Subject: (very long) Organizing and Storing Digital Photos
Dear Lesley:

You have to ask your self exactly how deep you are planning to get into digital photography before a path can be chosen. For example, I took 45 rolls of 36 exposure slide film on my last 2 week trip to Italy and France. As I want to keep as much picture information as I can in each shot (for best printing capabilities when I get back home) this means that I will not choose to save them in a jpeg or any other compressed format. Instead, I will use a camera's native picture file type (which keeps all the picture information without compression) and this means that each picture will be about 100 megabytes in size (this will vary but new and upcoming digital cameras will have 8 to 12 megapixels in them and this produces large files sizes per picture).

Now (please understand that the following is just an estimation but I am using numbers for those that want to take very good pictures on their trips - as I do) let's convert the 45 rolls I shot: 45 X 36 = 1620 pictures X 100 Mb per picture = 162,000 megabytes or 162 gigabytes of hard drive space is needed to save all these pictures. Since most average portables don't have hard drives this size this means that I will have to burn CDs to store the pictures. This, then, would require a lap top portable with say a 40 to 60 gigabyte hard drive and a on-board CD writer to create CD's each night. One CD holds about 650 megabytes so I would need one CD for approximately every 6 pictures. Doing another calculation: 1620 pictures divided by 6 pics/CD means I will need to carry about 270 CDs for the 2 weeks picture storage. (Burning one CD can take up to 10 to 15 minutes depending on the speed of the CD writer but they are always getting faster. So that calculation: 270 CDs x 15 minutes per CD (lets allow getting up and sitting down between burns) = 4050 minutes or 2.8 days for the 2 week vacation of doing nothing but burning CDs)

So, that is one lap top with a fairly large HD, a computer power supply, a CD burner, 270 CD's, a digital camera, lenses, an interim storage device for the camera, a transfer device for going from the camera to the computer hard drive, lots of rechargeable batteries, a battery charger and a large case to carry everything in which may be as large as your roll-on.

Don't get me wrong, I am planning on making the same change as soon as I can get a digital body with the 8 to 12 megapixels CCD so I am not trying to dissuade you but I face this reality check every time I think about what I will be doing. Frankly, traveling with a full lap top internationally with all the accoutrements is a real pain but when you add everything else to complete the package the considerable amount of money invested is not the only thing you need to consider.

What ever camera you choose will be close to this or some lesser amount depending on how good of pictures you want to bring home for printing. Currently, I take slides and scan them using my Nikon Coolscan 4000. This means that I don't go digital until I get them home. I know that for me, this is just an interim step for when I finally make the full digital leap. But for right now, I can print 8x10's, 11x17's and 13x19's that look picture perfect, printing them at home on my Epson 1270 printer.

Then there is what digital software you will use, what printer you will use, the cost of ink cartridges and photo paper.

All in all, I love doing this as I am a serious hobbyist and have actually had some pictures published, but make sure that you plan for what you are going to do by first asking yourself exactly what are my goals and expectations and final use for the pictures.

I hope this helps you in your planning to go digital.

PS: Read - Read - Read: the digital magazines at the book stores. After a few months this will help you greatly.

PPS: I almost talk myself out of going this route every time I look at the needs. The single biggest issue remaining in the digital world is some solution that makes all of this much easier. I keep hoping that a solution will eventually appear but it looks like the cameras are outpacing this side of the business.

Best regards,

Mike and Fran (Fran is my wife and photo assistant. That means she gets to carry everything when I just hold the camera). Maybe that needs to be entered into the calculations.