Zone system and... Sunny 16

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Thrain, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. Thrain

    Thrain Member

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    Dear fellas!
    If I've figured out correctly the zone system, is a method to reproduce the correct tones as you see them with your eyes, bypassing and expanding the light meter which, when poited, gives only the exposure for the medium grey. (for example, if you trust blindly the light meter the snow won't come out white but grey, you will then have to move to zone 7 increasing by 2 stops the exposure given by the meter).
    But i have a Leica M4 so i usually don't use a meter, trusting the sunny 16 rule...
    My question is.. how does the sunny 16 rule affect the zone system?
    Is the sunny 16 based on giving you the average grey? so that if I expose some snow, which has a Light Value of 16 (decreasing 1 stop from the sunny 16 which has 15 as Light Value), will the snow come out as grey?
    Given the snow picture, I'll make an example with 100 Iso film or digital setting. With the sunny 16 rule, to get the proper exposure i should decrease 1 stop so that instead of 1/100s + f/16 i will have to set the camera at 1/250 +f/16. But the snow might not come out as white as i intend to. The zone system might then be applied. I might have to increase the exposure by 2 stops so that the snow goes from zone 5 to zone 7 (From 1/250 + f/16 i will have to go back and set at 1/60+ f/16).

    So: Am I right? the sunny 16 gives you the average gray for the whole scene?
     
  2. guangong

    guangong Subscriber

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    The zone system has no application for 35 mm cameras (unless you are going to shoot the whole roll of same subject from same place with same lighting conditions). Zone system is useful for formats that use individual sheets of film which can be exposed and processed as desired. Sunny 16 without intelligence will produce identical results as meter. In general Sunny 16 works just like meter, but sometimes, as with snow or scenes with irregular lighting or great contrasts in subject some common sense adjustment is required.
    When shooting 45 I frequently use Pentax spot meter but otherwise meter, calculator ( for bars, etc), or Sunny 16, with a dash of horse sense.
     
  3. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Nailed it. Exactly correct.

    For snow one has to take light reading of what you want to be neutral gray [otherwise the snow becomes neutral gray], use Sunny 16 and set for f/22 in bright sun [that is close down one f/stop] or use an incident meter.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    There are two closely inter-related parts to the Zone System. One part, which deals with exposing for the subject and then developing for the print, is only marginally useful for roll film. The exposing part helps, but it is difficult to adjust development to take into account different subjects and lighting conditions on the same roll.
    The other part of the Zone System - arguably the most important part - is the part concerned with visualization. One wants to be able to analyze the lighting and the scene and then visualize how it will render in the end print, depending on what exposure and development choices one makes.
    Sunny 16 works fine (in the right circumstances) when one is gathering information about lighting conditions. The trick is applying that information, when one does one's visualization. That requires a fair amount of experience in analyzing the character of the light and subject - how the shadow and highlight illumination compare - when the light is generally Sunny 16 light. A meter makes that analysis easier, but an experienced eye is pretty good as well.
    FWIW, when I use a meter in Sunny 16 circumstances I always perform a Sunny 16 analysis too - as a check.
     
  5. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    The zone system is completely applicable to roll films. You just work on the premise that the majority of the shots should be taken under analogous contrast range, and that there will be an oddball shot or two on the roll that has to be leveraged using some other tool - now relatively easy given the high-quality of modern VC papers.
     
  6. faberryman

    faberryman Subscriber

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    Most iterations of the zone system are based on reflective meter readings. Sunny 16 is incident based. You might want to look at the few incident metering variations on the zone system for guidance on how the zone system and Sunny 16 might work together.
     
