What to do with all those photos.

I wanted to like Aperture. I really did. I was getting a laptop so I could take it with me on trips to download photos from my camera. I like apple’s products in general, and I was getting excited about Aperture, so I decided on a Macbook Pro. Apparently Aperture doesn’t run very well on plain old macbooks – the graphics card isn’t good enough. So I lay down the extra cash for the pro, take it home, and start setting everything up. I install the Aperture trial, and start importing my pictures … and continue importing my pictures … for hours … for a couple days. Eventually I switched to Lightroom and I got all set up in a day. Below is a bit of a review.

Lightroom seems to a little faster and simpler than Aperture, and still does almost (give me stacks!) everything that I would want. With Aperture I would often get the dreaded beachball cursor. Now this is a fast computer – a high-end Macbook Pro (2.33Ghz Core 2 Duo with 2GB ram). This should not happen. But with Lightroom, even browsing my whole collection is fairly speedy, and I rarely get the spinning cursor.

For image editing, Lightroom has very detailed non-destructive adjustments, just like Aperture, but it seems to me that images can be improved dramatically much quicker than aperture by just using the “Basic” controls on the right side. (vibrance is a beautiful control – I don’t think Aperture has an equivalent). I was never able to get results I was really happy with in aperture. In lightroom I can usually do all the color adjustment I want with the white balance controls, “Recovery”, “Fill LIght”, “Blacks” and “Vibrance”. Of course there are lots of more detailed controls for more fine-grained control which is occasionally needed. Cropping, straightening, spotting are all simple and intuitive in both programs.

The one thing I miss from Aperture is stacks, which groups a bunch of photos, and only shows the best one of a group. Similar results can be achieved with stars and flags in lightroom, but it’s not the same and it takes a bit more work.
Somehow I overlooked this in Lightroom. Both programs have stacks. You can either stack automatically by capture time or you can assign stacks manually.

Aperture is also better for dual monitors, with flexible display settings. Lightroom doesn’t work on dual monitors yet, but the fullscreen mode (press f) in Lightroom is really nice, with the pop-out panels.

Other than all this, the filtering (to see only the photos you are interested in) is very powerful in both programs. The terminology is different between the programs, but the abilities are very similar. I didn’t really like that everything had to be in projects in Aperture. And a project can’t hold more than 10,000 images, so I can’t fit all my photos into one project. Lightroom’s catalog holds all the photos, and then they are arranged and filtered within that. This hierarchical structure makes a little more sense to me. The Folders in Lightroom are just the folders on your harddrive, and if you rename them, you rename the folders. This seems much more intuitive than Aperture’s projects to me, and if I ever switch to another program, everything is still organized by folder the way I want it.

The catalog system in Lightroom seems to work fairly well. I’ve got everything on an external hard drive, some of my best in a catalog on my laptop hard drive, and I can merge the changes I make on my laptop catalog back to my external catalog pretty easily. Of course, you can ignore all this and only have one catalog – that’s by far the simplest. Changing the catalog you’re browsing requires a restart of Lightroom, which seems a little dumb to me, but I rarely change catalogs, so this doesn’t affect me too much.

Aperture has built-in backups with its vault system. Lightroom backs up its catalog every week too, but I don’t store any of my photos in the catalog (although you can) – just all the meta-data. I back up my whole filesystem rather than letting the program backup it’s own package of my images, and I’m much more comfortable with this. This seems to take a lot less disk space too.

In the end, if you have a Mac, you should try them both. Both have 30 day demos, which is great for evaluating. Both programs are around $300 CAD, but if you’re a student you should be able to get either one for just over $100. If you’re stuck on windows, Lightroom is your option, but you also have the free option of Picasa which is much simpler and less powerful, but still not too bad.

Sleeping in the Car

Am I naive? This summer I’ve been on lots of excursions to the mountains by myself, and I usually sleep in my car. I find some quiet forested side road or turn off, park the car, lock the doors, fold down the back seat and sleep with my legs sticking into the trunk. It’s quite comfortable, the car is old enough that’s it’s not airtight while still not having large enough rust holes to let the mosquitoes in. Then I can wake up at dawn, and get anywhere I want quickly enough that I can take pictures in the early morning light. It really works out quite nicely. No problems.

