14 Jul

My Newest Obsession


I know it’s a little crazy to buy a big, bright, shiny, new camera after returning from the trip of a lifetime but I seem to do everything a little late. I went back to school late, started my career late, met Jason late, traveled around the world late, will probably have to retire late and will hopefully die late too!

We took some amazing photos while we were away and I have no complaints about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 that we took with us. It’s compact, lightweight, and durable while still packing in some great features including a 10X zoom. It was easy to pack away and so we always had it with us.

There were times though when I wondered just how much better the pictures could be if I just had a better camera. I had an SLR camera back in the days of film and so know what they are capable of and what they bring to the party. Would I have wanted to tote such a big camera around all the time? Probably not but I think it would have been worth it for sure.

Why didn’t I just get one while we were on the road? Well, did you hear about my budget anxiety? There was no way I could have justified spending almost $1000 all in one shot! But now that we’re home, and the budget has settled down a bit, I realize that I am still interested in photography and so…why not?

The hardest part was choosing. Just like trying to decide which countries to visit, trying to decide between the 5,386 different digital SLRs was difficult. There are plenty of brands out there but, for me, it came down to Nikon or Canon. In the end I chose Canon because it was what I had in the past and I was familiar with how it worked. But even within the Canon line up there are about 492 options to choose from. The trick was to get enough camera for me to grow into but to not overdo it and buy too much.

The Canon EOS Rebel T1i was the perfect choice for me. There is plenty of room for me to remember and learn and it didn’t break the bank. It gives me the opportunity to figure out my style and see where it takes me. I’m excited to learn all about it and have already spent many hours poring over the manual with camera in hand.

The last thing I am looking for is a great beginner photography website. I know the basics of how the camera works, about aperture and shutter speed, and how the different settings work. What I need is some info about composition, lighting and style as well as some knowledge around digital processing (RAW vs JPEG etc). Know of one? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email.

16 thoughts on “My Newest Obsession

  1. Great decision! I loved having my XTi with us on the road. And nearly 14,000 pictures later it is still a great camera. I will say that practice makes perfect with the digital SLRs so be sure to try in shoot in as many different settings and conditions as possible.

    One piece of advice is that I always shoot in high-res JPEG. Many people will tell you to shoot in RAW but unless you are going to be doing significant digital editing (think lots of photoshop) to your pictures the file size is not worth the trade off for the slight increase in image data you keep.

    Finally if you can find a local camera shop they sometimes will do half day intro courses. I took one and it was helpful when I was first getting started with my camera.

    • @Keith: Thanks for the advice – I plan on getting lots of practice.

      @Lisa#1: Congrats on heading out – will you be writing a blog too?

      I would totally take both cameras. As for looking less ‘touristy’, I’m not sure that’s possible…we pretty much stood out everywhere we went…we never passed as ‘locals’…well, maybe in Germany (until we opened our mouths!). I probably would have carried the bigger one as much as possible and packed the smaller one when we were being more active. Good luck and keep me posted!!

      @Lisa #2: I have coveted Dwayne’s camera long enough…now it’s time for him to teach me some tips and tricks!

  2. My husband & I have been planning for our RTW (ETD: 2012). I’ve read your entire blog & loved reading about all you scooter fun!!!! Also, I’m happy that you kept your blog up-to-date. . . the only reason I knew that Project Runaway had returned from their trip was by reading your blog!

    Anyway, I do have a nice digital SLR (Nikon) & a decent point & shoot camera (Canon). I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m torn between bringing both cameras OR bringing the point & shoot + a waterproof/shockproof point & shoot (probably the new Lumix DMC-TS2 or the Olympus Stylus Tough 8010). I love photography, but how much am I going to love lugging that camera into 3rd world countries? So, if you were me what would you do (knowing what you know now)? Would you bring the nice camera along or bring the good point & shoot in order to remain a bit more conspicuous & less touristy?

    Thanks for the help!

  3. We lugged our Nikon SLR D90 along with my little point and shoot and we never regretted bringing the Nikon. As we look back over thousands of amazing pictures it was so worth it! I am a Luddite with all the camera lingo but I know Dwayne was taking a JPEG and a raw file as he wanted to do manipulations later down the road. (Artistic reasons really)
    A note to the other Lisa, sorry I left you high and dry, but we are back and I do have a new post and more to come. Good luck with your planning!
    Now Gillian needs to plan another fabulous trip to use the new camera?

  4. Great post! We carried two cameras with us. Christine had a Nikon point and shoot and I had a Panasonic Lumix FZ-28. Christine’s point and shoot got crushed in her day bag (broken screen), but after over 22,000 photos over the past 11 months, the Panasonic has been great. It’s like a big point and shoot with better features.

    Once we get settled, I’ll upgrade to a proper DSLR – I’ve always loved the EOS and I still miss my EOS 35mm – and maybe take a proper photography course.

    Yea, take the course AFTER the big trip, but like you, better late than never right?

    • @Paul: Bummer about Christine’s camera – good job you had a good back up! That’s right, better late than never. I enjoy having the time now to spend learning about it and playing around. You’ll have to let me know what you settle on.

      @Erin: Nice to ‘meet’ you and thanks for commenting! My first look at your blog and I see you have written all about your time in Peru – I will definitely be checking it out as Peru was one of my favorite places.

      Thanks for the advice – I’ll be checking out the book. The photos on your site are very good so you must have learned some good things from it. Cheers.

  5. Gillian, I’ve followed along silently on your journey and enjoyed traveling along with you vicariously.

    I use a Canon 50D DSLR and a Canon G10 (sort of an advanced P&S). Still very much an amateur, but an enthusiastic one. You might look at getting Scott Kelby’s The Digital Photography Book. Easy read, with sample pictures and how tos. I found it useful when I first made my way into the world of digital photography, and I still use his method for shooting stitch panoramas.

