Placing The Shadows on Zone 4

Discussion in 'Talk About Techniques' started by Ian-Barber, Aug 6, 2016.

  1. David M

    David M Active Member

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    This has intrigued me.
    I've been doing a little web searching and found others who have defended Mr Picker and pointed out that he did use a densitometer for his work. I also found that his actual working method evolved into something rather different. He placed the highest value in the scene (presumably omitting specular highlights) on Z8 and let the shadows fall where they would. This is how he described his method for the Picker print that I have. He even described the kind of light that I should use to view it.
    It seems that we are not the first ones to come to this debate and that it has all been played out on another forum, at greater length, perhaps with more erudition and a little less courtesy. I have no wish to repeat old quarrels. My apologies to anyone I may have offended.
    I did find two sites that describe, perhaps better than me, the system that I had in mind for determining personal EI and developing time by using an enlarger and one's own eyes. There may well be more, but two, including the founder and editor of View Camera, seemed enough. I've already mentioned John Blakemore.

    Steve Simmons, Editor of View Camera. Sadly, it has just ceased publication
    http://www.viewcamera.com/pdf/2006/VC_Getting Started.pdf

    And Tim Lanyon
    http://www.timlaytonfineart.com/blo...black-and-white-proper-proofs-in-the-darkroom
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  2. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Hi David,

    Sorry, I wasn't trying to be an arse...rather, simply trying to correct a statement that could be misunderstood. Yes, Fred did "boil down" the teachings of St. Ansel, Minor White, etc, to a much simpler technique, but determining film speed was never done by eye; the eye is simply not precise enough. Determining proper Zone VIII, however, was a visual exercise.

    Fred did offer a service whereby you exposed your film following the technique as outlined in the Zone VI Workshop book, then you sent the series to him and he measured each negative on a densitometer to determine 0.10 above fb+f. He would punch a hole in the correctly exposed negative and, if you had kept careful notes, you would then have your own personal EI for that film and your equipment. Early on, I sent my film to him, but in later years I got my own densitometer. Nowadays, I use it to determine proper Zone VIII density, too.

    Fred was an inspirational teacher and a gentle sole. I enjoyed many visits with him and always brought prints for him to see. I was always nervous, of course, when showing him my work, but was also "floating on a cloud" when one or two prints were pulled from the stack as being "good."

    I, too, have all the Zone VI Newsletters, every book he ever published, and two of his fine prints hanging on the walls of my home.

    Ian - Fred Newman does offer a testing service (or, at least, he did last I knew), but his service is all based on BTZS principles. Not saying there's anything wrong with that...but, I question things like my film speed not being determined using my camera/lens/meter/etc. I'm sure Phil Davis would argue otherwise! ;)
     
  3. David M

    David M Active Member

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    Hello there.
    I didn't think you were trying to be anything but helpful and friendly. I'm glad of the information. As Merlin said to Wart: "No knowledge is wasted." Or something similar...
    You've spurred me on to further thought about eye-based systems. Naturally, they all need some precision in exposure, development and equipment set-up. One thing I've not seen in this thread is the need to develop a normal load of film each time, as developing one sheet in enough solution for six may give a slightly different result. Not significant for picture making but probably enough to shift density and create a measurement error. Consistent agitation, too, is vital.
    What I did discover was that it's best not to look for the last small difference itself. A better way is to make the usual series of exposures (or dev times?) and then look for the first pair where no difference can be seen, which is a easier to do consistently (under consistent light of course). Then, the adjacent pair is the critical one.
    Like you, I found BTZS... erm.... well... not for me, shall we say?
    And then, after all that, it's the pictures that count. Or perhaps, it's not really the pictures at all, but the making of them.
     
  4. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    So far we have identified three options
    1. Expose the shadows for ZIII
    2. Expose the shadows for ZIV
    3. BTZS
    Which are you practicing.

    I personally, seem to move towards ZIII and use 1/2 box speed of the film.
     
