What is the New Digital Zone System?

"Different levels of photography require different levels of understanding and skill. A 'press the button, let George do the rest' photographer needs little or no technical knowledge of photography. A zone system photographer takes more responsibility. He visualizes before he presses the button, and afterwards calibrates for predictable print values."
Minor White

One of the first things you learn as a photographer is the importance of visualizing the photograph before you take it. Ansel Adams developed a system to nurture this process and encourage photographers to consider the relationship between the picture they want to take and the one that will actually result from their work. This "Zone System" has become a crucial tool for film photographers, particularly for anyone interested in black and white photography.


The decline of film cameras hasn't made the Zone System completely irrelevant, however. Lee Varis -- photographer, author, and digital imaging artist --  has adapted the Zone System for the digital age, allowing modern photographers to incorporate the classic values of Ansel Adams into their work today. Lee will be coming to PAUL'S the weekend of August 17 & 18 to host a workshop for photographers interested in adding the New Digital Zone System to their skill set.

Read on for a brief interview with Lee, illustrated by some of the work he has created using his updated version of the Zone System.


1.  What is the Digital Zone System and why is it beneficial for emerging professional photographers?

The Digital Zone System is an update on the famous Zone System of Ansel Adams for the digital age. The principals of the original system of tone control still apply, but digital capture technology has made it easy and more powerful. The photographer can now exert much more precise control over exposure and post processing  to render images with much more impact. Take your images to the next level and really separate your work from every yahoo with the DSLR.

2.  How has the digital version of this system impacted your work personally?

I learned the old school method of the Zone System & as an early adopter of digital capture I wanted to apply the concepts to the new technology. This has given me a much deeper understanding of image capture and results in higher quality images, at least in a technical sense.


 3.  Can you give one piece of advice for photographers who are thinking about studying the Digital Zone System?

It's all about testing your image capture system so you know every nuance of how it works - test, & re-test to be sure!


**Click here for more information about Lee's upcoming workshop.

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