Herbert Quick and the Zone System
The zone system is predicated on the idea that reflected light from a subject can be separated into definable "zones" or "levels" of tonal values, providing the photographer with a reliable procedure by which he or she can evaluate exposure, determine development schemes, and print with expectations of achieving a predetermined tonal structure in the final image.
While Ansel Adams is considered the founder of "the zone system of planned photography" and Minor White is credited with popularizing the method with his "Zone System Manual," the roots of the idea may be found in the ideas of Edward Weston and the "straight" photographers of the American school in the 1920s. Weston and his followers, including a young Ansel Adams, formed Group f/64 to promote Weston's vision of a pure photography where the photographer maintained absolute control over the use of materials and equipment, as well as composition and tonal structure, to achieve results. Weston's ideas permeated American photography in the 1930s and '40s.
In 1940, Quick was introduced to what was then an intriguing system by which the photographer would be able to maintain a constant quality in the printing of his negatives. Two articles by John L. Davenport appeared in the November and December issues of U.S. Camera that year describing the use of the Weston meter and providing details of the approach. Quick was fascinated and set out immediately to learn more so that he might apply the method to his own work.
At Art Center, Fred Archer and Ansel Adams taught courses in which they elaborated on the method, giving it a name -- "the zone system." Quick attended these classes, which further solidified his belief in the method and his determination to master its technical nuances.
In later years, Quick would advocate the use of the zone system and the Pentax Spot Meter (as modified by Zone VI Studios) to his own students at U.C. Riverside and elsewhere. His classes were small, as most students were either unwilling to accept the discipline and hard work required or were inadequately prepared in the fundamentals of photography to undertake the work.