January 3, 2016: Digital Post Processing for the Zone System

As promised in yesterday’s post, some thoughts on the post processing I’ve been working on to achieve the Zone System I’m looking for.

I took a Zone System class in 2004.  It was an excellent class and I learned a lot during those eight weeks.  Before we even starting printing negs we had to determine the actual Exposure Index of the film we were using based on the camera and specific lens used and the specific developer, including the dilution ration..  The EI was valid only for that specific combination.  Change any one of that combination and you would have to re-index the new combination.  The film I choose was Afga 100 (no longer available) as I wanted very fine detail with maximum resolution and we had to determine normal, N+1, N+2, N+3 and N-1, N-2 or N-3.  Very tedious process but, in the end, well worth it.  Based on my EI tests using Afga 100 came out to be EI 20.  EI 20 instead of the manufacture recommendation of 100.  I was shocked as it meant that I basically had to use a tripod for almost every shot I took using this film.

Fern, original image

Fern, original image

So, at this point you’re wondering it going through all this effort, testing and work was worth it.  Oh my gosh…YES.  The two images below were taken indoors using a Nikon film camera and a 24-85 lens.  My wife and I were going through the Wright Park Arboretum one afternoon and she pointed out a fern just unfurling.  I took the picture using a monopod and, based on my tests, determined that the image was exposed at N+1 1/2 and developed accordingly using XTO (this is an abbreviation of the developer based on my notes) developer diluted 1:3 and developed for 15 minutes.  The negative almost printed itself.



Fern - cropped to 10X14

Fern – cropped to 10X14

As you can see there’s a lot of white space to the right of the firm which was a distraction.  I scanned the image, post processed in Photoshop and had a 10X14 image printed which now hangs on my wall.

This print established the baseline in what I’m looking for when I shoot digital BW.  It’s been an illusive path but I’m beginning to achieve my goal.

My next post will be on digital post processing.


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