The advent of digital cameras has brought many more individuals into photography. The Internet and digital media has provided a myriad of online forums, all easily available to the masses. Camera technology has made it much easier for the average person to get very good results. Preview screens provide immediate feedback, providing an excellent learning tool for identifying problems, rather than having to wait for film processing.
The cost of photos is essentially free, less amortization of the equipment. This means more photos can be taken, important in difficult shooting situations where a number of shots increases the chances of capturing that special moment. Post-processing on a PC with applications like Photoshop essentially brings the darkroom to the desktop. For me, this is one of the most important tools in the digital photography process.
So, with all this technology and increasing numbers of photographers, one problem remains - how do you differentiate your photos?
Subject and setting. If you are interested in color photography, for example, it is going to be difficult to get the kinds of results Steve McCurry gets just by being in India, Kashmir, Tibet, or another exotic locale, and getting such unique subjects and settings.
However, few have the ability to travel to locations like these very frequently, if at all. It is unlikely that one will find many unique subjects in and of themselves - in a city like New York, nearly everything has been combed over. A rarely seen subject will require research and travel - places like the Hole, the Black Cowboys, etc.
One strategy is to shoot familiar subjects from different vantage points (see Dachshund Octoberfest here) and at different times. Although the magic hour (early morning and at sunset) is often celebrated as the optimal time of day for shooting because of the quality of light (see Light on Bobst here), I also see the early morning as a time to capture activities particular to the early morning (such as deliveries to the meat packing district) or familiar subjects in an atypical way - quieter settings free of traffic and pedestrians and subjects illuminated by the sun in a unique way, like today's photo of the Washington Square Arch with light pouring through it.
See you in the morning for that window of opportunity :)
Posts taken in the morning: Hawk Fest, Quietude, 23 Skidoo, Homeless Art Scene, You Don't Say, Out There, Little in the Middle, Kristen, For Whom the Knell Tolled, Hua Mei Bird Garden, Coup De Grace, Eight Twenty Five, Slummin', Fresh Meat, True North, Snow Play.