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Zac Stein January 13th, 2003 08:43 PM

Heya Jeff,

From what i have read on this thread, wouldn't it be easier for me to simply do a meter off a gray card, like 18% or 13% than find some grass? it just seemed logical all of a sudden.


Jeff Donald January 13th, 2003 08:59 PM

Grey cards are fine as long as they are in the same quality of light as your subject. That's not always possible because of distance or safety factors.


Ross Milligan January 14th, 2003 08:39 AM

<<<-- Originally posted by Jeff Donald : the Zone System was made famous by Ansel Adams. A famous US photographer of the American West. Jeff -->>>

Now your talking..... I did a project on Adams over 25 years ago while at photography college. In this digital age I still point my students in his direction if they want to see B&W at its best.

I look forward to your post on the zone system.... it was tough 25 years ago to grasp - is it any easier now that I'm bald I wonder ???.....


Zac Stein January 14th, 2003 08:44 AM

Yeah Yeah, I agree!!

Explain this zone system to me, make me understand, pick my brain, i wanna know!! heh heh


Jeff Donald January 14th, 2003 09:07 AM

I'll have some things for you to read this weekend.


Rhett Allen January 14th, 2003 03:15 PM

Light meter suggestions
I have and always use a light meter. I have 2 Sekonic light meters the newest one, and the one I use most is an L-508 Zoom master. I believe the newest one is a L-608 but it is pretty much the same. The nice thing is that it also has settings for Cinematic shutter speeds. The metering in your camera will probably give you acceptable results under most circumstances. I shoot mostly slide film and it is not very forgiving so I always double check the exposure. I also shoot under strobes so I use the meter to set my lights.
If you want to test your camera to find it's strong and weak points buy a couple of rolls of 36 exposure color slide film and shoot the northern sky at mid-day without clouds at every stop on your camera (with the approriate shutter speed). Process the film normally and view the frames to see which are most acurately exposed. You can also do this with B&W film and compare it to a grey card. It will show you where and how the lens is performing at different appatures.
As far as lenses are concerned, most "fast" lenses use better glass and will give you better results. A fixed focal length lens will usually give better results than a zoom lens will also. Having said that my lens arsenal consists of a 28-80 f2.8, 70-210 f2.8, 50 f1.4, 100 f2 macro, 85 f1.4 my favorite, 300 f2.8, 400 f4 and a few other duplicates and teleconverters. As you can see I use the zooms for a lot of "quickie" stuff but the "fixed" lenses are for portraits where I want the best quality and don't need the range of zoom.
The nice thing about buying a long fast telephoto lens (400mm) for a Canon 35mm is that if you stick it on an XL1 it works out to be HUGE (3200mm)!

Have fun!

Dean Sensui January 14th, 2003 05:41 PM

I look forward to your post on the zone system.... it was tough 25 years ago to grasp - is it any easier now that I'm bald I wonder ???.....

Ross -->>>


The zone system is, to summarize, a method that integrates exposure and processing to get repeatable, predictable results with a particular type of film, developer and paper.

By carefully documenting the tonal range of a particular film at a specific ISO setting, and under a specific development process, the photographer can determine if that film/development combination will have the right tonal range to record all the important elements of a particular scene.

Under normal exposure and development, the ideal would be to get 10 stops of range, from brightest white (no detail) to darkest black (again, no detail). By changing the combination of exposure and development, you can reduce that range to 8 stops or extend it to 12. The range can vary depending on the film and developer (and dilution) used.

If the scene is flat then the photographer has the option of exposing less and developing more. The middle grey (zone 5) stays exactly the same while the white and black points move inward.

If the scene is contrasty, then the photographer can expose more and develop less. Again, the middle grey (zone 5) stays right where it's supposed to while the white and black points move outward, capturing a wider range of brighness.

You can really only take full advantage of this if you have more than one 35mm SLR body, have removable backs on a 2-1/4 camera or shoot sheet film. Each piece of film will have its own specific ISO setting (Tri-X can be set anywhere from ISO 200 to 1600, for example) as well as its own development requirements. You will also need a spotmeter, preferably one that can memorize at least three readings to readily determine brightness range and where middle grey is.

It's a painstaking process to profile each film/developer combination but it makes the results repeatable. It also allows you to print on #2 paper most of the time. By the way, it also requires that you profile and document the paper/developer combination, too. And thermometers aren't optional.

