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Thread: B&W Conversion

  1. #41

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Many years ago, I have the privilege to study the Zone System, first under Dr. Minor White (at my alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology), and later from John Sexton (a former student and assistant of Ansel Adams) and Dr. Jerry Uelsmann. Dr. White passed away in 1976, so you can guess how old I am.... now.

    Now, let's go back to our discussion. Is the Zone System still relevant in today's digital age? My answer is a big 'YES' of course (you might have already guessed my reply). In fact, if you take a close look at Photoshop, many of its terminologies are derived from sensitometry, in which the Zone System is based on.

    Unlike normal folks, when I look at any image I don't look at it in color but in shades of gray instead. Don't get me wrong. The Zone System is applicable to both B&W and color images. Just that I am so used to judging a scene in different zones that my mind's eyes switch to 'grayscale mode' automatically.

    Call me a weirdo BUT that is how I work. Since I am a photographer by trade, the Zone System is what I use everyday. It definitely makes my job a lot easier, regardless of whether I am shooting, doing Photoshop or printing in the darkroom.
    Last edited by photobum; 29th October 2007 at 06:39 AM.

  2. #42
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by photobum View Post
    Many years ago, I have the privilege to study the Zone System with Dr. Minor White (at my alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology), and later from John Sexton (a former student and assistant of Ansel Adams) and Dr. Jerry Uelsmann. You can guess how old I am.... now.

    Now, let's go back to our discussion. Is the Zone System still relevant in today's digital age? My answer is a big 'YES' of course (you might have already guessed my reply). In fact, if you take a close look at Photoshop, many of its terminologies are derived from sensitometry, in which the Zone System is based on.

    Unlike normal folks, when I look at any image I don't look at it in color but in shades of gray instead. Don't get me wrong. The Zone System is applicable to both B&W and color images. Just that I am so used to judging a scene in different zones that my mind's eyes switch to 'grayscale mode' automatically.

    Call me a weirdo BUT that is how I work. Since I am a photographer by trade, the Zone System is what I use everyday. It definitely makes my job a lot easier, regardless of whether I am shooting, doing Photoshop or printing in the darkroom.
    Thank you for this... Glad to find experts spreading some light on the subject for others to understand further that shooting B&W and color has technique differences even before clicking the shutter.

  3. #43

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by theveed View Post
    Thank you for this... Glad to find experts spreading some light on the subject for others to understand further that shooting B&W and color has technique differences even before clicking the shutter.
    It is my pleasure.....

    I just feel that the Zone System is often misunderstood. I ever tried conducting a Zone System workshop in Singapore two years ago, but it seemed like I have stirred up more heated debates than interests. I gave up hope eventually.

    Now I just use the Zone System in my own work, and have stopped trying to influence others to believe in it. The Zone System is like a religion, you are either a firm believer, a skeptic or rejecting it totally.
    Last edited by photobum; 29th October 2007 at 06:38 AM.

  4. #44

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    those interested in the zone system can learn more from this book

    "The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography" by Chris Johnson.

    Its the best book I have looked at so far in explaining the zone system in an easily digestible yet not too dumbed down manner, and as well covers implications when dealing with digital imaging... it retails in Singapore for about $60 if you can find it or is availabe in the reference section at the Central National Library

  5. #45

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Dan Margulis provides an indepth discussion on B&W conversion in chapter 7 of Professional Photoshop (5th ed.); the author says in the introduction of this chapter that this is "arguably the most important chapter in the book. Don't skip it even if you think it is irrelevant to the sort of work you do." For people who does not have the book or contemplating on buying one, Digital Grin has a discussion thread on this chapter as well as other chapters of Dan's book.


  6. #46

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by theRBK View Post
    those interested in the zone system can learn more from this book

    "The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography" by Chris Johnson.

