In essence, Ramirez’s advice in his article “f/8 And Be There” is to find the lens size on your camera that will allow a large enough field of view to get enough details the photo will come with its own framing & visual context, and then find an f-stop that will keep most everything in focus (in the case of a film 35mm camera, almost everything from 9 feet to infinity will be in focus). Then, instead of worrying about using manual focus or waiting for autofocus to makes up its mind you can leave the camera on manual focus and focus on taking pictures (being there).
I would recommend the entire article. Be sure to check out the comments as there is a brief discussion about different f stops for different lens sizes for different cameras. For instance (and while I knew this at one time, I had forgotten it until I read through the comments) due to a difference in size between the CCD sensors in most digital SLRs and size of film in the original 35mm SLRs, a 35mm lens on a DSLR takes a picture with a field of view that would be closer to a 50 mm lens on a regular SLR. In general, the conversion factor is about 1.5-1.6.
Also, the f/8-and-be-there technique doesn’t work worth a darn on zoom lenses as the zoom factor makes the f stop / distance you’re in focus / lens diameter relationship much more difficult to track. If you’re having to consult charts to find out if you’ll be in focus or not, then you’re probably not being any more spontaneous with your shots than you would be with just using autofocus.
If the link above doesn’t work, full article info is: http://www.adorama.com/alc/article/f8-And-Be-There, “f/8 And Be There”, by Sandy Ramirez, dated June 22, 2011, Adorama.com
If you’re interested in cameras at all, I’d really recommend Adorama’s site. I ran across them while buying a lens on Amazon.com (where they are a third-party seller), I’ve bought various things from them over the last few years, both through Amazon and directly through their site, and I’ve always been happy with their service. Their site and their catalog are both fun places to browse around just to see what’s out there & see what other people are recommending.
For those confused by the acronyms being thrown around:
CCD is a Charge-Coupled Device and it is what allows digital cameras to exist — I’ve included the Wikipedia link in case you want to know more about how they work, it gets complicated quickly.
SLR stands for Single-Lens Reflex. It refers to cameras where both the view through the viewfinder and light to expose the film came through the same lens. So whatever you were looking at through the viewfinder was exactly what the camera would see when you clicked the shutter button. Light from the lens was reflected by a mirror up to the viewfinder. When a picture was taken, the mirror was flipped out of the way before the shutter opened ot expose the film. If you’ve used a film SLR and noticed both the click-clack sound it makes when a picture is taken and the momentary blackening of the image in the viewfinder, those were both consequences of that little mirror being flipped out of the way.
DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex. In their most basic form, they work like a film SLR except when the shutter opens, it’s not a piece of film being exposed to the light but a CCD sensor. Instead of the image being stored by chemical reactions on the film, it’s stored by an electronic recording of what the CCD sensor saw. In practice, the digital part means that if the camera has a view screen that can show image from the saved files, then photos can be viewed right away instead of having to wait until they were developed in a darkroom as happened with film SLRs. Also, if a digital image doesn’t turn out it can be deleted and the memory freed up by the deletion can be used to take more photos; which is different than how film works, if you take a film picture and it doesn’t turn out, you’ve lost a frame of film and that’s all there is to it.