Eightfold Path: Right Mindfulness

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Mindfulness, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to remaining focussed at all time.

Fuji Neopan Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC-110 dilution E for 7 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

But Right Mindfulness, to me, is to be always aware of photography, how the things around you would translate into a photo, translate into a better photo than the one you took of the same subject last time. It isn’t about being jealous of the locations I never get to travel to, it is about what I can make of the locations I can visit.

On the drive into work I have lovely views and I drive past quite a few gnarly old pollards, it is a pleasurable commute. I have stopped along the way, taken time and shot some decent photos. As I drive there everyday, I do visualize taking shots of the ever changing landscape, visualizing different angles and exposure settings, but that isn’t all, I think I am still missing the point: like Michael Kenna, I must focus on simplifying the composition, removing clutter until I get to the truth of the subject.

Eightfold Path: Right Effort

In my series about the Eightfold Path and Photography, Right Effort, being part of the Concentration division of the Eightfold Path, refers to the constant effort of abandoning ill habits that we have picked up or are tempted by and to the strive of developing new and better habits.

Foma Fomapan 100 at EI 100, developed in APH 09 dilution 1:167 for 2 hours

But then we all know that the ill habits we’re talking about are typically contradictions of each other: For instance: on the one hand we should not hesitate and miss the crucial shot, on the other hand patience is a great virtue for a photographer to have. In my experience, constantly taking shots to avoid missing the crucial one is a guaranteed way to come back with nothing at all, so that isn’t an option for me (any more.) Every photo shoot that isn’t in the controlled environment of a studio is going to be different and unique, and experience will no doubt help, but will only take us this far and not further. To me, Right Effort is the realization of this and without relying on shortcuts which will lead to repetition of previous work, we constantly need to improve ourselves to grow.

The old road to Nara

There is a lot more to Nara than just Nara Park with its famous temples and its hordes of tourists being enthralled by the deer. If you prefer to venture a bit off the beaten track there is this rather unique walk that even the most seasoned visitor of Japan hasn’t done yet: From the beautiful Yagyū no sato (柳生の里) area east of Nara, the Takisaka-no-michi is a 12km, 3 hours walk  from Enjō-ji Temple to Nara Park.

The path of the Takisaka-no-michi

Take the bus from Nara JR Station to Enjō-ji Temple, ask the tourist information at the station for bus number and pick up a Nara Bus Pass as the trip is covered by the pass. Enjō-ji Temple is already worth the trip, but once you’re done there, take the footpath that starts on the other side of the road via which you arrived. You’re now on the Takisaka-no-michi which first leads up gently and then descends towards Nara past tea fields, a tea house (a stop here is recommended!), Ojizō-sama statues and plenty of rock carvings of monks and Ojizō-sama.

Ilford HP5+ at EI 400, developed in HC-110 dilution H for 10 minutes. Agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds.

Buddha images carved into the rock in the 13th century.

The walk is easy and doesn’t require any particular skills or any particular fitness. If you have a look at the map provided by the tourist board, you will notice a loop just past the halfway point: if you turn left here there is a little more climbing to be done through a gorge with some beautiful rock carvings, but if you would like to take it easy, just continue and both routes will join again a little later.

What I particularly liked about this walk was that it led through so many different landscapes: First meandering over the tops of the mountains, then down into a rural valley with farms and the tea harvest in progress. A little further the landscape changed again dramatically when we descended into the gorge and crossed the river over tiny bridges. After we left the gorge and entered the forest again, we eventually joined a river again and the unpaved footpath changed into a flagstone paved path that must have been important and probably filled with pilgrims in the past. The path eventually led us back to Nara.
The walk was quiet, we met a few Japanese tourists and didn’t run into the crowds again until we entered Nara Park. None of the people in the crowd seemed to sense that there was so much more to be enjoyed in Nara.

DIY Film Drying Cabinet

This might come in handy for other people starting developing their own film. Together with using de-ionized or distilled water in the last few washes, this solved all my problems with “spotty” negatives!
DIY Film Drying Cabinet

I was having big issues with dust on my negatives, the often recommended and repeated solution of running the shower in the bathroom for a few minutes and then hanging the negatives in the steam-filled bathroom didn’t solve the problem at all for me: every negative was just covered in white specks. I did wonder whether the people recommending that were actually having problems with dust or just repeating something they had read once on the Web and thought it made sense.
I started looking at film drying cabinets but affordable solution were not obvious and it looked like I was about 5 years too late to buy a ready-made one.

In the end I decided to buy a cheap IKEA Billy bookcase with glass door and put some hooks in the top and cut a large hole in the middle shelf to allow it to be used for 35mm film as well. I attached some clothespins to the hooks and glued some felt around the inside of the door to keep even more dust out.
No fan, no heater, just give a film a few hours and it’ll be dry

Solved my problem for a very decent price!