edit - didn't read all the way through. The DSLR's are what I talk about below - Digital Single Lens Reflex. Those are the cameras with interchangeable lenses. Expect to pay $300-$500 for an entry level model.
Excellent site, very objective. I can get 99% of the images I consider worth printing or selling with a d40 and a pos kit lens. However, I use a d200 and some really good glass becuase it makes me more productive, and I can get those last 1% of the shots I can't get with the d40/kit setup. My d200 does time delay sequencing and multi-image exposure, has a full metal chassis and is weather sealed. I doubt that's worth $1000 to you!
Don't waste a lot of time on this - go play with a Nikon d40 and a Canon XTi, and decide which feels better in your hand. Don't listen to the guy behind the counter, and if they start quoting specs on this or that, flick a booger at them. It doesn't matter. Get the camera, get a kit lens with a wide zoom range, and then spend a lot of time learning how to use it. Don't use the program or auto modes, if you want that, buy a point and shoot. Learn how to use the manual modes, and you'll master the camera in no time. Then you can spend some $$$ on glass, and go after ever more difficult images.
That's my $.02 anyway.