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Thread: Zone System

  1. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by benedium
    I feel my photography learning curve and very slow.

    I don't mind learning slowly but am very afraid that the things I've learnt on my own are wrong.
    Do yourself a favour: If it takes you 5 years to get a good basic understanding of your craft, and after that, you can let your soul, spirit, visions etc fly off, then I would beg you to take that 5 years to learn.

    Unless you have a professional or agendered tinme-frame in which to learn photography, please, take all the time you need to discover the wonders and mysteries of your chosen craft. That, is the sheer joy of discovery!

    In ancient times, artists used to spend months searching for the roght plant, mineral and animal resources in order to make their own paints.

    Students of pottery (if you ever studied under Iskandar) were made to go searching in the hills and whatever ulu areas of Singapore to DIG - WITH THEIR HANDS, for suitable materials in order to make the most 'perfect clay' even though commercially available clay of the highest order was readily available!

    What I am simply saying is this: DO WHATEVER you NEED to, and TAKE ALL THE TIME you need to learn about this beautiful, if sometime mysterious craft called 'photography'. Why rob yourself of the joy of learning ... now that you have relatively 'cheaper' means to explore your craft through digital means?

    If you are sincere in your search, I am sure that no one is going to look down upon you for having a longer learning curve (what the heck is that anyway?) or for making technical mistakes along the way ... unless you want to be a fine-arts photographer. Even commerical photographers are masters of 'playing cheat'.

    Just listen to what your heart wants to express (in photography), then slowly learn how to speak the language.
    Last edited by Feinwerkbau; 28th January 2005 at 02:07 AM.

  2. #42

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    Thanks Feinwerkbau for that most encouraging advice. I am certainly enjoying this wonderful hobby and knowing my lazy self, don't think that i'll ever be a speedy learner.

    Thanks Pro Image for your generous offer I'm jobless now so am free all the time. Will definitely take advantage of your offer. PMing you right now

    Actually many Clubsnappers have been awfully kind and supportive of my self proclaimed interest to learn, but due to my procrastinations, have often disappointed and annoyed them. I apologise sincerely for that, and will try to wake up my bloody idea heheh. So hopefully you all won't give up on me

  3. #43

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    All the best me friend!
    Last edited by Feinwerkbau; 28th January 2005 at 02:44 AM.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by benedium
    I think I should get the mentioned books cos I feel my photography learning curve and very slow.

    I don't mind learning slowly but am very afraid that the things I've learnt on my own are wrong.

    If the learning about the Zone System would help me improve my digital photography, i'd definitely wanna read more about it.
    I am no expert photographer, but allow me to give my two cents as well.

    If you delve deep into the various photochemical processes used throughout the history of photography, or if you want to make your own film/paper and developers, you probably need to learn a lot of material. But very few people do this.

    Then, there is the aesthetic aspect of creating photographs. This is largely a matter of taste, and again, one can read dozens of books without "understanding" it - probably because there is no objectively "correct" way to create a "good" picture.

    The technical process of exposing the film/processing the picture data is, however, straightforward and easy to understand. It is just that there is a lot of mystique, rituals, and anecdotes about it that cause a lot of confusion.

    The zone system is regarded by many as one of these rituals that make things look much more complicated than they are. And, as with other rituals, it often serves more of a social role (distinguishing zone system devotees from zone system heathen) than it has a scientifically sound foundation. The "zones" that give the system its name are after all purely arbitrary classifications of shades of gray ...

    It is not that the zone system leads to bad results, it just puts unneccessary fluff between the photographer and the simple concept of adjusting exposure and gradation (gamma) to accommodate the contrast of a given scene onto the medium, be it silver-halide based film or a semiconductor based sensor.

    In digital camera terms, this simply means adjusting exposure and contrast so as to achieve a (subjectively) "good" histogram. If you photograph in "raw" mode, the zone system is completely meaningless, as the response of the image sensor is fixed (with film-based photography, one would adjust the film development). In the end, it boils down to adjusting "levels" or "curves" in photoshop to your liking.

    By obscuring this simple concept, the zone system actually makes it harder to understand what is going on. As Andreas Feininger put it in one of his photography textbooks, the zone system makes mountains out of mole hills.

