The Zone System

A book is being read called, ZONE SYSTEM MANUAL, How to Previsualize Your Pictures, by MINOR WHITE, New Revised Edition, Fourth Printing 1972.

The first lesson has been done. It is about experiencing zones. One subject was photographed with three settings. It was bracketed one stop above and one stop below the middle gray setting made with a reflected light meter. In this case that would be the Pentax TTL meter.

Over Exposure by one stop
Over Exposure by one stop
Correct Exposure by TTL meter in camera, a Pentax 6x7
Correct Exposure by TTL meter in camera, a Pentax 6×7
Under Exposure. The shadows are the lightest in this one.
Under Exposure. The shadows are the lightest in this one.

Differences between the values of the same objects in different pictures is one zone each.

More film was purchased. Fast film like this HP5+ is too fast for the experiments. Film speed of 50-200 is to be used. I bought some HP4 which is 125. That film is better for my camera anyway because of the speeds on the dial: 30, 60, 125, 250, 500, 1000.

The next lesson calls for lots of films to be exposed and developed differently. I do not want to shoot an entire roll just to develop one thing so I think I may cut rolls apart. Two rolls will be exposed to the same thing then cut into 2 parts in the darkroom. Each part may then be developed differently. Actually 4 parts in all. The FP4 will be pushed one and two stops and 2 parts will be exposed normally and one stop over.  I’ll shoot at 50 and push to 125 and 200.

There is another type of light meter to use. It is a Spot Meter. I have one but have not used it. Yet. It is used to determine the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of a picture. These pictures have near white, lots of grays, and near black in them. The Spot Meter can measure them and give you numbers to work with.

Contrast is the idea and development times with exposure changes controls it.

When I went to the gym, I noticed white signs, black windows in the shade, and lots of gray pavement….

Exposure 4

While working on Exposure 2, sitting on my front porch, I used the TTL meter on the older 6×7 Pentax 120mm film camera to measure White, Black, and Gray cards on the porch floor. The porch is shaded a lot with a huge hedge. It was cloudy and light varied from overcast to bright sun. The porch was in the shade. The shade changed, though, with the light outside it.

This is interesting. A gray card was used. The white other side of another gray card was used. And a black notebook was also measured. The camera had a 165mm lens with a UV filter on it. The object were laid between my legs on the floor. I sat on the glider. The lens was not in focus but at a distance too close to focus at 5.5 feet or 1.75m.

Black Notebook f2.8 1/2 second
Gray Card f8 1/2 second
White Card f16-22 1/2 second

The 2 was used on the speed dial or 1/2 second. 400 was the ASA setting. No other light readings were taken, not incident, but I should have just to cover the bases. It wasn’t needed. The light readings repeatedly placed the gray card smack in the center of the camera light aperture scale. White was at one end and black was at the other end.

The 165mm lens is a f2.8. That proved to be very good. The light readings had to have a wide latitude to fit in as it turned out. An f4 lens would not have worked, the shutter speed would have had to have been changed.

There were 4-5 clicks between each reading. It depended on the light at the time and a little on the angle of the camera to the cards. However, f8 was always the gray card in the center of the scale.

The film shot on Page 16 was being planned after this experiment. It seems that the camera lens and light meter is made to center gray card readings just like a light meter follows the Sunny 16 Rule. That is too cool.

Exposure 3

This was a muddle. My scanning technique confused the issue, made too light images, so I thought that an underexposure was the correct exposure. It was not. The camera light meter was correct, development was correct, the scanner was off.

Gray Card use is another way to measure light. A view was  measured with the TTL meter and it was the same reading as measuring a gray card up close. The light reading had to be correct. The positive image from the scan was too light. That was wrong. The last post corrected it.

Now I was getting gray card photographs that in a positive scan looked just like the gray card. It was not lighter than nor darker than the real thing.

Exposure 3 was all about using a Gray Card.  Here is a image of a wall with very light things on it, a black thing and middle gray things. A gray card is included in the photograph. The lighting was extremely overcast. HP5+ 400 was used. 1/60 on the Dot or f4 was the exposure.

b5 p16 04  Gray Card Test 1
b5 p16 04 Gray Card Test 1

I was starting to read about the Zone System in an old book I had.