  7. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    That's an easy equation to solve. Forget Sunny 16 and use a spot meter. Around here it's foggy one moment or one direction, sorta sunny another, and maybe really sunny somewhere else in the same scene. And it constantly changes. One moment you've got five stops of contrast, then suddenly twelve to contend with. A bit inland, there's quite a bit of forest fire haze in the air these days. You'd go nuts trying to consistently apply "Sunny-Whatever" to any of that. Then at high altitude, like I'm packing for now, sunny can be quite a bit more "sunny" than down here on the coast or in relatively hazy city environments; or it can snow. Maybe on a consistently rainy day I'll only do some token metering at the start, then pull either a Nikon or my
    Fuji 6x9 RF out from under my parka and wing it. In those cases, it helps to use a more forgiving film, which generally means
    a less precise film in terms of clean shadow separation - but that's something that can be sacrificed on low-contrast days.
    In open sun, esp in the mtns or desert, and given the cost of larger format film, it makes sense to work more precisely. So I do agree with the common horse sense theory, as long as that horse is carrying a spotmeter in the scabbard, just in case.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Me too.
     
  9. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    The Zone system is 180 degrees from Sunny 16. The Zone system makes extensive use of the spot meter to measure subject brightness (the amount out light reflected back from the subject) at various points and place them on the Zone scale. The Sunny 16 system based on known amount (i.e. the sun brightness is always the same) of light falling on the subject (not the amount reflected back from the subject).
     
  10. Paul Howell

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    First the zone system is based on the theory that you can made a correct exposure not for you see, for how you want to see the final print, AA called it visualization. I think visualization is often discounted when thinking about the zone system, folks focus on the technical aspects not on why AA developed the zone system in the first place. He shot roll film based on the zone system, both 35mm and 120. It is true that the system works best with sheet film but can be adapted to roll film. Carson Graves explained how he adapted the zone system for 35mm, in his book the Zone System for 35mm Photographers which in a nutshell is to expose for the shadows and change paper grades for the highlights. Not as elegant as developing for the high lights but it works. I roll short rolls of 35mm when I shoot the zone system, 4 to 6 exposures so that I shoot one subject then develop for the highlights.

    Second as mentioned sunny 16 is based on light falling on the subject not the light reflected from a small portion of the scene measured with a spot meter, you assume and hope that the correct exposure will provide open shadows and printable highlights, but in my experience it a matter of faith. While still in high school in the 60s we shot using sunny 16 because the school's only light meter was broken and had not been either fixed or replaced. In bright sunny days no issues, but for scenes with deep shadows, and at dusk, bracket and pray.

    When shooting in situations with very bright reflective surfaces such as snow or white beach sand, sunny 16 will give a record shot of the scene, if the sand falls into zone 6 you should get zone 6 on your final print. If you want zone 7 then you need to open up a stop. On the other hand I've shoot white sand that was so bright I had to stop down a stop of 2 to keep the sand from becoming completely blocked.

    With lots of experience visualizing a scene you can learn to adapt sunny 16 to the zone system, but it just seems to me less hit and miss to use a meter. If you don't want to carry a spot meter you can learn Beyond the Zone System and use an incident meter.
     
  11. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  12. Ko.Fe.

    Ko.Fe. Member

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    I know one guy who is using zone system metering with his Leica LTM and M.
    He cuts very short rolls to have it for same light.
    I see no difference between his and mine prints. Then I pay close attention with S16 in my head and Leica in my hands:smile:.
     
  13. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    jtk - how on earth did you come up with that nonsensical idea? Weston meters were only used before there was an alternative. I have one of those awful ole things, and it still works! But using it is kinda like forecasting the weather by examining the entrails of an owl. Once spotmeters showed up, that was the end of that primitive era. AA even made jokes about those. Zone shooters overwhelmingly prefer spot meters because you can easily compare discrete points in the scene.
    I certainly don't subscribe to the ZS as if it were a religion, like Minor White did, but do appreciate having it in my overall tool
    kit.
     
  14. Arklatexian

    Arklatexian Subscriber

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    Hmmmmm! All the Weston Master meters that I have owned were "reflected light" meters, just like the ones AA used. In the first books on the Zone System that were published, the Weston Master meter was shown. There was a "spot meter" in those days made by SEI and I am sure AA used it some but the Zone System was built around reflected light Weston I, II, and maybe III Master meters. And, of course the "spot meter" is a reflected light meter. However, back to "Sunny 16", I think you should continue with your reasoning until you are satisfied. I think you are on the right track...As to wasting 35mm film. The old saying that making a good picture requires f8 and being there. The most expensive part of that is being there, not the cost of a roll of film.....Regards!.
     