  5. #45
    Senior Member The_Cheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feinwerkbau
    Hey No problemz dudes!

    To the Cheat Student and whoever else ...

    Do WHATEVER you can to understand your craft better, in whatever language or tone and manner that suits you. I remember a classmate who was a diligent student. Totally hopeless in English, but absolutely brilliant in maths, and other science subjects. Till today, some of us still wonder how in the world did he ever understand the basics since all tutorials and reference materials were conducted in English! Unless he took the initiative to look up Maths and Science books written in Chinese! If that were the case, Kudos for his initiative and drive!

    Just remember that what's most important is learning what you need to ...

    Cameras have changed, systems have changed and so have films and chemicals ... (to some extent) ...

    If I'm faced with a difficult scene of great contrast, I still go back to metering with a spot meter (highly convenient now that most modern SLRs have in-built spot-meter modes). In the past, I used to carry two hand-held metres, one for flash and avarage readings, and one solely dedicated to spot. Blardy pain in the a*se if you ask me!

    BUT NO MATTER WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IN THINKING ... CAMERAS ... SYSTEMS ... ETC ... THE BASICS ARE STILL THE SAME.

    BTW, there is no such thing as perfection, which is why I put the word "perfect" in inverted commas ... in case some were nit-pickin.

    With no offense to anyone, just remember that there is something called 'the joy of photography'.

    It's just that when you want to go ahead and do more, you might be held back by a lack of solid foundation in the basics. Frustrating man!

    I have had a re-look at my post, and I do not see anything theoritically or technically wrong with it. The greatest FAILURE on my part, was that my post failed to communicate effectively. For that, my sincerest apoligies.

    I would still urge all of you to find a source of reference, teacher or whatever you can find that can teach you what you need to know in a simple and easy to understand manner.

    All the best my friends!

    CHEERS!
    Hi Feinwerkbau, well said with regards to a solid foundation. Think the problem with a lot of modern technology and the high speed flow of information through the cybernetic world, created a so-called "instant gratification" phenomenon. If it's not the the advent of the digicam and the high reliance of the PC to all of us these days, there won't be so many people digging into photography, and CS may have never been conceived. However, I guess the problem with such a phenomenon is that people enjoyed too much of the "joy of photography" and forget about the fundamentals. Why bother to go through all the rules, which were written in technical jargons that probably only the "pro" will understand, when one could easily just take up any digital camera and start clicking his/her way to get the "joy of photography"?

    There's of course nothing wrong with this scenario, since the manufacturers of the cameras are happy (I could never think of any time in history when the so-called big camera manufacturers have been laughing all the way to the bank), the consumers are happy and the cybernetic world is happy with tonnes and tonnes of picture pouring into the servers everyday. If everyone's happy, then on the utilitarian basis, it ought to be a very moral thing to do.

    Still, at the end of the day, probably a handful of people will be interested to learn more, and start asking for the more technical and boring stuff, like the rules in photography (e.g. Sunny 16) and the zone system, for all sorts of different reason, be it for better prints, for better understanding of how a camera work, or just for the heck of it. Personally, I treat ZS as a necessary set-piece to built up on my foundation.

    Geesh! Maybe I'm a strange fella afterall... I mean, how many people will willingly go back to learn the boring sight-reading after knowing how to play an instrument with tablatures and chords for 5 years?

    btw, just out of interest, any APUG members here?

  6. #46
    Senior Member The_Cheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feinwerkbau
    Do yourself a favour: If it takes you 5 years to get a good basic understanding of your craft, and after that, you can let your soul, spirit, visions etc fly off, then I would beg you to take that 5 years to learn.

    Unless you have a professional or agendered tinme-frame in which to learn photography, please, take all the time you need to discover the wonders and mysteries of your chosen craft. That, is the sheer joy of discovery!

    In ancient times, artists used to spend months searching for the roght plant, mineral and animal resources in order to make their own paints.

    Students of pottery (if you ever studied under Iskandar) were made to go searching in the hills and whatever ulu areas of Singapore to DIG - WITH THEIR HANDS, for suitable materials in order to make the most 'perfect clay' even though commercially available clay of the highest order was readily available!

