2004 + Digital

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life70 Comments

In 2004 I got my first digital SLR, a Nikon D70. I will never forget the thrill of seeing that first image appear on the camera's screen. Have I ever shown you that photo, DSC_0001.jpg?


Sigh. Out of focus, oddly yellow, instant love.

One of the things I love most about digital is the ability to go back and look at your life in photos with just a few clicks. I've been very careful over the years to back up my library (both to external hard drives and CDs), so I'm able to feel somewhat confident that it's not all going down in a ball of error code flames.

I found a few shots yesterday that reminded me of the fun of that first year of digital photography.


The first example? The Black Velvet Background Portrait Era (TBVBPE). Good LORD. I remember being amazed at how just a bit of natural light coming from a window could create such an amazing effect on a subject's face. I shot this kid so many times in front of that swath of Joanne's fake velvet that I think she thought it wasn't natural if the area behind her in every other part of her life wasn't black and fuzzy. But it wasn't just my kids. Hell, I put everyone in front of it. No one was immune from TBVBPE.


(Well hello, Daniel Sr.! It's okay. Just relax!)

Some pictures we're highly posed and eventually turned into really bad scrapbook pages, with titles like "A-wreath-A." (No, I cannot find this layout, but I assure you it exists!)


Eventually, I learned to stop posing people all the time and start observing.


Of course, my observing became a bit obsessive at times, but I wouldn't trade some of the images that I caught that first year for anything.


2004 was the first and only year all Zielskes appeared in a photo for a Christmas card.


And it was also the last year for some unknown reason.

2004 was the year I really savored taking pictures of objects and everyday things as well, realizing that a story can be found pretty much anywhere if you pay attention.


2004 also had hot husbands galore.


What year did you jump into digital? And how has it changed the way you document your life?

Cathy Zielske2004 + Digital

70 Comments on “2004 + Digital”

  1. #1
    Leslie @ {Tiny Wings}

    I dabbled with digi in 2003 or 2004, but I got my DReb in 2005, and never used film again. (In fact, now that I think about it, I’ll bet I still have a roll of film in my film SLR!!)

    Your first photo of Aidan reminds me of my first official digital photo– of my own daughter, much littler.

    I, too, went through a TBVBPE phase (except mine was a JC Penney black vellux blanket). There are still some family favorites as a result. I loved the whole discovery phase of photography. In fact, just reading your post makes me want to pull my camera out and attempt something new with it!!

  2. #2
    Ellie A.

    For me I would take pics and download with my trusty point & shoot, sure I tried to capture those “moments” but My eyes opened up to an AMAZING new world just a few mths ago, It happened to start right here on your blog! When I was the most lucky of lucky & and still pinch myself when I go pick her up (yes my Camera is a girl lol) My DSLR beauty I won here! Let’s just say the last couple of mths where ever I go she goes its been so fun to discover a new way of looking, capturing images that I don’t even see myself until I download and open up the pictures and say WOW I took that pic? It’s so fun to play around and discover how to work the pics even though I’m still at the stage of How did I take that pic. Its been a FUN ride and can’t wait to actually really know what I am doing Ha.. πŸ™‚ Oh the day I look forward to is the day I don’t go running back after a shot into Auto mode to make sure I still captured a good picture Ha..

  3. #3
    judy in huntsville - al

    2001 for me – a sony camera that had a [3.5 floppy] disk in it for backup – and I thought I was all that – like you – I LOVED being able to see if I got the shot I wanted instantly! Within a few years I went back to my true love – Canon – and am still so thankful for digital photography Every. Day. Of. My. Life.

  4. #5

    2004 was my first year with a DSLR as well…and those first photos are strangely rose tinted and there are plenty of them because I sort of went crazy taking photos LOL

  5. #6

    We got our first digital camera for Christmas 2002 — it was our present to ourselves 5 months before our first child was due. It was an Olympus Camedia 5.0 megapixels. (It still works and until I got my new Cannon SX30 for Chirstmas this year, still occasionally used it). Of course our lives drastically changed shortly after we got the camera and our child became the subject of 99% of the photos taken — loved that I knew instantly if I got the shot I wanted and if not, oh well, take another!

