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Advanced Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 12 years of retail and professional experience Chuck thought he'd heard it all - until he took this job.

Send us your questions for either the Beginner or Advanced columns by clicking HERE.  Please include as much detail about the technique, camera, lens, or film as you can so Chuck can answer your questions. 

This isn't a camera question per se, but it does affect my shooting. It's been a really wet spring on the East Coast and I've been getting swarmed by mosquitoes every time I go out to shoot in the woods near my house. What kind of bug repellant do you guys use?

Thank you, 
Mark Reynolds

The main thing is to get bug juice that contains DEET. Most over the counter sprays will have anywhere from 10% to 18% DEET. Products made for hunters and fisherman such as Ben's Tick & Insect Repellent contain 30% more DEET and are far more effective if you're going to be out in the woods or in wetlands areas (click here for a list of stores that carry Ben's). They even make a 95% DEET cream if you're going to be in really buggy areas.

If you want a non-DEET product Lennie Rue recommends Permanone Tick Repellent. Check out his Web site at

I've been shooting birds for a while now using a 70-300mm lens and a 2x Kenko teleconverter. I get pretty good results but I'm shooting everything at effectively F-11. My camera shop just took in a used 500mm mirror lens but I heard mirror lenses give you crappy backgrounds and I'm shooting everything wide open. Will the mirror lens solve my problem without spending a lot of money? Will the background really look bad or is that exaggerated?

Mike W.

Mirror lenses won't produce the sharpness of a standard lens design. If you're planning on enlarging your photos you'll definitely see a big difference between the lenses. But in a standard 4x6 print it will be difficult to see any difference. It all depends on how you intend to use your images.

I noticed that the aperture ring on my old Nikkor 28-85 is getting a bit wobbly. The lens still works fine. Is this something I should worry about or should I just keep shooting until it breaks. The lens is probably around 10 years old.

Mike W.

If a ring on the lens is getting wobbly, it is getting looser and will eventually start causing intermittent problems. It would probably be better to get the lens adjusted now before it develops into a more serious problem.

I just got a Nikon d 100 with a sigma 170-500mm tele zoom and an hp Photosmart 7550 printer.

I snapped a bluebird atop a stone monument at 500mm f6.3 against a bright blue sky... photo came out real nice. I inserted the Lexar card into the printer, zoomed the bird up to 3x and printed on 4x6 hp glossy paper. Colours are great, but feathers at this magnification definitely lack necessary sharpness.

I have not yet installed the NikonView 6.0 software and have not yet processed the image in Photoshop 7 on my computer. My question is, will using my card reader and computer setup give me better feather detail, as compared to the hp alone?

Your web site is great, very helpful.. and I hope you can offer me advice in this situation, 

The short answer is maybe. 

Printing from Photoshop may give you a sharper image since it's image resizing algorithm is likely more comprehensive than what is included in the printer's firmware. But the real answer is you'll probably be happier if you give the image a light touch of unsharp masking and a gentle touch at the top and bottom of the scale in levels and possible a slight touch-up in curves. For an example of how much difference this can make check out the Sphinx image in the D100 vs. SD9 article. As a starting point sharpen you image and then go into levels and look at the distribution of your input levels. Bring the min and max sliders in toward the center slightly. The amount will vary depending on how much data you have. Check and uncheck preview as you go so you can see the results. You can get a similar result using the curves dialog. Curves gives you more control, which also makes it easy to over adjust. Experiment a bit to find out what works for your tastes and monitor/printer combination. The first few tries may be a bit frustrating. But you'll quickly get the hang of it to where it will take seconds.

I have a Nikon D-100 and shot my first wedding using a SB-50 speedlight. I was not happy with the amount of light the flash put out. Seems like a lot of shots were underexposed. Should I upgrade to the SB-80 flash?

Richard Frehm

The first thing is to determine is whether the images were underexposed because of the flash range of the SB-50DX. If that was the problem then the SB-80DX is the correct fix as it is noticeably stronger. If you were in range of the flash then you may have to adjust the exposure compensation to fine-tune the exposure to your liking. One other thing to look for is a pattern in you negatives or slides. Are one or two shots exposed properly followed by two or three that are consistently underexposed? It may be that your batteries were marginal. When that happens you can get one or two good flash exposures followed by the batteries running down and the flash not firing. The batteries recover somewhat and then the process is repeated until the batteries finally die. It's a good habit to develop to load a set of fresh lithium photo batteries before a big day like a wedding. With fresh batteries you know you'll be good for the day.

