Ansel Adams - Which Book?

Film Photography & Darkroom discussion

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Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Sun Aug 05, 2007 2:48 pm

CJBas wrote:Each of Adams' trilogy (Camera/Netative/Print) contain a great deal of valuable information. No mater what anyone tries to tell you the value of understanding the Zone System is trememdous.
The zone system is a fraud, and the books are full of falsehoods. Adams was not a scientist, and many of the things he says are flatly contradicted by Kodak's own scientific data. You can do the experiments yourself with film and paper, and prove it.
Adams goes into meticulous detail in explaining what it is and the relative effects of exposure and development on film.
Almost all of what he says is wrong, incomplete, or obsolete.
And that is what the system is really all about. He does show how to be precise with it beyond the point of practicality, but anyone explaining a methematecal of techincal principle will do the same. There's no need to be that precise in actual practice, but there is great value in understanding - to the point of it being instinctual - how exposure determines density and development controls contrast, and how to control your negatives by having an intuitive sense of balancing the two.
None of which is necssary. The ideal way to expose and develop film is to use a single developing time and make only slight alterations in printing contrast. The very foundations of the zone system rest on conceptual errors. He is mistaken in his basic thinking. Contrast manipulations should be very minimal. The ideal negative is produced using the exposure, development, and printing conditions that provide optimal image sharpness and the finest grain. None of this kind of thinking is to be found in anything that Adams wrote.

Anyone who tells you that such an understanding in idocy or nonsense obviously does not understand the relationship very well themselves.
The information required to make extremely high-quality prints is not that difficult to obtain. It's on the film and developer packages, though I would caution that developing times given by most manufacturers tend to be too long. I would suggest cutting them back by about 1/3. As for exposure, the ISO standard tends to over-rate film speed by about 1/2 stop. So, if you give your film about 1/2 stop more exposure than the meter indicates, and cut development a little (25-30%), your negatives should be generally of very high quality.
Adams' book The Print also can be very valuable for the darkroom worker. Sure some of what he recommends is his own personal taste. For example he only toned his prints in selenium for a few seconds. And he says he never used any other toner. Feel free to use whatever toner/s you feel fit your own work. But it can be a good idea to inow what those toners do, chemically, to the print. Also, personally I like a full selenium tone and not just a touch.
I have never used toners and don't care for them.
But his exposure and development techniques for paper are as valid and worthwhile now as they were when they were written. Light still acts just like it always did. All of the tips and techniques he talks are available elsewhere. But if you read The Print cover to cover, I really don't think you'll need another book on printing black and white negatives.
There are many good books on print-making. It's no mystery to make good prints. Again, just follow the directions supplied with the materials. Many of the papers available when Adams wrote his books have long been discontinued, and contact printing paper has all but disappeared from the market.


CJBas
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Postby CJBas » Sun Aug 05, 2007 4:46 pm

I've done the experiments myself, and Adams is right. Sorry, but exposure really does determine density and development really does determine contrast. And, whether you like it or not, the dynamic range of photo papers is nowhere close to that of real lirfe.

If someone wants to make the best use of the equipment and materials available to him it really is advisable to have a owrking knowledge of the chemical processes involved.

Simply calling someone a fraud will not change the facts.

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:35 am

CJBas wrote:I've done the experiments myself, and Adams is right. Sorry, but exposure really does determine density and development really does determine contrast. And, whether you like it or not, the dynamic range of photo papers is nowhere close to that of real life.
No, Adams was wrong about a great deal. It makes no difference whatsoever to the tonal quality of the print, what development you give your film over a broad range, if you adjust the printing paper contrast. That's why various grades of paper exist: to accommodate negatives of varying contrast, resulting from inconsistent development.

If film is not overdeveloped, tonal distribution is identical when paper contrast is adjusted:

"From visual examination, the print from N-2 development and the print from N development are identical in tonal distribution. The contrast of the highlights and lowlights [sic], and the contrast and tone of the mid-tones, are all the same."

http://www.butzi.net/articles/zoneVC.htm

Now, increasing development is poor practice on any account, because it causes excessive clumping of grain and loss of sharpness. So, for that reason, film development should be a brief as practical, coupled with a snappy grade of paper (about grade 3). This will yield optimal image quality.

Kodak's research indicates that low negative contrast coupled with higher print contrast gives better overall results than the reverse.

