Chippewa Herald * December 7, 2002

Pure Water Days Parade ignites love of digital photography

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

I love email!

I have been a big fan of electronic mail since that fateful day -- July 18, 1988 -- when I began my new job at a chip design startup company on the west coast. Our computers used the Unix operating system, and, like most Unix companies, we were on the Internet many years before most people had ever heard of it.

I have received many interesting emails since then. One of the most surprising I got is from Saudi Arabia three years ago.

It was in response to an article in this very newspaper, the Chippewa Herald, about some digital photos of the Pure Water Days parade that I put up on the world wide web. (The article appeared August 19, 1999; you can find it by clicking on "Search Past Articles" on the Herald's excellent web page at "".)

The email was from a former Chippewa Fallsian now serving in the U.S. Navy in Saudi Arabia, and he was writing to tell me that he saw a picture of his mom back home in Chippewa Falls on my web page!

I got similar email from transplanted Chi-Hi graduates in various places around our own country, telling me how much they appreciated seeing shots of their home town celebration.

At the time, I was just borrowing a friend's digital camera. But seeing the effect of putting simple photos on the web -- making them visible around the world -- got me hooked on digital photography.

Digital cameras had come down in price quite a bit in 1999, but they were still expensive by today's standards. Later that year, another friend and I went in together to buy a Sony Mavica for about $1000.

The world of digital photography changed a lot in the next two years. In November 2001, when my Mavica died, I bought an Olympus c2100uz. This one had a better lens (10X zoom), a higher resolution (2.1 Megapixels), and a better interface (USB) -- and was only half the price of the 1999 Mavica!

Now, for the first time, I think I can safely claim that regular 35mm photography is no longer needed. I haven't touched my Pentax camera in over a year now. Digital photography is better in so many ways. First is cost. Sure, the initial purchase price is higher. But once you buy the camera and some rechargeable batteries, there is no additional cost for pictures taken!

In the last twelve months, I have taken almost 15,000 digital photos. The total cost of those photos, after buying the camera, was zero.

Digital photos are great for sending via email, or for viewing on the web, or for using in church newsletters, or even for slide shows for church banquets or Boy Scout Court of Honor ceremonies, if you have access to a digital projector.

However, shooting digital is about more than saving cost. At normal developing prices, those 15,000 photos would have cost me thousands of dollars. In other words, I simply wouldn't have taken most of them.

Being able to take no-cost photos frees you up to take many more shots than you normally would, and to experiment, which can give you some great results. Plus, you can instantly see the results of your shot, so if you have to adjust for focus or backlighting, you can do that and take another shot.

With the higher resolution of recent cameras, you can even get nice color prints. My c2100 is 2.1 Megapixels, and it makes very sharp 8x10 color prints, better than my Pentax 35mm can produce. I get all my prints from Wal-Mart -- you can upload the photo from your computer to, and get an 8x10 for under three dollars, and a 4x6 print for only 26 cents! That's even cheaper than printing it yourself, by the time you buy good paper and ink.

I often get asked for advice on what digital camera to buy. That's a tough question, since there are many good models out there now. If you want to get color prints, you'll need at least 1.3 megapixels for normal sizes, and 2 megapixels or more for 8x10s. If you get even more resolution than that, then you could print even bigger shots, or do more cropping.

One of the most important features to me is the zoom lens. You can buy a clearance-sale digital camera for around $100 if you look hard, but you'll need to spend at least $200-$300 if you want any optical zoom ability. I love to get close-up shots, so I really enjoy the 10X of my Olympus camera.

I have a lot more to write, but I am out of space for this article. If you want to read more about digital photography, including some very detailed reviews of specific cameras, the best web site I know of is "". And if you want see a few thousand of the photos I've taken with my camera, go to "".

Common wisdom says that your firstborn child will get the most baby photographs, because you're too busy raising kids to get a lot of pictures of subsequent babies.

But in our house, thanks to digital cameras, we have more photos of our fifth baby than of all the first four put together! "Slimin' Simon" will have one heck of a slide show at his wedding or graduation... ;-)

You can reach Tom at

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