  6. #7

    I’m not sure, I think it was 2002. We had a 3.2 megapixels point and shoot that cost us over $500!

    Love the Christmas pic, your hubby looks slightly maniacal in it! LOL!

  7. #8
    Kim Hacking

    1999 were the first digital images on my computer. I have to thank my future seeing husband on that one because I resisted going digital. I liked the 4×6 images in my hands. It was a hard transition for me and I didn’t go fully digital until 2002.

  8. #10

    I got my first point and shoot digital camera in 2003…I was newly engaged, and my hubby-to-be was taking me on a tour of his home state of Michigan. I’ll have to go revisit those early photos! I’ve only recently started using a DSLR.

  9. #11

    What a great topic! I got my first digital point and shoot to sell stuff on ebay (after our house was robbed in 2001…I decided to sell what they didn’t steal and start over, basically). About 2003 or 2004 I bought my first dslr. After spending much money and time learning to shoot film properly, I put that dslr on “auto”, forgot everything I knew and took mediocre pictures for years. I have spend the last year in the humbling position of relearning everything I forgot and learning things which passed me by, like photoshop. I am finally in a position where I can take some decent photos with my camera and fully using the functions and options that digital photography allows. I sadden myself that I wasn’t more inquisitive and didn’t really use the great tool that I had in my hand for so many years.

  10. #12

    2003 Right after my son was born…bought the first Canon Digital Rebel body…the first dslr not to have “shutter lag”…I hadn’t been impressed with digital cameras until this point. WHy take a photo when the camera actually takes it 2 seconds after you push the shutter button? Digital has come a LONG ways in less than 10 years.

  11. #13

    Great post! 2000 for our trip to Hawaii. I can’t remember what it was because we broke it at the 2002 Winter Olympics – evidently way below zero and a dropped camera are not a good mix! I resisted it for a long time because I didn’t like the quality of the pictures, and that was the first year that I was finally satisfied with the quality. I still insisted on taking the “regular” camera on the Hawaii trip though and we took pictures with both!

  12. #14

    I didn’t go digital until 2009 (and only because my film dsl camera decided i was through)–
    Still struggling with the digital—I’m not too good at getting my photos downloaded and printed out—can’t really find a system that works for me–so sadly mot of my photos are still on memory cards πŸ™

  13. #15

    2004 as well… a Canon point & shoot. I love being able to experiment & take lots of photos. If they turn out, great, if not, well, no film or processing costs wasted. : ) I take lots of photos of stuff I never would have photographed before digital photography & scrapbooking, little details like close ups of the ornaments on the Christmas tree.

  14. #17

    I have gotten a bit lazy on shooting as well. Honestly, I cant shoot in manual mode anymore, but I could back in the film day. I bought a book and I swear Im going to dive into it some day! : ) The best thing about digital, you can do trial and error all day long while re-learning!

  15. #19

    Vicki, sometimes it takes time to get the hang of it! Ill be honest with you: most of my pics from the past two years are on my computer, save for the ones I scrapbook. Im WAY behind on photo albums right now. Not sure if thats a good thing or not.

  16. #24

    How funny you should post this today πŸ™‚ I spent an hour this morning rescuing photos from a couple of those dreadful sticky albums – pics of my kiddies when they were little, in the days before I had a digital camera! Oh my, some of those shots were pretty dreadful but we didn’t have the chance to check and take again…. We first got a digital p&s for my husband’s job and I quickly took over ‘looking after it’ πŸ˜‰ That would’ve been about 2006 I think. I upgraded to a dSLR just last Christmas, and I’m still learning all about my new camera’s capabilities, but oh! I love it πŸ™‚

    How have digital cameras changed my life? They’ve made a huge difference. Being able to see immediately what I’ve captured, and not needing to spend on printing till I’ve made my selection, means I take a huge number of shots. I can take a set of photos from different angles to see which best captures my subject’s character. I can take a sequence of shots to tell the whole story, where before I’d have taken one or two of whichever event. I’m much more likely to take photos of everyday, or of unguarded moments, or just to try an ‘artistic idea’ – before we mostly had posed shots because I didn’t want to use up too many exposures on something that may have turned out unflattering or otherwise duff. And photography has become a full-on hobby for me now in its own right as well as being a means to record our family story.