    What I am simply saying is this: DO WHATEVER you NEED to, and TAKE ALL THE TIME you need to learn about this beautiful, if sometime mysterious craft called 'photography'. Why rob yourself of the joy of learning ... now that you have relatively 'cheaper' means to explore your craft through digital means?

    If you are sincere in your search, I am sure that no one is going to look down upon you for having a longer learning curve (what the heck is that anyway?) or for making technical mistakes along the way ... unless you want to be a fine-arts photographer. Even commerical photographers are masters of 'playing cheat'.

    Just listen to what your heart wants to express (in photography), then slowly learn how to speak the language.
    Man! This sounded exactly like what marios told me the other time: 5 years!!

  7. #47

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf
    I am no expert photographer, but allow me to give my two cents as well.

    It is just that there is a lot of mystique, rituals, and anecdotes about it that cause a lot of confusion.

    The zone system is regarded by many as one of these rituals that make things look much more complicated than they are. And, as with other rituals, it often serves more of a social role (distinguishing zone system devotees from zone system heathen) than it has a scientifically sound foundation. The "zones" that give the system its name are after all purely arbitrary classifications of shades of gray ...

    It is not that the zone system leads to bad results, it just puts unneccessary fluff between the photographer and the simple concept of adjusting exposure and gradation (gamma) to accommodate the contrast of a given scene onto the medium, be it silver-halide based film or a semiconductor based sensor.

    By obscuring this simple concept, the zone system actually makes it harder to understand what is going on. As Andreas Feininger put it in one of his photography textbooks, the zone system makes mountains out of mole hills.
    I beg to disagree with you.

    My position is that the zone system is easy to understand. That the zone system has "mystique, rituals, unneccessary fluff, makes it harder to understand what is going on, makes thing slook much more complicated that they are, etc" is not the problem of the zone system. It is the fault of the so-called "zone system devotees (as you called them). And I see much of this "fault" (for want of a better term) in the posts here in this very thread. Feininger is correct, but wrong at the same time for the reason I pointed out. I take the position that testing equipment, film and developers is not part of the zone system. Putting equipment calibration under zone system is adding to the fluff and serves to confuse.

    Application of the zone system does not lead to unneccessary fluff in the image making. It reduces fluff and allow you to create the image you want. We should not discuss techniquesl versus creativity here. They are different animals.

    You are completely wrong that the zone system has little scientific foundation. And you showed your ignorance by saying "dunno". I think if you "dunno" then you should refrain from giving advice especially in a newbie section. The so-called "arbitrary" classifications were created not from fanciful imaginations, but from proper considerations which all photographers used 100% of the time (excepting those who leave all to technology) of something called ISO, apertures and shutter speeds.

    Many had advised reading Ansel Adams books on the Camera, Negative and Print.

    I would advise not. Ansel's books are, in my opinion, just too technical, and contribute to confusion. Perhaps others may not find Ansel's books too technical. But I did. With my average reading ability, they certainly confused me at that time. NOW, I can read his books with better understanding.

    Instead, I would strongly recommend these two books

    1 The book by Harry Fearn. The_Cheat had provided the link to Amazon.com. This book removes all the fluff and allows one to understand the zone system and apply it immediately to all formats

    2 Art of photography by Bruce Barnbaum. This book is so good that I have three copies. No there are not for sale! This book is not just about the zone system but photography as a whole. The section on the application of the zone system to negative development and print making will give you insights that you never though possible. But I admit that to fully exploit what the application of zone system can help you achieve, one should use sheet films, although it is still possible with roll films in the way I suggested in an earlier post. Unfortunately this book is not available in Singapore. I had asked Riceball to get this book. It cost USD 30.00 and worth every cent. It is privately printed by Bruce and available only from him.

  8. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cheat
    btw, just out of interest, any APUG members here?
    I am. But I think the standards on Photo.net and largeformatphotography.info is better.

