i'm using a point light (it's the first time i'm using a light). i did exactly what the 'digital tutors' dvd says about creating lights, but something seems to go wrong. the first time i did it a pair of axises came out and not a single light that is shown in the dvd (i'm using unlimited 2008, so does the dvd). when i rendered everything became black. i checked the intensity was high and the colour white and no decay was set on. the next time i launched maya when i hit create>lights>point light the light only appeared in the attribute editor and not in the scene so i could locate it. any help please? the object i'm trying to light is shown below. i want to give it nice sharp black shadows and also give it a shiny metallic look (that is the second question;how?)
The first situation you describe, where 'two axes' showed up when you created a light, sounds to me like you had the 'show manipulator tool' activated. That will give you two manipulators for a light: one to position the light, and another to position an 'aim at' point.
As for the light not being visible in your viewport, you may have turned off the visibility of lights in your scene as a whole or in that specific panel. Go to Display -> Show -> All in the top menu, and also to 'Show -> All' in the panel menu.
As for the scene rendering black... is the light hidden inside the shape? If it is a point light, it has to be located outside the geometry in order to cast any light on it. You can get a lighting preview in your viewport by pressing the '7' key.