Which method, when making a print from a slide, produces the highest quality print? Is the preferred method to create an interneg and then make a print or print directly from the slide? If the former, is there any advantage in making a 4x5 interneg from the slide instead of a 35mm one?

Richard Lovison

There are two basic ways to make prints from slides. One is a direct print form the slide and the other is by making an inter-neg.

Personally I prefer direct printing and it is the way most consumer labs are doing slide printing these days. With the introduction of some of the newer digital mini-labs, such as the Fuji Frontier, a lot of labs can now scan and create excellent prints at a relatively low price. The machine prints can be manipulated slightly for color corrections and density correction but do not allow for major fixes.

Many custom labs also now do high resolution scans of slides and print them on a high quality digital photo paper. These labs have more precise contrast control and the ability to do dodging and burning. Just keep in mind that any time the lab starts making major corrections you'll be paying a fee for that service. Make sure you find out the costs up front or you may get a shock when you get your print.

The problem with inter-negs is that you are creating a second generation image and then printing from it. This can lead to problems with loss of sharpness, color shifts, etc.

If you are dealing with a custom photo lab, they will usually be able to make prints by using an inter-neg with good results, but you will pay a high price. You can request inter-negs through many consumer labs at a much lower price but the quality will likely be commensurate with the price.

I'm graphic designer who also does a good amount of photography both for personal and client work, I'm just out of art school where I worked mostly with a Mamiya RB67 ProS, usually for landscape shots without additional lighting although I've done a bit of studio work too.

For the projects I'm currently working on, I'm adding artificial lighting: I've got a Vivitar 285HV and a Vivitar 283.

Up to that point everything is under control, the only thing is that until now, I was using optical slaves to trigger my flashes, but it seems that on some occasions, the second flash is out of reach of the first one, therefore I'm now looking into radio slave transmitter/receiver units, and because these are not cheap, I want to make sure they will work with my setup.

From the info I've gathered the choice is down to two competitors: the Quantum Radio Slave 4I vs. the Pocket Wizard Plus. The quantum solution seems much cheaper, but it's probably because the receivers are set on one dedicated channel (a,b,c or d)

Well my question is very simple, considering my setup, would any of the two solutions work for me (I'm using a Minolta light meter and the lenses I've got are all Sekor-C lenses), I'm mostly concerned about being able to connect the transmitter to my lenses without problems.

Thanks in advance for your help :) 

Either of these units should work fine with your setup. The multi-frequency Pocket Wizard may ultimately be more flexible down the road but Quantum makes quality equipment.

If the budget doesn't allow for the extra money, and you are not working around other photographers, the Quantum should be fine for you.

[To Gary] Have you or one of your associates done any testing to recommend maximum print size 'possible' with the D100, using the highest resolution?

Last year I had a 3'x6' mural done from 35mm transparency via a drum scanner that held up quite good (the grain was evident, but didn't hurt as the subject matter was a cattle feedlot).

Also, do you know of anyone that has done any such maximum print size testing with the Minolta Dimage Scan MultiPro?

Jerry Gildemeister

[Gary responds] While I haven't done a precise test to determine absolute sizes that the D 100 is capable of generating, I can tell you my experience and thoughts. I can easily produce very high quality 13x19 prints using JPEG High.

However, I now shoot using the RAW (NEF) setting. It is so much easier to make adjustments if needed to the image once in the computer. In fact, I hardly do more than adjust exposure and I'm ready to size and print. All the Gallery prints that I've sold so far have been digital images from the D100.

So I guess what I'm saying is, that if you've done a good job capturing the image, you should be able to enlarge that image to at least 13 x19 and up to maybe even 24 x 36 before using software like Genuine Fractals.

I've also had slides enlarged using a drum-roll scanner with excellent results. I feel that digital is not that far behind.

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