The point is that varying film development from one time to the next is a very poor practice. Yes, exposure must be sufficient to provide shadow detail. Increasing development cannot put density in the shadows. None of this makes the zone system correct. The way to proceed is simple:

If you are using miniature film (35mm) select a good grade 3 paper (such as Galerie) and expose several rolls of film under bright sunny conditions, being sure to include a full range of tones and shadows. A typical street scene with some white houses and trees will make an excellent test. Bracket your exposures in 1/2 stop increments over a long range, and record the exposures. Process the first roll at the recommended time, and print on the grade 3 paper. I can assure you it will be too contrasty. Process the second roll at -25%. This one should be better. From that point on, make fine adjustments to the development time so that the basic scene looks right on grade 3. Do not change the contrast of the paper during this phase of testing. This will become your permanent developing time for that film and developer combination, no matter what the scene contrast. Development time should not be adjusted for scene contrast. This is a conceptual error in the zone system. Minor changes in printing contrast may be valuable if the scene is a very flat one, but I make very few. Most of my negatives print perfectly on grade 3. I have found that Multigrade with an Ilford # 2 1/2 filter gives about the same contrast on my enlarger as Galerie #3.

If someone wants to make the best use of the equipment and materials available to him it really is advisable to have a working knowledge of the chemical processes involved.
Of course.

Simply calling someone a fraud will not change the facts.
No, calling the zone system a fraud helps to stop people from being fooled by the lying and deception that has gone on for decades...

Kodak says:

"Thus, should a negative of a short scale subject, such as an average building exterior taken on an overcast day, be developed to a higher gamma than a negative of the same scene taken in brilliant sunlight? The answer is generally no; both negatives should be developed alike. This is probably contrary to the practice which some professional photographers advocate. [This is a veiled rebuke of Adams and his followers.] The reasoning for this answer follows:
Although photographers speak of "important highlights" and "important shadows," for the most part it is actually the middle tones which are most important of all. Middle tones are, of course, the range of grays between highlights and shadows. Stated differently, middle tones of a negative or print are those densities which are not associated with toe or shoulder areas of the characteristic curve."

"It has been found through a series of comprehensive tests that for the great majority of scenes the middle tones should be reproduced at a gradient of 1.0 on a tone reproduction curve. This curve is a plot of densities in the print versus the logarithms of the luminances or "brightnesses" of corresponding areas in the scene. A gradient of 1.0 means that if there is a 10 percent difference between two tones in the scene, then these same tones should be reproduced with a 10 percent difference in the print. Generally speaking, the middle tones should be reproduced with a gradient of 1.0, even if this can be done only at a sacrifice of gradient in the highlights and shadows."

If, following the zone system, negatives are 'expanded' or 'contracted' to accommodate an unusually large or narrow luminance range, the mid-tones simply don't look right. The eye and brain perceive there's something wrong. The best bet is simply to leave the contrast alone, and keep the overall mid-tone gradient at about 1.0, just as Kodak says.

The fundamental approach of the zone system is to ignore the mid-tones altogether, and worry about placing the lightest and darkest areas on the extremes of the print scale. I cannot overemphasize that what Kodak says is right, and what Adams says is wrong.

Adams was wrong. Deal with it. Believe what you want, but I'll go with sound science over mythology and ignorance every time...

CJBas
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Postby CJBas » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:36 pm

Then try this:

Shoot a scene with the light source in the frame. Expose just as Kodak says and develop just as Kodak says.

What you will have is a negative where the highlight has blossomed, losing all trace of detail, and where there are no details at all in the shadows.

Print it on every contrast paper you can find. You will never get an acceptable print.

Then shoot the same scene, only doing what Zdams' (and countless others) advise: Expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights.

You'll have a fine negative.

The fact that modern day films are more forgiving than in the past does not negate how they work. If you think there are "unimportant" shadows and "uni8mportant" highlights in you work, by all means do whatever you want to and come back with only middle tones because that's what "most" people look for.

In my work there are no "unimportant" shadows or highlights detail. I want them all. And I get them. If anyone else thinks, as I do, that there are no "unimportant" details in their photographs, then they'd be best advised to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. To do otherwise WILL result in a loss of detail in either the shadows or the highlights or both.

Pim
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Postby Pim » Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:30 pm

If you want to shoot a scene on a cloudy day and your important highlights are only 3 or 4 zones higher then your shadows but you don't want to print a greycard, I will always develop n+1 maybe +2 because I still want to have whites in my print. But Ornello will have another argument, we're still believing the biggest fraud of the 20th century
Don't let your soul get digitalized, it just won't work!!

CJBas
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Postby CJBas » Wed Aug 08, 2007 4:37 pm

I would never recommend following the zone system as if it were a religion. There's no advantage in that. But I DO recommend understanding it and making use of the fact thatdencity and contrast really ARE controllable with the appropriate use of exposure and development.

