I travel a lot and would like to buy a camera that would enable me to take something a little better than snapshots. I have never been on a photography course - although I have vague plans to do so in the future. I would like a camera that has both automatic and manual controls. However, I don't want something cumbersome. If it's too big, too heavy or too tricky I won't feel inclined to use it. Should I just get a good quality manual, like the Canon Elph? My budget is around pounds 100 to pounds 150.
The Travel Editor writes: It is not really possible to stay within your budget if you want to buy a camera with both manual and automatic functions. SLR cameras (single lens reflex) are both automatic and manual, but to get the most out of the manual override function you would need get to grips with some basic technicalities.
It would probably be best to do a short photography course. New SLRs start at around pounds 200. It may be possible to buy a second-hand SLR for around pounds 100. You could try Jessop's (tel: 0171-240 6077), a specialist camera shop in New Oxford Street, London. For more information on photography, you could try leafing through some of the many excellent books at your local library or in the photo section of a good bookshop.
Joel Lacey, the technical editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, advises: "If you buy an automatic camera like an Ixus - Elph in the US - you will never be able to realise your plans to learn more. A compromise would be a Minolta Vectis S-100. It might be pounds 20 outside your price range, but it is a weatherproof, APS format camera which lets you shoot in auto if you want, but allows much more manual control. Also you can buy extra lenses should your photographic ambitions come to something. If you go from the principle that you will be able to keep the camera for much longer than an Ixus, that pounds 20 will be quickly written off.
"For more information about photography courses you should contact your local education authority or check the listings in one the many consumer magazines about photography, such as Amateur photographer."
Trapped at home by earache and sea sickness
I write in regard to your offer to give assistance in travel problems. We have two! Firstly, I have been unable to travel long-haul for some years because of agonising earache. The remedies suggested, sucking sweets, breathing short hard breaths etc are useless. I have also very recently had a middle ear infection which left me temporarily profoundly deaf. Has any real solution to this problem been found? Is any plane sufficiently proof against this occurring? Secondly, my daughter suffers from very bad sea sickness - we are therefore finding it very difficult to manage a holiday together - except perhaps by train.
Dr Larry Goodyer replies: It does sound like you are going to have some difficulties in reaching your holiday destination. The official term for the problem you describe is called "barotrauma" and is due to problems of equalisation of air pressure in the middle ear, particularly when the plane descends. It is often recommended that people should avoid flying if they have a middle ear infection.
It is possible that you have a form of chronic barotrauma where the problem seems to get progressively worse after each flight. If it is a recurrent problem then it may be worth taking decongestant drops or tablets before you travel. In your case, I would not fly until you have seen your doctor and possibly an ear, nose and throat specialist, who may be able to offer some particular solutions depending on the cause of your problem.
In your daughter's case, have you tried the preparations available from your pharmacy? Travel sickness remedies must be started well before departure to get the best effect. If one product doesn't seem to work then another could be tried. Have a word with your pharmacist about this.
Dr Larry Goodyer is a lecturer in clinical pharmacy at King's College, London. Contact the Nomad Travel Health Helpline (tel: 0891 633414; calls cost 50p per minute).
A brush with Ireland's model landscapes
I want to combine a short holiday with a painting course, preferably in Ireland or the UK. Can you help?
The Travel Editor replies: There are several painting holidays available in Ireland which combine full tuition with magnificent surroundings.
If you want unspoilt scenery, The Irish School of Landscape Painting (tel: 00 3534 044 0197) offers short painting courses for various abilities at Ballinaboy, County Galway, including landscape demos and lectures.
Tuition costs Ipounds 50 (pounds 44) for a weekend, Ipounds 120 for a week, excluding accommodation. By flying in and out of Galway, you could combine the course with a couple of days in this lively city. Aer Lingus (tel: 0645 737747) offers flights to Galway via Dublin for pounds 95 return (plus pounds 13.50 tax).
A more inclusive painting holiday is offered at The Cottages, near Drogheda in County Meath (tel: 00 3534 1982 8104). Courses for beginners and intermediates in watercolour and pastel are given by practising artists. Guests stay on site and numbers are restricted to 12 to guarantee individual attention. The Cottages is only 25 minutes by car from Dublin airport. Four nights' accommodation with three days' tuition costs Ipounds 200.
A full list of painting holidays in Britain is published in The Painting Holiday Directory, price pounds 4.75. It is available from PO Box 1, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE19 2EB (tel: 01830 540 215).