Dialogue

How photography can be an introvert's best friend

The camera around my neck quickly becomes the topic of conversation, pushing me into the role of ‘the photographer’. After a few short-lived interactions, I excuse myself and task myself with documenting the room and tonight's attendees.

Mitchel Lensink
Apr 5, 2022
7 min read
Mitchel Lensink de lens dialogue 008

Dear friends,

Let's cut the fluff and get straight to the events of the past month, shall we? Remember, this newsletter is a fictionalized version of reality. Which means it's about 90% true and 100% exaggerated for dramatic effect. All in service of getting across whatever point I, Mitchel Lensink, am trying to make between the lines.

Harmony

An icy wind terrorizes the city, further enhancing the cold atmosphere brought in by the clear evening skies. Countless stars must’ve been visible above us, if we weren’t in this light polluted urban environment. The bowtie around my neck doesn't do much regarding warmth but at least it keeps the collar of my shirt tightly closed to keep my body heat from escaping.

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After hanging up my coat, I enter the room and see thirty masked faces staring at me. I feel self-conscious for a moment but then remember that I too am masked so nobody is able to tell what's going through my head right now. I shake off the uneasiness and engage. The camera around my neck quickly becomes the topic of conversation, pushing me into the role of ‘the photographer’. After a few short-lived interactions, I excuse myself and task myself with documenting the room and tonight's attendees.

Mitchel Lensink de lens dialogue 008

While focussing my attention on the details of the dinner-ready table, I wonder what tools other people use to distance themselves in social situations. I’m then assuming other people have similar tendencies but I'd be surprised if I'm the only one with those crutches. I mostly bring my camera wherever I go because I like documenting my life and the things happening around me. Having it with me provides a sense of purpose and productivity in the emptiest moments. But while that is the main reason I carry a camera, I also use it to appear occupied. Just as I am tonight. Whenever I'm not ready for social interactions, I simply hide behind the viewfinder. It's basically an excuse to excuse myself.

But there's a positive side to this as well, as I do end up with way more photos this way. It also provides me with more confidence to interact with people because I feel like I have a reason to. Even if I suddenly fail to be interesting and add value, at least my camera takes over that job. It might be true that I lean on it, but it gladly carries me further than I would've come on my own as well. Me and my camera operate in perfect harmony.

No more parties outdoors

That night at the party was the first time I brought out my camera that month and it remains the only time for a solid two weeks after that. Because not long after that fateful night, it finally happened. After two years of dodging bullets and increasingly believing I miraculously made it through a pandemic unscathed, I get Covid.

Praise goes out to whatever higher being is watching over me, because I get off lightly. A headache and sore muscles is all I experience for one weekend only. I even manage to squeeze in a solo party on Saturday night with a little help from a few beers and the noise cancellation on my AirPods. Most of a party is happening inside your head anyway so on that night specifically, I internalized the entirety of it. Yes, that meant hugging the wall until my phone was charged to a sufficient battery level to resume my living room dances, but that's what fun looks like for true introverts.

A pick-me-up

The Wednesday after that weekend, I suddenly find myself back in the gym after a two year hiatus. The word 'suddenly' is fitting here because I was surprised as well. But I've been tired, out of shape and latently depressed for long enough. I finally ran out of excuses and before I knew it I was throwing weights around like I never left. If my long walks provide me with the necessary cardio, then lifting a few weights a couple of times a week as well should make up a healthy fitness regime. Or at least one that's sustainable for now. We'll see how things go.

Despite my best intentions, I wake up with pain over my entire body the day after. It's a good possibility the remnants of the virus hadn't fully left my body and are now avenging themselves by wreaking their final havoc. Or maybe I was a little overconfident with the weight-throwing as my body had a harder time readjusting to the workout than my mind did. I consider giving in and allowing myself to rest but I've been 'resting' for the past two years and I need to break that habit. On top of that, have not gone on a single walk this month so far. Unacceptable.

Mitchel Lensink de lens dialogue 008
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The walks are short and predominantly boring. Most of the time I'm walking in total silence, only breaking it for the occasional 'hello kind stranger'. I like it this way. If I'm not careful, I tend to tap into the chaos too much and that absolutely kills my creativity. A quiet mind is a clear mind and I must protect that rigorously. Walking in silence for at least 30 minutes does just that.

A recipe for success

To make the boring walks more fun, I develop a new film simulation recipe for my Fujifilm camera. I have been shooting JPEGs for a while but always end up editing the photos to give them that final 'punch'. The goal right now is to get close to a final result in-camera, possibly without needing to edit the photos at all. A quick look over my shoulder through the window outside shows a beaming sun, which is a welcome change from the storms of last month. So I hook up my camera to my computer and tinker around in Fujifilm's X RAW Studio until I find a look that satisfies me:

Classic Negative
Dynamic Range: DR400
Highlight: -2
Shadow: +1
Color: +4
Noise Reduction: -4
Sharpening: +2
Clarity: +3
Grain Effect: Weak, Small
Color Chrome Effect: Strong
Color Chrome Effect Blue: Strong
White Balance: AUTO, +3 Red & -5 Blue

Finally out on the street, the result is very pleasing once there is enough available light and the subject is urban. My photos in the city turn out beautifully and an edit can not further enhance them in any way. Of course I try, but the result just doesn't look right. It's a wonderful victory that potentially greatly reduces my time spent behind a computer.

A few days later though, I try to use the same film simulation recipe in a greener environment but that's less of a success. The sun is shining particularly bright that day and the early-spring grass takes on a weird tint in most of the shots. I return back home invigorated by the walk but unsure about the work I produced. Thankfully, a slight desaturation of the color green fixes most of my issues and I happily accept the near-straight out of camera photos as final products. With the end of the month now nearing, my new experiments with the in-camera colors are only beginning.

Eyes forward

It's April 1st, 2022 and I’m once again staring out of my window. For some reason, there's snow coming out of the sky but I'm still hopeful that warmer days are around the corner. It's been months since I made any progress on the long walk I've been doing in segments.  The weather got so bad that walking long distances further away from home became a real chore. Nobody wants to wait on the bus back home after getting soaked for hours on end. With the first Daffodils now popping up again, it's time to wrap it up. Next to that, there's a growing catalog of photos on my harddrive from the walk that are dying to be shown to people for the first time.

I divert my eyes from the frozen precipitation outside and take out my phone. I create a note and stick it on my homescreen to remind myself where my focus needs to be: gym, walking, photography, and harmony.

Cheers,

M

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