Ansel Adams’s “Zone System” at work

Ansel Adams’s “Zone System” at work

I recently read Ansel Adams’s book “The Camera” and now I’m reading “The Negative” in which he explains the Zone System – a system he conceptualized for controlling your images more.

I already understood exposure and often used exposure compensation and changed my camera’s metering mode to deal with different situations. But I was still somewhat at the mercy of my camera and what it considered an “average” exposure. Now I am taking more control of my images and understanding the relationship of tones better with regards to exposure, particularly highlights and shadows.

So often we take photos and the highlights are whited out, or the shadows have no detail, or it’s just not how we envisioned it. The Zone System really helps with that. This photo is how I conceptualized it. If left up to a camera with a built-in exposure meter it would have probably silhouetted the structure or whited of the sky. Using the spot meter of my old Canon Powershot I decided to put the darkest part of the structure to the left in zone II and this allowed me to preserve tonality in both structures and the sky.

This photo was shot with my 1958 Mamiyaflex TLR.

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