To refuse to understand the materials you're working with and to discard tools and techniques that are at your fingertips - tools and techniques that can greatly improve the final outcome of your work - is not wise.

The negative, after all, is all you have left to work with in the darkroom once the film is developed. You can make all the test prints you want but you're still stuck with that negative...just as you exposed and developed it. That being the case, to put time and effort into learning and practicing what you can do in order to improve your chances of having not just an adequate negative but a fine one - one that gives you all the detail taht was in your original scene within a contrast ratio that make it both easy to print and to manipulate in the printing - is an intellectual effort well spent.

The example I gave of shooting a scene wherein the light source is within the frame is an extreme one. But an understanding of the zone system lets you see how it can be accomplished, giving you a good print of an otherwise impossible scene.

The fact remains that real life has a far greater dynamic range than does film, and film has a far greater dynamic range than does paper. Following the manufacturer's instructions will yield a tolerable print in most dituations. That's what they're meant to do. But if you want the best possible results it is helpful to understand the relationships involved in the materials you're using and to adjust your practice as need be for what you're trying to get.

But then, I use a compensating developer, highly diluted for the longest developing times I can get, and after the 1st 5 minutes let the film sit and develop statically for3-5 minutes at a time (depending on what I was shooting).

So shoot me. It produces marvelous negatives that I can enlarge to 16x20 with excellent results. I also tone every print that I intend to let leave my posession.

CJBas
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Postby CJBas » Wed Aug 08, 2007 10:01 pm

Let me say that Othello is absolutely correct that the zone system should not be taken as the word of God to be followed religiously. You can, but it’s really not necessary. It may have been back in the 30s, when film was less forgiving, but it’s certainly not now.

Back in the 70s there was a photographer (in the Northeast I think) who built a career on doing just that. He had a newsletter and a catalog of products he claimed to have modified and adapted for the Zone System. Everything he sold was grossly over priced. Even the Ilford paper he sold was done so at a highly inflated price when it was the same paper you could get from any photo dealer at 60% of what he was asking. He did give some highly erroneous advice to many photographers who paid dearly for it. (I won’t mention his name. He may still be alive. He was also known for bringing frivolous lawsuits against anyone who publicly criticized his operation.)

He was a fraud. But even he did offer some good tips here and there.

But Ansel Adams (to the best of my knowledge) never did what that guy did in selling “Zone System modified” equipment and paper at highly inflated prices. What Adams did was to quantify exposure: development relationships.

What many photography teachers, myself included, urge their students to do is to learn the zone system . . . and then forget it. But DO remember that adjusting exposure and development are a tool at a photographer’s disposal for producing the negative they want.

As for Adams’ books The Camera and The Print: Most of the cameras he talks about haven’t been in production for many years. Yet an SLR is still an SLR. A rangefinder is still a rangefinder. And a view camera is still a view camera (and they do still operate just like they did 100 years ago).

The Print doesn’t deal with chemicals so much as with light and it falling on paper. And light does still act just like it did in Adams’ lifetime. Yes the same information can be had from plenty of other sources. But if anyone reads The Print I think they will find that they really don’t need to read any other books on the topic; they need to start printing.

Adams shouldn’t be blamed for the cult leaders who did defraud many aspiring photographers in the latter half of the 20th century. Neither should his quantifying of the concept of adjusting exposure and development in order to produce an optimal negative from the scene you’re shooting be discarded just because some less than reputable people became fanatics about it.

Othello seems to agree that most, if not all, film manufacturers are (shall we say) ‘optimistic’ about the real sensitivity of their films. I loved Agfapan400 but it really wasn’t a 400 film. It was 200. When exposed at 200 and processed as such it produced brilliant negatives. Great film, but not a 400 speed film, no matter what Agfa said.

I think what Othello is reacting against are the people like the Northeastern photographer I mentioned earlier. And, if this is the case, I can’t agree with him more. You can use a spot meter to measure every bit of the scene you’re shooting if you want to. But there’s really no point in that. You can develop every sheet of film you shoot different from the one before if you want to. But there’s really no point in that either. Anyone who tells you that it is absolutely necessary in order to get the ‘perfect’ negative is full of it.

But to understand that you can shoot a scene containing extreme contrasts (such as one with the light source in the frame) by treating a 400 speed film as if it were really a 50, and then cutting development to 1/8th normal is a handy tool to have at your disposal. Likewise if you are shooting on an overcast day and what you shoot are relatively flat scenes, to understand that you can snap up those negatives by giving them more development is a handy tool to have at your disposal.

And the more tools you have at your disposal the more likely you are to produce the negatives you want.

That’s my position. And I don’t think Othello would disagree.