  9. #49
    Senior Member The_Cheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by student
    Art of photography by Bruce Barnbaum. This book is so good that I have three copies. No there are not for sale! This book is not just about the zone system but photography as a whole. The section on the application of the zone system to negative development and print making will give you insights that you never though possible. But I admit that to fully exploit what the application of zone system can help you achieve, one should use sheet films, although it is still possible with roll films in the way I suggested in an earlier post. Unfortunately this book is not available in Singapore. I had asked Riceball to get this book. It cost USD 30.00 and worth every cent. It is privately printed by Bruce and available only from him.
    Amazingly, this book is NOT available from amazon.com! Just when I'm starting to think that they sell everything, less perishables...

    Listed on Barnbaum's website that is cost US$37.95 here . No mention about international shipping though.

  10. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Cheat
    Amazingly, this book is NOT available from amazon.com! Just when I'm starting to think that they sell everything, less perishables...

    Listed on Barnbaum's website that is cost US$37.95 here . No mention about international shipping though.
    All, I forgot. My aplogies. The USD 30.00 is the price to me! I can probably get you at that price + shipping. Maybe this might be a good time to enquire if there are others who are interested in this book? I can write to Bruce.

    Meanwhile, I can lend you the book for a few days if you do not mind coming to my office. I can also lend you Harry's book. Bruce's book is at home while Harry's book is somewhere in my office in my organised chaos.

    I believe you are very genuine to want to do traditional B&W photography, and I will help if I can. Let me know.

  11. #51
    Moderator ortega's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf
    I am no expert photographer, but allow me to give my two cents as well.
    Well said, but be warned that there are very passionate people here.

  12. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by ortega
    Well said, but be warned that there are very passionate people here.
    Not "passionate".

    But people who try to correct misformation based on ignorance. Misformation is worse than no information. With no information I can look for one. With misformation, I make mistakes! While making mistakes is part of the learning process, mistakes based on misformation is terribly regrettable.

    There is a difference between "information" and "opinion". It would do well for most to understand this. Giving 2 cents of misformation is not "well said". Giving 2 cents on "opinion" is fair play.

  13. #53

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf
    ...It is not that the zone system leads to bad results, it just puts unneccessary fluff between the photographer and the simple concept of adjusting exposure and gradation (gamma) to accommodate the contrast of a given scene onto the medium, be it silver-halide based film or a semiconductor based sensor.

    In digital camera terms, this simply means adjusting exposure and contrast so as to achieve a (subjectively) "good" histogram. If you photograph in "raw" mode, the zone system is completely meaningless, as the response of the image sensor is fixed (with film-based photography, one would adjust the film development). In the end, it boils down to adjusting "levels" or "curves" in photoshop to your liking...
    There is a difference between conscientiously going out there to make a picture then to just burn film. Just to share my experience with you. I've been into photography since I was 14, and with a carl zeiss jena (my first camera) both my dad and I would go off to the botanic gardens and many places and even to the national day parade to take photos. To me then, photography was just then taking pictures after pictures of soldiers marching, aeroplanes flying overheard and all that. At the rate of firing frenzy especially with a a motor drive!! I was taking heaps of pictures after pictures. As time went on, I have reams of negatives and countless 4R photo prints in my travelling case. This went on for a couple of years and as time went by, and as I sat and went through all my old photos, I slowly realised that all these while, I was just taking pictures. Not making pictures. Pictures that I would someday like to enlarge and hang it on my wall and say "I took that". Looking at my old pics, there was no focus in the image, lighting was "as is" not bothering to wait for better lighting, composition was mediocre. In short, nothing to be excited or proud of. Now I am not saying that following the Zone system will start to help you make magic pictures, but I will say that will help you in making a better picture. Something that you can go home with and make a good print out of it and not waste money blindly burning film. If simlpy burning film or taking pictures for the fun of it applies to you, you'd be better of working with a digital cam cos u WILL save heaps of $$ on film and processing. Took me 6 years to realise that! If you really want to do monochrome, ON FILM, using the ZS will slow down your adrenaline level and make you THINK, CONTEMPLATE and VISUALIZE your final image before taking that shot, and thus prevent blind shooting. This applies too if you are taking color. COntrary to what some photographers say, applying the ZS in journalistic and documentarial photography is possible, just tricky because of lighting.