    I could go on (and on lol!) but I’ve hogged enough of your comment space already πŸ™‚ Basically, I’m a digi enthusiast!

  17. #25

    My first experience with digital point & shoot was in 1999. I was working at a PR agency and Canon was a client so we got to play with the digital cameras. I was hooked on digital after that but didn’t buy my first dslr until 2 years ago. I am in love with my camera! I don’t know how to use most of the settings but have been able to capture some awesome shots of my kids playing sports. Got to love the no shutter lag! I really need to pull out the books I bought and play more.

  18. #26

    I remember way back when you used to to tutorials on how to get those great shots at home.. setting up the black velvet infront of a window etc… thats what made us first love you!

  19. #27
    Anne Marie

    I went digital on July 20, 2003 with a trusty Sony Cyber-Shot. The only reason I know the specific date is because all 79 of thse first photos I shot are labeled in an album on Shutterfly as, ironically enough, “First Digital Photos”. I recently upgraded to my first DSLR late last year when a friend told me she was upgrading from her Canon 20D to a 7D and asked if I was interested. I am still very much a beginner with the camera but I do love the difference.

    I think the biggest way that going digital has changed the way I document my life, is the sheer amount of photos I take. Going from taking 1-2 rolls of film at an event has changed to roughly 200-300+ shots. Remember the days of having to WAIT to see your photos after sending them out to be developed? That sure was a scary time, wasn’t it?

  20. #28

    I am somewhat embarrased to say that I came very late to the party. I got a point and shoot in 2009 and still swore I would still use my 35 mm film camera–which I haven’t. I have been ready to move up to a “real” digital camera, but am somewhat frozen in indecision about what to get.

    I was initially afraid of the organizational change that would be required, but the digital approach to organization is so, so much easier than the crazy things I was doing before. I am still pretty good about printing regularly. I think that is the one big downfall for some folks–the lack of printing…

  21. #29

    I had a digital point and shoot for years, but this past Christmas I received the BEST gift – my Nikon D5000! I love this camera, and I can completely relate to your “observer” photos. I am finding beauty in the strangest things now (the cup of coffee I drink every morning has been photographed 20+ times – especially when I use my special glass mug. So pretty!

  22. #30

    Christmas Eve, 2005. The night my husband gave me my HP Photosmart digital camera, the first digital I’d ever owned. It changed the way I documented our family moments forever afterward. Film had been costly, so we always saved it for the “important events” and hoped the shots came out well. Now I had the luxury of shooting everyday moments, favorite family treasures, as well as those milestone events, and I could see what I’d captured immediately. And even print them out at home!

    I had been a scrapbooker before that camera, but this solidified for me a hobby that gave me an artistic outlet as well as a way to preserve precious memories. It wasn’t long after that I discovered “Simple Scrapbooks” magazine, and your articles there.

    Isn’t it great when you take a picture of your Special Guy, and when you see it all printed out, your heart still skips a beat? I love those moments!

  23. #32

    Now I had the luxury of shooting everyday moments… Man, that is SO true. It removed worrying about the cost of blowing through film. That is such a cool thing.

  24. #33
    michele in la

    I go all the way back to 1999… At first we did digital and film – often of the same event and of the same thing like posing by the birthday cake! I took film, my husband digital. Digital was obviously not that great – grainy and all that lag time between depressing button and photo being taken! But then the year our last film camera went to the camera graveyard, Canon released the original Digital Rebel. Can you believe at first I questioned my husband’s thoughts for buying it for my birthday/Mother’s Day gift instead of the film version of the Rebel? But it turned out to be such a sweet camera! After more than 50,000 photos taken, it’s a little worn out so my daughter (age 12) uses it and I now use the Canon 50D and I’m still in love!!

    My “vice” is flower photos, especially wildflowers – and yes, it’s the family joke, but that’s ok :).

