Tag Archives: zen

Copying sutra at Taiyo-ji temple

As part of a temple stay (shukubo) at Taiyo-ji temple, you get the chance to copy sutra. No calligraphy experience or knowledge of kanji is required (I know, I’m really bad at calligraphy and being left-handed doesn’t help either as all the stroke directions of a kanji are defined by right-handed people — I push the brush where they would pull it and v.v.) 🙂 The habit of hand copying sutra is considered a merit and is a devotional practice.
The monk speaks English and Taiyo-ji temple is very accommodating for tourists from everywhere wanting to get the shukubo experience.

Please follow and like us:
0

Zazen at Taiyo-ji temple

We visited Taiyo-ji temple in Chichibu for our second temple stay (shukubo) there a few days ago and my wife took this video of me doing zazen in the very beautiful zazen hall of the temple. The unique experience of this remote, mountain top temple makes me feel one with nature and at peace.
The monk speaks English and Taiyo-ji temple is very accommodating for tourists from everywhere wanting to get the shukubo experience.

Please follow and like us:
0

Zenkō-ji, Nagano

Before going to Seni Onsen Iwanoyu, we had a stay in a ryokan close to Zenkō-ji temple in Nagano.

That's me, walking towards the main building of Zenko-ji

We bought tickets to the inner sanctum (read the Wikipedia article about the treasures) and made our way to the tunnel in search of the Key to the Western Paradise of the Amida Buddha. The tunnel is pitch dark, as dark as a darkroom. What you do is to keep your right hand onto the cold wall and grope for the key. Of course, as it is busy, people keep bumping into each other so it is quite funny. For some reason my wife assumed that the ceiling would get low and crouched down. I’m standing about 40cm taller than her and the idea hadn’t occurred to me so we would had made quite the hilarious sight making our way through the tunnel together if only somebody had been able to see in there.

The next morning we went to the morning ceremony but as we got there early, we got to talk to one of the people working at the temple and as we still had time, he explained a lot and showed us around and showed us some other sights inside the other temple buildings. Then he led us to the building from which the 80 years old priest who would conduct the ceremony would come. This was very lucky as only local people were gathering here and it became clear that these people met up every morning: some were walking the dog, others were on their way to work. The priest emerged and everybody, including me, knelt down to receive a blessing from him which was a touch on the back of the head. We then made our way to the main temple again and where the ceremony was about to start. Very recommended!
After the ceremony was over, everybody made their way through the tunnel again and as it was even busier than the day before, it was even more fun. 🙂

Some thoughts:

  • No other non-Japanese tourists that I noticed went to the morning ceremony, why not? It really is a great opportunity to see the temple in action, it is not just an old building with some statues.
  • If you do decide to visit the morning ceremony, hold on to the ticket you bought to the inner sanctum, it will give you access to the tatami area the next morning.
Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

jazz

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!

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0

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.

Please follow and like us:
0