Eightfold Path: Right livelihood

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Livelihood, being part of the Ethical conduct division of the Eightfold Path, is about taking your photos without causing harm to anybody, directly or indirectly. I wouldn’t go stalking a ‘celebrity’ or their kids to make a living, but I worked in the casino  industry before, so it is not really possible for me to lecture people.


Indeed, it is easy to despise paparazzi, and a lot of people do, yet many more people seem to be lapping up the gossip and the silly celebrity culture that creates the whole paparazzi industry. The urge to live our lives in the light of somebody whose only achievement is that they have been on TV is the root of the problem and will no doubt be the subject of many studies to come in 10 or 20 years time. Show Right Action and live your own life!

Eightfold Path: Right Action

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Action or Right Conduct, being part of the Ethical conduct division of the Eightfold Path, is the aspect of the path that ties it all together: I need to act rightly and selflessly in harmony with the other aspects of the path.
Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

In the original interpretation the usual examples given are: don’t take lives, don’t steal, etc. But the more general original definition said to “train oneself to be morally upright in one’s activities, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to oneself or to others.”
For me, for my photography, this translates into learning not to get unnecessarily hung up on my photos or on how people value my work. If people like them I’m happy, if they don’t, that is fine too. More important is what I think of my photos myself. I guess that it is a cliché,  but I’m my worst critic although I do enjoy the improvements I made and I think that Right Action is just about that. One thing that I learned is not to judge photos immediately after you developed a film or get them back from the lab, I’m always hugely disappointed at that time, but find quite a few treasures a couple of weeks later.

Eightfold Path: Right Speech

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Speech, being part of the Ethical conduct division of the Eightfold Path, does refer to abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter. Translated into a photography related topic, I think it would mean that we need to respect other people’s opinions and work as shown or displayed on social networks or other parts of the Internet, no matter what.

Snowdonia, Wales 2010; Ilford PAN-F Plus at IE 50; developed: Rodinal 1:50, 11 mins; agitated for the first 30 seconds and then 2 inversions every 30 seconds

How easy isn’t it to rip into somebody who has misunderstood HDRI and who pushed to slider controls of Photomatix, or similar tool, to the maximum and proudly created an awful tonemapped image with blatant haloes around all the contours? And all the other comments are loving it? Are they not seeing the problems of the image?
How many more times do you want to see a black and white photo of a kid with one aspect of the photo left in colour?  How often aren’t we infuriated by people in any of the photography forums who we know for sure are stupid for not understanding the same thing we find so obvious? Better stop now, I could go on for a few hours more.

But none of these are reasons to attack people personally or talk down their work, Right Speech teaches us. There never is a reason for doing this. You can give your opinion and engage in a discussion, but there is no reason to be abusive or react in an abusive way when we are abused for our opinions or photographic work in turn. In the end, can we really be sure that our opinion is the only valid one?

The fact that I had way too much fun writing this blog post shows that I have plenty to learn about Right Speech.

Eightfold Path: Right Intention

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Intention or Right Resolve, being part of the Wisdom division of the Eightfold Path, really asks the question “How far do you want to go to change any ill habit that you might have? And how far do you want to go to learn new good habits?”

Venice, Ilford FP4+

If you don’t have any ill habits, I guess you’re good to go on this one. 🙂 However, if I look into myself, I know that I can do better on several things, for instance:

  • If I’m travelling and am tired, do I get up at 6 o’clock to get the famous tourist attraction almost all by myself without the other tourists blocking the view? Do I hold off on going to the restaurant for dinner when I’m hungry because of the wonderful light?
  • If, after a long day, I think that I might get a better shot or composition if I walk closer or further away from the subject or change lenses once more, will I do it or put on a zoom lens and make do?
  • A landscape photographer spends days hiking and scouting the area for the best light and best location to shoot a handful of photos, how can I expect a good shot when I just happen to pass?
  • Do I make the shot in camera or attempt to solve the issues in PhotoShop or LightRoom days later at home?
  • Am I really sure I have full control over the exposure before I release the shutter or are some things left to chance? A TTL lightmeter is so easily fooled and cannot be relied on if the subject is lit a little tricky (and isn’t that always the case?).

Etc. etc., I think everybody can come up with a personalized list as long as their arm easily.  I think I can improve on several of these topics myself even though I think my intention is right most of the time.

Eightfold Path: Right View

In my series about the Eightfold Path for Photography, Right View, or Right Understanding, is not merely understanding how the camera works or how to get a correct exposure. These are definitely things that are part of Right View and using the camera in Manual Mode should be second nature. But Right View, being part of the Wisdom division of the Eightfold Path, is all about understanding all  the factors that define the outcome of a photo. It is what Ansel Adams referred to as ‘pre-visualization’ of a photo. Not just camera handling, exposure and composition, it is about knowing what the result will look like before you press the shutter.

Adox CHS 25 ART stand developed: Pre-soaked for 5 minutes followed by APH 09 developer in a 1+120 dilution, agitated for the 1st minute and then left to stand for 1 hour. 
I think the Right View must exist always, not just for those cases when I know that I can pull off a decent photograph, but everywhere and always driving the other seven factors of the path.