Like all other arts, photography involves a set of skills that must be learned in order to produce a viable piece of work. I learned the darkroom entirely from my own experimenting originally (before doing bachelor's and master's degrees at Brooks Institute) and made horrible mistakes along the way. To this day, however, I believe the first few rolls of film I shot in England before I know anything about photography were some of my strongest work. I was presented with a subject I found compelling and reacted without any technique to get in the way.
That being said, many of those images were also so technically flawed as to be unusable. At this point I would know how to handle those situations and would have made photos that were more satisfying as final images. In some ways I feel that I have been overcoming my technique since I graduated from photo school and trying to recapture my beginners eye and appoach to my work. I feel that I have started to make progress in the last few years.
I see this issue every day as I teach at the Art Institute. Students walk a fine line between talent and technique and I watch them form as artists as they find a balance. Clearly, what makes a photographer great is finding this balance. Adams, Weston, Eugene Smith, Uelsmann — the list goes on and on; these are people who had a great vision of the world and brought it to life through superior technique. People who try to skip the learning process eventually end up falling apart as they try to create work for which they are not prepared.
The Japanese approach caligraphy by meditating, then losing themselves in the moment and the stroke. I believe photography must be like this. Whatever level of technique has been achieved must be left behind at the creative moment. One cannont make love well simply by reading about it in the Kama Sutra and mimicking technique. Photography is the same.