Despite all of the amazing advancements we've recently seen in photography, I usually find myself more impressed and inspired by images created by photographers of the past. W. Eugene Smith, Ernst Haas, and Walker Evans to name a few. They weren't paid by the mouse click, but rather for capturing a real moment in time. They didn't use HDR or prepackaged "actions" to create a certain look. There was no anti-shake built into the camera body, and flash sync speeds were around 1/60. Yet, to these photographers and the countless others who went before, the limitations of their gear only worked to sharpen their senses. They weren't bogged down or distracted by all this technology and as a result, connected with their subject in a way that's visible in their work.
As we move into an increasingly digital world, I am seeing an increase in blogs and websites with comprehensive lists detailing every last piece of equipment in their bag. While it's nice to see that Canon and Nikon's marketing efforts are working, the resulting portfolios are rarely as impressive. The photos may be technically sound but the photographer's personal touch is overshadowed by the technology used to create it. Somewhere behind all the layers of post production, there are images which wouldn't really stand up on their own.
Today with every tool at our disposal, I believe there is a real danger in simply relying on technology instead of mastering our craft. Take Neil Leifer's photo of Muhammed Ali for example. It was captured in 1965 and I've yet to see a more powerful boxing image even with today's fastest motor drives. His timing was impeccable and the exposure did not need to be rescued in Photoshop. Technology should not replace photographic knowledge.
Be honest, if you were to cover up your camera's LCD screen with tape, could you still use manual exposure properly? If not, then your photographic muscles need flexing. I say this not to discourage, but rather to fire you up for the journey. As Leonardo Da Vinci said "Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going." Now the question is, where do you go from here?