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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.

At this date there is mass confusion about airport passenger security checkpoint inspection in regards to film X-rays. It is well known that film in checked baggage, subject to pulse CT inspection, will be ruined, but less well known is that cumulative X-ray exposure on low intensity passenger carry-on baggage will also eventually ruin film. 

In the past FAA rules permitted requested hand inspection of film in clear plastic bags, and of film-loaded cameras. This has worked well for many years, but current security conditions may have changed the rules.  At one nearby airport, hand inspection is no longer performed; at another it is.  Neither the airport security offices, or the airlines know what the current rules are.  

I take the usual large film quantity with me, and I have already found that Fed-Exing unexposed films creates delivery problems if I am not at the exact delivery point when the deliveryman arrives, and no one can promptly locate it in a distant US or foreign city.  Carrying it has been the best way until now.  What do you suggest?

Stanley Sizeler

We've got a sum total of three flights under our belt since the September 11th attack (see First Flight in this issue).  Though I was traveling with the a digital camera (for the Dimage 7 test), I also observed that some airports would still do hand checks of film (Philadelphia & Miami) while another would not (Charlotte).  Please bear in mind that things are still changing and I wouldn't even bet that there is consistency from terminal to terminal at some airports just now.

As far as x-ray strength and cumulative effects are concerned, my personal feeling is that I want to have anything faster than ISO 800 hand checked.  The official word is that anything at ISO 1000 or faster could be damaged by carry-on x-rays.  Cumulative effects seem to be a problem with ISO 800 and faster films (which is why I prefer mine hand checked) and much less of a problem with slower films.  You can't get a definitive answer, or even a rule of thumb, as to how many times a roll of ISO 200 film can be x-rayed before damage occurs because (I'm told) there are significant differences in the strength of the x-ray units based on age, type, and location.

At present I would either ship high speed films or buy and process them on location.  You don't actually have to be there for FedEx or UPS deliveries.  If staying at a private residence or a bed and breakfast where you're not sure someone will be there to sign, you can request "no signature required" service.  What you're saying is that you give up your rights to make a claim against the shipper if the package is stolen before you can pick it up.  I have often shipped packages this way and never had a problem. 

If you're staying at a hotel, call the front desk in advance and explain that you're a photographer and that you'll be shipping equipment ahead so it will be waiting when you arrive.  Confirm that they will sign for it and there shouldn't be a problem.  Just don't forget to process those high speed films before you head home.  Any major city in the U.S., and most large cities world wide have "press and film" offices (though the names vary).  These offices are set up to liaison to journalists and film makers and they'll have a list of high quality professional labs in that city.


I am an experienced photographer. I use Nikon 35mm cameras for land and underwater photography. I also use a Nikon Coolpix 995 for the above.

I have a HP Photosmart S20 scanner and a HP 952C printer.

I will be taking the 952C to my office for occasional photo printing and for document printing.

I will be replacing the 952C with a photo printer. To get to the point, can you give me some straight talk about what you think is the best moderately priced photo printer?

Which is the best, HP or Epson? I'm looking for the best bang for my buck for printing photos. I use Photoshop 6.0.

Thank you, 
Richard Christie

The quality of photo printers is really improving. We use Epson Photo printers in-house. They offer the best quality without going into outrageously priced inks and are relatively fast.  The staff here all have photos printed on Epson printers hanging in our homes next to traditionally printed photos.   Without knowing which ones were printed on the ink jet printer, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Keep in mind, there are some who still say HP has better printers and some are starting to say the series of Canon photo printers are the best. I have seen output from these printers and they are very good, however, I am still going to stick with my Epson.  Another indicator is that any professional graphics shop I've walked into recently has Epson printers almost exclusively.


I am a digital artist. Many art competitions require me to submit slides of my work. I have to print out my work and then hire someone to take a photo of my printout. I would like to know how to take my own photographs of my art work. I know that I will need a special filter that eliminates the reflection. What kind of filter will I need? What about lighting etc. I have a regular old 35mm Minolta XG-M. Can you give me some tips? 

Thanks so much for any help you can provide,
Virginia Riker

Shooting slides of artwork or photographs can be relatively easy. If you can take your work outside, set it up on a support in an area that is well lit but not in direct sunlight (open shade).  Meter from an 18% gray card and set your camera to that reading. Then fill your frame with your image and take the shot. If you want to be extra sure you got the correct exposure, bracket. With slides I would suggest no more than 1/2 stop over or under your base exposure.

A polarizer on your lens will help reduce glare and reflections on your art work. This filter will also increase color saturation. Polarizers are easy to use. When framing your shot, just rotate the outer ring of the filter till you see the desired effect. Remember to adjust your exposure for the filter if you are using a hand held meter. An in-camera meter the camera will compensate for it.

Another option you have today for creating slides of digital artwork is to have them burned into slides directly from your digital file. Many custom photo finishing labs have the ability to take digital files directly from CDs, Zip disks and other media types, and output them to a film recorder on slide film. These can be expensive but should yield a high quality slide with little fuss on your end.


I own Canon's EOS-5 for some time now and I'm more than happy with the camera. Recently while shooting for a local newspaper my flash unit (EZ-540) physically broke. I switched to my backup unit, a non-dedicated Vivitar flash. I have used this flash before and using it in manual mode with EOS-5 was not a problem. 

But, after reading a certain article on the web I started to think about the possible circumstances of using my Vivitar flash. Can it, in any way, damage the electronic circuits of my EOS-5 as it's non-dedicated flash and not compatible with my camera? Yesterday while using the flash, I fired some shots, let it re-charge and then I turned it off because for my next shot I didn't want to use it. But, despite the fact that the flash was turned off, it fired! This strange case makes me believe that the use of this flash might damage my camera. 

Goran Ljubuncic

I don't know of any reason why you would not be able to safely use your Vivitar flash with your EOS 5. What I think may have happened is that you let your flash recharge fully prior to turning it off. When you took the picture, there was still a charge in the flash which was triggered by the camera when it was fired. This is similar to when you charge a flash, turn it off and then press the discharge button. The flash will still fire. I have used a Vivitar manual flash on my similar system for several years without problem.


I have been away from photography because of the poor quality of one hour labs and their high costs. I guess a way to improve this situation is to start shooting slides, scan them into my computer and print only those I choose to. So my questions are: 
A- What does it take and how hard is it to develop slides at home? Is it worth it from the quality point of view? (I have some experience developing B&W film). 

B- Assuming this is the right track, which scanner do you recommend? 

Thank you for your time, 
Orlando Carvallo

Developing slides at home is a little different than doing black and white. First I would recommend stainless steel tanks. Color slide processes need critical temperature control for the first developer and stainless steel tanks provide more consistent temperature control than plastic tanks. It is possible to get excellent quality results doing your own slides. Practice until you are sure you can do the processing with few problems and, most importantly, that you will be getting the quality you are satisfied with.

As far as a good film scanner, we use Nikon Coolscan scanners and have been impressed with the quality they can deliver.  Look for scanners that feature Digital Ice or Digital Ice3 from Applied Science Fiction.  Digital Ice removes scratches and dust from scans - saving hours of touch-up work.  Digital Ice adds two features for scanning older slides and negatives: software that automatically defocuses grain in older films and color restoration software that restores the color to old faded chromes.  This software is so good it has to be seen to be believed.

But don't believe the ads that tell you how easy digital scanning and printing are.  They are skills you master.  Just like darkroom printing.

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 Try an have anything faster than ISO 800 hand-
checked at the airport.


















We use Epson photo printers







You can burn slides directly from digital files




























Digital scanning and printing are skills you master, just like darkroom printing.



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