Noteworthy: Don Kirby and the Zone System

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on February 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm


From Don Kirby’s “Grassland” series

PDN has an interesting article on Don Kirby, noted western landscape fine art photographer, and his use of Ansel Adam’s “Zone System”. While employed here in the world of film and wet processing, the Zone System also has application in the digital realm in how we should view a scene to capture the full range of tonality.

This particular article addresses Kirby’s experiment with a particular project, the “Grassland” series.

When Kirby developed his first grasslands negatives he discovered that with some images, “even with the N+2 development of the negative, the print would be very monotone/dull” in grass portions of the image. “I wanted the grass to be lively, sometimes even graphic,” Kirby recalls.

He began experimenting with 30-, 90-, and 120-minute development times using a JOBO processor and XTOL developer …

The challenges did not end with Kirby’s development method, however. Though the grass portions of his photographs looked more graphic, the high contrast development process left the sky and clouds much too bright. During printmaking, Kirby had to burn-in the clouds and other elements for several minutes, often using a low-contrast filter, in order to rebalance the image.

Kirby has continually been pushing the limits of his films in order to expand the contrast range of his images.

For more on this approach: Don Kirby PDN

For more on Kirby’s Grassland series: Grasslands

* Update *

Don sent us a note asking that you visit more of his work at:

Don Kirby

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