When I first picked up a camera, I was amazed at what it could do. Back in the days of film, the process of image making required some forethought as the time lag between pressing the shutter button and actually seeing your image spans almost an eternity by today's standards. But there was magic. There was anticipation. There was both awe and disappointment as I eagerly awaited the little package containing my negatives and prints from the one hour lab (or even worse - the next day service). Leafing through the individual prints and assessing the results of my deliberate choices in camera settings, I anticipated the next time I would be faced with the same lighting situations and mentally deliberated what changes in settings I would make. It was awesome. I had control.
In art school, I learned to develop my own film and make my own prints. The variables expanded exponentially. It was bewildering. I soon realized that in the days before I had learned darkroom techniques, I was reliant upon machines to develop my film and make my prints. In essence, the machines and their operators had more control over my final images than I had. As I moved from film camera to film camera, then to digital, the process changed and yet remained the same. Remained the same in that all the basic controls were pretty much the same, changed in that the time lag between pressing the shutter button and reviewing the image had been obliterated. Also, as digital cameras became ever more sophisticated, it gave rise to the automatic settings and with it came the cursed, convoluted computer menu systems. It ruins the creative process when you have to dig really deep into the UI just to find a basic setting.
I don't fault camera manufacturers for stuffing ever more features into their increasingly sophisticated cameras, but it would seem that it's ceding control over the very things that make your images unique. Although, to be honest, most people will never move the dial on their fancy DSLRs from 'Auto' to 'Manual.'
This is exactly the reason why my digital camera is always on the fully manual setting. In maintaining complete control, you are given the opportunity to succeed in executing your creative vision as you see fit without any safety net. Conversely, you are also given the opportunity to fail and take blurry, incorrectly exposed and indecipherable pictures. This fear of failure is what makes photography so exciting. Without the limitations of pre-set exposures of 24 or 36 offered by film, plus the added benefit of absolutely no waiting time, no processing costs, and accelerated trial-and-error learning, digital photography offers an avenue for self-expression that I find exhilirating. This is why I'm continually looking for that elusive digital camera that has honest-to-goodness analog controls (controlling f-stop on the lens barrel and exposure compensation on a real dial instead of a hard-to-navigate computer menu), a simple viewfinder to review the image you just snapped, and a form factor similar to my dad's old beat up Canon Ftb or my father-in-law's Canon AE-1 (pictured in the above image).
Oh, it also has to be much less expensive than this all-manual digital camera. I can dream, can't I?