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:07 am

Pim wrote:If you want to shoot a scene on a cloudy day and your important highlights are only 3 or 4 zones higher then your shadows but you don't want to print a greycard, I will always develop n+1 maybe +2 because I still want to have whites in my print. But Ornello will have another argument, we're still believing the biggest fraud of the 20th century
If you always develop your film to satisfy a 'normal' sunny day (about 7 stops) the gradation will be about right for the vast majority of scenes.

If there are only four 'zones' in the scene, the print should reflect that. True, the darkest parts of the scene won't be black, and the lightest won't be white, but then they shouldn't be. That's the point. They shouldn't be. Pick a different scene if you want a wider tonal range. If the scene is 13 stops, nothing you do with development is going to make it look right. You must sacrifice shadow areas or highlight areas, or both, to preserve normal gradation.

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:42 am

CJBas wrote:Let me say that Othello is absolutely correct that the zone system should not be taken as the word of God to be followed religiously. You can, but it’s really not necessary. It may have been back in the 30s, when film was less forgiving, but it’s certainly not now.
At best. It is actually unclear whether there was actually any need for it then.
Back in the 70s there was a photographer (in the Northeast I think) who built a career on doing just that. He had a newsletter and a catalog of products he claimed to have modified and adapted for the Zone System. Everything he sold was grossly over priced. Even the Ilford paper he sold was done so at a highly inflated price when it was the same paper you could get from any photo dealer at 60% of what he was asking. He did give some highly erroneous advice to many photographers who paid dearly for it. (I won’t mention his name. He may still be alive. He was also known for bringing frivolous lawsuits against anyone who publicly criticized his operation.)
I'm not sure to whom you are referring, but John Sexton represents the extreme fringe of zonazism today.
He was a fraud. But even he did offer some good tips here and there.
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
But Ansel Adams (to the best of my knowledge) never did what that guy did in selling “Zone System modified” equipment and paper at highly inflated prices. What Adams did was to quantify exposure: development relationships.
No, that's not quite accurate. Adams said you should do so, and that you should expand and contract the contrast of negatives to adjust for scene contrast. This is incorrect, as the quote from Kodak states. They said that based on exhausitve research, the mid-tones should have a gradient of about 1.0.
What many photography teachers, myself included, urge their students to do is to learn the zone system . . . and then forget it. But DO remember that adjusting exposure and development are a tool at a photographer’s disposal for producing the negative they want.
Not quite. You should learn how to make a good, sharp, fine-grained image with today's marvelous materials. You need only start with grade 3 paper, a sunny clear day, and go from there. You don't adjust the film development once you establish the 'normal' time for a sunny clear day. You hardly change the contrast of the paper either. 95% of my negatives print on grade 3. If I want more contrast in the print, I pick a scene with more contrast.
As for Adams’ books The Camera and The Print: Most of the cameras he talks about haven’t been in production for many years. Yet an SLR is still an SLR. A rangefinder is still a rangefinder. And a view camera is still a view camera (and they do still operate just like they did 100 years ago).
Yes, camera operation is basically unchanged.
The Print doesn’t deal with chemicals so much as with light and it falling on paper. And light does still act just like it did in Adams’ lifetime. Yes the same information can be had from plenty of other sources. But if anyone reads The Print I think they will find that they really don’t need to read any other books on the topic; they need to start printing.
Papers have evolved quite a bit since the 1930s, and the wide selection available in 1940-1955 is lamentably diminished. On the other hand, the VC papers of today are much better than VC paper of yore, and they eliminate the need for stocking several grades. In addition, they allow subtle changes in contrast, which should be all you need. I seldom vary more than ½ grade from grade 3.
Adams shouldn’t be blamed for the cult leaders who did defraud many aspiring photographers in the latter half of the 20th century.
Well, hewre I'll have to disagree; the zs itself is a fraud. It rests on mistaken assumprtions.
Neither should his quantifying of the concept of adjusting exposure and development in order to produce an optimal negative from the scene you’re shooting be discarded just because some less than reputable people became fanatics about it.
An optimal negative is not always possible. Adequate exposure is an absolute requirement, however. Underexposed negatives cannot be salvaged by any known means. Negatives that are one stop overexposed are better than ones that are one stop underexposed. We must stop thinking that we can or should always try to get the optimal negative. This is not attainable in practice, unless you are a studio photographer. If you're dealing with outdoor, dynamic situations (sports, photojournalism, etc.) achieving adequate exposure is vital, but achieving perfect exposure is probably impossible. Photograph a rugby or soccer game from different angles, with the sun going behind the clouds here and there, and you'll see what I mean.
Othello seems to agree that most, if not all, film manufacturers are (shall we say) ‘optimistic’ about the real sensitivity of their films.
No, it's not their fault. It's the ISO standard that's at fault. The optimal film speed is about 2/3 ISO speed.
I loved Agfapan 400 but it really wasn’t a 400 film. It was 200. When exposed at 200 and processed as such it produced brilliant negatives. Great film, but not a 400 speed film, no matter what Agfa said.
The ASA standard was changed in 1959 or so, and fiilm speed numbers foubled. The old standard actually was better.
I think what Othello is reacting against are the people like the Northeastern photographer I mentioned earlier.
Yes, but more than that. It's the whole zs way of thinking to which I object. Contrast should not be manipulated much at all. Since I stopped doing that a number of years ago, my photographs look much better.
And, if this is the case, I can’t agree with him more. You can use a spot meter to measure every bit of the scene you’re shooting if you want to. But there’s really no point in that. You can develop every sheet of film you shoot different from the one before if you want to. But there’s really no point in that either. Anyone who tells you that it is absolutely necessary in order to get the ‘perfect’ negative is full of it.
Truer words were never spoken.
But to understand that you can shoot a scene containing extreme contrasts (such as one with the light source in the frame) by treating a 400 speed film as if it were really a 50, and then cutting development to 1/8th normal is a handy tool to have at your disposal.
If you do that gradation will suffer dramatically. Kodak discusses this in the quote I provided. You can't have it all.
Likewise if you are shooting on an overcast day and what you shoot are relatively flat scenes, to understand that you can snap up those negatives by giving them more development is a handy tool to have at your disposal.
A flat scene should look like a flat scene. If you don't want a flat scene, avoid flat scenes. Leave the contrast alone, for the most part.
And the more tools you have at your disposal the more likely you are to produce the negatives you want.
Yes, but you need to use them intelligently. Altering film development based on scene contrast is a mistaken notion.
That’s my position. And I don’t think Othello would disagree.
I have replied to the points individually.
Last edited by Ornello on Thu Aug 09, 2007 11:49 am, edited 3 times in total.

