Q. I have a 35mm SLR camera and an 80-200mm macro zoom lens. The camera works fine, but I'm not satisfied with the results from that lens.
I like to take pictures of tombstones of soldiers that died in the Civil War. The problem is that sometimes the names on the stones are clear and readable and some times they're not. Is there another lens I could buy that would make things clearer? I want to make close-ups.
Also, I am interested in buying developing equipment and an enlarger. Is this going to be hard to set up?
A. For your next lens, pick either a 35-70mm macro, or a 50mm macro. I personally would go for the short zoom lens since it will do a great many things. The 50mm macro is a flat plane lens, great for super close-ups, but somewhat restricted in other use.
But before you buy, try some filters for your current outfit. Certainly you should try a polarizing filter; check the results with a UV filter, too. These may help bring out those weathered names.
One other thing to try is a side light. Take your flash off the camera and try to put shadows on the lettering on the stones. An aluminum foil reflector may also help.
As for developing and printing your own pictures, the way to start is with black and white. Tanks, reels, chemicals and the rest of the material you'll need for negative developing will cost between $50 and $75. An enlarger will cost from $125 to $250.
But a word of warning: Try to find a class in darkroom work or a place where you can watch a friend go through the motions. Developing is not really difficult, but can be tedious if you have to reinvent the process on your own.
Q. A couple of times you have mentioned working with a black and white film called Neopan. I have looked around for it, but have not been able to find it. I gather it is made by Fuji, and I'd like to try it since I like the Fuji color film very much.
A. Neopan is the name of a very good black and white film that Fuji produces. I have used it in both ISO 400 and ISO 1600. The problem has been, up to now, that it was distributed for professionals only.
Now this has changed. Fuji has announced that this film will be available for all consumers, amateur and professional. It will be handled in photo stores and is well worth trying.
The ISO 400 pushes nicely to 800, and I like the 1600 pushed to 2400. I used D-76 for developing, mixed one to one, five minutes at 68 degrees for the 400.
And while we're talking about film, Eastman Kodak has published a new updated book "The Guide to Kodak 35mm Films -- How to Choose the Right Film."
The text of the first section explains characteristics of color print film, slide and black and white films, and is well-illustrated. It points out the different results obtained when using the various films, film speeds, flash and filters.
The book's second section presents extensive data sheets, covering different lighting situations with recommended shutter speeds and apertures.
Available at photo and book stores, the Kodak guide costs $10.95
Q. Do you know anything about filters other than they are good protection for the front of a lens? A guy at my office says some of the best pictures his camera ever took were made on color film using color filters. Can this be true? It sure sounds self-defeating to me.
A. This is not as weird as it sounds. Colored filters can be used fairly effectively with color slide film.
When you try it, just be prepared for some very different results. You can do some excellent special effects. An orange filter, for example, can give an added sense of warmth to sunset and dusk shots. Yellow filters do interesting things to grass and reflected whites.
But it is the red filter that I've had the most fun with. Blue skys become sort of mysterious, yellows become orange and grays and whites take on an extraordinary luster.
There are filters with gradations of the same color that give super effects. They can make the sky a deep color, and the ground much lighter. There are those with clear centers and dark colors around the edges that will give some of the most interesting portraits you've ever seen.
Go slow; filters are not inexpensive. Learn to master one at a time.
Write Carl Kramer c/o Weekend, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.