Starting as an advertising and editorial photographer in the 80’s I had the advantage of large format Polaroid and using a view camera. This meant with a little experience I had the ability to see a fairly good approximation of what the film would look like after inspecting the Polaroid which was very helpful for a advertising photographer. It also meant I could adjust the film by the individual sheet of film. As just a means of expediency, I would bracket my exposure and run a series of developments so if I was a little off I could compensate. Since almost all of my advertising and even editorial subjects allowed me to light them, I had control over contrast and form. So all this means I had little use for the formal use of the Zone System. I exclusively shot transparency film which is very much like today’s digital in that it was very unforgiving to over exposure. I would expose of the highlight and light for the shadows and form.
There sere some areas that were similar to the Zone System in careful consideration of exposure and the individual processing of sheets of film. I also use Pre-visualization to the degree I carefully worked toward a controlled result.
Now, I have an opportunity to revisit the methods of the Zone System and see how it can apply to my work. As a whole, I think a working understanding of the traditional Black and White process is very beneficial to photographers. Right off film is organic and I think people and especially artists (photographers) respond positively to its inherent natural qualities. I think we perceive the different between the random nature of film emulsions compared to the structured nature of pixels this includes film images that have been scanned. Then there is the craft in that very few steps in film can be poorly handled and satisfactorily adjusted for later which to a great degree is the value of the Zone System. Digital allows for a number of postproduction adjustment that appear to correct poor craftsman ship. This is especially true when the only platform for viewing is the already glowing monitor.