  15. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    Drew. chill. Your incapacity is getting in the way of understanding.
     
  16. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    Arklatexian.. you're right, Weston Master meters were part of Zone System instruction from the beginning (Oakland California).

    SEI did make a spot meter, but few bought it due to cost, availability and reliability. Gossen Luna Pro quickly became far more popular than Weston or Pentax due to ruggedness, accuracy, price, and versatility and was surely used by more Zone System practitioners http://www.jollinger.com/photo/meters/meters/gossen_lunapro.html

    Weston Masters were "reflected" OR "incident"...depended on the scene and how the photographer chose to use them. Gossen added spot-like versatility.

    Seemed like people who hiked the Sierras, AA's country, found spot meters too bulky and fragile, but not everybody is dedicated, energetic of physically fit..

    Trivia lovers quibble about who it was that brought Zone System to the fore, but it was Minor White who wrote the first published (1968) manual and who stressed the challenging previsualization side of Zone System: learning to see, specify, and use zones when viewing, exposing/processing, and printing the real colorful world in B&W. Ansel was far better known than Minor, thanks partially because he was better-marketed, a Californian and a mover/shaker within Sierra Club (unsupervised, we were able to handle literal piles of Ansel's prints when Sierra Club represented him from downtown San Francisco headquarters).
     
  17. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Subscriber

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    [
    Trivia lovers quibble about who it was that brought Zone System to the fore, but it was Minor White who wrote the first published (1968) manual and who stressed the challenging previsualization side of Zone System: learning to see, specify, and use zones when viewing, exposing/processing, and printing the real colorful world in B&W. Ansel was far better known than Minor, thanks partially because he was better-marketed, a Californian and a mover/shaker within Sierra Club (unsupervised, we were able to handle literal piles of Ansel's prints when Sierra Club represented him from downtown San Francisco headquarters).[/QUOTE]

    I have the first edition of Ansel Adams' 5 books, Camera, The Negative, the Print, Natural Light, and Artificial Light, copyright 1954. Visualization has always been the core of AA system, three chapters in the 1954 edition of the Negative. I attended a summer session at MIT with Minor White, I think MW's book was more clearly written. AA and MW were very different photographers, my impression is that MW was more abstract in his approach and did not the broad appeal of AA.

    AA used a number of meters, in his early work (1954) he only discussed Weston Meters used in reflective mode, you had to get close to the subject to read the shadows and high lights. Minor White told my session that he and AA would put tubes on Weston Meters to cut down the angle of view. I don't recall reading that AA used an incident meter for the zone system. The first person I know to adapt a incident meter to a zone like system was Phil Davis in Beyond the Zone System.
     
  18. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    AA did describe the incident meter in his books but recommended against it.
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I use incident meters for specific situations such as dark on dark and light on light, the rest of the time I have learned how to use reflectance light meters.
     
  20. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Personally I do use the incident meter as well as spot and other reflected light meter as well as the sunny 16 and its variations. What I wanted to say is that the Zone system doesn't involve the use of the incident meter. The sunny 16 rule based on a known brightness of the light source which is similar to measuring the light falling on the subject which the incident meter does. I do not say which approach is better but simply they are totally different.
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    That sums it up nicely.
     
  22. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    My ole Weston has a pop-off top, so sorta dual function. I never have actually used it for photography. AA's original SEI meter was auctioned off for $35 as I recall. I've backpacked the Sierras my entire life and carried a spotmeter ever since the inception of my Sinar days. AA quit backpacking around the age of 30 and started using a mule. I'm still at it at nearly 70, but now carry a little Ebony 4x5 folder on long trips rather than the Sinar or 8x10. Most people these days don't even know
    what a light meter is. I've had people stop when seeing me aiming a Pentax spotmeter and ask what kind of camera IT is. I've accidentally dunked spotmeters in snow runoff a couple of times in the mtns, and successfully dried them out later. But in the meantime, I got perfect exposures even of chromes simply from remembering the many many times I've metered similar scenes. Never have used "Sunny 16" except once as a kid when I borrowed my mom's box Brownie and took it up a cliff.
     
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