When I visited the Lakes District in Northern England this past November I stayed near a standing stone circle so I could visit it often during the week. I wanted to be able to connect soulfully with the energies of the 4000 year old circle as well as attempt to capture the different moods of the place at different times of day and during different weather.
Every time I went there to visit, but especially during those best-light events such as sunrise and sunset, there was always photographers present. Even when it was snowing and the road up to the circle was a bit slushy, there was one other crazy person that arrived at exactly the time I did and we shared the experience of capturing the snowy, cloudy circle cooperatively, staying out of each other's shots, commenting on the light.
Over the past 35 years as a photographer I have encountered two basic types of shooters. One is the very technically-oriented and settings-centered person. The other is a more right-brained approach.
I remember shooting a magnificent autumn sunset with friends years ago. I was completely lost in light and color and heart-opening joy as the camera and I created lovely images. A friend walked up and asked what settings I was shooting. I looked at him like he was crazy. "What?" I asked. "I have no idea." My fingers know the f-stop and shutter speed settings without filtering through my brain and so they work in conjunction with my eyes and creative heart. I play when I shoot.
Both of us shoot manual exposure. He is a very solid photographer who produces beautiful images but we speak a completely different language when we're out in the field 'working.' There isn't a right or wrong way really. Each photographer develops her or his own way of arriving at a good photograph.
For me personally, it's an experience of connecting with the place or animal with my heart. Of surrendering myself to the moment and allowing the beauty of the encounter to touch me and create an inner shift so the spirit of place directs my work.
When I really allow myself to be immersed in the experience, I come away with much more than a photograph.