So now I’m thinking of going on a road trip to Yellowstone. I haven’t been to the states in ages, so I was reading up about longer road trips. I started reading Road Trip America, which is a really valuable site by the way – especially the forums. So I started reading about people sleeping in cars, which seems quite natural to me. Apparently not so to most people. I had to laugh when I read about the dangers of sleeping in your car. People seem really scared in the states. One place even talked about the possibility of private property owners shooting at you. And this seemed to be justified to them. But then I got to thinking, is it really that dangerous in the states? I can’t believe it’s that much different than here. Are people just more paranoid? Or am I just weird and do most Canadians see things the same way?

So anybody on Road Trip America who thought that it was ok to sleep in a car recommended only sleeping in a well-lit truck stop, and notifying the attendant so that they can keep an eye on you. This just seems backwards to me. Then you’re sleeping in a grungy parking lot, surrounded by traffic, with artificial lights blinding you. I would much rather find a quiet gravel road in the country, where you can watch the stars and fall asleep to the sound of wind in the trees, or crickets chirping. And what danger is there? Are there nefarious criminals patrolling backroads, looking for all the poor saps dumb enough to think they’re safe in their vehicle? And what, would they just shoot me, and then break into my car to get at the trail mix? Or maybe they want my sleeping bag to sell on the black market.

So tell me – is this a real danger or are people paranoid?

Site Upgrade

I just recently changed hosting providers, and with all the messing around with databases and ftp, decided to upgrade wordpress right away. So I am now with Hostgator instead of Powweb, and so far I am pretty impressed. Yesterday, I thought the site had slowed down again (like it always did at Powweb), but then I did a traceroute and found out that it was my ISP that was timing out, not Hostgator. So I have three domains hosted on one account, and they all seem pretty speedy. At Powweb I had to do some .htaccess magic to make multiple domains work, and they never worked quite right. At Hostgator they have a beautiful little tool that does it all for you (with the $9/month package), and it works flawlessly. Of course, I’m sure I’ll have complaints at some point, but right now I’m really impressed. Oh yeah – those three domains are tuxable.com, where you are now, JoelKoop.com, a photography portfolio site I’m working on, and TravelsAndTrails.com, a very unfinished travel site where a person can look up places they might be interested in going or add places they’ve been to. This one is going to change significantly, so it might be unrecognizable in a couple months.

The control panel at Hostgator is not as flashy, but more powerful and easier to use than Powweb’s. Although “easier to use” doesn’t mean “easy to use”. Someone, at some point in time, needs to do usability testing on these control panels and get a designer to create them.

Taking or Making Photos

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking pictures as compared to making pictures. Now I take a lot of pictures – I enjoy taking pictures. In my design classes, there has been a fair amount of photography, and thinking of photography as both a technical process and an art. In design, generally, you are expected to make pictures: to arrange the world into a state that communicates an idea, and then capture that in a photo. Usually when I take photos for my own enjoyment I’m not making pictures, I’m taking them. For me this is a way of experiencing the world around me, not arranging it to my specifications. This is generally how I approach life in general, – I’m an experiencer, not an arranger. This has a significant effect on the images I produce. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that taking pictures is a lesser art form than making them. I’m not sure this is the case though. Either way you’re capturing a subjective view of the world around you, and all the same composition and color theory principles apply. Your pictures say a lot about your life, whether you experience or create, and either approach can communicate a variety of messages. I think that the result of taking pictures is often un-original, and I think that’s due to the fact that we all experience many of the same things, and in general, life can get boring. So maybe taking and making photos are the same, but what with taking photos, you’re manipulating your life rather than a composition of objects or people in front of your lens. So there’s the challenge – create an interesting life for yourself and you can *take* interesting photos.

Adventures / Misadventures

I get up at 5 in the morning, pull out a couple granola bars for breakfast, and organize my daypack for the hike. Sunrise is at 6:11 but at 6 it’s still pretty dark because of the clouds. It looks like it will be an overcast day – not so good for pictures, but at least it won’t be too hot. I drive for a couple minutes to reach the trailhead, lock up the car, and start the hike. Right away I’m climbing, first through poplar, then mixed, and finally alpine spruce forest. It is a very long and grueling climb before any meadows appear – I’m all about the meadows. The first meadow is the valley between Mt. Stearn and ridge I’m heading for. Mt. Stearn is the shorter and easier hike, so of course I’ll be taking the right branch to the ridge. Right away, I’m climbing through more trees, which is a bit of a disappointment. The trail continues to climb, alternating between thick trees and small meadows. I cross rocky creeks, muddy streams, and everything in between. None of my maps have the trail on them, so I assume I’ll be heading up the first slope to the ridge. Nope. The trail follows the ridge all the way to the far end, and then climbs that slope. Finally I leave all the trees behind me! Meadows, scree and amazing views await! (until I get into the cloud of course – the clouds are covering the very top of the ridge) I arrive at a beautiful little lake, surrounded on one side by the mountain, and the other by open meadows.

