Author Topic: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…  (Read 4169 times)

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Gavin Seim

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Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« on: October 26, 2011, 11:36:50 PM »
And How it Can Change Your Life in 15 Minutes...

I've been working on this one for awhile. This approach to seeing is so valuable and everyone should be using it. Everyone... Gav

http://f164.com/the-zone-system-for-digital/10/2011/
Gavin Seim. Portraitist, Pictorialist. Founder of PPS... http://seimstudios.com
I love talking shop, but expect honesty from me.

EldonPhoto

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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2011, 07:23:46 AM »
Maybe you should write a book on photography Gavin...

The article is really good. I'm looking forwards to consciously thinking about it next time I'm out with my camera.

Thanks!
Website/Blog - http://www.eldonyoder.com/ [nofollow]

Gavin Seim

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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2011, 10:46:11 AM »
Thanks Eldon. I may get there eventually. But I know from writing fiction with my brother juts how much work a book is. I have some ideas in the back of my head, but I'm taking it slow.

Let us know how it works. If you really out this into practice everything will change and it will put you so far ahead of the curve.
Gavin Seim. Portraitist, Pictorialist. Founder of PPS... http://seimstudios.com
I love talking shop, but expect honesty from me.

alansf

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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2011, 11:53:22 PM »
Well done.  In the old days it was mandatory because your meter might only get average readings.

TSSP

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    • M. David Farrell, Jr.
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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2011, 02:31:38 PM »
 A spot meter alone, without adequate knowledge on how it works and/or how it sees the world can be a dangerous thing in some one's hands.  With the power of a spot meter....they have the ability to ruin many photographs. [[ Personally, I think this speaks to the fact that the price for joining the "professional photographer's cohort" should involve an entrance exam.  Similar to the PPA craftsman and master-photographer designations (not even sure if they still do those or not).  Those tests were hard, long and involved a lot of knowledge that jo-sixpack and socker-mom-sally just didnt have the time to learn.]]  Same thing on the inner workings of a spot meter...dont use it unless you know how.

Meh- We all could complain about the state of affairs with everyone owning a camera now a days.

I think that its great that you have found the ZS and are preaching its message to all that will listen!

The ZS is great in the darkroom because it was an entire method of sensetomitry. Running true speed film tests, plotting your own response curves, keeping meticulous notes about how you mix chemistry, with what water, and at what temperatures with which manufacturer's run of a specific developer etc etc....  ad infinitum.

The ideas of previsualization and the breaking up the tonal scale into zones is only a small portion of the process.  The relationships between highlights and shadows (contrast) in a scene will not change if your meter isnt calibrated (see: K factor, or the built in manufacture's bias that is built into every meter ), but what your meter, digital or analog, thinks is ISO/ASA 100 may not be the same sensitivity ISO/ASA that your camera wants. I have seen exposure graphs of meters vs digital sensors vary significantly depending on the manufacturer. There are automated calibration methods out there, such as those offered by sekonic to calibrate their higher end handheld meters. These involve using a stepped zone scale calibration target and software with algorithms that evaluate the target and create a metering profile for your specific sensor. Sekonic's DR-758 can store and utilize up to 3 different camera sensor/film response profiles for metering.

All that calibration and metering so that your meter can see a scene and it say "I need X amount of Lux/FootCandles/EV" and your camera say "Give me X amount of Lux/FootCandles/EV"....everyone is happy and on the same highly calibrated page. :-p

Even with digital tech on our side, there are still variables to overcome if you are looking for a more "ZoneSystem" like precision.



M. David Farrell, Jr.

Buying a Nikon does not make you a photographer.  It makes you a Nikon owner.

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Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. ~ Imogen Cunningham

No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.  ~Edward Steichen

Gavin Seim

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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2011, 03:09:11 PM »
Good thoughts David. Spot metering is indeed messy is misused. But if zones concepts are applied it becomes very simple. All it takes it a basic concept of how it's designed to work to get started. And yes PPA does still offer degrees which is pretty cool.

As for all the other aspects of the ZS, they indeed are pretty endless. I keep digging deeper. The other aspects, meter calibration and beyond are all worthy things to study.

That said I think one reason the Zones System gets left behind is because it's often presented along with so much technical stuff and details all as one. Because of that they think it's complex. While it can be used in a complex manner, it's simple at it's core.

I would disagree that the visualization and tonal scale are a small part of the process. I think they are the very core of the process. Anyone right now can use spot metering and the concept of the Zones. With a handheld meter or in camera, the principles work. Meter calibration and beyond are valid, but not needed to "start" mastering tone. Often I feel like even those who know the ZS get so caught up in making it complicated that they don't really even apply it themselves.

While I would like to see everyone dig deeper into Zones (there's some great books out there) my goal here was just get people applying the concepts of visualization, zones and metering. Once they see how powerful that is they should.
Gavin Seim. Portraitist, Pictorialist. Founder of PPS... http://seimstudios.com
I love talking shop, but expect honesty from me.

TSSP

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Re: Why You NEED the Zone System for Digital…
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2011, 03:49:42 AM »
Well put

Previsualization and the concepts of zones are the foundation stones on which the core elements involved in the taking of the image and carry over to the developing and printing of the image.  They are fundamentally essential and the basis for all the complexities that make up the ZS in its entirety.  There is no denying that.

To support the title of your original post "Why you NEED the ZS...": these fundamentals are crucial in essentially reteaching how the photograph is approached.  Primarily slowing down the image making process.  Facts are that doing math, taking spot readings and envisioning an image before you take it forces the photographer to slow down and take less photographs.

Take less photographs, yes, less. Quality not quantity.

As for the complexity of the ZS and to me the even more complicated BTZS, it is all an effort to gain the precision and consistency that are inherent in digital technology that now requires relatively little fiddling with.

In some ways it has gotten easier, but the tenants of the process familiarity with materials and having the mental flexibility to equate abstract variables of exposure to tonal qualities are still the same and no less essential.
 
M. David Farrell, Jr.

Buying a Nikon does not make you a photographer.  It makes you a Nikon owner.

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Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow. ~ Imogen Cunningham

No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.  ~Edward Steichen


 

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