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:05 am

CJBas wrote:I would never recommend following the zone system as if it were a religion. There's no advantage in that. But I DO recommend understanding it and making use of the fact thatdencity and contrast really ARE controllable with the appropriate use of exposure and development.

To refuse to understand the materials you're working with and to discard tools and techniques that are at your fingertips - tools and techniques that can greatly improve the final outcome of your work - is not wise.
You don't need to manipulate film contrast, ever. If the scene is very flat or very contrasty, no matter what you do it won't look like a 'normal' scene. This why fill-in was invented. Even in old silent movies, you can see it when the cowboy walks up to the door of the cabin. All of a sudden there's light on his face that wasn't there when he rode up on his horse in the long shot. They used reflectors to open up the shadows. You had to get light under those big hats for the close-ups. Altering film development would not have helped.
The negative, after all, is all you have left to work with in the darkroom once the film is developed. You can make all the test prints you want but you're still stuck with that negative...just as you exposed and developed it. That being the case, to put time and effort into learning and practicing what you can do in order to improve your chances of having not just an adequate negative but a fine one - one that gives you all the detail taht was in your original scene within a contrast ratio that make it both easy to print and to manipulate in the printing - is an intellectual effort well spent.
It is impossible to make a negative that contains all the detail of a extremely contrasty scene yet retains normal gradation. You have to sacrifice something, just as Kodak says. The hard part is figuring out what can be given up. It's a delicate balancing act. Maintaining normal gradation should be the priority.
The example I gave of shooting a scene wherein the light source is within the frame is an extreme one. But an understanding of the zone system lets you see how it can be accomplished, giving you a good print of an otherwise impossible scene.
The image as you describe it would lack gradation. the mid-tones would suffer dramatically. Yes, you can try N-200,000 development and get a negative of the sun and a coal mine, but it would have really flat mid-tones.
The fact remains that real life has a far greater dynamic range than does film, and film has a far greater dynamic range than does paper.
'Brightness range', not 'dynamic range'. The latter refers to electronic signals or sound level ratios.
Following the manufacturer's instructions will yield a tolerable print in most dituations. That's what they're meant to do. But if you want the best possible results it is helpful to understand the relationships involved in the materials you're using and to adjust your practice as need be for what you're trying to get.
Actually, the manufacturers' recommendations are a starting point, and different firms use slightly different methodologies to determine development times. Typically, film development times given are too long.
But then, I use a compensating developer, highly diluted for the longest developing times I can get, and after the 1st 5 minutes let the film sit and develop statically for3-5 minutes at a time (depending on what I was shooting).
I operate in a very similar way. I use Acutol or FX-39 diluted 1+14 or 1+15 and agitate once per minute, with two gentle inversions.
So shoot me. It produces marvelous negatives that I can enlarge to 16x20 with excellent results. I also tone every print that I intend to let leave my posession.
I don't tone, but so what. I don't like the look of toned prints. That's a matter of taste.

