Please Straighten Out My Photo Theories

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by MrEd31, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. MrEd31

    MrEd31 TPF Noob!

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    In an attempt to improve my black and white photography, I began reading Ansel Adams's materials. I think I derived a false correlation between the zone system and exposure. Please help straighten me out.

    -I thought the zone system revolved around exposing the film more or less than the light meter indicated. I thought that Adams's theory said to underexpose relative to the meter reading for shadows and vice versa in regard to highlights.

    In the spirit of the Zone System, is it correct to say that in most cases, it is best to use the meter reading, but change the development to change the tonal placement. If I was taking a picture of a prodominantly dark subject, I could underdevelop the film?

    If manipulating development time is the basis of Adams's Zone System, is a 35mm photographer like myself in a bind? Do you just use 12 exposure rolls and experiment with development time on that one roll?

    -My high school no longer has an advanced photo class and the teacher isn't able to work with me individually very often. I do remember that he did a project in the past with the advanced students that dealt with black objects. Something about metering for an object and then exposing it 4 stops over. I dont remember the exacts, but I think that is a situation I should understand.

    -I see a lot of photographers who have still lifes that appear against a very dark background. Sometimes almost a black background, is this related to the above.

    Sorry for the length, I rely on you guys, thanx!
     
  2. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    hey, my friend, i am a zone system shooter at heart...have been for many years. for many reasons *ahem* i can't put together too many coherent thoughts right now, so i'll catch you in the morn.
     
  3. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    The zone system is obviously very complex, way too much to go into here even if I did understand all of it. It is a system of exposure and development that is used to manipulate the tonal range of a neg. Because different exposures may require different developing times it makes it hard to use the complete system with roll film. But there are simple zone system concepts that I think are good to know and can be used a little more loosely.

    There are 10 zones that can be represented on a print; these range from solid black/zone 0 to solid white/zone 9 with middle gray/zone 5 in the center. Each zone is a stop. Your light meter measures for middle gray/zone 5. Zone 3 is the darkest tone possible still retaining full detail; a black sweater in which you wish to show all the texture of the weave is zone 3. Zone 7 is the lightest tone possible showing full detail; a white sweater....

    When you point your light meter at a black cat(zone 3), the meter is giving you the proper exposure to photograph the cat at middle gray/zone 5. You want to expose to put the cat in zone 3 so you must under expose by 2 stops from what the meter says. If you wanted to make the cat even darker, losing some of the detail, you could expose for zone 2 which is 3 stops below zone 5. Using a white cat(zone 7) you need to overexpose 2 stops from the meter/zone 5. Overexposing 3 stops would make the cat even brighter, beginning to lose some highlight detail. To place the white cat in zone 9/solid white you would overexpose 4 stops. To put the black cat in zone 1/almost solid black you would underexpose by 4 stops.

    The manufacturer's recommended ISO and development times are based on a contrast range of 5 stops/zone 3 through zone 7. Measure your darkest shadows and your brightest highlights and count the stops between; 5 stops is average contrast. Less that 5 stops difference is low contrast lighting, and more than five stops is high contrast. To reduce contrast(sunny day) overexpose and underdevelop. To increase contrast(overcast day) underexpose and overdevelop. If the difference is 6 stops overexpose by 1 stop and decrease development by 20%(the amount of change in development time can affected by many things, check manufacturer's recommendations and your own tests). 7 stops: overexpose 2 stops and reduce dev time by 40%. With a range of 4 stops underexpose by 1 stop and increase dev time by 50%. 3 stops: underexpose by 2 stops and increase dev by 100%.

    With sheet film you can vary development from shot to shot, but with roll film you must settle on one dev time for every shot on the roll. If the lighting conditions are similar althrough the roll, then you can change it as necessary. If the lighting varies then you will have to compromise.

    Personal testing of equipment and film and chem choices is necessary for increased accuracy.

    Check out Henry Horenstein's "Beyond Basic Photography". I found Adams' "The Camera", "The Negative", and "The Print" easier to understand after reading Horenstein.
     
  4. bogleric

    bogleric TPF Noob!

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    great information... thanks,
     
  5. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    just adjusting your exposure is not zone system, it's adjusting exposure. without the development aspect, you don't have a system at all, just a way of shooting. any decent zone system shooter has determined his/her personal film speed, then exposes for shadow values, then adjusts development to compensate for dynamic range increase/decrease.

    development variations:

    [​IMG]

    in the spirit of the zone system it is more correct to say that in most cases you never use the indicated meter reading. unless you have a meter that automatically calculates +/-ev.

    i pee in the boots of those that say the system can't be used w/35mm. i bulk load 12, 18, and 24 exposure rolls, mark for n(+/-) development, then rock with it.

    this has to do with the inverse square law of light. yes, you should understand it.

    [​IMG]

    when you meter a subject, where does it place you on this scale? where does a 4 stop over exposure put you?

    yes, it is very much related. you either have perfect control over your lighting or perfect control over the system. this was shot outdoors, underexposed, and overdeveloped.:

    [​IMG]


    the books Matt mentioned are gold. get some/all of them.
     
