Congrats on the purchase!! Feel free to post any questions you have, even if they are noobie questions. Most people in this forum are very helpful (unlike some other forums that shall remain nameless).
The lens hood is to avoid flare ups from excessive sunlight. I rarely use it, but I really should.
Where did you touch the lens? Or the front end, or on the back, where the lens attaches to the camera? If on the front end, you can use a soft lens cleaning cloth. Just make sure that the cloth itself and the lens don't have any specks of sand or anything abrasive on them, or else, you can scratch the lens. If it's on the back end where the lens attaches to the camera, I have no idea how to clean that area.
On the second photo of the building and flowers, you may want to increase the apperture so that more of the photo will be in focus. Check out Gordon's tips:http://www.dslrtips.com/workshops/How_to_take_landscapes_with_lots_in_focus/landscape_large_depth_of_field.shtml
Thanks for the kind words.
I touched the lens on the front, not the back. I can't see any spots on the pics, so many I was lucky. I'm aware of the sand corns etc. scratching the lens.
As for the apperture: Yes, I know increasing it, might have been good but I couldn't be bothered at the time.
I'm going to a friend, this weekend: he's also into photos as a hobby (he's a Canon-guy though
) And I'm hoping he can give me a few tips.
My Flipside 300 arrived today as well. Except having to "bend" the lowest part of it a little in order to access the bag easy, It seems nice and it's nice to have all camera gear stored in one bag.
I will get back to you with more pics after the weekend