  5. David M

    David M Active Member

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    Not BTZS! I can't imagine why anyone would need all those data-points while clinging to the darkcloth in a strong breeze. And I'm not sure I really understood it either.
    I seem to have two systems of exposure. Firstly, with roll-film, I use an incident meter, although I wave it about a bit before taking the reading in a sort of rain-dance to propitiate the gods of exposure. I examine the subject and hold the dome in the "right" sort of lighting, corresponding to the important parts of the subject. With care, you can do this with a remote subject. I think this may be the best method for roll film because each frame is different and can't be given individual plus or minus treatment. I rate FP4 at 50 for this. When in doubt, I err on the side of slightly (1/3 stop) more exposure.
    With sheet film I use a Pentax meter and I tend to look for Zone Two. Then I check whatever high values seem significant in the scene. Each scene is different, so decisions have to be made.
    I used to take wonderful notes, supplemented by a little diagram showing where the values lay. I'm sure it was good for me as making the notes acted as an excellent checklist.
    After a while, I noticed that, apart from the plus and minus development instructions, I ignored the notes entirely when printing so I devised a different system. I took some sturdy black plastic bags of the right size and cut off the corners at the opening. Two cut corners is Normal dev; one cut corner is N Minus; a V-shape is Plus. I cut another bag with pinking shears for Any Other Business. So click the shutter, put the holder into the right bag and fold over the end. This means it's easy to distinguish each group of negs in the dark when unloading film.
    It is a little while since I've taken out an LF camera, because I've been doing some pictures of parts of indoor plants on 5x4. I've come to the end of that project and no new one has come along.
    Although I still have a darkroom, I seem to have switched entirely to scanning my negs. Because of that, I develop very much softer negs than for wet printing so I've reduced my times and also slightly reduced my agitation.
    Once upon a time, I processed all sheet film in trays. I would still do that, but I was very careless with using Nitromors and had eczema rather badly. Developer really stung! As for fix... I switched to using a Combiplan tank, which seems to work well. I could still use trays with thin gloves, of course.
    The sequence is:
    All at 20°C.
    Plain filtered water, about two minutes with a coupe of inversions > Developer, thirty seconds of firm inversions, then one every thirty seconds > Plain water "stop," one inversion then left to stand about four minutes, telling myself that this will improve the shadows. > Ordinary fix with intermittent agitation. > Then, rather oddly, I put the used first water bath water back into the tank and carry the tank to the bathroom for washing. Tidy the darkroom while washing. Washing is fill and dump rather than continuous flow. > Wetting agent, agitate, check for proper wetness, drain and hang up in darkroom. Leave well alone until dry. Sometimes I tiptoe in after twenty minutes or so to touch the droplet in the bottom corner.
    My darkroom is waterless so I have evolved this system. One day, I should really put in a water supply but the layout of the house makes it tricky.
    As you will see, this is a fine example of "Do as I say, not as I do."
    I suspect this is more information than any reasonable person could possibly need.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  6. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    I have tested all the films I shoot using my cameras, shutters, meter, development technique, etc. In testing, I look for about 0.10 density above fb+f for Zone I exposure and 1.25 - 1.35 density for Zone VIII, if printing on silver gelatin papers.

    Exposure in the field, for me, is a dynamic situation. For sheet film, I'll find those deeper shadow areas where I want to maintain texture and place them in Zone III. Then, I'll find the high values where I want some detail and place them on Zone VIII. If everything falls where I want it, then that's a 'normal' scene for me. If not, then I need to make some decisions. Do I want to favor the high values and let the shadows drop into deeper black? Are the shadow values critical to my interpretation of the scene? If yes, and the high values are now beyond Zone VIII, should I consider a different development strategy? N- development? Pyro development? Many decisions need to be made in the field; all part of what I think of as pre-visualization (to use Ansel's term.)