A really good book that details the procedure is The New Zone System Manual by White, Zakia and Lorenz, published by Morgan & Morgan. Don't know if it's still in print.

Dean Collins used a similar procedure for his "Chromazones" system. It allowed a photographer to document what each gel did when it lighted up a sheet of black background paper. By shooting a series of slides under controlled conditions and under a variety of exposures and films, he could create a sample book from which an art director could make a selection. Collins would use the associated setting to reproduce that same background hue.

Hope this helps clear some of this up.

Dean Sensui
Base Two Productions

Ron Johnson January 16th, 2003 11:24 AM

A few posts late...

My current favorite for a B/W film, try Fuji Neopan 100 Acros - great resolution, range and saturation. You should meter for ISO 80 though for better exposures.

Ron Johnson
Portland, OR

Zac Stein February 3rd, 2003 07:22 AM

Jeff guess what i have a new question.

Now i am not trying to show your age, but i assume you did photography during the 1970's, i am trying to find some still colour and b&w that can emulate the look of that stock.

I have some examples here, please excuse the crap scans here.






Any help would be great, i really want to get that early 70's look.

Especially a point in the right direction of which film to use, like brand, type and so on.

okies well hope to hear from you soon.


John Locke February 3rd, 2003 08:49 AM


I'm a photographer from the 70s too! Jeff will have some solid info for you for sure, but I can throw in my two cents.

As far as the 70s go, I remember grain...and a slightly golden hue (sometimes extreme, but often hinted at)...and soft backgrounds...and near natural lighting (like the Winston ad you mentioned).

Look for Richard Avedon photo collections...also go to vintage book and magazine stores and look for old copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

The flip side to this "golden soft" look was the "Laugh In" wild color look...aka the homogenized psychedelic look. Search the net for "Laugh In", and "Brady Bunch" photos, and you'll get an idea of that.

As for particular film stock...hopefully Jeff can help you more with that. Kodak was definitely king then, and I remember using Tri-X a lot for grainy black & white...and Kodak Vericolor...but that's all I remember really. Mainly because I switched almost completely to Agfa, Ilford, and Fuji later on.

Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 07:33 PM

Those ads were probably shot on early Extachrome films, possibly ISO 64 or 200. I don't think ISO 400 came out until the late 70's. The early Extachrome films were very grainy and the colors were not as saturated. I would attempt to duplicate the results in Photoshop, rather than shoot them that way. Todays films are too sharp to reproduce that look very easily. Todays fast films are grainy, but have too much contrast compared to the older, slow emulsions. You can make the grain pop by under exposing your shots. Adjust your contrast by paying careful attention to your lighting. High cloud, overcast days will soften the light and lower the contrast. You just a little fill on the subjects face, via flash or reflector.

Ken Tanaka February 3rd, 2003 08:37 PM

OK, more remarks from another old fart 70's photographer <g>.

Much of the "grain" you see in those photos appears to come from the moire effect from transcription from 4-color printing.

I'm pretty sure that nearly all photo work for print ads was done on slide film in those days, with Ektachrome 64 being most popular for style shots and 100-200 for other work. (As Jeff noted, I don't think Ektachrome 400 was introduced until the late 1970's as a low-light medium.)

You'll be able to achieve subtle texture effects in Photoshop with a bit of practice.

That "70's look" has more to do with colors and lighting. Colors in-vogue tended to be stark reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. No pastels.

Ligjting tended to be overdone often with little contrast or relief. The Technics ad is a good example; look at where the shadows of the tone arms fall - nearly straight down to the table. The BASF ad also has harsh lighting (by today's standards) falling nearly straight down on the principle subjects.

Just my US$0.02 Kermie.

Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 08:47 PM

The other slide film of that era was Kodachrome. But it was noted for it's very fine grain and sharpness. The decade started with Kodachrome II (ISO 12) and progressed to ISO 25 and 64 by the end of the decade. But it was not available in 120 or 220 format. Those ads were probably shot on a Hassleblad or Mamiya. 35mm was not considered for anything other than photojournalism at the time.

Zac Stein February 3rd, 2003 09:07 PM


Any hints on how i could achieve that look with some kind of 35mm way?


Jeff Donald February 3rd, 2003 09:10 PM

What's your subject matter and where are you shooting it?

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