What you need is the skills to render YOUR vision into reality. If your vision tolerates or requires mis-exposed negatives, dirt, dust, hairs and scratches, by all means, work with that. If it requires f/64-esque exposure, processing and printing skills, do what it takes to develop that technique. I think the critique many folks don't succeed at articulating of the former is that some if not many practitioners of the former do it out of laziness and lack of skill, rather than understanding the how and the why, so it isn't repeatable in the long run - you can't build a portfolio of considered work if you don't know how you got that one image to look the way it does. The critique of the latter is very easy to articulate - being super-technical lends itself to sterile imagery because the photographer is more concerned with making sure the tree bark of THAT tree renders Zone VI 1/2 than paying attention to a harmonious composition. If it comes down to it I'd rather look at an image with emotional content that is technically rough than an image that is technically perfect but unengaging, but if I have the choice, I want an image whose technical delivery enhances the emotional delivery. I shouldn't be distracted from emotional content by technique, one way or the other - neither should I look at a print and think, "wow, I can't tell you anything about the picture because I'm constantly distracted by its flaws" nor should I think "well, that was a perfect step-wedge in the form of a landscape".
Originally Posted by cliveh