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Advanced Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 15 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. 

In your Hyperfocal article, you say : "Depending on the focal length of the lens and the closeness of the subject, setting your lens to its hyperfocal distance may leave that foreground subject soft." Is it not the role of using hyperfocal to bring everything in the scene into sharp focus? In your image of the lighthouse with the foreground boats, how would you get both the boats and the lighthouse in sharp focus. Why would not f/22 do the job as you focus on the lighthouse?

Bill Jordan

Jim Responds - Setting your lens to its hyperfocal distance gives you the greatest depth of field. But that may not include your minimum focusing distance. Let's say you're shooting up a flowing stream and you want to place a colorful rock in the foreground that is about two feet from the front of your lens. You're composing the shot with your lens at 35mm. To get the proper shutter speed for a soft effect in the water requires an f-stop of f11. The hyperfocal point for a 35mm lens at f11 is 12 feet. Using the formulas in the article you can determine that at f11 focused on the hyperfocal point of 12 feet the point of near focus, or the area closest to you that will be in focus is about 6 feet from the front of your lens. That would leave the rock in soft focus and make it a distracting element rather than a compositional anchor for the image.

In this case you'd be better off backing off your focus a bit to a point nearer your camera which would make the foreground sharp and have little noticeable effect on items in the far distance.

I'm sold on the benefits of digital, and hope to soon afford a new D-SLR. With my current film-based system is it cost-effective to purchase my own film developing equipment, like one of the Jobo systems? I'm not terribly pleased with the quality from local processors, and prefer to keep as much control as possible throughout the process. I'm holding out for Minolta's digital Maxxum 7, since I have the film version and am completely satisfied with it. Until then I'm at the mercy of first developing the film. Thanks for your input.

Jeff S.

This is a tricky spot to be in.

By doing your own developing, you can maintain all the quality control to the level you want. You do have to consider the cost of setting up the equipment. The processors that you are talking about can be a bit expensive.

You will also have to factor in the cost of the chemicals you want to use, how many rolls they will process, and what the shelf life is once they are mixed. Once you have determined that, you can figure out how many rolls of film you may shoot in that time frame, and divide that into the cost. You may find it more cost effective to search for a good custom lab and pay the higher prices for good developing if you don't do a lot shooting. If you do a lot of shooting it may be worth the investment - if you will have the time to do it.

I have been photographing with a digital camera for about 8 months now and have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of images. I have been burning all my images on CD's as JPEG images to keep my PC uncluttered. My question is, am I degrading these jpeg images every time I open them to be viewed straight from the CDROM? I've heard that every time you open JPEG file, a certain degradation occurs. Should I burn them as TIFF files instead?


Once you have burned the images to a CD, the files cannot be altered.

If you are doing a lot of image manipulation and editing, you risk losing information in JPEG. A lot of people I know will edit everything while in TIFF and then after everything is done, save as a JPEG and burn to a CD. I would recommend when saving as a JPEG, be sure to save as the highest quality jpeg setting your program allows.

I scanned ALL my FILM images to "RW CDs" with a slide scanner. Last week I loaded a RW CD which was filled with retouched and printer ready JPEG and TIFF Images in my RW Drive and woe and behold, there were NO images on the RW CD. I immediately started a trouble shooting procedure in order to find out if my RW Drive went whacko. The RW Drive checked out AOK. I use PHOTOSHOP 6 to process my pics and it said that the CD was empty. I then went to my other PC, loaded the RW/CD into its RW Drive. I use PhotoSuite 4 to process pics in this PC and it said that the CD was empty too. The SAME thing happened two years ago just as I described above with the same set-up. I save NOTHING to my hard drive except my operating system. My question to you is, "WHAT HAPPENED!"

Jim Lockhart

Well, it's impossible to be sure from your email but I'll take a look at a couple of possibilities. The first is that the software for the drive or one of its drivers didn't install correctly. The easiest way to check this is to create a new disk and copy some files from your hard drive to it, then see if you can read those files back from the disk.

One thing that caught my eye was the statement "I scanned ALL my FILM images to RW CDs with a slide scanner." Most CD RW drives will let you choose an option that allows you to treat a RW disk like a hard drive, where a "normal" format requires the drive be written once, and after that initial writing you can't add additional information. Generally these open disks are only readable on the drive/machine used to create them. This is all fine and good and it works well for backing up working copies of images. But there are a couple of limitations that make it a bad choice for general use as a backup media. The first is that you probably won't be able to read the disk on another computer, making it a poor choice as a backup. The other problem is that with some systems, while you can see the open drive from other applications, only the archiving software that came with the disk is capable of actually writing to the disk. I'm thinking this might be what happened in your case. When you choose the disk from your scanners "save" menu the scanner was unable to properly write the file to that disk.