    Its the best book I have looked at so far in explaining the zone system in an easily digestible yet not too dumbed down manner, and as well covers implications when dealing with digital imaging... it retails in Singapore for about $60 if you can find it or is availabe in the reference section at the Central National Library
    Dr. Chris Johnson, another student of Dr. Minor White, is probably one of the most prominent scholar in advocating the importance of Zone System in photography. This is one of his latest book.

    I haven't had the chance to meet Dr. Johnson, but I heard he is an extremely nice person whom you can write and email him if you encounter any problem in the Zone System. His address/email can be found inside his books.
    Last edited by photobum; 29th October 2007 at 09:40 PM.

  7. #47
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Any ideas if this is available in SG? I know we're way off topic already hehe... So to the TS, here's more

    http://www.blackandwhitedigital.com/

  8. #48

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by theveed View Post
    Any ideas if this is available in SG? I know we're way off topic already hehe... So to the TS, here's more

    http://www.blackandwhitedigital.com/
    If what is available?

    Anyway, for those who are interested in the Zone System. Here is a 10-zone step wedge.




    Here is how to use it:
    Last edited by photobum; 29th October 2007 at 10:24 PM.

  9. #49
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Sorry for not quoting, I meant the book that theRBK mentioned ("The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography").

  10. #50

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by theveed View Post
    Sorry for not quoting, I meant the book that theRBK mentioned ("The Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography").
    Yes, you can obtain it from Riceball. Similarly, you can special order that book from either Kinokuniya or Borders.

    I saw it at the National Library a few months ago. Browse it for awhile and put it back on the shelf. Most of the information mentioned inside I already know, and am using it in my work.
    Last edited by photobum; 30th October 2007 at 10:12 AM.

  11. #51
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    woah!!! this is great! very detailed guys... Thank you so much for the replies and insights... the zone system is quite in depth though, maybe need time to master or understand the concept

    on the other hand...do i understand it in the first place? :dunno

    ... nevertheless i appreciate all contributions
    Last edited by snapperz; 30th October 2007 at 10:14 AM.
    ...seeking angles in a new definition...
    SG 1st Malay Photog Forum | My Works

  12. #52

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by snapperz View Post
    woah!!! this is great! very detailed guys... Thank you so much for the replies and insights... the zone system is quite in depth though, maybe need time to master or understand the concept

    on the other hand...do i understand it in the first place? :dunno

    ... nevertheless i appreciate all contributions
    There a so many ways to convert images to B&W that sometimes I got lost myself. The thing I do is that I only use those that I find able to produce decent B&W images. There are some (example: Calculation method and Lightroom) that works very well with portraitures. And then, there are those which often give a rather flat (dull) result. These I will avoid.

    Bottomline is to learn those that you think works best for you. Regardless of which technique I use, I always use the Zone System as my yardstick. The system will help me previsualize that kind of mood and feeling I want to ingrain into my images.

    Here is one more for you:

    Fujifilm S5 Pro + Nikon 17-35 f2.8 ED AFS
    Shot in color RAW, converted to B&W in Adobe Lightroom.

    It was a hot Thursday afternoon when I shot this image. This was the backstage 'under construction' for the CLEO Magazine Fashion Fiesta 2007 at Clarke Quay. The PicoArt guys were rushing to meet the Friday evening dateline. I was at the site meeting with the organizers trying to know more about the event.
    Last edited by photobum; 30th October 2007 at 11:57 PM.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by photobum View Post
    There a so many ways to convert images to B&W that sometimes I got lost myself. The thing I do is that I only use those that I find able to produce decent B&W images. There are some (example: Calculation method and Lightroom) that works very well with portraitures. And then, there are those which often give a rather flat (dull) result. These I will avoid.