Ornello
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Postby Ornello » Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:42 pm

CJBas wrote:Then try this:

Shoot a scene with the light source in the frame. Expose just as Kodak says and develop just as Kodak says.

What you will have is a negative where the highlight has blossomed, losing all trace of detail, and where there are no details at all in the shadows.
Right. You should avoid such situations. Altering development is a cure that's worse than the disease, though.
Print it on every contrast paper you can find. You will never get an acceptable print.
Right. Altering development, however, will never give you an acceptable print either.
Then shoot the same scene, only doing what Zdams' (and countless others) advise: Expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights.
Expose must be sufficient to achieve adequate shadow detail, but you don't alter development from one scene to the next. Films have a long range of acceptable exposure beyond the minimum.
You'll have a fine negative.
Not if you use N-200,000 development.
The fact that modern day films are more forgiving than in the past does not negate how they work. If you think there are "unimportant" shadows and "unimportant" highlights in you work, by all means do whatever you want to and come back with only middle tones because that's what "most" people look for.

In my work there are no "unimportant" shadows or highlights detail. I want them all. And I get them. If anyone else thinks, as I do, that there are no "unimportant" details in their photographs, then they'd be best advised to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. To do otherwise WILL result in a loss of detail in either the shadows or the highlights or both.
You have obviously misunderstood Kodak's text. Read it again:

"Thus, should a negative of a short scale subject, such as an average building exterior taken on an overcast day, be developed to a higher gamma than a negative of the same scene taken in brilliant sunlight? The answer is generally no; both negatives should be developed alike. This is probably contrary to the practice which some professional photographers advocate. [This is a veiled rebuke of Adams and his followers.] The reasoning for this answer follows: Although photographers speak of "important highlights" and "important shadows," for the most part it is actually the middle tones which are most important of all. Middle tones are, of course, the range of grays between highlights and shadows. Stated differently, middle tones of a negative or print are those densities which are not associated with toe or shoulder areas of the characteristic curve."

What Kodak is saying is that the gradation of the middle tones is most important of all. If you alter film development significantly, this gradation will certainly be affected. It's obvious in the print. I can always tell, in the prints made by zs adherents, that this has been done. The mid-tone gradation looks like crap. It is not the case that every print has to have a white and a black. That is nonsense. If it's a low-contrast scene, it should look like it.

CJBas
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Postby CJBas » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:11 pm

Right. You should avoid such situations. Altering development is a cure that's worse than the disease, though.


Why should I oavoid shooting a scene I want to shoot just because you don't know how to shoot it? Why should anyone not be allowed to shoot what they want to shoot simply because Othello has no idea how to shoot it and get a good negative out of it?

The objective of a photography teacher should be to teach students how to shoot what they WANT to shoot, not to give them a list of what they CAN'T shoot. Your one-size-fits-all approach removes a world of possibilites.

Print it on every contrast paper you can find. You will never get an acceptable print.
Right. Altering development, however, will never give you an acceptable print either.


Like hell it won't. I guess the show of some of my work doing exactly that really didn't exist. In many of those prints shadow detail is visible in even the darkest shadows while the light bulbs, which are the source of light for the scenes, are clearly delineated even to the point of showing the shading and the roundness in the bulbs themselves. You'll never achieve that by simply following manufacturers' recommendations. Mid tones and gradation reminf just fine.

Don't try to tell me that it's not possible. It is. I've been doing it for years. And my ability to accomplish that stems directly from understanding the principles of the zone system.

You expose and develop you own film any way you want. But don't try to tell me what I can and can't do, or that something that is beyond your grasp is beyond mine, or beyond anyone else's. Light sensitive materials are obviously far more malleable that you want to think they are.

Ornello
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Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 9:49 am

Postby Ornello » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:46 pm

CJBas wrote:Right. You should avoid such situations. Altering development is a cure that's worse than the disease, though.


Why should I oavoid shooting a scene I want to shoot just because you don't know how to shoot it? Why should anyone not be allowed to shoot what they want to shoot simply because Othello has no idea how to shoot it and get a good negative out of it?

The objective of a photography teacher should be to teach students how to shoot what they WANT to shoot, not to give them a list of what they CAN'T shoot. Your one-size-fits-all approach removes a world of possibilites.

