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.