snow or low won't change the meter reading)...
Spot, you would be able to read the snow from a distance then "place" on Zone VII.
Reflected light meter, you can work as if you had a spot meter. Walk right up to the snow. "Place" on Zone VII same as a spot meter when you get close. (Using a reflected light in average mode is OK most of the time but "high-key" and "low-key" scenes mislead the meter)
In-camera meter, same as reflected light meter but I don't like the mental gymnastics required when I go to take notes.
On the subject of N+ N and N- development for roll film. Even my earliest Zone System book agrees with what others have said. Develop (more or less) normally and use paper grades to adapt to different contrast negatives that you might have created on a single roll.
I personally would rather not carry three cameras. So I develop the entire roll to fit what I believe the majority of the (important) shots on that roll would require. It's as simple for me as, "It was a foggy day, I will develop it N+1".
But even the roll I have in the camera now has two different requirements. One outside at daytime and another at night in a restaurant.
Hey Bill - I have a Nikon FE2 and it has a 60/40 center weighted light meter.
OK, in-camera meter.
Here is a way you might be able to do Zone System thinking with an in-camera meter:
1. Looking at the whole scene pick any shutter speed that indicates f/5.6 is correct for average.
2. Walk up to the darkest part of the scene that has to have detail (not pitch dark but the darkest thing).
3. Move the f/stop until meter says it's right. (That's Zone V). Click f/stops towards f/16 two or three clicks to "place" that reading on Zone III or II
4. Note the f/stop
5. Walk up to the brightest part of the scene that has to have detail (not a chrome shine but something light)
6. Move the f/stop until meter says it's right (Zone V again). Click f/stops towards f/1.4 two or three clicks to "place" that reading on Zone VII or VIII
7. Note the f/stop
If you get to f/5.6 both times, then just use f/5.6... If you get different choices, take the shadow reading and keep in mind where your highlight fell...
As everyone suggests, develop normally unless you really have N-2 (Bright snow next to a Cave - compensating development) or N+2 (Foggy Day where everything looks gray - develop longer than usual).
I too use the Nikon center-weighted meter; it's my favorite.
For me personally, the Zone System is no fun, and should be referenced only when you've got a few rolls under your belt. It is a great tool, but one that I myself only use in an extremely simplified manner.
Basically, I take the grey card approach: I eyeball the scene and try to find something "grey" (not the color grey, but something that feels like it's reflecting a medium value), and base my exposure on that. The light meter tries to make everything grey. If somebody had just told me that in as many words several years ago, I'd have understood right away. If you point your Nikon at the snow, it'll try to make the snow grey. If you're floating in space and you point your Nikon at a black hole, it'll try to make the black hole grey.
One time I spent a whole day photographing with my dad's Mamiya MSX 1000, only to discover that the battery was dead the whole time (when the battery on that camera is dead, you can still adjust the shutter speeds, and the match needle moves around). Almost all of the exposures were fine!
Last edited by LJSLATER; 01-12-2013 at 08:22 PM. Click to view previous post history.