Then I hear it – rumbling. Is that thunder or a rockslide? It can’t be thunder, these are overcast clouds, not thunder clouds. KABOOM! The flash and sound instantly flatten me. Was that instinct or did the sound knock me over? The lightning hit a couple hundred yards away. I’m currently the highest object in the meadow. KABOOM! Another one. Now it’s starting to rain, and at 7000 feet it’s cold. There is no kind of cover for a long way. So I start to crawl on my hands and knees through a freezing marshy meadow. My hands are white with cold, my pants are totally soaked. At least I have my rain jacket and a couple layers underneath. Lightning is still flashing all around, and the thunder is shaking me. Or is that fear? Or cold? Finally I reach a gully, so I feel fairly safe walking again. Now it starts hailing – pea size now – hopefully it doesn’t get bigger. The gully is getting slippery and slushy with melting hailstones. My mind races ahead to all the places where the trail is exposed. Can I avoid them? Now I’m thankful that there aren’t too many meadows. The storm doesn’t seem to be letting up. I end up making some detours through spruce thickets, thoroughly soaking myself. My brain finally realizes that lightning isn’t the only problem here. I’m really cold. I’ve heard that staying dry is the best way to avoid hypothermia. So much for that. There’s nothing I could start a fire with here either – everything is far too wet. I decide that the best thing is to just keep moving and get down off the mountain as quickly as possible. It’s about 5 hours back to the car, I should be able to do that. I grab some trailmix and speed up, letting my body create its own heat. Eventually the hail stops, and the rain slows a little. The lightning is getting less frequent. I continue to hurry down, and as I do the air starts to get a little warmer. Now I’m just thinking of getting into the car and turning up the heater full blast.

I get to the car and unpack everything – peel apart papers from my wallet (silly me – I forgot to put it in a ziploc bag), dump out my camera bag (there was half an inch of water in the bottom), and wring out my socks. And I shakily write down a few notes about my hike. Oh yeah, the ridge I was heading to? – Lightning Ridge.

Some notes:
– Lightning is often avoidable, it’s not smart to hike in storms – but the forecast was for 30% chance of rain
– Lightning only kills about 20% of the time – but it causes various levels of disabilities over 70% of the time, and alone on a mountain that would often kill.

Crowsnest Pass Trip

The tourist information people in Crowsnest are very helpful. They photocopied exact directions for the hike up to the Chert Mines on Livingstone Ridge for me. It turns out that the directions mislead me slightly. So instead of driving around on horrible roads trying to find the spot, I stopped at the base of a big hill and started climbing. This was in the evening, so I was expecting to stop on a convenient rock, eat my supper, and watch the sunset. Well, my plan commenced flawlessly, but after eating supper the sun still wasn’t setting so I climbed higher. And higher. It actually wasn’t that high of a hill, because I got to the top before the sun set, and puttered around there for a while, enjoying the light on the mountains. From the top I got a bit better idea of where I was, and where the directions might have been pointing me. I headed back down after enjoying the sunset, and found a place to sleep that I’d scoped out earlier in the day.

In the morning I drove to the base of Turtle Mountain and climbed it. I took the wrong path at first, met some other people who also took the same wrong path, and together tried to find the right path. After a little bit of scrambling, we found the real path and continued up the mountain. It’s actually a pretty simple ridge walk to the north peak, although the loose scree over solid rock can be slippery. The top is great, and offers a good view of where I went (and was supposed to go) the day before. You can see out to the prairies on the east, and mountains all around on the other sides. From the north peak the trail to the south peak looked treacherous, but I’ve heard it isn’t too bad. But I was tired and had to get home, so maybe I’ll do that next time. The walk down actually seemed longer than the way up, which is kind of weird, but I got down all the way on the correct trail. I found out at the bottom that the trailhead is very clearly marked with brightly yellow painted rocks.

The drive home was uneventful and enjoyable. Holidays like this make you appreciate showers though.

