The Zone System is Dead

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ypkennedy, Feb 28, 2018.

  1. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

    Messages:
    1,802
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Location:
    Eugene, Oregon
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format

    My one-and-only photography workshop was with a Minor White student. Lot's of esoterica, but lots of practical advice on using the Zone System facilely. I teethed on the old AA "Basic Photography Series," moved to the newer AA trilogy, but really found my best practice with "The New Zone System Manual" by Minor White, et al. I've been using my adaptations of the methods outlined there for 30+ years now. And, while I've simplified and modified the whole process over time to fit my idiosyncrasies, the basics are the same: figure out how your film works (E.I. and development times) and then use your meter and this knowledge to play the scale of grays in a scene to make your own music. For me, the creativity in the process comes from knowing about and utilizing the range of possibilities inherent in transforming a scene into a photograph. Call it a "Cult of Visualization" or whatever, it's what makes photography more than just a technical exercise for me. And, I do thing certain tones of grey have mystical qualities; Zone IV especially :smile:...

    Doremus
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,907
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I agree Doremus. If we look at the work of Thomas Joshua Cooper. John Blakemore, Linda Connor, Olivia Parker etc we can see the "cult of pre-visualisation" which works exceedingly well for them. the images in "Between Dark and Dark", Thomas Joshua Cooper, is a very good example of the control of shadow detail and the lower zones.

    Craft is the key to good photography it frees us to make the images we want, we aren't slaves to craft (which is what opponents of the Zone System think) we need to be the masters. That freedom allows greater creativity in the knowledge that you will succeed in what you strive to achieve.

    Ian
     
  3. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    7,228
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2005
    Location:
    Basin and Range Province
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    IMO the zone system dunt work with most emulshuns the way it did when I was just a sprout and the white and black man taught me. With the newfangled stuff when makin negs where nothin moves often I would sometimes give expanshun a boost by workin in some reciprocity failure. Thats what we call a trick.

    But things aren't like what they were. That could be part of it.
     
  4. keenmaster486

    keenmaster486 Member

    Messages:
    575
    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Location:
    Atroxus
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    *spits*

    You dadgum right JBrunner.
     
  5. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

    Messages:
    1,802
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Location:
    Eugene, Oregon
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I use this trick all the time; it's a look that regular expansions can't really provide. For me, that's applying the Zone System too.
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Member

    Messages:
    10,496
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    K,Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It is but,VC papers clipped its wings a bit.
     
  7. trendland

    trendland Member

    Messages:
    2,195
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I am glad to hear this news - because I ever missed the intellectual capacity of my brain to understand the Zone System.
    .....:whistling:...:D
    So I have not to care about this "Zones" again in future? :wink:

    with regards
     
  8. trendland

    trendland Member

    Messages:
    2,195
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I see - so you are a friend of graded paper outside "multigrade" like me ?
    Some stated in the past that "real grade paper" have a bigger range of contrast variations compared with standart multigrade papers (within filtered multigrade workflow)
    with regards
     
  9. RauschenOderKorn

    RauschenOderKorn Subscriber

    Messages:
    524
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2016
    Location:
    Bavaria, Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Don´t tell my FEM Kunze Zonetimer or it will commit suicide!!!!
     
  10. trendland

    trendland Member

    Messages:
    2,195
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Quite logical - so if you are a "slave" of technical parameters the next step could be to make you a slave just to shot special motives and nothing else. ...:D
    My equipment is allways "My slave" and same is with technical issues.
    (just stupid if it does not work as I want it.....:whistling:)
    with greetings:smile:
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    27,515
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Groups:
    Exactly, that is why the Zone System is not needed. One needs to learn to print the many tones in film on to fewer tones on paper.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    24,827
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    paswonquitte
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    it really has nothing to do with being a slave to anything ...
    it has to do with knowing how to read light, how to expose film and how to process+print it
    so the camera operator gets what s/he wants, instead of flat underexposed negatives. whether the "zone system" is dead or alive
    doesn't matter, its just called something else, but knowing my equipment works, and knowing how to expose film and get what i want matters..
    the zone system has been around for many years, even before saint ansel and others got more people to understand what it was and how it worked.

    people stand on the shoulders of people before them .. and sometimes improve the systems they created ...
    nothing is dead or alive, its just reincarnated or rematerialized into a different form.
     
  13. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,174
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If people want to use it as a "visualization" tool (?), fine. But they should also know the controls are quite limited in the context of print quality. Printing is where the control is at.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Fritzthecat

    Fritzthecat Member

    Messages:
    81
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2018
    Location:
    pa/ny
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Maybe instead of declaring the zone system dead, the OP could have titled the thread "How I utilize select portions of the zone system to obtain my results".
     
  16. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,221
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    The ZS is just as applicable to modern films as it was to earlier ones. But there is no law that says you have to use it, or can use it only in that given manner "It's my way or the highway" certain workshop gurus teach it. You can bend it, adapt it, and mould it to your own specific needs, or just plain ignore it. But for some, it will still be valuable to learn.
     