    Thanks for sharing your old photos – I love to sit and look at mine too – the kids have grown so much…

  25. #34

    2005. Canon rebel, somin, somin.
    My first child was born and I wanted to capture everything! Oh and I pretty
    Much did:). The bliss, the freedom and vast potential! I honestly thought I would never desire anything again! πŸ™‚
    Now it’s 2011, and I still love/need my high speed digi camera, but it’s no longer surgically attached to me; and I even digress in taking too many pics just so I don’t have to work with so many of them!
    But oh so thankful for my digi world!

  26. #35

    I was just looking back through some of my first digital pics last night and noted the lack of quality in those pics (I did not have a fancy DSLR), but they are still some of my fave pics of my kids…cannot get those moments back!

  27. #36

    We bought ours in 2006 to use at our wedding (one of our friends was taking the photos for us with it). It was because of that camera that I started scrapbooking. When our daughter was little I took so many photos (as we all do). One day I got a whole heap printed during a 4×6 sale and accidentally printed ALL the photos of a particular day playing outside. There must have been about 30 photos of her climbing etc. I had been wanting to try scrapbooking but seeing all those shots (way too many for her album) I decided to give it a try. Loved it ever since.

  28. #37
    Pamela K.

    I think I got my first digital p & s in about 2005. I got my first DSLR in 2008. I have been using my DSLR almost exclusively ever since and am ready to upgrade. Someday….

    My hubby cracks me up when he sees me take pictures of random, everyday things. He says, “You’re wasting film!”. Um, we are in the 21st century, babe. What’s film anyway? πŸ˜‰

  29. #38

    2003 for a sad little point and shoot that I took all of the blurry baby photos with as I would push the button and then it would delay until the only thing I would catch is the movement. Then, Disneyworld in early 2005. No way was I going there with a point and shoot. I bought the D70 and went through the same love moment that you did. BTW….your husband is kinda hot in that photo. Just sayin’

  30. #39
    Christine H

    I was waiting for my 35mm camera to die before I felt I could justify buying a new one. Then someone stole it out of my car. I really didn’t mind them taking the camera but I had captured a very elusive albino deer that runs near my mother’s house and those pics were in the camera! Haven’t seen that deer since. Christmas was just around the corner and I gave my parents a very specific list of desired camers. They came through for me and the rest is history. Love digital. Still have lots to learn.

  31. #40
    Jennifer L.

    2005, when my one and only babychild started kindergarten. I’ve become known as the “mamarazzi” ever since! But I’m just dying to know one thing: how on earth do you get your kids to let you photograph them? Mine has a fit and goes into drama mode (11-year-old girl…) or simply bolts when I try anymore!!!

  32. #41
    Angie Hall

    This post was so timely. I told my dh that I wanted a digital SLR for my 50th birthday (last week) and he said, “Fine, just go buy one then.” But I am pulling my braids out trying to determine which one to purchase. Aaargh! Currently, I have a Canon non-DSLR. It was okay until I began freelance writing. Last November, I got to interview a Holocaust survivor, and I wished with all my heart that I had had a nice camera to capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment. How did you decide on the camera you currently own. There’s so much info out there, it’s mind blowing.

  33. #43
    Angie Hall

    My agreeing with you was in response to your comment about Cathy’s spouse…but doing Disneyworld with a real camera…I’m with you there, too.

  34. #44
    Karis' Kitchen

    We bought our first digital camera in 2005, in preparation for a move to England. I’m so happy we had it to capture our 2 years living abroard. Actually we bought a second digital camera shortly after our move because my husband got so excited about meeting Tony Blair, that he shook his hand and let the camera drop out of the other one!

  35. #45
    Damiane Lucas

    I just got my Canon T2i Rebel this year, and I’m still a newbie with photography. Sigh! I’m still shooting on “auto focus.” I need lots of help.

    Hey, I thought your black velvet sheet portraits were awesome until I kept reading your blog and sensed that you were making fun of the portraits.

    I wish I could take gorgeous pics like you. How long is the learning curve?

  36. #46

    I love that with a couple of clicks I can answer that question to the date. We got our digital SLR on 4th October 2004 and I must say image 001 is not so great! But for us, getting my purse camera is what changed the way we document our lives. My hubby got that camera for me on 12th April 2008 just before our first little man arrived. With the arrival 3 weeks ago of number two I must say it’s not getting used as much as one would like! I best remedy that.

