Sure gear is important and plenty of photographers will tell you it is not the gear but rather the person who uses it. That is true though I cannot say that I didn't see a difference in my images when I upgraded my gear, but in a recent portfolio review it was presumed that all my shots where shot with my newest greatest gear by looking at them, but I digress.
We photographer and photography enthusiasts have a budget for the year for any new gear and supplies, but we often seem to neglect the training aspect of our gear. Yes I see training as gear, it is a tool just like my camera is and I cannot neglect it. Sure I photograph weekly and practice is important, but for me it is equally important to get some time with experts in the field. For this reason a portion of my budget goes to training and seminars.
Finding these seminars can be challenging. There is nothing more frustrating to me then getting to a seminar and having the time be dominated by someone with a brand new camera that doesn't even know what aperture is. These people completely disregard the instructions of the course which state the level of skill one must have and the instructors and or companies are reluctant to ask them to leave the class or tell them they cannot spend time going over the things that everyone else knows for fear of being perceived as rude. A recent seminar I took clearly specified that the attendees needed a DSLR or at the very least a camera capable of manual settings. Out of 8 people in the seminar 3 showed up with basic point and shoot cameras. I respect the fact that they want to learn but this was not the class for them. I participate in various online groups of all levels and some people get annoyed when someone asks a fairly basic question like what is RAW. They jump all over that person and tell them Google is their friend. That is not right, these forums are the perfect place for these types of questions and I am happy to answer any of them. I respect their quest for knowledge as I said I personally feel it is essential just like the gear, but I ask that they respect the guidelines of the course. If you are reading the requirements which say must understand manual camera operation and must have a laptop with editing software and you have no idea what manual is and you don't own a laptop, please don't register. There are classes that are perfect for you and you will get a lot more out of them. If you don't know where to look head to one of those message boards and get someone like me who is happy to provide suggestions. This will only help both of us get the most out of out continuing education.