    Bottomline is to learn those that you think works best for you. Regardless of which technique I use, I always use the Zone System as my yard stick. The system will help me previsualize that kind of mood and feeling I want to ingrain into my images.
    maybe i'll narrow down my thots... i am actually more interested in B&W for portraits and landscape photog. so i guess the zone system can be applied to this
    ...seeking angles in a new definition...
    SG 1st Malay Photog Forum | My Works

  14. #54

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by photobum View Post
    Regardless of which technique I use, I always use the Zone System as my yardstick. The system will help me previsualize that kind of mood and feeling I want to ingrain into my images.
    I have a little grounding in using the zone system, especially with the use of films. As I understand it, I previsualise how I wish the negatives to be, putting different parts of the scene in the "zones" I desire. Then I make my exposure, and, depending on the contrast range of the scene, I extend or reduce development. With this negative (or "score"), I make my images in the darkroom.

    However, I am a little confused by some of your comments, with regards to making photographs digitally and using photoshop.

    For digital, I still use the principles of the zone system to make my exposure. However, unlike films, there are no "development" of the digital file. I have a a digital image, exposed with placing a certain portion of the image in a certain sone. From thence, I do no use the zone system anymore. I find that I do not need to use the zone system after I made my image digitally. I depend solely on my direct visualisation of the image on the LCD screen when I use curves, or dodge or burn. When I see something I like, I stop.

    Am I missing something?

    And oh, I think you missed a question I posed earlier. Were you talking about Alan Ross? Or Art Ross?

  15. #55

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by Anjinnete Ross View Post
    I have a little grounding in using the zone system, especially with the use of films. As I understand it, I previsualise how I wish the negatives to be, putting different parts of the scene in the "zones" I desire. Then I make my exposure, and, depending on the contrast range of the scene, I extend or reduce development. With this negative (or "score"), I make my images in the darkroom.

    However, I am a little confused by some of your comments, with regards to making photographs digitally and using photoshop.

    For digital, I still use the principles of the zone system to make my exposure. However, unlike films, there are no "development" of the digital file. I have a a digital image, exposed with placing a certain portion of the image in a certain sone. From thence, I do no use the zone system anymore. I find that I do not need to use the zone system after I made my image digitally. I depend solely on my direct visualisation of the image on the LCD screen when I use curves, or dodge or burn. When I see something I like, I stop.

    Am I missing something?

    And oh, I think you missed a question I posed earlier. Were you talking about Alan Ross? Or Art Ross?
    It was supposed to be Alan Ross... My mistake. When typing, I was thinking of Dr. Art Rosser who was one of my instructor at RIT many, many years ago.

    When you are developing your film or paper in the darkroom. The amount of time, the concentration and the type of chemistry you use changes the Dmax of your film or paper curve. Now, let us use this principle in Photoshop. Here, not only you can 'tweak' the Dmax, but also the Dmin using either Curve or Level adjustment. It is the same concept regardless of whether film or digital. EXCEPT, for film, you can 'see' the outcome on film and paper, however with digital, you evaluate the results on your monitor (provided it is properly calibrated) and your final prints (again, provided that your printer is calibrated to your workflow).
    Last edited by photobum; 31st October 2007 at 01:44 AM.

  16. #56
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    So in a nutshell, for a digital workflow, how does the application of the Zone System come into play?

  17. #57

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by calebk View Post
    So in a nutshell, for a digital workflow, how does the application of the Zone System come into play?
    You will have to perform some tests on your workflow to make sure that the tones matches your final prints (I can't really tell you off-hand how to perform this test, but it is a 16-step Zone System digital calibration test). You do need a few equipment such as a color spectrometer and densitometer. I also use the GretagMacbeth i1 Pro system. In addition, you may find out that you'll require a dedicated printer just to print B&W (mine is an Epson R2400).
    Last edited by photobum; 30th October 2007 at 11:57 PM.

  18. #58

    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Reviving this ead, and not to detract from the on-doing discussions, but do you have any idea how this photographer achieves his tonal values?

    http://www.marktucker.com/indexport.html

  19. #59
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    Those are fantastic...

    To answer your query... Sorry no idea...

  20. #60
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    Default Re: B&W Conversion

    the zone system is good, but one must be able to develop a good enough visual perception of the middle grey and the extremes?
    chezburgr i can haz?

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