    As for JPEG vs RAW … initially I was taking JPEG; then JPEG+RAW; and now RAW only. I switched to RAW only for one reason really — to be able to manipulate the photos after the fact if I need to, which was essential on a few occasions when I forgot to reset ISO or White Balance settings (and believe me, you’ll have some of those oops moments). Having shot in RAW, I was able to salvage those photos. I don’t play around with the photos much. Mostly run them through Lightroom to add contrast, crop, etc. (I have version 3 which has great selective tools), and sometimes Photoshop CS2.

    Have fun in the DSLR world.

    (By the way, I did take a couple of classes, but found that with the wide range of skill levels in the attendees that I wasn’t getting everything I needed. For me, books that allowed me to read and then practice on my own worked better.)

  6. Gillian, congrats on your new purchase! You will have so much fun with it. The trip helped you see the world in a whole new way, I’m sure, and with your new camera, you can see your home in a new way: through the lens. I really like Karen Walrond’s blog http://www.chookooloonks.com/blog/. She is a lawyer turned photographer, and she is so thoughtful about the world. A while back, she posted photography tips on a travel site and I’ve found her tips to be helpful: http://www.gadling.com/tag/throughthegadlinglens

    Lisa #1: We are currently lugging our Canon xsi around the world with us. It is attached to me almost every minute we are outside of our hotels. I get sick of lugging it around, but I love having it. Since I don’t really know photography, I can pretend with this. It makes me feel like a fancy photographer in ways my little point and shoot can’t. Our camera did get stolen in Lisbon, but luckily, it was covered by our renter’s insurance. We considered replacing it with something smaller but in the end I wouldn’t trade anything for having the SLR. I think it depends on how much you like photography. If pictures are just something to document the trip, something basic is fine. If you like to get a little creative and really capture the scene (such as with a wider angle lens), an SLR is best. Like Gillian said, you will stick out no matter whether you have an SLR or not. I brought our tiny point and shoot with us as well. I usually bring that out at night, but lately I’ve just been bringing the SLR anyway.

    • @Amy: Thanks so much for the link to Karen Waldron! I love it and can tell I will be spending much time perusing her site. I’ve also subsribed to the Gadling Through A Lens site – lots of great stuff there too.

  7. Gillian, Lisa & Amy,

    Thanks so much for the advice. I’ve been going back & forth on this issue for months now. But, I’m definitely considering lugging my Nikon D40 with me after hearing your thoughts.

    @ Amy: I love photography: I majored in it & later worked @ a photo studio, but now I just enjoy taking my own personal photos . . . I get to be more creative that way!

    @ Gillian: We will definitely be writing a blog to keep family & friends connected & I’ll be sure to fill you guys in (if you want)!!! Don’t have a domain yet, but I can make a note to send you the link.

    @ Lisa#2: I loved reading you blog & I look forward to reading your post-trip thoughts! We don’t have children yet, but after reading your blog it helped me see that travelling with kids is possible & we hope to do that often once we start a family.

    Thanks again for the advice!!!! :)

  8. Cool new toy! I think the Rebel is a great choice. I use Canon too, and I find the settings/adjustments/menu locations to be very intuitive. The body will last you a good long time, and the bit you saved on it you can later use to invest in some nicer lenses — after all, the lens is what will really affect the look/sharpness of your photos from now on, using an SLR. The 1.8 50mm Canon produces is a particularly fun lens. It costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $100, and is very very fast, and sharp — you can do some really beautiful things with that.

    It’s hard to find tips that speak to you in particular. I constantly learn a lot from flickr. People typically share their “EXIF” data, which will show you exactly how the camera they used was set to take the shot. People who use flickr are also quite friendly — I often simply ask people how to got this look, or how they managed to find this subject, etc.

    Flickr also has many interesting communities and ongoing “projects” which you can participate in as much as you have time. Some have weekly “assignments,” some give lots of critique, etc.

    Otherwise, I’ve gotten some good plainspeak tips from Ree Drummond. I follow a few food photographers which I’ll be happy to share with you, if you think it would be of interest.

    As far as workflow… mine has evolved quite a bit over the years. I would like to shoot RAW and sometimes toy with it, but I’m a terrible nitpicker, and just having the option to tinker with every single photo like that is a big trap and time waster, IMHO. I consider myself somewhat of a manipulation purist and try to get what I want in the camera, and not resort to Photoshop too much. Since I learned to control the impulse to manipulate, I started working with Adobe Lightroom. (actually, I had Aperture first, which I liked a bit more, but it creates really huge directories). Lightroom serves first as an organization tool (you put your photos in searchable archives, sort by project, etc. all in one place), and allows you to do most any photo-centric manipulations (exposure, white balance, sharpness). Really nice and organized.

    • @Eva: It was seeing you with your Canon that pushed me to finally get one! Thanks for the great advice…right now I am overwhelmed with new stuff to learn…but I’m loving it! And I am already coveting the 50mm lens you suggested.

      @Matt: What is it that you shoot with now?

  9. hi, great decission! Here are few links to some sites which could give you bit of inspiration

    great site – this one will remind you what is important in photography (its not megapixels or expensive equipment…) .. and yes.. this guy is totally into Leica

    cool site with hot stuff included :-)

    interesting blog

    bit of another world for us (who don’t have expensive cameras, but want to know how things work in big world :-)

    all is about light..


    • I love it Lisa! I’ll be following along as you lead up to your departure. The getting ready is 1/2 the fun!

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