Finer Negatives and Prints

In an effort to create finer black and white negatives and prints, I have been doing a lot of research and reading. Specifically Ansel Adams' book's and one that was gifted to me by a photographer friend of mine Lanny Linehan

Ansel Adams - The Negative
Ansel Adams - The Print
Les McLean - Creative Black & White Photography

Metering and exposure for me has mostly been a set it and forget it practice. I would use a handheld incident meter, test the overall light, dial the EV value into my lens, and start shooting. I wouldn't pay much attention to the highlights and shadows within the scene and where they were specifically falling. For the most part this has worked well and given me negatives that are workable for both printing and scanning. But I knew there had to be something more, some greater form of knowledge and practice that was capable of producing fine negatives and prints.

The zone system is one of those key phrases I have always heard kicked around by photographers, but something I thought was un-necessary and more specifically, out of reach, and time consuming to learn and practice. I was correct with one of those preconceived notions, time consuming to learn! I have read all three of those books twice through, shot numerous test rolls of film, and purchased a new spot meter (pentax spotmeter v). Although time consuming, the rewards are immensely fulfilling. I am exposing negatives and making prints that are closer and closer to what I am mentally imagining when photographing a scene. Being able to picture the final print before taking the image, and expose the negative accordingly creates so many possibilites. Here are a couple of images from the first test roll I shot using the zone system, I was very happy pulling these out of the fix.