Adams Zone System 35mm

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Justin F. Knotzke, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. What do YOU understand by 'using the ZS'? If you do NOT mean using
    VFD, your usage of the term is non-standard.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #41
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  2. Correct. I have declared war on the zoan sistum.
    That remains to be seen.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #42
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  3. Let's say I want a decent print despite horribly contrasty conditions.
    I know exactly how to do that. It does not involve development time
    adjustments. I would use my standard outdoor film (typically HP5+) and
    Acutol, suitably diluted. That's all there is to it. I expose for
    sufficient shadow detail. The developer will roll off the highlight
    areas making them printable.
    Expose for the most important area and let the chips fall where they
    may, just as in shooting chromes.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #43
  4. But the claim is false. VFD is NOT the most effective way to control
    rendering. (He does not say 'on the negative'. In fact, he means on
    the final print.)
    It is, and this is why the claim is false.
    But the ZS wants to 'crystalize' that vision in the negative. It is
    explicit in their writings. The fact is that 35mm film does not
    tolerate VFD much at all. This means that a 'modified' zs is what they
    are talking about, which is essentially the same as standard miniature
    practice, but simply perceived in a different way. The core of the
    'full' zs is VFD, no question about it.

    In fact, it was neither Adams nor White who first published or wrote
    abbout VFD.

    "I have many thanks for John L. Davenport who first stated the concept
    of subject contrast control by variable film development in two
    articles in U.S. Camera, 1934. - Minor White"
    It was Davenport who first published about VFD, and this was
    apparently picked up by Adams and White.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #44

  5. With respect, old-timer, digital sensors have their own problems that
    don't accurately parallel the nature of film exposure/development.
    Typical problems include blooming highlights[/QUOTE]

    Just like halation in films...
    Noise at the lower end may not look like getting too far down on the
    toe, but it limits the low end in a similar way.

    You do not see noise at the high end, but it saturates anyway. If
    anything, the "blooming" with digital (or even analog TV) is worse than
    is the halation in films.
    Film photographers can get a similar effect to reduce contrast,
    especially local contrast, with similar diffusion filters.
    These can surely change the local contrast, but if you went into the
    noise at the low end, or saturated the detector at the high end, you are
    not going to get it back by postprocessing on a computer.
    Let's both be middle timers, then. Or lifers? ;-) Come to think of it, I
    was doing "digital photography" with TV cameras, analog to digital
    convertors, and a specially designed computer system about 5 years
    before I got my first camera, a Nikkormat FTn. A friend and I designed
    the system and I wrote the OS for it.
     
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 5, 2004
    #45
  6. Well, the idea of a key tone is not what I would be satisfied with. I
    like to think of two important tones:

    The darkest tone where shadow detail is important.
    The lightest tone where significant texture is required.

    So as part of my exposure procedure, I measure these and see how far
    apart they are. If normal, I expose accordingly. If too far apart, I
    decide if an N-1 development will do. If not, I usually try to
    revisualize the image I want to see if I can make it work. Otherwise, I
    give up. There is always another subject out there. I rarely do N+1
    processing, not because of grain (I tend to use TMX at EI 50), but
    because it is easier to use grade 3 or grade 4 paper of filters instead.
    But if I tried to do a seashell on a brown sandy beach on a cloudy day,
    I might try it because grade 4 paper would probably not be enough.
    In the old days, you could get about 8 bit coding from a 1MHz A to D
    convertor. So you had to be really careful to get the image onto range
    of the photodetector. Now days at those speeds you may well be able to
    get 16-bits or so, but we have become more demanding. For moving images,
    you may get by with 7 bits per color. For static images, 8 bits is the
    absolute minimum. You can fairly easily see contouring across something
    fairly uniform, such as someone's cheek in a portrait.

    So if you subject range is more than those 16 bits, what do you do. You
    either have an automatic brightness control in your camera which sets
    things so you do not go off the top (too much) and forfeit the shadow
    area, or you could override that to get the shadow detail and you
    saturate the high end: blooming and blocking. And you cannot correct
    these things because the photodetector is the weakest link.
    If you need it. But is it really different? Do defend digital
    photography, is the magnetic bit any more authoritative than the silver
    grain or dye globule?

    I do think that when the martians come and examine the remenants of our
    civilization, they are more likely to understand a color film negative
    than a floppy or CD-ROM disk though.
    Unconvincing: good darkroom workers, especially retouchers, can work
    wonders. Normally not fraud, but they could work their arts there too.

    People sometimes say "The camera never lies." That is only half the
    story. The other half is: "The camera never tells the truth."
     
