Digital Help
Q&A For Digital Photography Page 2

The Old And Difficult Choice Between Quality And Price
Q. Did you evaluate the new Microtek scanner? If you needed a 4x5 scanner now, which would you choose? For me image quality is important and I would like to be able to make prints 20x24". and larger for a show I'm having in a few months. However, value is desirable as well and if I don't need to pay the premium for the Kodak three-line CCD I won't. For larger prints, do you keep your output resolution around 300dpi? I've heard you can go lower because viewing distances should be greater.
Pete Alfano

If quality is the paramount issue the Kodak three-line CCD of the Microtek ArtixScan 1800f must be the choice. If you have to go to something less costly I would recommend the Epson Perfection 4990 as the best performing six-line CCD flat-bed now available for what you have in mind.
For very large prints your image size/resolution can be as low as 180dpi and you'll still obtain good print quality, but if you can get 240dpi that's a better compromise and will provide very good image quality in a 20x24" print.

Shooting The Moon
Q. I'm living in Yosemite, and I was taking photos of the full moon over Half Dome. My question: the moon looks too bright, and I was using f/stops from 4 to 22+ and from 1 second to 15 seconds. It was kind of overcast, but I can make it out with the naked eye. I was wondering if you could tell me the f/stop, exposure time, and possible need for filters? I have a Nikon D2H and was using a Sigma 24-135mm lens.
Don Bristow

It would be hard to predict exactly what exposure would be ideal for a future event. From my experience moonlight varies quite significantly in different locales and at different times and phases of the moon. However, I can say that the only time photographs with the moon and the surroundings are recorded successfully is when moon rise or set coincides with dusk or predawn. The ambient light provides a reduction in contrast and some illumination of the landscape. Those times are fairly rare, but can be predicted by referencing a lunar calendar, including moon rise and set times that can be coordinated with sunrise and sunset times.

Q. We've had a beautiful full moon recently and I've been trying to capture photos of it with my Nikon D70. I'm using a tripod, but seem to be getting a reflection image of the moon from the lens into the picture. The picture is in focus, so I don't believe the problem is camera shake. I've attached a file of one of the pictures. The shutter speed was 30 seconds, with an aperture of f/2. I would appreciate any help that you could offer. Thanks.
Linda Del Ponte

You are not the first to report difficulty attempting to photograph the recent full moon. You would not have had any more success with a Nikon 35mm SLR film camera.
The reason is that the difference between the light directly reflected by the moon and the amount of moonlight illuminating the foreground is way beyond the range any photographic device is capable of capturing. In your picture the moon itself is greatly overexposed and the foreground is equally underexposed. See my comments about optimizing your chances by making sure there is enough ambient light to illuminate the general scene.

Portable Studio Backdrops
Q. I have a problem with distracting creases and folds in background fabric. I set up at a different building for every shoot. What background material (name of supplier, specific background material such as muslin, vinyl, velour) do you recommend for the portrait photographer who sets up at different sites every time? I need about 8x7 foot-size background fabric because some people are much shorter than others, and sometimes I shoot more than two people. There isn't time between pictures to raise and lower the background. The king size, medium blue bed sheet material I use now looks wadded up and creased--very distracting. I carefully roll it up on a 4" diameter cardboard shipping tube, but it still looks awful. If there's room I set up my Savage background stand several feet behind the people and use an f/3.5 or wider open to keep the background material out of focus. But at most buildings where I set up (for dances), the people are only 24" or less in front of the backdrop because of lack of room. The Savage Port-A-Stand is 8 ft, 9" high and 9 ft, 6" wide. It is very rugged.
My setup: AlienBees 800 through translucent white 38" umbrella, Portra 400VC. Head-and-shoulder pictures of 2-5 people. The AlienBees unit is overkill for this--I use about 1/32 to 1/16 of the variable power. I love the bulletproof AlienBees and have sold all my previously bought, less reliable lighting equipment. I'm in a tiny, remote town and can't get advice on this. I appreciate you taking the time to answer this.
Harry Schroeter

Even when I had my studio, with a variety of backgrounds to serve different purposes, the problems of creases and folds needed a solution. Some of the "velour," fleece materials, like that used for blankets (Polartec), is easier to keep smooth and is less prone to creasing. However, my favorites came to be darker, mottled painted backgrounds on muslin because the abstract pattern, although subtle, hid any irregularities. In fact to have something unique for a background I used to buy old, used painter's drop cloths, which of course are frequently folded up in different ways, but after a lot of use get subtle abstract patterns that I liked. If the pattern became too strong I'd just spray the old drop-cloth background with a dark dye in a spray bottle.
As to what is available, and where you can find out what might work for you, I would visit one of the largest makers of backgrounds on the web at: Another source is: