Q. Last Christmas I received a single-lens reflex camera with both 35-70mm and 70-210mm zoom lenses. I feel that I have made good progress with my photography, taking some fairly good bird pictures, winter beach scenes and family pictures.
I'm learning more each day; however, there is one area which has me baffled. I am unable to get the kind of reflection pictures I want. I see the subject, but can't transform it onto film. The pictures look dull and unimaginative. I have been shooting color print film, but hope to expand into slides soon. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Taking reflection pictures can be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, aspects of photography. I divide my efforts in reflection shooting into day and night efforts.
At night, when the weather is dry, I concentrate on reflections of artificial light, especially signs. There's not as much neon out there these days, but any sign can give great reflection in windows, doors and cars.
When the streets are wet, street lights cast reflections which seem to have a life of their own.
When shooting reflections at night, I switch to black and white.
During the day, especially after a rain shower, puddles and small pools of standing water can be a real challenge. The images reflected in the pools can be realistic, impressionist or even surrealistic. It's up to the photographer to choose the right moment and the exact message to portray.
From a technical standpoint, shoot for the reflection itself. Base your focus and exposure on the surface of the reflection. Remember, the light intensity will vary on different areas of the reflection. Walk around the pool or puddle, see how it looks when the surface is calm and how it looks with ripples across the surface. Change your camera angle frequently; try looking at your subject both as a horizontal and a vertical; make close-ups, so that the reflected image fills the frame and becomes the one point of impact.
Then back off and take a picture of the reflection in its surroundings. If the pool is on a sidewalk, perhaps the curb will help put it in context. Don't be afraid to shoot some extra film and bracket exposure.
Q. Though not much of a camera buff, I do like to take pictures of various family affairs. I prefer to use the small 110mm pocket camera as I find the film easy to load and I have no desire to use a 35mm camera. They seem so highly technical and I don't think I could handle one.
Yet, in looking for a new 110 camera, I hear horror stories about them. I don't know what to do. Is there a good 110 out there?
A. There are several good 110 cameras still made. I have looked at the Vivitar and Kodak and they seem to be fine. I'm told that Keystone makes a good 110, as does Ansco.
However, I would try to persuade you to look at some of the 35mm cameras. In a price range competitive with the 110s, you can get a full-sized camera that uses full-sized film and is almost as easy to handle as a 110. They are fully automatic in nearly every way. In some, such as the Fuji Discovery 60, you just drop the film in and the camera loads itself.
I found that the quality of full-frame 35mm is much better than the 110 size -- so much better that it's worth the small amount of extra money and effort.
Q. I'm considering buying a Pentax LX. I now own a Pentax MX and like it very much. I have heard some really great reports on the Pentax SF-1N. Can you give me some guidance and perhaps comparison of these two models?
A. The LX is the Pentax professional model SLR. It's the camera that replaced the MX. It does many of the same things and then some. It is extremely well-built, and is capable of taking the bumps and grinds of a running story. It has interchangeable viewfinders, a motor drive and a winder.. Manufacturer's suggested retail price for the LX body with a viewfinder is around $600.
The SF-1N is an extremely convenient camera, one of the easiest to use SLRs I've handled. The autofocus lenses that come with it are excellent -- sharp and with great resolution. It has features such as exposure bracketing and extremely versatile exposure programs and costs half as much as the LX.
Both have TTL (through the lens) flash. The MX lenses you own now can be used with the SF-1N, but in the manual focus mode. You should certainly look at both models before you buy.
Q. What do you think of the Beseler Cadet 35 enlarger? I have the opportunity to get one and I wonder if this is a good enlarger for beginners.
A. The Cadet 35 is a fine enlarger for anyone, including beginners. I would consider it first as an entry-level enlarger, but one that can stay with you as your skills progress.
If this is your first enlarger, however, I would urge you to shop around. There are other enlargers that you should see, including those made by Omega and Saunders.
Balance the merits off all three (including price) and you're bound to find the one best suited to you.
Write Carl Kramer c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.