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 5, 2004
    #46
  7. Justin F. Knotzke

    Norman Worth Guest

    Actually, the key concept in the ZS is pre-visualization - knowing what you
    want in the print before you take the picture. You then use two techniques
    to try to achieve this. The most important is to assign subject areas to
    zones and to use this information to calculate exposure. Inherent in this
    is to be sure that the (important) subject brightness range (SBR) can be
    captured by the film. The second is VFD to help match the negative
    rendition to the SBR. This is simply a matter of reviewing the SBR for the
    shots on the film and choosing a time that will give you the best negatives.
    With sheet film it's easy - you can consider one image at a time. With roll
    film you have to compromise, but usually most exposures on a roll are
    similar. The idea is to get the best quality print of the concept you had
    in pre-visualization. You have a better chance at this print if you develop
    for a high-quality, full range negative. Too little contrast can make
    printing as difficult as too much, although you can (barely) salvage some
    too low contrast negatives, while too much may actually lose some of the
    picture.

    I don't know anyone who keeps the kind of detailed records for roll film
    exposures that are common in large format. Still, you generally have a
    pretty good idea of the SBRs you are dealing with. When detailed spot
    metering is required for a roll film shot, you try to tailor the exposure to
    allow proper development of all the images on the roll. Usually it works,
    sometimes it doesn't.
     
    Norman Worth, Jan 5, 2004
    #47
  8. Justin F. Knotzke

    Frank Pittel Guest

    : dddd wrote:
    : > Jean-David,
    : >
    : > I agree that principles of the zone system will still apply; if you
    : > regard the central principle to be picking where you want the key
    : > tone of the vision you are trying to communicate should fall. It is
    : > just you emphasize the exposure and the printing process with
    : > digital. I don't where one is left if the ZS is interpreted to be
    : > centered on the negative.

    : Well, the idea of a key tone is not what I would be satisfied with. I
    : like to think of two important tones:

    : The darkest tone where shadow detail is important.
    : The lightest tone where significant texture is required.

    : So as part of my exposure procedure, I measure these and see how far
    : apart they are. If normal, I expose accordingly. If too far apart, I
    : decide if an N-1 development will do. If not, I usually try to
    : revisualize the image I want to see if I can make it work. Otherwise, I
    : give up. There is always another subject out there. I rarely do N+1
    : processing, not because of grain (I tend to use TMX at EI 50), but
    : because it is easier to use grade 3 or grade 4 paper of filters instead.
    : But if I tried to do a seashell on a brown sandy beach on a cloudy day,
    : I might try it because grade 4 paper would probably not be enough.
    : >
    : > I wonder if digitals will help with the situation you describe? I
    : > haven't really thought about it and I am throwing this out there...
    : > Moose Peterson writes that digital cameras provide far more latitude
    : > than you get from film (I think he said at least 2 more F stops). I
    : > wonder if this would help where you are now using N-3?

    : In the old days, you could get about 8 bit coding from a 1MHz A to D
    : convertor. So you had to be really careful to get the image onto range
    : of the photodetector. Now days at those speeds you may well be able to
    : get 16-bits or so, but we have become more demanding. For moving images,
    : you may get by with 7 bits per color. For static images, 8 bits is the
    : absolute minimum. You can fairly easily see contouring across something
    : fairly uniform, such as someone's cheek in a portrait.

    : So if you subject range is more than those 16 bits, what do you do. You
    : either have an automatic brightness control in your camera which sets
    : things so you do not go off the top (too much) and forfeit the shadow
    : area, or you could override that to get the shadow detail and you
    : saturate the high end: blooming and blocking. And you cannot correct
    : these things because the photodetector is the weakest link.
    : >
    : > Also, I suspect digital cameras as we know them today cannot supplant
    : > film. With film, you have a physical piece of evidence to document
    : > the shot. With digital you have nothing but a magnetic pattern.

    : If you need it. But is it really different? Do defend digital
    : photography, is the magnetic bit any more authoritative than the silver
    : grain or dye globule?

    : I do think that when the martians come and examine the remenants of our
    : civilization, they are more likely to understand a color film negative
    : than a floppy or CD-ROM disk though.

    : > Plus I think in the near future "photographic" scenes will be made
    : > that are painted pixel by pixel that you cannot discriminate from the
    : > magnetic pattern of "real" digital photos.
    : >
    : > Just think where we would be with all the NASA and Holocaust
    : > conspiracy theorists if we only had digital recordings? I think film
    : > will remain the standard for historical documentation for quite some
    : > time.
    : >
    : Unconvincing: good darkroom workers, especially retouchers, can work
    : wonders. Normally not fraud, but they could work their arts there too.

