Q. I took flash pictures of some kittens the other night. I carefully set the camera for the distance as indicated on the back of the flash. When the prints came back, only half of them were exposed. The rest were dark. What did I do?

A. I'm afraid it's not what you did, but what you didn't do. This is not an uncommon thing to have happen with the new electronic flashes.

After each shot you have to be very careful that your flash has recycled completely before shooting again. Usually, this means that the ready light is blinking. Too many times we shoot too soon. Just because the ready light is lit, don't think you are ready. Let it blink.

If you can, put your ear next to the flash unit and don't shoot until the recharging squeal stops.

This problem is most common with flas units that use two to four AA batteries that tend to wear out quickly. The recharge time gets longer and longer, so don't be fooled.


Q. I recently bought a telephoto zoom lens, and after the first rolls of film, I'm not happy with the pictures. The lower numbered part of the lens is okay, but when I zoom out to the higher number (it's an 80 to 200mm), the pictures really looked squashed up. When I took shots of people, the buildings, trees and other people seemed to be right up against them. The images got bigger, but the backgrounds moved closer, too.

A. Don't fret, you'll learn to like and shoot properly with your zoom. That squished-up effect you're getting is called compression. The longer (higher millimeter) your lens, the more compression you get in your pictures. The longer focal lengths appear to reduce the space between foreground and background -- the background seems to move forwa. It's a case of the lens telling a lie.

A good example of this was a TV replay of a disputed catch in the end zone during the recent Washington Redskins-Houston Oilers football game. It was close, but the official on the spot ruled that the Oiler receiver did not have both feet in bounds when he made the catch. The network replayed the catch over and over and seemed to be trying to prove that the catch was good for a touchdown. They almost insisted that the player's feet were in bounds and the official was wrong.

Well, it ain't necessarily so. The focal length of the lens, combined with the angle from which it photographed the play, did not show if there was any distance between the receiver's foot and the ground.

There was a great deal of compression involved.

The official's call could have been right or wrong, but from his position on the ground he probably had a better view of the play than the cameraman with the long telephoto lens.

As for your own compressed pictures, try zooming a little less than you think you want to. Frame your picture in your viewfinder, then zoom back a little and try that.

Also, try to shoot with as wide an f stop as possible, to make the background fuzzy and perhaps improve the picture.


Q. The trouble I have most often is underestimating ambient light when shooting with a darker subject in the foreground. Please explain how to override the automatic setting on my Konica so that I can get the foreground subject without the bright background light blotting it out.

A. This is a case of back-lighting problems. I don't know what model Konica you have, but I do know that some of them don't have back-light compensation switches.

If your camera is non-automatic or programmable, simply open the lens one stop to allow more exposure on the foreground, but generally not so much as to ruin the background.

If yours is an automatic camera, drop the ASA setting by one gradient for this shot. This serves the same function as opening the lens on a manual camera.

Just be sure to go back to the correct ASA when you go back to normal shooting.