"There are also legions of people who, thanks to the 'free film' now experience amazing destinations not with their eyes, but through a small screen on the back of a camera. I saw many of them when I was in Italy this summer, and I wonder how many of the photos will even be looked at more than a couple of times."
Couldn't agree more. I was in the Louvre this summer and was astonished by the number of people crowding round the Mona Lisa taking photos on their iPads.
Why? What's that supposed to prove? That you were there? Maybe they were all on a scavenger hunt!
No way you're going to take a meaningful picture from behind the guard rail, through 3 inches of bullet proof glass with a phone or tablet, or even with a DSLR like I was carrying.
When people photograph paintings for insurance or reproduction purposes they have it out from behind the glass, they can shoot it from whatever distance they like - one metre or three, set their own lighting, etc, etc.
I do take a lot of photos - my girlfriend despairs sometimes - she looks around and finds I'm 100metres behind having been distracted by a subject, but I do stop and soak up the atmosphere of wherever it is I'm visiting and not live the holiday through a lens - I didn't waste my time getting a crap photo of the mona lisa (I'll buy a proper print in the gift shop if I want her on my wall), but I did get some delightful macros of some Egyptian artefacts that caught my eye, one of which is now on my living room wall. Get down on your knees, lens against the glass and take a decent photo (cut out any reflections, lots of zoom and a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject from the other artefacts in the cabinet).
Likewise in one very fine gallery in the Louvre I saw people waving handycams around in the general direction of the beautiful ceiling frescos. Really? Are you going to sit down and cut that shaky-cam footage together into a home video, and actually watch "Our Holiday to Paris" again? Crap footage that will get deleted or forgotten about in a dank corner of a sub-sub-subdirectory. Just look at it and enjoy it.
All that said, I'm the sort of person not embarrassed to lie down on the floor of a museum (or on one occasion a State Legislative Building) to get the photo I want, even I do get a few funny looks, which (I like to think) means I get slightly more imaginative pictures than a lot of people (as well as a few that - on review - I think "What the f- was I trying to achieve there?).
"Back in the day of real fim the pros had motor drives for exactly that reason, along with high capacity backs because 36 shots wasn't enough, and even landscape photographers with expensive 6x6 film would always take a few reels before coming home."
Very true, especially for sport, news or nature where you can't ask a tiger to go back and have another go, or asking a footballer if they could just loop the ball over into the goal just the same way again.
I do try and make my photos count, even though on a 16GB card I can fit lots, even shooting RAW. When I was on safari in India though it was a case of hedging my bets. Every shot taken in triplicate, bracketing my focus because when you do spot a tiger you want to get home and have a decent shot, not 3 blurry options. I'd have done the same with film, but this saves having to crack the camera open halfway through. Obviously I'm aiming for them all to be good, but in the back of a jeep with a lead-footed driver they're simply not going to be!
Once I was reasonably happy I'd got a good photo though I put the camera down and just enjoyed his majesty.
All told I had 200 shots to review from that morning, including a couple of absolute corkers of our big Bengal male and a bunch that - with the best will in the world, were pretty blurry because the driver had chosen that exact moment to move on!