  17. trendland

    trendland Member

    Messages:
    2,195
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2012
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    "Tomcat" Fritz - this is a real smart statement - but I don't agree with.

    with regards

    PS : Of course I realy know the Zone System - and I hope I understand it.
    (a little bit complicate it is - you agree? )
    BUT I DO NOT NEED IT - Sorry
    (It remebers me a bit on the ADIZ - the "Zone" System.)
    ADIZ in older ICAO cards. ...:tongue:
    (.....danger. ...a/c within the ADIZ will be fired up without warning. ..:surprised:)
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    19,907
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'll use the term "craft" again whether you use the Zone System, or get even more obsessed with BTZ it's not rocket science just common sense. It's really needed even more with films like Tmax :D

    Ian
     
  19. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,221
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    TMax is for adults.
     
  20. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

    Messages:
    1,802
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Location:
    Eugene, Oregon
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    At the risk of sounding flippant (which I do from time-to-time :smile: ), I was under the impression that this was precisely why the Zone System was invented. Yes, with modern VC papers, exact tailoring of the negative to a specific paper grade isn't needed so much, but there are still scenes that print a whole lot better on whatever paper grade if we realize that expanded or reduced development is needed to get the many tones present onto the paper...

    Michael,

    You seem to "poo-poo" the idea of visualization here, and I don't really understand why. Here are a few things I consider "visualization" and why I think they are important. I'd love to have your comments:

    1. Filter use. Every time I use a filter, it's because I've looked at the scene and decided I'd like to manipulate it in a particular way. I consider this using visualization to achieve desired results. Without an idea of what a filter does, I would have no reason to choose it, or one over the other. (AA's "epiphany" visualization was with a filter too IIRC (Half Dome).)

    2. Certainly, just metering extremes and squeezing them onto the film in a pre-determined way is mostly mechanical, but it is still a visualization somewhat in that one realizes that the shadows won't go featureless or the highlights won't be difficult to print. However, when I decide to place a shadow value in Zone 0 because I want no detail there, or I decide to develop N+1 and let a sky go to Zone XII because I want it white and really want the other elements in the scene to be separated more, then I'm really visualizing, as far as I understand the term. It's a result I couldn't get with "normal" metering and processing.

    3. When I intentionally over-expose a long-toe film to get shadows up into the straight-line portion of the curve, I'm visualizing a result that I wouldn't be able to get with "normal" exposure. Similarly, when I decide to use an ND filter and reciprocity failure to expand separation in the low values of a scene, I'm visualizing a "non-normal" result.

    4. When I develop N+1 or more for a scene that has a normal luminance range, knowing full well that I'll be spending a lot of time dodging and burning (with split filtration on VC paper if that's the requirement), I've again departed from "normal" and used my visualization of what result I want to alter my development scheme.

    For all of the above, my spot meter is the tool that tells me (as accurately as it can) what the reality of the scene is. Without this information and the ability to picture in my mind's eye how that will look in a final print, I wouldn't be able to decide to accept a "normal" rendering of that or depart from it in any of a number of ways. While I agree that printing provides the majority of controls, controls at the exposure and development stage are not any less powerful. However, in order to utilize these latter, we must be able to know what effect they are going to have and what possibilities they will enable and exclude; i.e., we must be able to visualize the possibilities in order to choose what to do with the negative in terms of exposure and development if we want to do anything else than just expose and develop "correctly." Even this latter requires some figuring out of what "correct" is.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  21. CMoore

    CMoore Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,277
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2015
    Location:
    USA CA 94585
    Shooter:
    35mm
    We are having a giant Book-Burning tonight.
    To get the whole thing started.....we are using some Very Dried Out copies of Negative, Camera, Print...that degenerate trash should make excellent kindling.
    When i first went into a darkroom (circa 1978).....VC RC Paper was already pretty established. That fact, plus shooting 35mm roll film, and only being a "Hobbyist" Photographer, i never did learn much about The Zone System.To this day, I do partially consider it when i take a picture, probably most of us do in some shape or form.
    But, i don't know.......to come on a Forum, and announce..."The Zone System Is Dead"...smacks of arrogance, a little bit I think.
    Film is "dead".....but isn't there still a Place/Use for it in our Modern and Digital society.:wondering:
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
  22. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,174
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Doremus,

    I'm not poo-poo-ing the concept of visualization per se. For me personally, visualization is a natural part of image making. It's the link between visualization and Zone System "controls" that I challenge. After having delved into sensitometry, exposure and tone reproduction, and having thought hard about what goes into print quality (my ultimate concern given a meaningful image), I no longer view the Zone System the same way. I don't think it really offers very much in the way of control.

    Michael
     
  23. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

    Messages:
    6,221
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    The Zone System will undoubtedly outlive those who prematurely announce its obituary. I gave away all my AA how-to books except Examples, not because I considered the info obsolete, but because I had personally gleaned what I needed and had long before assimilated it into an almost subconscious mode of working, of which it is only an optional part. But if I had to choose, I'd rather be an uptight Zone System Droid than a sloppy shoot-from-the-hip machine-gunner.
     
  24. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,174
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't think anyone is suggesting shooting from the hip as an alternative to using the Zone System. You can be every bit as (or more) meticulous about craft without it.
     
  25. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,119
    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Shooting using the Zone System is more like driving stick shift. You have more control, but it requires more work. Shooting without placing zones is more like driving automatic. Works most of the time and it's pretty good. There are times when an automatic transmission has to put into a lower gear going uphill.
     
  26. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,174
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I disagree.
     
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies. If you have a Photrio account, please log in (and select 'stay logged in') to prevent recurrence of this notice.