    For roll film, since I don't have the luxury of custom processing for a single frame I'll typically employ what my friend Fred Picker coined MPD; Maximum Printable Density. He theorized that since Zone VIII is the highest zone whereby some texture is retained, why not meter and expose for that zone and let the shadows fall where they may. I've used that technique for years and you might be surprised how well it works out. Other times, though, if I'm shooting in the desert, for example, where very bright conditions are typically found I will use something like FP4+ and develop it in pyro. This combination IMO can hold an extreme range of values.

    Basically, what it all boils down to is years of experience to determine what works best for you. What I do or what any other photographer does is really irrelevant. It's nice to have that info as a starting point, but that's all it is. For example, when I first started using LF (about 40 years ago) I knew that Fred and Ansel used Tri-X and HC-110. If it was good 'nuff for them, it was certainly good 'nuff for me! That's all I used for many, many years.

    Oh, BTZS? Too much technical crap for me. :)
     
  7. David M

    David M Active Member

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    A very interesting account. Thank you.
    How are you printing your images? Silver-gelatin suggests wet printing, but "if printing on..." suggests that you have more strings to your bow.
     
  8. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    Interesting @David M I forgot to ask if you have a website online
     
  9. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    David,

    I enlarge 5x4 negs on silver gelatin paper and contact print 10x8 negs on both silver gelatin (slow, chloro-bromide emulsions mostly) and pt/pd. I have also made the occasional digital neg for pt/pd printing.
     
  10. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura New Member

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    I take strong issue with this. Whether for film speed / contrast index testing or "picture making," varying results with different numbers of sheets is a clear indication that insufficient active developer agent has been used.

    One can find numerous instances of "Internet wisdom" stating that a certain amount of various developers "works fine." I call bullocks. Each developer manufacturer either provides directly or one can readily calculate from the information they do provide how much concentrate / stock solution is necessary per 'roll' (80 square inches) of film. That minimum quantity is fixed regardless of how much one dilutes the concentrate / stock solution for a desired working solution. In my experience, observing the minimum provides absolutely repeatable results, regardless of number of sheets simultaneously developed or 'scene' content.
     
  11. David M

    David M Active Member

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    That's a very good point. Thank you. I was quoting things I had read and accepted without proper questioning and that's not a good thing to do. It's not a problem I have encountered myself.
    You mention scene content, and I can also recall reading advice that scenes used when testing should all be "normal". I'm glad I didn't mention that.
    May I ask you about techniques that use very dilute developer and very long times? I believe it's called "stand" or "semi-stand" and the point seems to be that the developer really is close to the point of exhaustion, thus automatically limiting highlight density when the active agent is entirely consumed. I've never done this, but I am curious.
    It would be charitable to suppose that "works fine" means "works fine for the writer."
     
  12. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura New Member

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    I've never done that either, so can only respond with information gleaned from sources I consider reliable.

    Stand and semi-stand approaches rely on local developer exhaustion. That is, due to lack of agitation, fresh developing agent is not made available in higher-density areas of a negative, thus providing a natural limit to how dense those areas can become. Meanwhile, low-density areas don't use up the active developing agent, thus proceeding to develop more completely. The reasons for agitation are to ensure a constant supply of active developing agent in all areas and avoid streaking when bromide products of development fall away. Since stand development not only accomplishes the local exhaustion and highlight suppression that are its goal, but can also result in uneven, streaky results, a compromise evolved where minimal, infrequent agitation is used. Striking the balance between density compensation and unmottled, streak-free results requires much trial and error. With come developers, it is reportedly an unreachable goal.

    Given the challenges of stand and semi-stand development, I have difficulty imagining how one would reliably establish a film speed and development time using them. Perhaps someone with experience doing so will chime in.
     
  13. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Sal,

    I've never used stand or semi-stand style of development, but I have used minimal agitation quite frequently. Minimal agitation, as I use it, is to agitate for the first minute, followed by 10 secs every 3rd minute thereafter. Rather than use this method to control contrast, I use it to enhance edge effects using pyro developers. I have had no issues with mottling, etc, developing roll or 5x4 film in a tank, and very minor issues developing 10x8 in hangers. And, since I've had slightly uneven development issues using the hangers with other developers and agitation techniques, I'm thinking it's me! ;) FWIW, I've read arguments from folks I respect saying that minimal, semi-stand, and stand methods provide no real benefit, but, to my eye, when using something like Pyrocat-HD the edge effects look more pronounced vs, say, continuous agitation in a Jobo Expert Drum.
     