Scanning Correctly

Book 5 Page 16 09&10
Book 5 Page 16 09&10

An HP Scanjet G4050 flatbed scanner capable of scanning 8×10 negatives was used with VueScan, a scanning program. 300 dpi was used. B/W Negative and GENERIC settings under the Color tab were used. Photos 1-8 are on another plastic sheet of negative holders. This is page two of roll 16 film. After the full sheet has been scanned, each individual image is cropped and saved. That is done in the VueScan program. A preview is done, the entire image area is selected, then save is pressed. Then, each image is in turn outlined again instead of the whole page and saved. This is done over and over ’till they all have been saved. No new scan is made in doing this. It just saves and saves again. Auto file name is fast but will need to be changed. I just change one number in the name of each.

b5 p16 10.jpg

b5 p16 10


The Pentax 6×7 camera was used with HP5+ 400 film, a RED filter, a 55mm lens, and two additional stops of exposure were added to compensate for the filter added. The TTL meter set the exposure as is. The lights are very light as there is so much shadow area and the meter lightened it all. 1/250 f5.6 was used of bright sun areas outside the shade but it still shows. This is too light,  but the shadows really came out well. This is the image that is put into my journal which explains exposure and such. Only one scan is needed. Photo Shop elements 9 is no longer needed.

Exposure 2

I wanted to determine correct exposure using HP5 Plus 400 film in a Pentax 6×7 camera. My questions were: which method should I use? Sunny 16 Rule, Camera light meter, or hand held incident light meter? What does a correct negative look like anyway?

Badly exposed negatives were already had. They are uniformly or overall dark or way too thin and clear. The dark ones made too light prints. What I wanted was a mix of light, medium, and dark areas on a negative. That was my starting place. Get a negative with all kinds of grays, whites, and blacks. Blacks should have detail in them and so should whites. The main area of interest in a negative will be somewhat light, much lighter than what I had been getting. A negative inverted in PhotoShop Elements 9 will not look washed out and pasty, it will look good.

D-76 is used in the darkroom to process the film. All my film is processed the same way. 1:1 dilution is used, distilled water is used with the D-76 at least to dilute it. Hot tap water had been used to mix the stock solution. ( I keep notes ). Ilford information sheets are used. Time and temperature are 11 min at 68 degrees F. There is a chart to change that if chemicals are a different temperature and that is used. The developing tank is a Patterson two 120 reel special?  The reel has big flanges to load onto. 600ml of chemical is used. Agitation is for the first 30 seconds continuosly by spinning the little stir stick, then 5 seconds every 30 seconds after that. Time begins after adding chemical and ends before dumping out the developer. Acetic acid stop bath is used 30 seconds. Fixer is 10 minuets. Wash is by the Ilford method with one added 20 inversion cycle. Photo Flow is used in 600ml of water for one minuet. A solution is made using more than the tiny amount. It is not measured but it is more than a drop or two. I started getting streaks and had to rewet a film. Film is never wiped off.

That method is used over and over again. Any variables are thereby eliminated. Only exposure and the lighting conditions vary.

The incident light meter gave the best results. 1/500 of a second was used. The orange filter I have only needs one stop more light. I cannot add 1/3 stops with the camera I have, only half stops. 1 1/2 stops more light was too much for that day and those conditions, see next blog.

1/500 @ f16
1/500 @ f16
1/500 @  f11
1/500 @ f11

The better exposure for shadow detail was tweaked  but I could not make lights look as good as a correctly exposed version. That was doing it digitally. Perhaps I could burn in the lighter areas in the darkroom under the enlarger to make them darker, using negative #2, 1/500 @ f11. It didn’t work digitally. The negative could also have been developed less to lighten the black areas on the negative, being the light areas on a print. That could work. But that is an adjustment, not a correct exposure with standard development.

Besides, Ilford  says to use 11 min at 68 degrees F with D-76 1:1, while the massive development chars says to use 13. What? That is not right, for me. I’d have to start all over again with that time. Correct exposure would be different at 13 min developing. Ilford does not give times to pull film, not that I’ve found anyway. Never looked. Now I could use the information. Pulling the film one stop in developing would allow the f11 setting to give good light areas as well as more shadow detail.

And all this is most likely a start towards using the Zone System and a spot meter. That’s a whole other level.



Exposure 1

Today was very bright sun with black shadows. In the morning, about 9:30 I went outside to photograph some nearby buildings in the bright sunlight. The sun was to my back. My Pentax 6×7 had the TTL light meter on it and a 165mm lens. I also had an orange filter in my pocket along with a Sekonic light meter. I was determined to figure it all out. Exposure.

The first shot used the Sunny 16 Rule. ISO as shutter speed and f16 for normal objects in bright sun. The 6×7 has no setting for 1/400 so 1/500 and 1/2 stop more light had to do. The first exposure was then 1/500 & f11-16.

The second shot was done right away. The light meter was used that was in the camera. It was centered. It is a reflected light meter. The buildings were mostly dark brick. It opened up the lens a little more. Exposure was 1/500 & f11, half a stop more exposure than the first shot. The reflected light meter will make a dark subject middle gray and will expose more. And that is just what it did.

The third shot used the hand held incident light meter. It measured the light falling upon the subject, not light that came off the subject. The high slide was in and the reading was 320. Exposure was spot on 1/500 at f16. That is one full stop less light than the camera meter.

