Thanks for the perspective and it seems especially pertinent after reading your concluding remarks on the assignments. Looking back at my better shots over the last few months, my favorites are almost entirely luck especially when looking at the candid style shots.
In one shot, I was at a school concert and was off to the side shooting one of my daughters playing piano. For no particular reason, I panned back across the crowd to the rest of my family and snapped off a couple shots. In one of them, I caught one of my daughters looking at her uncle with the most amusing pensive look on her face. Seconds later, I got an unrestrained laugh and smile as she realized I was there.
As I thought about posting those pictures, I realized that I have no idea how to reproduce the moment and the expressions or even how to set up a scenario that's likely to produce such a picture. I had a similar thought when I looked at your whale pictures from several weeks ago. "How DID he do that!?" and "That was lucky!" instead of asking how you put yourself in a position to increase the odds of a shot like that in your favor. Good food for thought.
On the topic of ego posts and photographic worth, it seems necessary at some point to get some quality feedback to help myself improve. I have a pretty high opinion of some of my pictures and I enjoy them as a result thus satisfying the basic purpose of photography (perhaps, all art) that you're trying to get us to focus on. Regardless, I also want to continually improve my skills even in something that I consider a hobby. I also recognize that my opinion of my own pictures is probably a touch deluded and I'm not in a position to objectively critique my own work.
Do you have some recommendations on good ways to get valuable, objective and unbiased feedback on our photography? Or is this a discipline where "objective" critic misses the point entirely?