Like so many things, it helps to join a community around a hobby to expand your skills at that hobby. Photography clubs are as old as photography itself, and photography journals became a staple just a couple of decades later. Photography has evolved over the years from wet plate to film to digital. But in all these methods there is always a lot of gear. For every piece of photography equipment, there seems to be other stuff to go with that item, to hold it, adapt it, filter it, and so on. The world of photography attracts gadget geeks or will make them one eventually. When two photographers meet, usually the first question asked is "What do you shoot with?"
Photographers talk about gear. They love to. It is so easy to discuss because the topics are numerous and the opinions are endless. People think the iPhone-Android debates can get heated, but that is nothing compared to a Nikon-Canon fight. Even within a single brand there can be debates. For example, is the difference in cost justified between a 50mm f/1.8 lens and a 50mm f/1.4? Such a simple question can be argued for days... and has.
However, when painters get together they don't talk about paint brushes. Sure, they might exchange notes on which brand is better, which store sells which brand, and so forth. But there will not be long exhaustive debates about paint brushes, nor online forums filled with thousands of comments about paint brushes.
Please, my fellow photographers, please resist the urge to only talk about gear. Do not forget that photography is an art! The gear is merely a tool. Now, it cannot be avoided completely. I have seen images where I knew a specific technique was being used, and I had to ask how it was done. In photography, asking "how" will mean asking about gear. For example, wanting to know what the focal length was means asking about the lens, and asking about the aperture is equally important. But solely focusing on the gear leaves the photographer's images soulless.
Ian Wilson is a bisexual man with a wife and three children in North Carolina. His interests include photography, Celtic culture and Christianity. You can see his website here http://about.me/furrycelt