  6. drlynn

    drlynn TPF Noob!

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    Wow!! Thanks Matt and Will for all the great information. I'm sure I'll be reading this thread and scratching my head for weeks, but I've learned a lot just on this first read-through, and I'm gonna keep reading through till I can put it all in place. :D
     
  7. MrEd31

    MrEd31 TPF Noob!

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    thanx so much for all that information. I really appreciate all your help. I can't get enough of photography... I just want to learn more and more, but my mind works slow. It'll take time for this stuff to sink in, but this is all a great help!
     
  8. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    well, there are some smart b&w shooters on this forum. keep posting and learning.
     
  9. MrEd31

    MrEd31 TPF Noob!

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    I am trying to apply some of this knowledge, but I'm still a little stuck with the development time.

    I put a baseball glove on the floor. I want the final print to have the glove against a black zone 1 background. I metered the background to be zone V at 1.5 seconds at f 4.8. I then knew that I should underexpose by 4 stops, approx. 1/10 at f 4.8.

    Then I metered for the glove itself. It metered at 3 seconds at f 4.8 for zone V. If I use the exposure of 1/10 at f 4.8, the glove will be underexposed by approx. 7 stops? Do I increase development time by 7 stops? That'd be quite long. Am I doing this correctly? Any suggestions on the development time, Fp4+ ?

    I am thinking - normal development w/ t max 1:4 is 6:30, so I'd be looking at "x" minutes?

    Thanx again, I think I'm learning some stuff
     
  10. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Reciprocity begins to break down after about a second, so what the meter says may not be the correct exposure for middle gray. Be sure to read the manufacturer's literature for recommendations on how you'll need to adjust the exposure.

    Assuming that your readings are accurate, the first thing I'm noticing is that your glove is one stop darker than the floor. If you put the floor at zone 1 (almost complete black), then the glove will be at zone 0 (complete black). This doesn't sound like a very exciting picture to me.

    If you want a black background, you'll need to use something (like a sheet or towel) that is already very dark, preferably black (and not dark blue, blue tends to overexpose a bit). If you place a black towel in zone 3 then the texture will show up. As you place the towel in lower zones the texture begins to fade, until there is absolutely no texture in zone 0.

    Most of the baseball gloves I've seen are probably about zone 5. You didn't say where you wanted to place the glove, so I'll assume zone 5. Meter the black background and the glove. If they are about 4 stops apart, then the background will be in zone 1 if you shoot whatever was recommended for the glove and dev normally. If there is less stops between them then you will need to increase contrast.
     
  11. paul rond

    paul rond TPF Noob!

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    The Zone system is very easy to use once you've done the hard work to get you there... testing testing testing. It's all about living on the edge, the edge being where you loose your details, shadow details/highlight details. Standardize everything, meter to film to developer to temps to paper...so on.

    I've studied Ansel's and Minor White's manual on the Zone System for nearly 30 years and am just beginning to understand what I have been reading. It's about an evolution in "my" attitude towards photography that held me back... I am lazy and want the quick way out. It's like dieting, everyone wants to loose weight but they don't want to do the exercise and sweat for it. Zone system is the same deal, it takes sweat to get the results you want.

    First you have to commit to shooting many rolls of film to get standardized. You have to determine your film's normal ASA by testing metering vs developer. If you are not careful with temperatures and consistency this system will not work for you. You have to be a true scientist and develop standards you will always stick to. Change one parameter in the system and it fails like dominos down the chain. There is no flexibility or gut feelings until you are 100% sure of the effects each parameter has on the entire system.

    Second step is to find the minimum exposure for detailed shadows, zone 3, and your true zone 1, base + fog. This is your edge and once it is established the rest of the system starts to fall in place and becomes more obvious.

    Understand the characteristics of the negative in your developer. As you develop film the darkest parts (which are really your highlights) develop fastest as the shadow areas are coming in slowly and deplete much faster. Once the shadow areas are maxed out, generally in the first few minutes of development, the highlights continue to get darker and more dense. They will continue till they are blocked up so much it would take an hour to make a print but meanwhile the shadows haven't changed in density. This is the premise of the zone system. To find the place your developer stops developing the shadows and by compensating development times "you" can control the amount of highlights.

    The next steps are finding what is known as the normal, +1, +2, +3, -1, -2, -3 development times that have a direct effect on the highlights. Each step has to increase or decrease your highlights by one zone or stop without effecting the shadows typically in zones 1 to 4. This is where I have to leave you to do some reading and put in many hours of lab work. Perhaps once you are done with the first parts we can pick this up again.

    If you search the internet "Zone System" you will come up with many articles and methods of working. One article that helped was written by TERRY STALER. She takes you through an entire system of testing to standardize everything.

    Maybe we can have a zone system section on this forum where we can do all this standardizing without killing everyone else with all these details?
     
  12. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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