Q. I'm expecting some camera-buff guests late this month who haven't been to Washington in many, many years. They want me to set up a sight-seeing agenda that will allow them to take plenty of pictures. I don't take pictures myself, so I need some help on this.
A. Your friends are in for a treat. Washington is certainly one of the most photogenic cities in the world. Most of our landmarks and national monuments have a distinct personality that can be captured on film. Here are a few of the places that your friends should have a go at:
* The Washington Monument. This is a tough one, since it's almost impossible to get the entire monument in one frame if you're at all close. But don't be afraid to make pictures around the base. The flags make constantly changing scenes, depending on the time of day and the weather. You'll also get a great series of shots from the windows at the top. This is a must for any photographer.
* Arlington Cemetery, the graves of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the Custis-Lee house offer hours of picture-taking. It's not easy to get a picture of the eternal flame over the late president's grave, so take lots of shots, from all angles. Try to get at least one person in the picture to show size. Read the quotes set in stone nearby; they make great backgrounds for people pictures.
* The Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite spots. There are so many ways to photograph it. First, there's the outside of the building. There are pictures to be made from the reflecting pool looking toward the stairs. The trees at the side of the pool make great foregrounds and the columns present some of the best pattern and detail pictures anywhere.
Then, there's the inside. The statue photogrphs well in black- and-white or color. You'll find that a fast film will serve you best, particularly in the evening or at night. Take time to study the statue. Note the symbols of our divided country during Lincoln's lifetime. See that one hand has a clenched fist, the other an open palm. See that one leg is drawn up tight while the other is relaxed. Then, for fun, walk around the side of the statue and see if you can find the sculpture's signature.
When you're finished with all that, go to the top of the front steps and look at the Washington Monument. Reflecting pool shots of it are lways winners.
* Some of my other personal favorites, which I would certainly recommend to any visiting camera- fan, are the National Zoo, the National Arboretum, the Vietnam Memorial, which, incidently has become the top photographic challenge of the area, and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington. There are great views of the city to be made from there.
CLOSE TO NATURE
Q. A friend of mine has made a step- by-step series of slides of his garden. The shots I really liked were the close-ups of his wife's hands planting, of hands harvesting, and best of all, closeups of vegetables and flowers that filled up the entire slide. How did he do this?
A. Close-up photography is great stuff. Not only do the pictures look good, but taking them can be challenging.
The best thing to use is a macro lens that can be brought into focus at very short distances from the subject. Some of these specially designed lenses can focus down to six inches; many will focus on objects as close as one foot. Macro lenses come in various focal lengths and in widely differing speeds.
You can, however, do good close- up work with your regular, non- macro lens. Generally, the smaller the focal length of the lens, the closer it will focus. I have found that mid-range lenses (80mm to 135mm) do the best.
Just move the focusing ring on your camera to its closest setting and move in on the object you're shooting. Do your fine focusing by actually moving your camera back and forth.