June Crowsnest Pass Trip

In my last post I wrote about Kananaskis Country. From K-Country I drove down the forestry road to Crowsnest Pass. This is a fairly well maintained gravel road, but it was dusty. It was late in the evening, and I wanted to find a place to camp. They say when criminals are on the run, they go somewhere familiar. I’m not aware of any criminal activities I was involved in, but I did the same thing. The trailhead for the Promised Land hike is out of the way, so I drove out there (my poor car) and slept in the car. Now I may just have a little old Honda Accord, but I had a pretty sweet setup with the back seat folded down, my feet in the trunk and my head up by the driver’s seat. My thermarest provided a nice bed, and the fact that it’s an old car means that it had good ventilation without letting in mosquitoes. As far as I know, no one drove by the whole night, and I even slept in till 6:30 or so. The trees shaded my car so the sun didn’t wake me up for a while.

I didn’t have any plans, but I was almost out of water, so I drove down to the Frank Slide. If you turn south just on the west side of the Slide, there is a little gravel road that starts in Frank, goes through the slide, and comes out near Hillcrest. I took this little road and stopped at one of wider areas in the slide. After a little bit of rock-hopping, I got down to the Crowsnest River and sat on a big rock, letting the sun warm my back as it rose, and watching the river flow. The swallows were swooping around, there were some ducks puttering on the slow swampy parts, and then a couple deer came out to join me. They wandered around eating and drinking in the river for a bit, then I stood up to get a better look and they went bounding off. After relaxing a while and filling up my water bottles, I still hadn’t decided what to do with the day. I drove off to the tourist info booth to ask about hikes, and they showed me this brochure with a bunch of hikes on it that I couldn’t have. Grr. But they told me I might be able to get one at the Crowsnest Museum in Coleman. I found one at the museum, and decided to go see the falls on the York Creek.

I have hiked up to the plane crash (the North York Creek hike), but had never seen the falls on the same river. It turns out that the upper falls are a few feet away from the road on the other side of York Creek. The lower falls are also just a short walk, although you can’t get very close to these.

After getting back to the car, I drove out to Chinook Lake, which is a provincial camp ground (along with lake and trail). It looks like it would be a pretty nice place to camp – the sites are somewhat secluded in a thick forest of tall thin pines. It is the standard $14 per night of all (I think) provincial campgrounds. I drove down to the lake, had lunch and read for a while. In the afternoon I did the short easy walk around the lake, which is pretty nice, but nothing spectacular. There is a whole network of trails that go all over the place here. The trails are mostly flat, and not especially exciting, although many of them are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

More coming in bit…

K-Country and Crowsnest Pass

It’s been a week since I travelled down south to Kananaskis and Crowsnest Pass, and high time I write something here. I’ve never been through Kananaskis Country before, so I thought it would be interesting to drive through, and possibly do some hikes. I bought a guide book called “Popular Day Hikes”, which was pretty informative, and did a couple hikes in there. Being the crazy person I am, I left at around 9 in the evening and drove till 2 or 3 in the morning, and slept in the car in a visitor information parking lot in K-Country that had a sign saying it was closed between 11pm and 7am. So I got up at 5 and kept going.

Mornings outdoors are amazing. This is when all the animals are out, the light is beautiful, and everything feels fresh. That and almost no one else is around. So I made a few quick stops at Barrier Lake and Mt Lorette Ponds before starting my first real hike of the trip.

This was the middle of June, so the first hike I wanted to do, Centennial Ridge of Mt. Allan, was closed until the end of June so hikers wouldn’t disturb the young animals (such as goats and sheep), which are still at lower elevations. So I kept going down highway 40, stopping here and there to check out any roadside turnouts. I finally got down to Highwood Pass, which apparently is the highest paved pass in Canada. I parked in the parking lot there and started hiking up to Ptarmigan Cirque. The trail was mostly covered in snow, but the day turned out to be sunny and warm. It is a short, pretty steep hike up to the cirque, and then a pleasant walk around up there. A little stream flows through it, cascading over rocky outcrops (and under snow patches at this point). On the way down some (are they called a flock if they’re bighorns?) bighorn sheep ran up the slope past me.

I kept driving south, and stopped at the Mist Creek turnout to do the Mist Ridge hike. This trail is also used by horses, so it was wide and muddy in places. The first few kilometers were a little boring, through marshes and trees. A while after the trail forks, the trees start to open up a bit and there are some pretty nice views (which are great excuses to take a break). Then you go way down to cross a stream and curse the trail because you know you’re going to have to climb all that way back up again and more. But it’s not too bad, and the switchbacks across flowery and grassy slopes are very nice. Eventually the trail fades out, and you just climb the hill (and climb, and climb) and eventually you get to the top of the ridge. Well, not really the top, because the point you can see off to the north is the south peak. But by this point, the walking is easy, the mountains stretch out in every direction below and beside you, and you’re on top of the world. This part makes the whole trail worth it (not that the trail was that bad). You can walk along the ridge for ages – the north peak is quite far away. This is a great ridgewalk.