Print it on every contrast paper you can find. You will never get an acceptable print.
Right. Altering development, however, will never give you an acceptable print either.


Like hell it won't. I guess the show of some of my work doing exactly that really didn't exist. In many of those prints shadow detail is visible in even the darkest shadows while the light bulbs, which are the source of light for the scenes, are clearly delineated even to the point of showing the shading and the roundness in the bulbs themselves. You'll never achieve that by simply following manufacturers' recommendations. Mid tones and gradation reminf just fine.

Don't try to tell me that it's not possible. It is. I've been doing it for years. And my ability to accomplish that stems directly from understanding the principles of the zone system.

You expose and develop you own film any way you want. But don't try to tell me what I can and can't do, or that something that is beyond your grasp is beyond mine, or beyond anyone else's. Light sensitive materials are obviously far more malleable that you want to think they are.
Neither I nor Kodak ever said it wasn't possible. I said it was pointless and ugly. You can do whatever you won't. It just won't look right. Note the 'should' in the following text:

Kodak says:

"Thus, should a negative of a short scale subject, such as an average building exterior taken on an overcast day, be developed to a higher gamma than a negative of the same scene taken in brilliant sunlight? The answer is generally no; both negatives should be developed alike. This is probably contrary to the practice which some professional photographers advocate. [This is a veiled rebuke of Adams and his followers.] The reasoning for this answer follows: Although photographers speak of "important highlights" and "important shadows," for the most part it is actually the middle tones which are most important of all. Middle tones are, of course, the range of grays between highlights and shadows. Stated differently, middle tones of a negative or print are those densities which are not associated with toe or shoulder areas of the characteristic curve."

"It has been found through a series of comprehensive tests that for the great majority of scenes the middle tones should be reproduced at a gradient of 1.0 on a tone reproduction curve. This curve is a plot of densities in the print versus the logarithms of the luminances or "brightnesses" of corresponding areas in the scene. A gradient of 1.0 means that if there is a 10 percent difference between two tones in the scene, then these same tones should be reproduced with a 10 percent difference in the print. Generally speaking, the middle tones should be reproduced with a gradient of 1.0, even if this can be done only at a sacrifice of gradient in the highlights and shadows."

This very explicit statement was based on exhaustive research performed by Kodak over many years. It is not just idle opinion. It is difficult at best to reconcile this with the zs philosophy (just develop it more or less so that it fits the paper). I refuse to do this. There are limitations to photographic processes, and some of those limitations are not necessarily in the films or papers, but in human perception. When you alter the gradient significantly from 1.0 the print just doesn't look right, and you cannot make it otherwise.

Some people just cannot accept that this is so, pointing proudly to their technical accomplishments. You may be one of them. Speaking for myself, I can't stand prints that show blatant compression or expansion, as most zs prints do. The manipulation is obvious and it looks like crap. It's not always a matter of what can be done, but of what should be done. That requires judgement, not mere technical manipulation. I hardly manipulate the contrast of my prints at all. It's amazing how often the same grade works perfectly. This is because of the S-shaped curve of films and papers. Usually, when faced with a scene of great brightness range, all that's necessary to do is to give more exposure. The S-shape of the film curve will keep the highlights from blowing out without having to do much at all. That is, provided you use a film intended for outdoor work. In the past, Kodak and others designed and manufactured films for a variety of applications, and the films were manipulated in the manufacturing process to yield curves that worked best for portraiture, commercial, and outdoor or press work. If you refer to old Kodak film data books you will learn this. T-Max 400 film, for isntance, is a poor fit for outdoor work because of its H&D curve. Tri-X Pan is far better, and it allows a wide range of exposures to accommodate these difficult scenes without complaint. The film is designed to handle it. Fuji Neopan 400 and HP5 Plus are similar to Tri-X Pan. So, I don't have to manipulate my film at the development stage because I understand the charactersistics of my negative materials.

CJBas
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Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 4:06 pm

Postby CJBas » Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:47 pm

It is true that manufacturers’ recommendations will apply nicely to 80-90% of photographs taken. That’s not the point. The point is that the 10% on either end are within the reach of films, but cannot be produced by following manufacturers’ recommendations. And an understanding of the simple concept, “Expose for shadows. Develop for highlights.” (a brief condensation of the zone system) will enable a photographer to shoot those scenes as well. The fact that you don’t want to shoot them does not negate their value.

The following photograph could never have been made by limiting myself to manufacturer’s recommendations.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11201989@N02/1078045619/

The light sources for the scene are those lights in the picture. And no film is made with the ‘intention’ of shooting a negative such as this. Yet it is obviously within reach.