  14. David M

    David M Active Member

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    I had believed that were were finished with this topic, but I came across some rather different advice from Kodak. Their method of establishing a personal EI and Normal development time is refreshingly simple. I don't think we can accuse Kodak of ignorance or technical incompetence. You will see that it assumes 35mm or 120 film, but film is film, after all.
    It's from a booklet called "Black-and-white Tips and Techniques for Darkroom Enthusiasts."

    HOW TO PRODUCE A GREAT
    BLACK-AND-WHITE NEGATIVE
    [...]
    After all, a great negative is the first step toward a great
    print! You can increase your chances of producing those
    great negatives if you establish a benchmark for the way you
    work.
    Follow the procedure below, and set your standards
    for success.

    FIRST, A FEW TRIAL RUNS
    Select a scene in which the subject and lighting will stay the
    same over a half hour, or set up a studio still life where you
    can control the lighting. The subject should be easy to
    meter—with little doubt about the appropriate aperture and
    shutter speed for a given film-speed rating.
    • Load your camera with the film you use most often in
    your photography—the logical one to use to set your
    benchmark. Then set your meter at a film speed four
    stops lower than the actual speed of the film. For
    example, with PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400 Film,
    use 25.
    • Meter the scene, and set your exposure as indicated by
    the meter. Expose one or more frames of film. Advance
    the film, cover the lens, and trip the shutter to produce a
    blank frame. Then close down the aperture by one stop
    (or increase the shutter speed) to record the same subject
    at a film speed of 50.
    • Repeat this procedure at progressively higher speeds
    until you have exposed the film at a speed about four
    stops higher than you’d ever expect to use with that film.
    • Expose several more rolls of film in exactly the same
    way.

    SEE FOR YOURSELF IT S PART OF THE
    PROCESS
    Now process one of the rolls by following your usual
    procedures (developer choice, dilution, agitation, etc.) at the
    temperature you normally use. The specific development
    time is not particularly important as long as you record it.
    Place the processed film on a light table and visually judge
    which image is “correct.” Confirm your selection by printing
    the negative that looks correct on POLYMAX II RC Pape
    with a grade 2 filter, and by printing the negatives with one
    stop more and one stop less exposure (the adjacent negatives
    on your test roll).
    This printing step is critical. The “best” negatives for
    different films can look very different. The only way to be
    sure which will make the best print is to print the negatives.
    With this first roll, you might determine that the fourth
    exposure yields the best print. (With T-MAX 400 Film, this
    would be the exposure made at EI 200.) The development
    time you used for this roll would then be your best time for
    film you expose at EI 200
    Repeat the procedure by processing two more of the
    exposed rolls with different development times, adding or
    subtracting two minutes. Examine the negatives on a light
    table, and determine which ones will print best on
    POLYMAX II RC Paper. This will determine your best
    development times for two more exposure indexes. Then fill
    in the gaps or expand the range of development by
    processing the remaining exposed rolls at other development
    times.

    THE RESULTS ARE WORTH IT
    This test may take a half day of your time, but it will be time
    well spent. You’ll know the optimum development times for
    the film at a variety of speeds—development times that are
    optimum for your equipment and techniques.
    As long as your equipment and techniques stay the same,
    you can be confident of your results.

    THE BASICS OF A GOOD NEGATIVE
    The published processing recommendations for Kodak
    black-and-white films are intended as starting points for
    establishing your optimum times. Experiment by modifying
    the starting-point time and temperature to determine what
    produces the best results with your processing and printing
    equipment and techniques.
    And remember, consistent quality requires consistent
    control of time, temperature, agitation, and other variables.
    If you don’t have a lot of experience with a particular film
    or film/paper combination, simply judge your technique by
    the print it produces
     

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