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Photography Life Lessons - In the Zone

Posted by jonson on January 2nd, 2018


When I first learned this, the institution had us poking openings in poster board and then stringing it. My family regularly attended arts and crafts shows. We all started doing something similar by using wood covered with felt, then using 1/2 inch nails rather than the holes. Gradually we tried bigger nails like 1 inch and one 5 inch in size. We found that by creating more depth physically, it also created more visual depth.

Most "String Art" Kits only used the 1/2 inch nails and would only do five or six rows of thread. By adding more depth in the physical dimensions (the nails), we were able to create images with 10-12 rows of colored thread. Eventually; We designed a coffee table that stood, three ft tall with inlayed a glass. This creation was twenty four layers deep.

Just lately a student asked me the following question: "Color effects both the mood and emotion of a photo; yet a lot of people still favor black and white, why is that? "

My immediate reaction was this: "Those who learned B/W photography first, were taught more art concepts. A great image has to do more with leading lines, composition, and contrast when compared to a single color theme. Most B/W photographers learn to capture the full range from dark-colored to white (the Sector System), most people who only see color seldom create as much visible depth. inches

In contemplating my reply; I realized that there is more than likely a whole generation of photographers out there who have either: A) In no way heard of the Sector System or B) May possibly have heard of it, but don't understand how it applies to images today. Let me see if We can simplify this.

In the event you listed the ten finest photographers of all time, Ansel Adams would no doubt be on that list. He and another man by the name of Fred Archer developed the Zone System back in 1941. Realizing the limitations of the media, they were striving for a way to create more visual depth. "Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights, " was your phrase that many photography enthusiasts used to describe what they were doing when they used Zone Program.

Imagine some stairs. The particular bottom step represents genuine black (Zone 0). The particular top step represents real white (Zone 9). The particular step in the middle (Zone 5) represents the 18% gray that all cameras (traditional or digital) believe to be the correct exposure. From the mid-point (Zone 5), each step or zone (up or down) represents a change of one f-stop. Consequently , Zone 4 requires an exposure of one f-stop below your camera indicates. Not to mention, Zone 6th requires an exposure of one f-stop more than your camera indicates.

Considering that Adams and Archer were shooting mostly Grayscale, the second half of the system had to do mostly with "Pushing" or "Pulling" of development times. Most color films aren't that forgiving with within development times; however... digital media and digital picture editing software (like Photoshop) can literately put you back in the Sector.

If you learn to how use your "exposure compensation" on the camera, you too can expose for the shadows. If you shoot in "RAW" mode, the information you need to pull out the highlights will still be there. In a normal shooting function, if you are using exposure compensation to take the image at Area 4 you will deepen the whole image. But since RAW mode saves all the exposure data (both shadows and highlights) it would be similar the second part of the Zone System

Also See: F Stop, Zone System, Zone 5, Visual Depth, Zone, Exposure, System

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