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Thread: Highlights and the Zone System

  1. #1
    Join Date
    21 Apr 2010
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    Highlights and the Zone System

    Hi all,

    was reading up on the zone system for exposure and read myself into a confused conundrum!

    my understanding of the zone system is where you find a scene you like, meter it, and determine where you want you shadow zone to lie, then determine where the highlights lie then develop for which zone you want the highlights in/which zone they fall in.

    for example, say i came across a scene, metered the shadows at zone V, say 1/60 at f/5.6, i want them in zone III, so to expose for zone III i'd use 1/250 at f/11, then I'd determine the zone the highlights fall in, say zone VII.

    I think that's right, though here's where i get a little unsure..
    at zone VII it is 4 stops above zone III. A normal development time is for 5 stops difference between shadows and highlights. putting my zone VII highlights into a N-1 category.

    So in order to develop my film, i would take a normal development time and reduce it.

    though i forgot where i was told this, but for N-1 highlights, I should reduce my development time by 20%???

    Am I correct in saying this? or am I completely left field???


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    20 May 2010
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    Will give this one a try & hope i dont put my foot into my mouth lol. Hokeydokes , here's the way i see it.
    Zone 5 is in your 18% grey area, middle grey or whatever one calls it . Green grass (Lawn), med Red, Green,Blue or yellow colours can be metered for for this, whether it be a car,fence or signpost...
    In other words if you select your appature in manual or Av mode then meter of your lawn for instance and adjust your exposure compensation dial till your meter reading ends up in the middle eg; "0" (spot metering offcourse), then that brings you into the 18%grey grey or zone 5 (V as you mentioned).
    Now raise your camera and focus in or target / subject and have a look at your meter reading and it should have then adjusted or alted the scale to read up or down. + or MInus, Above or below your zone 5.
    Below would meaan a reduced shutter speed and above would mean an increase in shutter speed to adjust where your histogram will sit for a reasonable expoure.
    Hence if you were shooting snow you would need to be in the zone 6 or seven and for a shadowed area Zone 4 to 5 .
    For me it takes a few shots to nail my zones after checking my Histogram.
    Now this is for single exposures offcourse and where you mabe in a position of bright highlights and or darker shadows due to the time of day or conditions then the use of a split ND Filter or bracketing may be needed or again several exposures and blended later in PP.
    From my limited experience its the best i can do for an explenation..
    Hope it helps??.
    Someone else maybe able to explain it better.
    We didnt inherit this land, we merely borrow it from our Children

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