Ray, your argument seems, to me at least, to be nothing other than a plea for the machine gun school of photography; finger exercise yoga.
Let's look at your four or five year period in some detail. You speculate on 25,000 shots or 695 rolls of film. On your maths, I would expect you to have garnered 695 wonderful images. Have you? In a lifetime of pro work, which saw me do relatively well, I would laugh out loud were you to ask me to make an exhibition of more than fifty to seventy images on which I'd stake my reputation, whatever that might have been. Of those 695 films I would certainly expect to have come up with a shot that fulfills the brief in each roll, but great is something else. And that's one of the problems amateur photography inevitably faces: what's the standard going to be? Remove the commercial imperative that virtually defines subject and execution, and what judgement can you appeal to regarding your work?
Either pro or am, if one's vision and thought is focussed, one hardly faces problems defined by cost of film. Such problems arise from indecision and no clear sense of purpose. I would submit that blasting one's way through photographic life is no route to success, but more likely one that leads to disappointment.
Racking up big click scores may indeed be part of some commercial techniques - fashion, for example, where you are not only encouraging the model and building her and yourself up to getting something approaching a visible climactic reaction, but you are also attempting to bring all that together with the background, the breeze or the wind machine and what it does to the cloth and where it throws the hair. A hit in thirty-six ain't bad! But were one to apply those maths norms to landscape, architecture or product, I'd say one is in the wrong business.
So yep, the old, reliable 'blad and Nikon were certainly not second-class citizens in my world. The single, huge benefit I see with digital is that it shortens the time between shot and available image. And that really only means much where a client expects or needs the turnaround to be so fast.
If I look at my own shooting, I can't say that I do much more with two digital cameras than I would have with film; it is just more convenient for me now since Kodachrome has vanished and E6, at least on the island, is pretty well a lost possibility too. Thanks, sensor. Today's ideal, for me, would have been the 500 series and Ektachrome with a dedicated 120 scanner: rapid editing and a great route to the kind of b/w image I love to print (yes, Virginia, I know Ektachrome is colour transparency film). So even here, now an amateur on a rock, I have come to realise that removed from the needs of the fashion or glamour shoot, the slow ways of the medium format are far more likely to lead to considered work that will mean something even after the shooting.
No! no! no! Rob. You do seem to be very much set in the old ways. Modern photographic technology and editing software allow for much expanded creative opportunities that were simply not feasible in your days, at least not without great expense and difficulty; and these expanded opportunities often require multiple shots of the same scene.
The first photographic print I sold, after my renewed interest in photography about 15 years ago, was an 8ftx1ft panorama of the city of Brisbane printed on my A3+ Epson 1200 using roll paper. Sold it to the then Mayor of Brisbane for $400. I believe the photo was mounted and framed, then auctioned to provide funds for the Mayor's re-election.
This panorama consisted of 13 frames of 35mm film, shot with a 300mm lens, scanned with my Nikon 35mm scanner at 2000 dpi then carefully and time-consumingly stitched on my computer with software that (in those days) required a number of pairs of flags to be very carefully positioned at each overlap.
As a result of haze problems and pollution rising from the city centre I had to visit the site on a number of occasions before I got a result with which I was reasonably satisfied. I would have shot several rolls of different types of film in the process. Eventually, the film from which the print was made, which provided the most pleasing colors and happened to be the film in my camera on that clear and sunny day when the haze seemed to have been carried away by a propitious breeze, was Ektachrome 200.
Another example: Right at the moment I have a 6ftx2ft print of the Himalayas clipped to a mounting board leaning against the wall on which it will eventually be hung after I've finished the decorations and fittings in my new house (my tiling venture was interrupted by a fall which caused a fractured wrist, so I'm very much behind schedule).
This print was made from just 5 stitched frames taken with my Canon 5D. However, each frame was exposure-bracketed to increase dynamic range, making a total of 15 shots for this one picture. At this size, the whole print is sharp, even from close up. Every blade of grass in the foreground is eye-catchingly sharp, and, if there'd been a climber on any on the snow-capped peaks at the time, waving an Aussie flag, he'd probably be visible on this print.
However, I'm still not satisfied with this print. It's too small. I'd like it to be 12ftx4ft. Unfortunately, my printer (the Epson 7600) is only 2ft wide. In order to make a 12ftx4ft print I'd have to divide the image (after interpolation) into 6 vertical strips each 2ftx4ft, then position the individual prints next to each other on the mounting board. This is not really satisfactory. How does one make a join in a sky invisible?
I've got it! I'll photograph the window frames in my house, and with the help of Photoshop, create a 12ftx4ft window with 2ft wide vertical dividers. Each vertical divider will cover a join in the Himalayan landscape. The total window frame will be the frame of the picture. I'll be creating an imaginary view out of an imaginary window. This is going to be magnificent!
However, I'm a bit concerned that the 12mp of the 5D may not be sufficient for a 4ft long print (vertically). On close inspection, the resolution may not be impressive. I may have to revisit that scene in Nepal with a 5D MK II and reshoot. We amateurs can be very dedicated, Rob.
There are other applications that may require multiple shots of the same scene in order to take advantage of the marvels of modern software. For example, places like Angkor Wat are crawling with tourists. They're everywhere, from dawn till dusk. So Rob C with his old Nikon or Blad has found a sublime spot with perfect composition and lighting. He knows what he's doing and he's selected the scene carefully. He's got his exposure right and all he needs is one shot.... except, there are tourists wandering in front of his camera all the time. If they're not directly in front of his camera, they're in the background taking a photo of their spouse or kids, with their P&S.
Now I suppose Rob could could hire a few minders who could block every entrance to the site, "Excuse me. We have a professional photographer at work. Could you wait just a few minutes until the site is cleared. Thank you." But, I'm not sure that would be legal.
However, there's a hi-tech solution. If you have Photoshop CS3 or CS4 Extended, you can simply take one shot of the same scene every couple of seconds (or every 5 or 10 seconds) until you are certain that every tourist in the scene has moved at least once. You then stack the images in Photoshop Extended (whether 5, 10 or 20 frames), and the software will choose the parts from each frame that are identical in all frames, to produce one composite image with no tourists.
Have I made my point well?