That’s my K-Country experience. I then drove down to Crowsnest Pass, but that story will have to wait for another post.

I should say why it’s taking me so long to get around to posting this too. I’m working on an update for the hiking / travel pages – again. (edit – this turned into TravelsAndTrails.com) Something much bigger this time, and I hope I can give you a peek before it’s done, because this one will take a couple months.

Grand Opening of a New Travel Section

Tomorrow there will be a new travel section in place. The trips we’ve taken will all be gone, and in their place will be all the places we’ve been sorted by location. This will make it a lot easier for you to find information about places you might be interested in going to, or just seeing pictures of a particular place. I will probably keep trip information in the blog, so if you want to know, you still can. This is exciting for me, and hopefully useful to you.

(edit – the travel section is now replaced by travelsandtrails.com)

Thoughts on Purchasing an SLR Camera

(…or why I like my Olympus E-1)

There are a million and one cameras out there, and picking a camera to buy can be really exciting and a little scary. It’s hard to know what you want or need, and if you will be happy with your camera and the pictures that come out of it. So to possibly help (or possibly complicate) the process of buying a new camera, I’m going to post my ideas and experience on what makes a good camera. Since I use an SLR camera, I’m going to focus on those, but a lot of this could apply to any kind of camera. (although SLRs provide better image quality and more flexibility than most other cameras)

The camera is simply a tool to capture images, and while this is its only function, a lot of factors come into this.

  • Do you want to be seen carrying it around?

    If you don’t have your camera with you, you can’t take pictures. So how it looks is important.

  • Is is comfortable to hold and carry around?

    Weight and ergonomics are important factors, and can make a big difference when you see that animal on the trail, but your hand was cramping trying to carry the camera, so now you have to dig it out of your pack.

  • Can you get at advanced settings quickly? Do you use them?

    If you change the shutter speed often to capture silky waterfalls, or change the aperture to blur the background, can you change these easily? If you’re shooting a snowy winter scene, can you set the exposure compensation in 2 seconds before your friend skis by you? On the other hand, maybe you hate settings, maybe you always want automatic. Then you should make sure the camera has a great automatic mode (most do these days), and don’t worry too much about access to settings. But beware – you learn as you take pictures and one day you might find yourself wishing you could just change one little thing to get a better picture.

  • What about bad weather?

    Some of the best pictures are taken in bad weather. Spectacular storms, rainbows, and heavy snow can make a good picture great. Do you want to be worried about getting your camera wet or cold? Do you want to shoot from under an umbrella or with a plastic bag over your camera?

  • But I just want amazing pictures with not much effort.

    You will get some. Cameras take good quality photos these days – any camera will. There are some color differences, some capture a little more detail than others, and some have less noise at high iso settings, but most cameras will take pretty good pictures. The main challenge now is getting us to take good pictures, and that sometimes takes effort. I’m always amused when someone sees a great picture and they say, “Wow, you must have a good camera.” Honestly, that hardly matters.

The store salesperson will inform you about megapixels, ISO 1600 shots with no noise, and any other latest whiz-bang (does that date me?) technology a new camera might have. These are things that can be measured, and are easy to spout off without knowing a lot about photography. I believe these should be at the bottom of the list of things you care about when buying a camera. So what should be at the top? That all depends on how you use it.

  • Do you take landscape photos that you want make 3 foot prints of?

    Then you do want lots of megapixels. The more you have, the more detailed your print may be. I say may, because as the number of megapixels goes up, the level of detail doesn’t exactly correspond. It will generally go up to, but the sensor has many factors other than pixel count that affect the amount of detail it can capture. Don’t expect to get much more detail with a 10 megapixel point and shoot than a five megapixel SLR. Why? Because the sensor on the SLR is much larger.

  • Do you want to take pictures of sports games or birds (or your kids who never stop moving)?

    Well, you’re going to need fast autofocus, and long zoom lenses, and you might even want image stabilization. If you can’t focus on a bird before it disappears behind a tree, you’ve lost the shot. And if the bird is just a speck in the distance anyway, does it matter if you get the shot? Long lenses are expensive – can you afford one that will give you decent image quality?

