The x-axis, in my opinion, is always where things get confusing. I like to think of the increments on the x-axis of a H&D curve (regardless of how it is labelled) as relative "camera exposure settings". I think this might be analogous to what you refer to as "placement". In a zero-flare, calibrated system, actual exposure = expected exposure. When there is flare, actual exposure > expected exposure. In the lower values, densities are raised and local contrast is reduced. This is one of the problems with the typical ZS camera test in which we meter a card and stop down 4 stops.
Originally Posted by markbarendt