Tag Archives: zen

on the bricks


Why I’ve started to shoot film

Why film? And why now?

It does seem a bit silly to invest in film cameras these days. My Nikon D7000 is an excellent digital SLR that takes really great photos. With that camera, I can see right away if my exposure was off, if I didn’t focus correctly or if there was too much camera shake. I can delete the photo right then and there if it gets too blown out or just isn’t a good shot. Then after I’m done, I can take whatever photos are left and load them onto my computer, run them through Lightroom and Photoshop, and come out with some great photos. The camera and software provide me with countless opportunities for manipulation to present the image that I want to present. This has allowed people that might have been previously apprehensive about photography as a hobby to go out and grab some gear and start shooting.

So, why go backward?

Recently I inherited my grandfather’s Canon AE-1 Program 35mm film SLR camera. It is a great little camera in that it is set up to figure out exposure/shutter speed all on its own, and as far as a film SLR camera goes, it is one of the easiest to take out of the box and start snapping some great photos. He kept this camera in meticulous condition. He even Kept the original warranty and *every* slip of paper and receipt that came with it. He bought this just a month or two before I was born, and while I have nothing to back this up, I can’t help but think that it was the coming birth of his first grandson (though not first grandchild) that inspired him to go out and buy this camera and the 3 lenses it came with at the local SEARS. Not only did he keep the gear in great condition, he also kept his notes with it. Seems he went out and talked with some local photographers to really get to know how to use the camera. This was classic Walt. I have all of his hand-written notes still to this day.

Nostalgia aside, there were other reasons to take up this camera. I’ve even added another lens that I was able to find on eBay for very cheap that will give me some more range with it. I’ve committed to use this camera when out and about for a few reasons which I’ll go into now.

First, there is speed. When using my DSLR, I generally snap a few photos of each shot that I want in case one isn’t that good. I tend not to take my time framing the shot as much as I should because I just think “hey, I can just go back and crop if need be”. And while yes, I can load my film photos onto a disc and take it through Lightroom (which I have done with these for a bit of noise reduction and exposure control is all) that isn’t really the point. Film forces me to slow waaaaaaaay down. I take a shot knowing full well that I’m not going to be able to crop it, so it better be framed correctly the first time. This forces me to move around, get high or get low, take my time really seeing what it is I’m looking at. And I know that I really only get one shot. Film actually isn’t all that cheap, and I don’t want to waste a roll taking a bunch of the same shots over and over.

Second, it is forcing me to get to know my equipment. While I understand the basics of exposure, f/stops, metering, shutter speed etc…, using film forces me to take all of these things into consideration before I press that shutter release. I don’t get to snap a few, look at the display screen and histogram and figure out if I need to adjust exposure manually or not. I have to be patient, think about the light and other conditions, and make any adjustments before I take that first shot.

Lastly, shooting film forces me to really think about what it is I’m shooting. My goal is to take only 1 picture of any shot on film. With digital I might shoot 50-60 on a hike, then delete about 40 of those and edit the rest. With film that just isn’t possible on my budget, nor is it the experience I’m looking for. I’m forcing myself to get those 20 great shots the first time. This has led to my passing up taking a number of photos, which is probably for the best.

While I’ve certainly taken some photos I’m pretty proud of with my DSLRs, I’m finding that shooting with film has been a much greater contemplative experience in general. It forces me out of my comfort zone, into an area where things aren’t as easy as they could be, and I find myself

Also – I’m really enjoying the process of film. I’m learning about the different types of film, and I’ve got a Holga with a bunch of random film to use (some expired, some foreign stuff etc…) and the experimentation has been a blast. Also using the Holga is another experience in itself, but I think I’ll talk more about that once I have those rolls developed.

I’ll be tagging all of my film photos with the “film photography” tag so you’ll know which ones I’ve shot with my SLR as opposed to my digital shots. I’ve also yet to develop a few rolls off my Holga, but those should be pretty obvious to anyone that knows what a Holga photo looks like.


from the Lankavatara Sutra

How, Mahamati, does the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva come to have a clear understanding as to what is seen of Mind itself? He comes to it by recognising that this triple world is nothing but Mind itself, devoid of an ego and its belongings, with no strivings, no comings-and-goings; that this triple world is manifested and imagined as real, under the influence of the habit-energy accumulated since beginningless time by false reasoning and imagination, and with the multiplicity of objects and actions in close relationship, and in conformity with the ideas of discrimination, such as body, property, and abode. Thus, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva acquires a thoroughly clear understanding as to what is seen of Mind itself.

Bodhisattva of Compassion – and patience – and…

Avalokitesvara is known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Sometimes he is depicted having a thousand-arms (represented by many arms, not a literal thousand) because it is said that in his quest to save all beings from suffering, Avalokitesvara shatters his arms. Seeing this, Amitabha Buddha grants the Bodhisattva a thousand arms to save all beings.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I have a thousand arms, reaching out into all of the various projects and responsibilities I have going right now. Family, work full time, school full time, photography, cleaning the house, car maintenance, applying for school, trying to buy a house, dealing with credit bureaus. Today I was thinking about how burdensome those 1000 arms would be, and how infinite Avalokitesvara’s compassion must be.

But a Bodhisattvha isn’t limited to one paramita. In order to have boundless compassoin, Avalokitesvara must have already developed boundless patience. Must have already developed dhyana. And prajna. And the rest of the paramitas.

This path is not a staircase. It can’t be taken in succession. It must be taken up at once, all of it, with the determination of Hui-k’o. Realization comes as a thunderclap and a blowing dandelion all at once.

Is it beneficial to apply oneself to the paramitas, or the precepts one at a time? Certainly. But we cannot believe for one moment that once we have conquered one, we can simply move on to the other. Nor can we assume we have mastered one without the others.

More photos hopefully coming soon btw. I haven’t had the opportunity to take any lately because it has either been raining, or completely dark out by the time I get home from work. I also recently inherited an older Canon film SLR that I’ve been playing with, so I don’t have much digital to share.

I know this isn’t a great photo. This was a part of the “light” assignment in the book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography. I find this assignment to be very difficult, especially considering that I only use a Nikon D3100, and the exposure often goes one way or the other when trying to capture the effects of light. Anyway, I enjoyed the symmetry and geometry of light at play here, reflecting on those 6 points.