I've become a bit of a math and science nerd somewhat late in life, and I blame photography. Oh sure, I took most of the requisite classes in high school and college, but I hardly stood out as a model student. By my sophomore year in a Catholic high school -- in Wyoming, no less -- I had already moved on to pursuits more, shall we say, extracurricular than academic. I was fortunately more successful in college (and, later, graduate school) with a more committed corp of teachers, but a real and abiding interest only came about as I embraced my photography as a likely career option. More exemplary lives than mine have been sacrificed for less.
My first surprising love affair was with chemistry, a subject I enjoyed but struggled with in school. But when it came time to learn and master the darkroom, it was love at first sight. Ok, maybe second sight, but I had great training, rigorous and thorough. It went far beyond just the time-and-temperature recipes to a real grasp of why and how the chemistry works, which gave me a genuine mastery of the craft. I could make a negative sing. I spent a few wonderful years as a color-systems manager of a high-end pro lab, and mastering the mathematical and chemical intricacies of the tri-linear E6 process control (damn, I love the sound of that!) brought out my ultimate and unapologetic geek.
And if I can put on my grandpa hey-you-kids-get-the-hell-off-my-lawn hat for an indulgent minute, I would be remiss not to make at least a passing comment on our pre-automation years. We made spot-on exposure calculations in real time, right inside our little heads, with that old ISO (well, back then it was ASA) and distance-to-subject formula. It's algebra, and it's necessary, just like Sister Mary Pat said it would, back in 10th grade. Solve for x, dude. It ain't rocket science.
Don't get me wrong, I'm just as happy to have TTL and multimeters as you are. I've even come to rely on the Aperture-priority mode on my little Fuji. And that, I think, is the point: let your inner geek embrace the technology, rather than the other way around. Knowing the process and understanding the principles of our craft is what makes it art. Just because it's digital and not a messy tray of Dektol doesn't mean it's less demanding. You don't have to solve for x, because it's standing right there in front of you, quietly moving you onward:
You've come this far, pilgrim. Now what?