A better approach would be to scan the images to your hard drive and save them to good quality CD-R disks. CD-R are cheaper than CD-RW disks but they can only be used once. The advantages are the CD-R disks, once created, can be read on any computer and they last MUCH longer. A CD-RW disk can begin to loose information in five years (less under some storage conditions) while a good quality CD-R disk can last 50 years or more without any degradation. See All About CD and DVD Storage in next month's issue.

Does the Hyperfocal Distance Charts for Digital SLR Cameras referenced in this months Vivid Light magazine all ready have the digital sensor multiplier factored into the Focal Length MM number? In other words when I put a 17-40mm f4.0 Canon lens on a Canon 10D and set the lens at 17mm and f22 the Hyperfocal Distance read directly off the chart is 2.15 ft. Do I use that directly or multiply the 17mm by 1.6 and use the distance read at 27mm, which on the chart is approx 5.85 ft.

Ronal Walraven

Yep, when you download the chart there's a separate page for digital cameras that already takes the sensor's crop factor into account. The page also lists what cameras this applies to, those who use what has become the "standard" sensor size for digital SLRs. Those of you using cameras with full frame sensors should use the 35mm chart.

I'm from Puerto Rico, I've read the magazine since the beginning, I enjoy too much this magazine. Also I like too much Jim McGee's and Gary Stanley's columns. I am a 35mm photographer, but at this point of my career I need some professional advice. I am working more artistic photography that involves persons as they're showing their emotions. Just right now am using a 35mm Pentax, zoom 28-80mm, and sometimes used a 6 x 7 Pentax medium format camera. Everything in B&W, mostly Ilford. But I want to try a little bit in Digital. a friend of mine tell me about the Canon 10D, but he used more for photojournalism. I need more feedback about this kind of camera and technical use. If you can help me I will thank you a lot.

Kathia Alsina

Digital SLRs like the Canon 10D make the transition from 35mm SLR to digital relatively easy. They handle in pretty much the same way and allow for the same kind of creative and precision control as their film counterparts.

Which one is the right one to go with can be a tough question to answer.

The 10D is a great camera and can handle quite a bit of rough usage. Canon's Digital Rebel is also a great camera and uses the same imaging technology as the 10D. It is geared for more generalized use but has full program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual exposure modes. It will allow most of the control that the 10D allows. The 10D will allow for better action shooting. It has continuous shooting of 3fps up to 9 frames in any mode. The Rebel has continuous shooting in certain modes and shoots at 2.5 fps. Either camera will produce great images and will allow for a lot of exposure control.

Another feature that would be of interest to you, I think the 10D can shoot in black & white mode while the Rebel cannot. I couldn't confirm this with a quick check of Canon's Web site though.

Another camera you want to consider would be the Pentax *ist. Since you are currently using Pentax equipment, you may be able to use some of your lenses with this camera as most Pentax lenses will be able to work with this camera. Some will have restrictions and others may require adapters. This could initially save you some money.

I have a Canon Rebel Digital and want buy a SIGMA 8 mm. I would know if it work well??? 

Luiz Alberto Mansano

I don't know of any reason the Sigma 8mm lens would not work on the Digital Rebel as long as it is the EOS mount. Sigma's Web site doesn't list any compatibility issues for this lens. Remember the focal length conversion, this 8mm circular fisheye lens will perform more like a 13mm circular fisheye on the Digital Rebel.

When pushing Black & White film to a higher ISO (ASA) rating, ie, 400 HP5 to 800,1600, you also have to extend the development time. I understand there is a powdered chemical that can be added to the developer that will reduce the grain enhancement. Do you know what this additive is, and how much is added to the developer? I look forward to your question & answer section every month, as it is very informative. Thank you for any help you can give.

Gene Brooks

Thanks for this question because I didn't know that this existed.

The additive that you are probably referring to is from Photographers' Formulary and is called Excel Film Enhancer (click here for the spec sheet).

This additive is used to increase shadow detail and film speed while at the same time reducing grain and development time. It is added to most diluted or undiluted developers at a rate of 30 ml per liter.

I haven't tried it so I can't give you any tips on its use, but it looks interesting and I'll be trying it out in the future.

I know that it is available from B&H Photo and Calumet in the US. Surprisingly we didn't find it listed with Jessup's for our readers in the U.K.

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