  37. #47
    gypsy chaos

    The earliest digi photos I have are from 2005 – although I ordered digital copies of our 35mm photos from our Hawaiian vacation in 2003.

    The biggest difference for me has been said many times already: I can take as many pictures as I want at no cost. LOVE LOVE LOVE that capability!
    It is especially handy with reluctant teenagers. Eventually I get a good shot!

  38. #48

    This is a fun post, love all the comments. My dad surprised me with a digital camera in 2004 after my regular camera broke about year before that, so regret not having more pictures of my youngest and only son for his terrible twos. Anyhow he bought me one and I was so afraid to use it so it sat for a month on the counter and finally one day when my son was playing with his golf clubs and the day was warm and sunny, I picked it up and turned it on and took 30 pictures right away. I can still remember doing a happy dance right then and giving the camera to him so he could take some. The very next day I ordered all the prints and did a layout of his golf photos and they came out amazing and I still love that layout. My reasons are pretty much like the others, just knowing they are all there and can delete the bad ones and keep trying and seeing them right then and there. Thanks dad for making me take this giant step and 4 years later he bought me my next digital since that one fell on the floor and never worked again,lol.

  39. #49

    I too love reading all the comments! First DSLR in spring 2006. I had saved and saved for that camera (Nikon D80, still love it! have not replaced it…) I resisted digital for so long, loving film (had a Pentax SLR film camera), and not thinking I’d ever get the pictures off the computer. But oh what a love affair we have now…. As I pull together photos for two special projects – my dad is turning 65, my stepdad 60 this year – I SO WISH I had digital earlier! I think the freedom that comes with digital is what we all appreciate the most. 750 photos of Disney World?? No problem, I just get home, edit then print the very best ones. But I still get to keep all 750! Vacations, recitals, sports events, everyday moments…. we are very lucky to have our digital cameras to capture it all. Wouldn’t I love to have some of these shots of my parents and grandparents lives…

  40. #51

    I used to pay them. Seriously. Hey kid, want a buck? Then hold still and look HERE!
    Now, Aidan LOVES having me take pics of her. Cole, not so much!

  41. #52
    Laurel S

    I got my first digital camera (Nikon D70 like you) in 2005 and have not looked back, just love it. Although I am only now just taking the manual settings seriously… I did get in a rut with the automatic ones πŸ˜‰

  42. #53

    I switched to Canon after being a Nikon user, mostly because my friends were using Canons and getting better color. However, I think both makers have evened out on that level. My current camera is a Canon 5D Mark II. I just really coveted a full frame digital experience. I have loved it every single day of its life with me!

  43. #54

    Dont feel bad! I ONLY shoot on auto focus. I cant focus to save my life! Im still learning stuff, but honestly, I let the camera do all the work.

    I am only making fun of those shots because i went totally OVERBOARD on them. I forgot to take real pictures in real settings. Now, thats where my focus is! : ) Good luck!

  44. #55

    You know, one thing i can tell you that is a good thing to practice: framing. Practice really seeing through your lens, moving around until you get your subject off centered, or in other ways that just straight on shots. And dont be afraid to take a few steps closer in every instance!

  45. #57
    Lyndel Churchill

    18 May 2005. I too love that I can find that answer in seconds. On the 19th May 2005 my husband arranged a babysitter and took me on a night shoot to our city waterfront area – the very first time I’d tried taking photos of lights at night. I was hooked from then on. Still haven’t got a DSLR, but my camera can shoot RAW and I love playing in Lightroom with the results. Tonight I posted photos from a recent bushwalk and was able add photos of my son taken at the same location in November ’05 – in seconds! How is awesome it that!
    Still learning every day and enjoying the journey.

  46. #58

    Cathy, I forgot to say how much I love these pictures of your kids and hot Dan. Aidan and Cole look so cute and little. I have to admit to taking pictures of everything odd with my camera too anything goes in my book. My dad is pretty awesome and surprises us kids with these kids, out of the blue for no reason. Over a year ago he came over and thru a box at me and said Merry Christmas and happy Birthday for the next 2 years. What the heck do you mean dad? I said and ripped open the box to see a blackberry in it. I was never into cell phones and didn’t want one, told everyone they were crazy for having one. Well I fell in love with it and never leaves my side along with my camera. Yep, my dad does these crazy things and of course I did a few layouts about it already. Happy Thursday.

