I've just been away for 30 days, traveling through France, Vermont and the Adirondacks Mountains of Upstate New York. This was the first trip where I did not take my Hasselblad, a couple of lenses, a light meter, and a large quantity of film. This time, I only took my 8 month old Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105mm L lens. I also took a fistful of CF cards. You know, just in case.
While on this trip, I shot just over 1600 frames. This is huge for me. I never would have been able to do this with film (nor would I want to), let alone while traveling around with my (almost) two year old daughter. In 2005, I spent 28 days in Oaxaca, Mexico and if I remember correctly, I shot about 70 rolls of medium format film, or about 840 frames. I was also processing my film there, in the apartment bathroom and kitchen, so I am sure I was being extra careful about what I was photographing. And to put this into perspective, I used to shoot about 125 rolls of medium format film, per year. I have not shot a single roll of film since buying the 5D Mark II.
To me, I think the biggest reason why photographers make more exposures is manual focus versus auto focus. At least it is for me. When shooting with my Hasselblad and film, 99% of the time, the camera is on a tripod and I am composing and metering and making sure I am getting exactly what I want. In a nut shell, no wasted film. With my Canon and the auto focus f4 lens, I often shoot "off the cuff" and often without looking through the viewfinder (my good friend Josh recently wrote about this). This happens a lot when chasing my daughter around. I just listen for the little beep that confirms the subject is in focus. Most of the time, I get the shot, but as in life nothing is guaranteed.
My solution to slowing down and making more composed photographs again, is to get myself a manual focus lens. Right now, I am eyeballing the Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 lens. Anyway, as I see it, it will force me not only to start looking through the viewfinder again, but it will make me compose more of what I am shooting. Luckily, I am not wasting film, just time and space on my hard drive (the 5D2 raw files are around 28mb on average). Now someone might say to just switch the lens I currently own to manual focus, and yes I could do that, but I really don't like the way this lens handles as a manual focus lens. Plus you really can't go wrong with a Carl Zeiss lens on a full frame camera.
On a side note, I've been told that a good friend of mine who is also using the Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105mm L lens, is having a different issue. The problem is that 5-10 years ago or so, he had a point and shoot 35mm camera for his "snapshots" and a 4x5 camera for his "artwork". Now he has one camera for both. I suppose the issue is that the images start to look the same unless there is some sort of special post processing. I'm hoping to see him next week and will find out the details.
Anyway, I rambled on a bit. So after I buy the Zeiss lens, I will write a response to this, along with some examples of the new work.