Shot number four used the orange filter. I found that two stops more light were too much. 1 1/2 more light was added to the  previous f16 making it f8-11. That worked well and did darken the sky just a little bit. But 1 1/4 or 1/13 more would have been better. One stop more would be OK.

The bricks in the third shot, taken at f16 looked best. Bricks in the shot taken with the orange filter were too light.

Page 15 300dpi


This is what pretty good exposures look like.I like the third one, the sixth one taken with the orange filter, and the seventh one. That was f16 also. The worst one was a TTL  reading number 8.  Here are #3, 6, & 7.

b5 p15 03 edited


b5 p15 06 edited


b5 p15 09 edited


Here is neg #2 edited in PSE9. I still like the third one for the darker bricks. This has more detail in darks though. This is the 600dpi version.

02 edited a lot
02 edited a lot. 1/500 f11

This exposure is not correct. I was unable to adjust it using PhotoShop Elements 9. I darkened the highlights, lightened the darks, and increased the mid tone contrast. It still looks washed out.  The third negative has the correct exposure. The things in the strong light look good in that one. The darks were not the subject. Those areas are very small. Most of the image is of brightly  lit brick buildings. So, those things should look best.  Look again:

03 edited like 02. 1/500  f16
03 edited like 02. 1/500 f16

Focus was on the porch pillar of the house second from the left with the downspout on it.  The sharpness subject would be best seen if the scan had been made without the negative sleeve.


Pentax 6×7 165mm test

This is what overexposed negatives look like. Not #2 or #8, they are correctly exposed. This is HP5Plus with a 165mm lens in the newly fixed up Pentax 6×7. The camera has a waist level view finder on it.  I had put the Sekonic light meter into my pants pocket and the ISO dial got spun to 100 instead of staying on 400 where it belonged. Development was spot on in D-76 1:1  at 66 degrees F for 12 minuets according to the directions and the chart provided. #7 was bracketed one stop more and #8 less.  All were hand held.

Mostly 2 stops overexposed but not #2 or #8
Mostly 2 stops overexposed but not #2 or #8

600 dpi is the smallest size I can scan, so, I reduced the size in PSE9 to 300dpi to save on file sizes. They still are huge in the Pages document.  #10 is a vertical shot of Pitt. That was very difficult to do with the WLVF on the camera.

b5 p14 02 edited


focus was on the stop sign on the left side of the far tree.

b5 p14 08 best edited

These were scanned through plastic at 600 dpi as jpegs and then reduced to 300 dpi. The 165mm lens got the entire scene. The trees are getting too high. Soon this view will be gone except during the winter. Most of it is obscured by a big fence over the bridge.


Pentax 6×7 300mm lens test

This is the site along Braddock Avenue I stopped at on the way back from the Rankin Bridge site. The wide shot was taken with a Nettar 6×9 and PanF 50 film.

Zeiss Ikon Nettar f4.5
Zeiss Ikon Nettar f4.5

The Pentax 6×7 was fitted with a 300mm lens. A cable release was also put on it. I have an old metal Filmo tripod with a chain spreader. It is pretty heavy but the head is small. Even so, it worked well enough that day to hold the beast of a camera and it’s 300 mm telephoto lens.

Pentax 6x7 300mm lens on a Filmo tripod
Pentax 6×7 300mm lens on a Filmo tripod

These pictures will enlarge to full screen if you click on them. Also, you can zoom in greatly. I just spread my fingers on the iPad and was astonished at how far I could enlarge the image. Try it and see.

Pentax 6×7 55mm lens test

A new version of the 55mm lens was purchased and compared with the old version. Two shots were taken of the same place at roughly the same time. The only difference being the time it took to swap the lenses on the camera. The HP5 Plus negatives were scanned through a plastic contact sheet holder at 600 dpi on a HP Scanjet G4050. Auto Levels was applied to the jpeg in Photoshop Elements 9. Even so, differences can be seen clearly between the use of the two lenses. Shadow edges are the same on the building so the sun did not change in the two shots.

New 55mm lens
New 55mm lens
Old 55mm lens
Old 55mm lens

Focus was on the building not at infinity. The new lens is brighter and has more contrast to it. Signs are a little more clear, too.

Nettar 6×9 f4.5 camera

Pan F 50 film was used in a Zeiss Ikon Nettar f4.5 folding 6×9 format camera and developed in D-76 at 1:1 for 8 1/2 min at 68 F.

b5 p12 08

The Regent Square Yard Sale.

f 11, infinity focus, 1/50th of a second. The camera shoots a little high. Click on the image to get a big version. It was scanned at 2400 dpi, changed to 8 bit, saved as a jpg.  The next image was shot at f4.5

b5 p12 04

Ormand Ave. Burn

The burned house was backlit and the street was shady. Both shots were adjusted in Photo Shop Element 9.

I am real happy with this camera and I really like the film, too.