    : People sometimes say "The camera never lies." That is only half the
    : story. The other half is: "The camera never tells the truth."

    The negative never lies. The retouching of a negative is evident upon inspection.

    --




    Keep working millions on welfare depend on you
     
    Frank Pittel, Jan 5, 2004
    #48
  9. Justin F. Knotzke

    dddd Guest

    Michael,

    You and I agree on so much, we differ only on what is the sina qua non of
    "The Zone System". Just because others think the ZS is all related to the
    negative is no reason for you and I to accept their interpretaion. I for
    one do not accept their interpretation; I interpret the ZS as a discplined
    way to communicate your vision on a print. Developing film is a process
    that is merely one step along the way.

    Why do you think I posed the question about the future of the ZS as a result
    of digital photography? If one believes the sina qua non of ZS is the
    negative; then they must conclude the ZS has no future.

    IMO, your error is accepting the notion offered only by a few that the Zone
    System describes how to produce a negative rather than an approach for
    communicating your vision in a displayble, visual form. My interpetation of
    the original sources is that the negative is merely an intermediate step in
    the process of communicating what you envisioned in the final print. This
    is why I have no problems with being able to see the application of the ZS
    in digital photography.

    BTW, I agree with your answers to David N. vis a vis his question about what
    to do in a specific situation. Equipment (including type of camera selected
    for the given application), material (film and paper), and exposure
    techniques (including filters) and finally, accepting that there are limits
    to the visions I can communicate via prints are all part of the
    alternatives. In particular, if I felt compelled to use VFD in order to
    convey the vision I had, I would simply choose a format other than 35mm;
    probably go to sheet film format. I even wonder if a digital camera would
    be of value in his scenario.

    If you are so annoyed by those who don't know how to see the big picture,
    why in the world would you bind yourself to their limited definitions (other
    than out of habit)? Only a few contend purpose of the ZS is to do
    something other than communicating your vision through a visual form via the
    phtographic process. Oops, now I have opened the door to even not needing a
    print; but including the use of a video dispaly screen.

    It is something more inclusive than material, equipment and form of display.
    And no, I am not going metaphysical.


    --
    Regards,
    Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
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    dddd, Jan 5, 2004
    #49
  10. Justin F. Knotzke

    dddd Guest

    David,

    First, if I felt compelled to use VFD in order to communicate a vision, I
    would at least a format larger than 35mm so that I limit the constraints
    imposed upon me by grain. I would even likely go to sheet film, even though
    I know little about its development. But I would learn.

    I might try a digital camera with its extra exposure latitude (as reported
    by Peterson).

    So my answer is I would get the shot by equipment selection, exposure
    control (including the use of filters), material selection (including
    exposure media and paper).

    I also accept that there are simply things I likely cannot accomplish If I
    choose to remain in 35mm and process for best possible grain. Given a
    limited supply of money and time on earth, it is not my goal to master all
    the possible exposure scenarios I may want to commit to paper. I have
    enough on my hands keeping up with all the things I can learn in
    watchmaking. Photography is only my outlet.


    --
    Regards,
    Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
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    dddd, Jan 5, 2004
    #50
  11. It seems to me the negative lies as much as it tells the truth.
    Placing the four lines defines the image and implies that that was all
    that was significant. Picking a point of perspective instead of another
    implies that that was how things looked, but in fact the things looked
    like that only from that one point. Picking one moment of exposure
    rather than another can dramatically affect what is seen. I have
    examined movie frames, slowly, one after another. What appears in real
    time to be a pretty woman talking and turning her head can be a series
    of pretty grotesque still images. Are these still images the truth? Is
    viewing them in real time the truth?
    When poorly done (i.e., the way I do it), this is true. Perhaps to an
    expert, a print from an expertly retouched negative can be identified.
    But I know that having served on juries, we _never_ see the negatives,
    and in the poor lighting of the average jury room, and the patience of
    jurors who want to be elsewhere do not lend themselves to painstaking
    evaluation of the prints. We must either believe the witness who says
    that the photograph accurately represents the scene in question (and if
    he would not say that, he would not be testifying in the first place),
    or disbelieve him: not the photograph itself.

    I have seen prints from expertly retouched negatives that I would have
    been unable to tell they were retouched. Now I am not a forensic expert,
    but I have some experience with photography. And if the retouching were
    visible on the retouched negative, someone willing to deceive would just
    make a copy negative from it.
     