    -MB

  14. #54
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    IMHO his opinion of the ZS in this day and age, directed at newbies.
    For one to go deep into the ZS and want to do traditional B&W photography, one has to be somewhat experienced. I do not disagree with the use of the ZS, in fact I use the exposure part in my understanding of getting the mood of my image.

    It is just that technology has advanced so much that I can get the exposure the way I want in seconds.

    My opinion is that one has to know the fundamentals but at the same time embrace technology.

    You should not brand other peoples opinion as ignorance, the tone taken is very elietist and is exactly the image of ZS devotees against all other opinions.

    I am not considered a newbie and also not a master. I just shoot.
    I know the feeling of admiration the a person can get if he/she has the arkane knowledge that newbies don't know and want to know. I try to simplify things so that the newbies in this forum can understand and benifit from my ravings.

    I am NOT typing this for the masters to debate what is in the bible.
    Does anyone here know what it feels like to be a newbie?
    I post in this newbie tread to teach what little I know, I try not to confuse them with technical specifications (IMHO does not matter).

    First you need to be able to take a nice picture and once you have the "eye" you can go into the technical bits to improve oneself.

    If one is technically perfect, but the image does not have soul, all is lost.
    So use technology and focus on taking the picture instead of fiddleing with buttons , knobs and settings.

    Of course if one likes to do it your way, I have nothing against it. I respect other peoples opinion and do not brand it as ignorance.

    For newbies : look at ken rockwell's pictures in his gallery, most of them are taken using Programme auto. He said so himself. in fact I have been taking pictures for over a decade and have learned the hard way, I am also shocked to see how easy it is to do it using the matrix meter. I am always learning new ways of doing things, it is called progression.

    Thank you for your attention.

  15. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by student
    You are completely wrong that the zone system has little scientific foundation. And you showed your ignorance by saying "dunno". I think if you "dunno" then you should refrain from giving advice especially in a newbie section. The so-called "arbitrary" classifications were created not from fanciful imaginations, but from proper considerations which all photographers used 100% of the time (excepting those who leave all to technology) of something called ISO, apertures and shutter speeds.
    "Proper considerations which all photographers used 100% of the time" sounds good, but doesn't mean anything. I do know that some great photographs have been taken in the 100+ years before Ansel Adams published his zone system, and that characteristic curves for photographic emulsions are given as optical density vs. exposure, not in terms of "zones".

    I am sorry for being so ignorant - I have known about aperture, exposure time, and film speed (back then in DIN degrees and ASA) for only about 30 years, and my understanding has been further spoilt by building a career on photophysics/-chemistry research and spectroscopy. I apologise to all newbies for spoiling their understanding of the zone system with a dose of reality.

  16. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by ortega
    1 For one to go deep into the ZS and want to do traditional B&W photography, one has to be somewhat experienced...in fact I use the exposure part in my understanding of getting the mood of my image.

    2 It is just that technology has advanced

    3 You should not brand other peoples opinion as ignorance, the tone taken is very elietist and is exactly the image of ZS devotees against all other opinions.

    4 If one is technically perfect, but the image does not have soul, all is lost.
    So use technology and focus on taking the picture instead of fiddleing with buttons , knobs and settings.

    5 I respect other peoples opinion and do not brand it as ignorance.

    6 For newbies : look at ken rockwell's pictures in his gallery, most of them are taken using Programme auto. He said so himself. in fact I have been taking pictures for over a decade and have learned the hard way, I am also shocked to see how easy it is to do it using the matrix meter. I am always learning new ways of doing things, it is called progression.
    1 You just showed how useful it is for newbie to understand and apply the zone system. Without correct exposure how can there be a proper image. There are many who learnt how to expose a negative without knowing the ZS. They learnt it the hard way. Technology has improved. Why not learn new knowledge and apply them? The fact that people had made wonderful photographs without the proper understanding of ZS is irrelevant.

    2 Please read my post carefully. I had said that matrix metering is wonderful and will give good exposures in most instances. But as a comparison to applying the ZS, it is a very poor imitation. If one is faced with a difficult lighting situation, the matrix system will not give you the slightest information on how to expose and develop the negative properly!

