Do Your Photography and Let the World Argue and Discuss Itself to Death [Oriental Seagull 400]

Images shot on Oriental Seagull 400 in the Lomo LC-A

This post is going to feature a bunch of shots from Scarborough beach, shot on Oriental Seagull 400 film in the Lomo LC-A. Which is apt, considering the subjects in that image above. But it isn’t going to be about that film stock, that camera, or even that location.

Instead, it’s going to be about a quote I recently heard. A quote that comes from a poem by a man named Rick Fields. A quote that goes like this:

Do your practice. Enjoy your life. And let the world argue and discuss itself to death.

He was talking about Buddhism, but the term your practice can be applied to whatever it is you do. In my case, it’s photography, and that was the direction my mind went when I heard it.

So let’s explore things from that angle.

The origin of ‘let the world argue and discuss itself to death’

One of the things I really liked about living in Asia was just being around Buddhism. Or having it around me, which is probably a better way to put it. I would often visit temples in China to get my fix of that serenity, and did the same back when I lived in Thailand for a spell too.

Although with the latter, much more than with the former, I always felt like it was just in the air somehow everywhere you went anyway.

Despite my interest and wanting to dive deeper into the whole thing, a lot of the literature I tried to learn from was just a little bit too dense for me. Or I was a little too dense for the literature, which might again be a better way to put it.

That was until I found a podcast called Secular Buddhism by one Noah Rasheta. The way he breaks down a lot of the teachings and ideas just works for me and makes it all more accessible than other sources I’ve tried.

Sometimes a particular quote or soundbite will stand out as the main takeaway from a show rather than its main topic, and that’s what happened here.

In episode #169, he mentioned the following poem by Rick Fields, which is based on the idea of the 84,000 gates – a metaphor for the notion that there are innumerable paths to enlightenment.

The original 84,000 Gates poem by Rick Fields

84,000 Gates to the Dharma

 And mine is best.

What a waste!

Do your practice. Enjoy your life

And let the world

Argue and discuss itself

To death.

– Rick Fields

Those first two lines sum up a lot of online discussions I see about photography – be that the act of taking photographs or the gear used to do so.

Just as there are so many gates that the number might as well be infinite, there are so many ways to create a photograph that they may as well be infinite too. And people will still say that you need a particular camera or to learn a particular technique if you want to do it properly.

This clearly superior brand vs that other brand. This clearly superior lens vs that other lens. This clearly superior shooting mode vs that other shooting mode. My clearly superior way vs your other way.

84,000 ways to create a photograph, and mine is best.

I don’t care that a lot of these photographs look the same

As mentioned earlier, the images on this post were shot on Scarborough beach with the Lomo LC-A on Oriental Seagull 400 film.

And yes, most of them do look pretty similar. Shot looking out to sea with human and/or avian figures in them.

This lack of visual variety was deliberate. Having already shot most of the roll in nearby Whitby, I just wanted to get it finished after having a couple of beers once I’d got back to Scarborough.

The sun was out, slightly, meaning the best light was to be had facing the water rather than back towards the buildings on the seafront. With a clear idea to make a set of photographs with such a clear aesthetic theme running through them, it didn’t take long at all to get through the remaining exposures.

Some might say I could have done more with them. Some might say this is a decent enough batch of images as it is. And neither would be wrong. But I wouldn’t advise spending more than a few seconds debating it either way.

There were 84,000 things I could have done with this film on that day, and nobody can tell me that what they would have done was inarguably the best option.

Because in the end, I did exactly what Rick Fields advised in his poem before I even knew it existed.

I did my practice and I enjoyed (that half hour of) my life.

My thoughts on the 2022 Leica M6 reissue

A good example of a small part of the photography world arguing and discussing itself to death while I get on with my practice happened in October 2022, when Leica announced a new version of its much-loved M6 camera.

Like with anything, the sentiments of the online reaction to this varied hugely. For some, it was the best thing since sliced bread – or since the original M6 in 1984 at least – while for others it was completely pointless because it was out of their price range.

At over $5000, it’s very much out of mine too.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s pointless, because there very much is a point to it for some people. It’s more that I don’t really have any feelings either way about it because, at that price, it has nothing to do with me anyway.

At the time I write this, the cameras I’ve been mostly using have been a Pentax MX and a Lomo LC-A. I have fun shooting with both of them, they work perfectly well and, added together, cost me less than $250.

Also, I drive a 12-year-old Mini Cooper. I have fun travelling around in it to places like Scarborough, it works perfectly well, and only cost me a few thousand pounds.

So as a thought exercise, if we take the same multiplication factor that gets you from what I paid for the Pentax MX and the Lomo LC-A to the price of the new Leica M6 and apply it to what I paid for my Mini, we get a value of about £70,000.

Now, a quick Google has just shown me that Audi are to release a new £70,000 car in 2023. This is pretty much a direct correlation of what the Leica M6 means to me. I don’t care about brand new Audis because I don’t have the money to buy one. And if I did, I’d spend it on something else anyway.

I don’t care about brand new Leicas because I don’t have the money to buy one of those either. And if I did, I’d spend it on something else anyway.

Neither Audi nor Leica care about people like me feeling this way because I’m not the people they’re making these cars or cameras for. That’s cool too. Apathy on both sides of the situation is a zen place to be.

So people can heap praise on the new M6 or take a big dump on it instead. As they have been doing, in both cases. Let them. Let them argue and discuss themselves to death.

I’m going to do my photography with the cameras I have and enjoy my life instead.

argue and discuss

Wrapping up without arguing or discussing ourselves to death

Well would you look at that? A couple of shots with a different composition!

You might be thinking this article has been a lot of words for someone who is claiming to leave the arguing and discussing for others whilst getting on with their own photography and life.

I can see that. I can see the irony and how tempting it’ll be for someone to point it out. But it’s hard to get a message across without explaining the flipside to the thing you’re trying to espouse, isn’t it?

Whether you get involved in discussions with people so entrenched in their positions they’re never going to change them is up to you. I do my best not to.

Instead, doing your practice and enjoying your life is really the message I’ve always tried to get across on this website.

I’ll explain how I do things, like why I prefer to shoot in aperture priority mode or how I use zone focus, but all I’m saying with guides like those is that this is what works for me and showing how it can work for you too.

I’ll never say this is how you should do things. You can do things however you want. It makes no difference to me.

Buy a brand new Leica M6 if you want one. You’ll be getting an absolutely superb camera if you do. A camera better than anything I have, albeit with one thing in common with every camera ever made.

That they should be shot far more than they should be argued about. 🙂

If that ramble on the idea of doing your photography and letting the world argue and discuss itself to death piqued your interest for more essays illustrated with film photography, why not have a look at some of these:

And if you think others will find this post worth a read, help them find it by giving it a share 😀

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