If you don’t want to make photographs such as this, fine. But to tell others that they should avoid obtaining the information that allows them to do this is bordering on being Adamsphobic.

Of course artistic and aesthetic judgment are required. But without technical knowledge someone’s artistic vision has no way of getting into the reality of a photograph. A photographer needs to be a technician if he is to get the most out of his equipment and materials, just as a painter needs to understand light and perspective as well as characteristics of the materials he’s using.

There is no information regarding photography that ‘should not be learned’ simply based on the fact that 80% of their photographs can be made with it.

For anyone interested the linked photo was shot on Ilford’s HP5 (? whatever they call their 400 film), rated at 50, exposed for about 35 minutes and developed in HC-110 1:63 giving the film 1/8th recommended development. Normal treatment would have resulted in the lights blossoming and no detail in the shadows at all.
Last edited by CJBas on Sat Aug 11, 2007 12:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

Ornello
Posts: 833
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 9:49 am

Postby Ornello » Fri Aug 10, 2007 8:09 am

CJBas wrote:It is true that manufacturers’ recommendations will apply nicely to 80-90% of photographs taken. That’s not the point. The point is that the 10% on either end are within the reach of films, but cannot be produced by following manufacturers’ recommendations. And an understanding of the simple concept, “Expose for shadows. Develop for highlights.” (a brief condensation of the zone system) will enable a photographer to shoot those scenes as well. The fact that you don’t want to shoot them does not negate their value.
You are misinterpreting “Expose for shadows. Develop for highlights.” What this means is that shadow detail is controlled in exposure. Highlight density is controlled in development. This has nothing to do with the zone system. It is merely a statement of how film works.
The following photograph could never have been made by limiting myself to manufacturer’s recommendations.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11201989@N02/1064843449/
This is undoubtedly true.
The light sources for the scene are those lights in the picture. And no film is made with the ‘intention’ of shooting a negative such as this. Yet it is obviously within reach.

If you don’t want to make photographs such as this, fine. But to tell others that they should avoid obtaining the information that allows them to do this is bordering on being Adamsphobic.

Of course artistic and aesthetic judgment are required. But without technical knowledge someone’s artistic vision has no way of getting into the reality of a photograph. A photographer needs to be a technician if he is to get the most out of his equipment and materials, just as a painter needs to understand light and perspective as well as characteristics of the materials he’s using.

There is no information regarding photography that ‘should not be learned’ simply based on the fact that 80% of their photographs can be made with it.

For anyone interested the linked photo was shot on Ilford’s HP5 (? whatever they call their 400 film), rated at 50, exposed for about 35 minutes and developed in HC-110 1:63 giving the film 1/8th recommended development. .
I'm glad you posted such a speldid example of severly compressed tonal range. The photograph in question shows what I object to, and exactly why Kodak wrote what they did. The scale has been compressed to the point that the overall contrast is very weak. If you say you like that effect, fine, I cannot demand that you share my aesthetic sensibility. The tonal weakness cannot, however, be dismissed by the wave of a hand. It is a perfect example of technical wizardry, but the result is not pleasing to the eye. I have watched many hours of film noir made in the 40s and 50s, and I have seen many such scenes lit by street lamps. The dramatic shadows and burned-out light sources are quite effective when the negative is processed and printed normally.

I recommend watching black-and-white movies from this period to get a good idea of how to expose and print your film. The image you show here is unsatisfactory from a tonal perspective. It is aesthetically unpleasing, and to me unacceptable. I am at a complete loss to underdstand why you think this is a good photograph.

http://www.filmforum.org/films/essentialnoir.html
Normal treatment would have resulted in the lights blossoming and no detail in the shadows at all
But aesthetically that would have been far more pleasing. You must recognize that getting shadow detail in some situations simply isn't practical, and forcing the situation through contraction results in severe losses in overall print quality. Again, that's why fill-in was invented...

If you really want to make a better photograph of such a scene, it is not done by altering development, but by lighting. If you are familiar with location photography and cinematography, you know that pros bring tons of lighting equipment with them on their assignments and sets. The answer here is not reduced development but more light on the subject.

http://www.theasc.com/magazine/oct04/vilmos/page1.html#

http://www.sonypicturesstudios.com/serv ... hting.html

There are several illustrated examples in Adams's books in which he claims adjusting development will make a better image. In each of these cases what he really needed was some kind of lighting set-up. One of my main complaints about the zs is precisely this. To me, the zs photographer is lazy; when he should be figutring out how to light his scene, he's trying to figure out how to compress 47 stops into 6, using N-2000 development. You don't have to accept what's given. You can change and improve the lighting. That will always work better than zs manipulations.


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