    3 If misformation is based on ignorance, is there a reason to hide it? You are proud to continue to give misinformation? If one sees misinformation based on ignorance of the subject, should one keep quiet and let the newbie being led down the wrong path?

    4 We are not talking about that here. Kindly keep to the topic.

    5 I respect other's opinion. I do not respect misinformation. Please learn the difference!

    6 The fact that Ken Rockwell can make good images with programme mode have nothing to do with the issues here. I have made good images with my point and shoot also. Keep to the topic please.

  17. #57

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf

    1"Proper considerations which all photographers used 100% of the time" sounds good, but doesn't mean anything. I do know that some great photographs have been taken in the 100+ years before Ansel Adams published his zone system, and that characteristic curves for photographic emulsions are given as optical density vs. exposure, not in terms of "zones".

    2 I am sorry for being so ignorant - I have known about aperture, exposure time, and film speed (back then in DIN degrees and ASA) for only about 30 years, and my understanding has been further spoilt by building a career on photophysics/-chemistry research and spectroscopy. I apologise to all newbies for spoiling their understanding of the zone system with a dose of reality.
    1 I am aware that Edward Weston was making great images way before Ansel Adams. He did not even have a meter! Likewise many had made great images without the slightest knowledge of the zone system. But this does not negate the clarity that the knowledge of ZS for photogs today! People like Edward Weston, and also his son, Brett Weston had, through experience with some genius and hard work thrown in, developed a highly acute sense of light. Brett was once asked why he did not use a meter. His answer was "what if the meter drops and break?". You do not need matrix metering or meters if you have the talents and knowledge like the Westons.

    I don't. So I need a meter. And I apply the zone system. Something that any newbie can learn in a practical session in half an hour.

    2 The fact that you have been doing photography for thirty 30 years and had a grounding in photophysics/spectroscopy/chemistry should enable you to understand negative exposure and development more than anyone here.

    Nonetheless, the statements you made were wrong. And you actually said "dunno".

    How is one to interprete what you said, when having said what you said, you ended it with "dunno"?

  18. #58
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    "A photographer with great knowledge does not make him/her a good teacher."

    Somehow I find this thread a little too technical and complicated for newbies to understand the basic ZS. It seems like a war zone coming up between one another.

    There is no possible way to explain the basics fundamental of ZS on this thread. The best possible way is show what you have done on paper. If you all really want to share with newbies, please approach them and let them know about it. Debating about ZS is a okay but let's not get out of hand and turn this into one of those awful thread which the Mods/Admin needs to closed it. So let's be a little more liberal about it and share whatever knowledge you have with the newbies.

    As has been repeated from time to time. Everyone has their own opinion. Someone blind maybe leading another blind person into a pit hole but it's really up to the readers to choose.

    I have my own opinion about reading up the ZS by Ansel Adams on "The Negative", "The Camera" and "The Print". Another member would suggest other source of reading material. Best of both world for you all to choose from. It would still be up any newbies to decide which books is best for them.

    I have approach one of the newbies about it and he is more than happy to drop by the studio to have a brief introduction about ZS in exchange for a cup of KOPI! Hehe....

    This is probably the best way to let them know what ZS is really is. It will take a while for a newbie to understand but if he has the passion to learn, he will pick up very fast.

    Conclusion is it's either newbies approach those experience photographers who is REALLY willing to share hands on or those with vast knowlegde photographers is willing to contact any of the newbies share with them. I guess most newbies are still shy and unwilling to approach them.

    Well I strongly encourage those NEWBIES to open their mouth and approach any of us, including me about this topic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ortega


    here here

    I choose to capture the moment, leaving the technical bits to technology.
    But of course the fundamentals must be there, in the first place.
    Zone System is not matrix Metering

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    Quote Originally Posted by benedium
    Wah, from this thread I can tell who are the well-read experts already

    I think I should get the mentioned books cos I feel my photography learning curve and very slow.

    I don't mind learning slowly but am very afraid that the things I've learnt on my own are wrong.

    If the learning about the Zone System would help me improve my digital photography, i'd definitely wanna read more about it.
    Good for you that the right way. It may be hard, but it is worth it.

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