  47. #59
    Damiane Lucas

    Thanks so much, Cathy, for your advice as I struggle to learn photography and all the buttons on my camera. Do you really shoot on “auto focus” only??? Your photos are truly stellar!!! I thought you were shooting on the creative modes.

    My “auto focus” indoor shots are coming out yellowish or are overexposed if I take them outside. Sigh.

    I still have this year’s pics on my memory card. I’m exploring ways of how to store them. I have Photoshop Elements 8, but that’s another beast I have to learn. Where/how do you store your pics?

    My goal is to make awesome hybrid layouts like yours. Oh, by the way, I just went to Amazon and purchased your book (the sequel version). Do you think I should have purchased your first book instead?

    Many thanks!

  48. #61
    Brigid G

    In 2005, after the birth of my 3rd daughter. I just didn’t have the time, space or money to keep taking (and developing, and storing) physical photos anymore. What a difference it made in my life! I rediscovered the love of photography I had in my teens without having to invest in a darkroom and all of that equipment. And, not to kiss your butt or anything, Cathy, but your books and the beautiful photographs in them along with your simple instructions on how to achieve better photos helped me a ton!

  49. #62

    2003 with a digital point & shoot, we switched to Drebel in 2006, the year our first baby was born.

  50. #63

    I went digital on my 4oth birthday, four days before my beautiful twin boys were born 11 weeks early! It was an absolute blessing to take digital shots of them while they were in hospital for 10 weeks (a very long time to be without your babies!!). Being digital meant I could look at them anytime of the day, not just when I was in hospital with them. Six years later I love being about to take lots and lots of photos and picking out the best ones, I love doing photo shoots and getting those fantastic laughing shots where they have lost control.

    Also Cathy you wanted to know where time went I read a quote that said ‘Time is eternity’ and I think that says everything.


  51. #64
    Tammy B

    2009, October. My husband had a digital point and shoot before that but I didn’t like it. I enjoy my DSLR but how I wish they would bring some film back. I have a couple of rolls in my old camera bag with my SLR but it is tricky to find a place to develop film now. I really learned how to take pictures with my film camera!

  52. #65

    I got my first digital camera in 2000. It came with my brand spanking new PC and other add-ons, to the tune of Β£2k. It was a 3 million pixel camera, and I hated it! I was so unimpressed by the quality of the shots, and the software wasn’t so great back then. Digital only really hit for me in 2006, when I got a decent camera that has ACE macro on it. Not so great on the long distance zoom though. Time for an upgrade methinks! Then I might get more mileage out of it. But for now, it works, I need to do more scrapbooking, and I’m loving being able to have loads of shots but only pay for a select few to print.

  53. #66
    Nicole Hoffman

    We (meaning my hubby and I, but mostly I) went digital when expecting our first child in 2004. But I kept up with my film camera for a couple of years for back-up. Don’t know where it is right now….

  54. #67
    Nicole Hoffman

    We dropped our digital on the garage floor, sent it to an official repair shop am it works again for less than the cost of a new one. It dropped off the top of my minivan and has no damage we can find. But I’m always nervous about dropping it again

  55. #68

    That’s a fun question – something we all take for granted these day, yes it must have started at some point. So when did we? I went to the files and we went digital april 2003. We have a couple of digital photos in the files before that, but they are not taken by us, and I remember thinkin “how am I gonna get that and that picture on paper” …. never got around to it – and these days it’s a normal thing ordering photos online ….. just 8 years along the road we can’t imagine life without digital photos!

    Thanks for that trip down memory lane!

  56. #69
    Janet K

    I was sooo resistant to going digital…I LOVED my film camera (still do)..so January of 2010….and I love it!!! It has taken me awhile though to realize that I “won’t run out of film”….I’m just getting into the groove of taking as many photos as I want! Still learning about my Canon Rebel xsi…I do LOVE it!

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