    Jean-David Beyer, Jan 5, 2004
    #51
  12. What do YOU understand by 'using the ZS'? If you do NOT mean using
    Well, I apparently understand more than you. A quote from "The Negative"
    (the latest edition, which you still haven't read) page 47:

    "The Zone System allows us to relate various luminances of a subject
    with gray values from black to white that we visualize to represent each
    one in the final print."

    And if you read more, you see that the photographer can decide _how_ to
    make this relation. ZS is, again, only a way to make a link between
    subject and print. VFD is one tool to alter this relation but it is up
    to the photographer to use it or not. Nowhere does Adams say that one
    _has_ to use VFD to use ZS.

    He writes in page 71: "VFD remains a valuable means of controlling
    contrast, however, even if it is now often necessary to combine it with
    other methods..."

    Other methods cover also multigrade printing. Had you read the book,
    you'd know that VFD is not the requirement to use ZS.

    Sorry, your knowledge of ZS is amazingly insufficient. And I'm tired of
    quoting you the basic book you seem to be incapable to read.

    Severi S.
     
    Severi Salminen, Jan 5, 2004
    #52
  13. Justin F. Knotzke

    Frank Pittel Guest

    : Frank Pittel wrote:

    : > : People sometimes say "The camera never lies." That is only half the
    : > : story. The other half is: "The camera never tells the truth."
    : >
    : > The negative never lies.

    : It seems to me the negative lies as much as it tells the truth.
    : Placing the four lines defines the image and implies that that was all
    : that was significant. Picking a point of perspective instead of another
    : implies that that was how things looked, but in fact the things looked
    : like that only from that one point. Picking one moment of exposure
    : rather than another can dramatically affect what is seen. I have
    : examined movie frames, slowly, one after another. What appears in real
    : time to be a pretty woman talking and turning her head can be a series
    : of pretty grotesque still images. Are these still images the truth? Is
    : viewing them in real time the truth?

    The negative simply records the image that is projected on it. The distortion
    created by the lens and how the human mind interprets<SP?> the image is
    irrelevent. The reality that we all deal with whether we know it or not is
    that the three dimensional world that we live in and see with our two eyes
    has to get compressed to one dimension in a photograph. To that and a number
    of others such as color representation for color film and gray scale translation
    in the case of B&W film it is true that a negative or any photograph models the
    real world in an inaccurate way.


    : > The retouching of a negative is evident upon inspection.

    : When poorly done (i.e., the way I do it), this is true. Perhaps to an
    : expert, a print from an expertly retouched negative can be identified.
    : But I know that having served on juries, we _never_ see the negatives,
    : and in the poor lighting of the average jury room, and the patience of
    : jurors who want to be elsewhere do not lend themselves to painstaking
    : evaluation of the prints. We must either believe the witness who says
    : that the photograph accurately represents the scene in question (and if
    : he would not say that, he would not be testifying in the first place),
    : or disbelieve him: not the photograph itself.

    : I have seen prints from expertly retouched negatives that I would have
    : been unable to tell they were retouched. Now I am not a forensic expert,
    : but I have some experience with photography. And if the retouching were
    : visible on the retouched negative, someone willing to deceive would just
    : make a copy negative from it.

    It is possible to determine if a negative has been doctored. Any attempt by
    an "expert" to lie on a witness stand during testimony will hopefully result
    in the opposite side providing an expert wttness. We live in a world where
    experts can take a car that was in an accident, crush into a cube and let
    it sit outside for a week and then examine the cube and determine which creases
    in the metal were caused by the accident and which were casued by the crusher.
    (I exagerating to make a point.) I also believe that under proper analysis it
    can be determined if a given negative is an original or a copy. It wouldn't be
    hard to fool me but the people that can identify people by looking at their voice
    patterns or "unerase" a harddrive that has be erased, low level fromatted, erased
    again, and reused many times are going to be a lot harder to fool with a retouched
    negative.
    --




    Keep working millions on welfare depend on you
     
    Frank Pittel, Jan 5, 2004
    #53
  14. This WAS brought up, several times, first by Richard Knoppow and then
    reaffirmed by me. One of my main complaints about ZS work that I see
    is that the prints are simply flat. The attempt has obviously been
    made to capture a very long scale and place it on a shorter one. This
    seldom works aesthetically, because, as Richard has pointed out, the
    eye 'expects' to see a certain kind of gradient in the mid-tones, and
    the ZS has made no provision for that. In other words, ZS makes no
    attempt to adapt to natural human perception.

    I have for many years complained that too much ZS work simply looks
    unnatural and contrived, and, yes, boring.

