(Figure 1) 105mm vs. 24mm

Understanding Lenses

written by: Alan Ross

There are two primary elements of choosing and using a lens: what focal length to use and where to focus/what aperture to use. Let’s take a look at how these elements affect an image. How Does Focal Length Affect Your Image? The only thing that changes when you use a different focal length lens is the cropping of your image! Optical aberrations aside, short focal length or wide angle lenses do not distort close subjects, and long focal length or telephoto lenses do not compress subject features. What really causes these familiar effects discussed so often in popular texts is Read more »


Selective Masking Part III: Computer Techniques for the Traditional Darkroom

written by: Alan Ross

Part I (Nov/Dec, 2010) introduced an inexpensive, low-tech technique for hands-free dodging and burning of an image by using pencil or markers on mylar masks placed above the negative in a traditional darkroom. Part II (March/April, 2011) introduced the use of Photoshop or Elements to create masks on inkjet transparency film to make hands-free graduated-burns of skies and other areas. Part III expands on the use of the computer in the traditional darkroom for making prints with multiple contrasts on variable-contrast paper. All three articles explain how to make a variety of masks to achieve controlled results while printing conventional Read more »

zone system, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Alan Ross, photo technique

The Zone System

Method or Madness?
written by: Alan Ross

Seventy years ago, Ansel Adams and Fred Archer, both teaching photography at what is now the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, CA, announced they had come up with a means of analyzing the “brightnesses” of a scene and using that information to anticipate and manage the way those “brightnesses” would be rendered in a print. They called it the Zone System (ZS). Considering the rapid development of computerized camera meters, and “auto-this” and “auto that,” it seems a good time to ponder whether we have now fast-forwarded to the past, when Kodak announced, “You push the button, we do Read more »

Alan Ross, selective masking, digital masking, photo technique

Selective Digital Masking Part II

A Versatile Method of Darkroom Printing Control
written by: Alan Ross

Today the most logical and practical approach to making graduated masks for traditional printing is through using the computer. A classicist in my own work, I like to work in black and white with view cameras. I tray-develop my film and make gelatin silver prints, but I don’t consider myself a “purist.” I enthusiastically embrace the creative potential afforded by the growth of digital technology as tools I have available to further my aesthetic. I currently have no personal interest in using the computer to create new visions, but I use it as a tool to enable me to make Read more »

(Figure 4) Burned Church, Las Mesitas, Colorado

An Introduction to Selective Masking Part I

A Method for Total Control of Dodging and Burning in Analog Printing
written by: Alan Ross

No matter how adept we might be at utilizing local printing controls such as dodging and burning, or using multiple contrasts, we sometimes still find ourselves faced with an image which either defies our best efforts, or makes us really strain to get things to come out right. Have you ever wished you were an octopus? I’ve had several images where I had to have an assistant dodge one area of a print while I dodged another. Have you ever been frustrated trying to deal with a little part of an image, an important one, that’s just too small to Read more »


Can the Zone System Go Digital?

In a word: YES!
written by: Alan Ross

The Zone System (ZS) can be an integral and important part of any digital photographer’s workflow because it allows you to plan and predict an image’s tonal values rather than letting the camera make the decision. The computerized metering systems in modern cameras are really amazing, and a lot of the time they will give you practical exposures, but in difficult or extreme lighting situations, the scale of the subject’s brightness is simply greater than the camera’s technology can handle. The Zone System: Lets you be aware of whether, or how much, the scene brightness exceeds your camera’s limits Lets Read more »