  • Do you want pictures your friend’s band playing at the pub?

    Then low noise at high ISOs might be important to you so your shutter speed can be fast enough so not everything is blurred. You will also want lenses with a large aperture (or low f-stop). Lenses that let in a lot of light are much more expensive.

  • Do you want to take your camera kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, and other places it will be abused?

    This is my category. I don’t ever want to worry about if my camera is safe. I don’t want to worry about it getting wet. I just want it to be there whenever I want it, to get the shot I want. For this you want at least a water resistant camera, if not waterproof. You want something that’s not plastic, so if hits something, the most you’ll get is a ding or a scrape. You want a small camera, so you won’t get sick of carrying around.

I now have the Olympus E-1, which is an old digital SLR. No salesperson would ever try to sell it to you. Its only five megapixels, and Olympus will have a replacement for it this summer. But there are very few cameras out there right now that I would want more than this one, even if I had the money to buy anything.

The settings in the olympus are easy to change. There is a button for almost anything, and you rarely have to change any settings on the LCD. You want to change the exposure compensation – press the button and turn the wheel. You want to change the focus point – press the button and turn the wheel. The ISO – press the button and turn the wheel. Set the timer, change the bracketing settings, its all the same. This makes it very quick to set up for any situation. Now on some cameras, you don’t have to turn the wheel – you just press the button. The problem with this is that it can happen by bumping the camera, so your next few shots might be ruined until you realize you’re using the wrong settings.

The E-1 is water-resistant (and has lots of water resistant lenses for it). People have dropped their E-1s in puddles, they’ve washed them off under the sink when they get dirty. Of course Olympus doesn’t recommend this, but the camera seems to be able to handle a lot. I have taken it through everything from afternoon drizzles to all day jungle downpours. It just always works, and I don’t have to worry about it. It has a metal body, which is really durable. I haven’t exactly dropped it on rocks yet, but I’ve knocked it around a lot, and I’m fully expecting to abuse it more in the future. I want my camera to be able to handle that.

It is also easy to carry around. The E-1 has a large grip which my hand fits into very well. I can carry it in my hand all day and not get tired of holding it. I’m not scared of dropping it because of the rubber grip and the contours of the body that naturally keep it in my hand.

One part I haven’t touched on much yet, which is one of the most important parts is lenses. This will only apply to SLRs. If you buy a camera body, you will probably want to replace it in a year or two. Lenses rarely get outdated like this. Usually, you build up a collection of lenses for one brand, and replace your camera body with the same brand, so it fits all your lenses. So half of your decision to buy a camera should be based on whether that system has lenses you like or not. Generally, spending money on lenses is more important than spending money on your camera. They are much more of a sound investment, and will have a huge effect on the quality of the pictures you take. So I like Olympus in this regard because they have weather-sealed lenses, I can get a zoom range of 28mm to 400mm with only two (very good quality) lenses, both f2.8-3.5 over their zoom range, which is very good. These are also not massive lenses, so they are easy to take on hikes. I don’t want a massive camera bag to lug around with me everywhere.

Size is the one area where I’m not totally happy with the E-1 – it’s pretty big. Now the lenses more than make up for that (compared to other SLR lenses), but I do wish the E-1 was a little smaller. However, I’m not willing to give up good ergonomics for a smaller, lighter body (which would be the case for the Canon Digital Rebel). Olympus does have the E-410, which is a really good, and very small SLR. However, I’m not willing to give up the E-1’s weather-sealed body.

So we finally come to megapixels. The E-1 has only five. That’s old, outdated, and not up to industry standard (which makes it really inexpensive, especially on ebay). But wait a minute. I can print 16″ x 20″ prints that look great. The full size photos are larger than your computer monitor. Why do I need more megapixels? There are possible answers to that question. If I want to print larger or sell photos to stock photo agencies I may need more megapixels. But 5 megapixel images have graced full page spreads in National Geographic. More than likely, you won’t be limited by five megapixels. Sure, I’d take more if all things were equal, but they’re not equal and frankly megapixels are not that important.

Although you need to be comfortable working with your camera body, you need a lot more than a camera body to get good pictures. You need a tripod, you need the right lenses, and most of all you need skill and creativity. Honestly, you will probably be happy with whatever camera you buy, and no matter what you get, it will probably take great pictures. I just want to counteract the salespitch you will likely get at the store, and which has almost nothing to do with taking pictures.