I'm going to borrow some ideas, well, really, I'm going to borrow some words from Buddhism. The eightfold path is a Buddhist concept of which I do not pretend to have a particularly good understanding. Anything I say which particularly aligns with actual Buddhist teaching and thought should be considered an accident. I'm going to borrow some language, essentially the English titles of the 8 components or aspects of the path.
Then I'm going to stretch my philosophy of, my approach to, photography and Art-making, out on these words, this scaffolding of ideas if you will, to dry. It really doesn't matter how one chooses to dissect a philosophy of this sort. I could probably borrow some ideas from the Apache, or from Judaism, and get a quite different looking but equally useful view of the thing. Today, I am using these words from Buddhist teachings.
The eight aspects of the path are:
In all cases "Right" means proper, correct, fit. The conceit is that the eight aspects support and enable one another. Each aspect represents something you can think about and do by itself, and in the context of all the others. Taken all together, you might be able to take better pictures. Or at any rate, something more like the pictures you want to take.
Without further ado:
There's a double meaning here in the English translation, which I will ruthlessly exploit. On the one hand, a right view is an attitude, the right attitude. On the other hand we can consider it the thing that occurs just before a successful shutter-press, the right (literal) seeing from the right vantage and so on. We'll consider, for now, the first one. The right mental state.
I want to take meaningful pictures near here which embody, in some sense, the pacific northwest, present and past.
The intent to do what you're striving for. Many of us wish to be firemen, few of us take steps or plan to.
I plan to step out once a week, at least, to try to take these pictures.
Since, for healthy people, photography is neither a lifestyle nor a religion, this one needs a bit of massage, it probably ought not to be about talking to other people. However, we can usefully consider our internal voices. The Inner Game books all talk about the voice in your head that's negative, how it's surprisingly problematic, and how to quell it. This comes out a bit like pep-talking yourself, but there it is. It's probably more useful than you think.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... take meaningful pictures.
Do it. Go take pictures. But also behave in a way that makes that possible. Arrange your activities to support, or ay any rate not defeat, the photography. Perhaps it's no use scheduling a 2-4pm on Sunday time slot to go shoot when you're planning to work out from 1-2pm, and you'll be beat. As the voice in your mind should align with and support the photography, so must your actions in life.
Shoot after a nap. Nap before shooting. Make time to have a nap. Get chores done early, so as to have time for a nap.
Again, photography is neither a lifestyle nor a religion, so this one needs a bit of massage. It's unreasonable for everyone to select their work to align perfectly with the desire to make good photographs. Still, you can try to arrange your lifestyle to better suit. Budget as necessary. Schedule vacation time as necessary. Buy a car that's compatible with your desired photographic actions. Whatever is necessary.
Move to 4 day workweek to free up time, in general, so that children, chores, naps, and also photography all fit in better.
This is performing the work of photography is a productive way that is aligned with your goals. I've talked ad infinitum about my process, such as it is, and for me, that is right effort. Take the pictures, but not stupidly. Use whatever methods work for you to productively search for the right pictures, the ones you want.
Shoot with my idea of the pacific northwest clearly in mind. Sort the results and devise a modified shooting plan to attack the same subjects again and again, with new, more refined, more specific ideas about framing, camera position, and all the rest. Use inspiration-generating methods to inform the process.
Being engaged with the subjects, not shooting just because you have time free. Be in the right frame of mind to work on the problems you've identified. Be plugged in.
I don't shoot unless I have a plan, unless I have devised a useful next step. Sometimes the next step is to simply go shoot and see what happens, but not always. If there's no productive shooting plan, seek inspiration instead with books, naps, and skull sweat. Explicitly create engagement with the idea and the pictures, by explicit methods.
Focus on the plan. Keep in mind your goal, and whatever you are currently attempting as an approach to them. Concentrate on what matters.
When shooting, focus on the shooting. Don't dawdle around, move to the next spot. Remember what I'm doing differently this time, and do that.
The first two, view, and intention might be seen as aligning our outlook to our goals. The next three, speech, action, and livelihood might be considered to align our selves and our lives with our goals. Not, as in the case of Buddhism, to re-create our lives around the goal, but simply to make space for the goal. The last three, effort, mindfulness, and concentration, work within that space we've made, explicitly working to realize our goals.
Ultimately, we hope to arrive at that Right View in the sense we set aside, the sense of seeing the right frame at the right time, and then we press the button. And we do it again, and again.
All aspects support and enable one another. By quelling the negative interior voice, we help support and enable concentration, and so on, through all 28 pairs of aspects, and all other groupings.
The attentive reader may note that this is a basic self-help program of sorts, and would probably be just as effective at improving your tennis game, or your business, or your cardio-vascular health, as is is at improving your photography. There's a bunch of ways to do these things, and they all come down to being mindful of what you want, and of doing what is needful to make that happen. It's useful to break it down this way and that way until some particular way of looking at it helps. Maybe this one will help you! It's a funny old world, innit?
This is a somewhat broader program than what I actually do right now, but having laid it out in this fashion, I'm going to attempt to apply it. My Pacific-Northwest project is somewhat stalled out, and re-focusing is probably a good idea. I'll report back if anything interesting happens.