    Look back at my original post on variable film development and
    Richard's thoughful reply.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #54
  15. This WAS brought up, several times, first by Richard Knoppow and then
    Again a wrong interpretation of ZS. Nowhere in ZS is said that one has
    to capture the whole subject luminance range and try to reproduce it
    from black to white in final print. The key in ZS is to let photographer
    decide. If he wants no shadow detail, let it be so. If he wants high
    contrast, he can achieve it by increasing development or using a higher
    grade paper. This is also what Adams emphasized, ZS is only a tool, not
    a hindarance. ZS only makes things more predicatable - no need to gather
    50+ years of experience to make good exposures. ZS can be used to make
    any kind of prints, flat, normal, contrasty, whatever. It is not ZS's
    fault if people like you don't get it at all.

    Severi S.
     
    Severi Salminen, Jan 5, 2004
    #55
  16. Justin F. Knotzke

    jjs Guest

    Well, of course it looks boring. Most 35mm photography is boring, too. Most
    of everything is boring. 99% of everything is crap. So what? Were you
    buggered by some ZS bigot? With ZS one learns where his tones can be placed
    and can expose/develop accordingly _or not_. Is there something wrong with
    making an informed decision before the image is made?
     
    jjs, Jan 5, 2004
    #56
  17. Justin F. Knotzke

    dddd Guest

    Jean-David,

    I think you may have misunderstood me. I am *not* saying digital is more
    authoritative than film. What I was saying is that film is a better
    historical document because it provides a physical record. Now yes, like
    any document you want to know the provenance before making any decisions
    based upon that document. That provenance will enable you to make a
    judgment about the likelihood the negative was doctored. But this is no
    different than detecting a fake copy of the Constitution, Picasso or work by
    Mozart which also rely heavily on knowing where the work has been hiding.

    The digital camera otoh leaves only a logical record, not a physical one.

    You went over my head with the discussion of bits and such. I was merely
    wondering if ,given the photos Peterson has produced, the greater latitude
    of digital SLRs might aid in dealing with situations that typically lead to
    thin negatives, such as N-3 development, while still providing good
    contrast.

    Like I said, I have no idea; I was just throwing it out there.

    --
    Regards,
    Dewey Clark http://www.historictimekeepers.com
    Ebay Sales:
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    dddd, Jan 5, 2004
    #57
  18. But it IS central ZS dogma, and I reject it, since I reject ALL ZS
    dogma.
    I have no use for it at all. My 'vision' (I dislike the term) is often
    fulfilled only after I have a chance to play with the negative in the
    dark. I often make prints that are highly manipulated and bear little
    resmblance to a straight print. I seldom print the negative the same
    way twice, either. In other words, the negative is subject to
    interpretation, and does not represent a final disposition of the
    subject. Nor do I have time to make a final disposition at the moment
    of exposure. I do mostly what might be called 'street',
    'photojournalism', and 'documentary' or 'reportage' photography.
    I develop my film pretty much the same way all the time. This
    'standard' processing gives me the option to do whatever I want later.
    The core of ZS dogma and practice is VFD. It is acknowledged as such
    by Adams and White, who references the work of Davenport. Ther can be
    no dismissing this.
    I reject all of this. I do what I want, the way I want, spontaneously,
    and the print is only ONE of many possible interpretations. When I
    reprint negatives, I often find myself printing them darker and
    constrastier than the first time. I want less detail, apparently, and
    more form. I don't care about the tones too much in many instances. My
    images are often stark and simple, with heavy lighting effects and
    brilliant contrast from direct light.
    There is no question that VFD is central to the concepts as originally
    presented by Adams and White. Why cite Davenport otherwise?
    I use 35mm exclusively. I don't care about ultimate quality, because I
    care about ultimate sensitivity.
    They invented the system and defined the terms, that's why. If you
    take VFD out of ZS there's hardly anything left that is different from
    standard practice, other than the trees and rocks, and time exposure
    of water running over boulders.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #58
  19. No, that's not what I meant. I want you to tell me what YOU mean by
    'using the zs'.

    I have the Adams and White books. I want you do speak to me in your
    own terms, without quoting you guru. What do YOU mean by 'using the
    zs'?
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #59
  20. ANY photograph 'relates' subject luminance values to densities in a
    print. That IS NOT novel or original, nor what the ZS dogma preaches.
    I quoted from White's book about 'crtystalizing' the exposure into the
    negative by development. What the zs preaches is determining once and
    for all time what you want the negative to be by VFD.
     
    Michael Scarpitti, Jan 5, 2004
    #60
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