"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.


1. How is Still Life Artistry different from everyday photography of

Still Life Artistry is all about intentional lighting rather than simply pointing the camera at an interesting subject and clicking the shutter. The workshop will explore a number of different approaches to lighting small subjects and assembling a finely crafted image. We will be working with some light painting techniques that are only possible with digital capture but are very accessible to the average photographer, require no special lighting equipment, and easy and fun to do. After images are captured, they do need to be "assembled" in Photoshop, so that will be an important aspect of the workshop.


2. Which photographers or projects have been an
inspiration to you as you've pursued this particular type of photography?

I arrived at many of these techniques through my own experimentation about 12 years ago but other expert practitioners include Jim DiVatele : http://www.divitalephotography.com and Eric Curry: http://www.americanprideandpassion.com/photographs.php


3. Is there any particular project that has been your favorite or has stood
out from the others in some way?

I have used these special lighting techniques on a number of projects over the years, most recently in unpublished personal work — one of my more recent commercial assignments was to re-create a train crash as a night time scene using miniature trains -- this was for an ad-comp for the movie poster for Steven Spielberg's Super 8 sci-fi movie. I was able to create a convincing image using heat gun distressed model trains and flashlights!



Lee Varis will be joining us at Paul's Photo for a Still Life Artistry workshop on Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21. Sign up here! You can also call 310-375-7014 to register.