Photo editing vibes on Friday night

I sit down after a long day at the office. I open my Heineken and drink it straight from the 33cl can. Today is not a glass-type of day.

I take a first, refreshingly invigorating, sip.

I turn off Night Shift and True Tone on my iPhone to let my eyes adjust for what I’m about to do. I need proper color accuracy.

I open the Spotify app and type in ‘Frank Ocean Cayendo’. I hit play on the top hit and set the song to repeat. I let it all pour out of the tiny speakers of the tiny computer I’m holding in my hands. Tonight is not a headphones-type of night.

Frank Ocean croons the line ‘Si esto no me ha partío’, ya no me partiré nunca’. I’ll have to look up wha that means but it feels right.

I then browse to my App Library and look for Lightroom Mobile CC. My editing app of choice. A few days ago, I’ve set myself up for this moment and synced any fresh photographs on my MacBook to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. I love sitting down with the images in my hands. Manipulating them with my fingers.

I take a second sip of my Heineken beer. And a third.

The cats start to wake up from their afternoon nap and break the otherwise dormant room.

I look back at Lightroom Mobile and notice an album called “20.01.01 Bowie & Cobain”. I should use this moment and edit the pictures I’ve taken of them. Their youthful play reminds me they won’t be kittens forever. It’s a good thing we’ll always have the photos.

Just as Frank Ocean restarts his song for the third time, I arrive at a shot that catches my eye. It’s different. A little more… artistic?

I take the final sip of my beer and immediately get up for a new one.

I take another look at the photograph and notice how abstract its composition is. Am I even looking at a photograph of a pet? There’s a symmetry. A simplicity. A balance. And still, a story.

Bowie gets tired of running around the house and joins my editing session by laying down on my lap. I show him the photograph I’ve made of him but he doesn’t seem to care much. He’ll care more when he’s older, I’m sure.

I finish the photo set and return to the one shot that caught my eye earlier. I distinctly remember myself thinking

I should post this photo on my blog”.

Modifying a Voigtländer 50mm f1.8 for my digital camera

My afternoon was marked by de- and reassembling a vintage Voigtländer Color-Ultron 50mm f1.8.

You might think I’m crazy dismantling such intricate and technical objects but I think it can be quite fun! To me it’s a little challenge and it’s nice when it works out as you planned.

What was I to succeed in though?

To understand my goal, I have to tell you about how this lens works.

To avoid making this a history lesson, an important trait of many vintage lenses is that they have a little pin on the back that needs to be pushed in to give you access to the full range of apertures.

Using this lens on my digital Fujifilm camera, this pin isn’t pushed in automatically. Some vintages lenses have an switch that allows the lens to be set to ‘manual aperture control’ which basically locks the pin in a pushed down position. This allows you to use the lens on modern day cameras without any issues.

My lens does not have such a switch.

What now?

Well, I could buy an adaptor that is made to push the pin in. That’s the easy solution. I could also open up the lens and modify it to have the pin pushed down permanently.

Guess which option I’ve chosen.

It took me a solid 5 hours from start to finish. Especially putting it all back together properly is tricky business!

I’ve taken a few photos along the way. They only were for myself as a reference but I’ll share them here so you can have a quick look as well. I converted them to black and white for A E S T H E T I C S.

You can see in the GIF that I managed to keep the pin pressed in. Success!

The only issue is that the focusing is now reversed. Sight…

I’m saving that for a different day.

I sold my first fine art photo print and I realized something

Today marks the day that I sold my first fine art photo print! I’ve made and sold many prints in the past whenever people requested it. This time is different though.

This print is made on a very high quality photo paper. The type of paper that museums use. The colors look amazing, the print does not fade or yellow over time and the texture. Oh the texture. I have never seen a print like this before.

I’ve signed and dated it on the back to complete it as a proper art piece, directly from the artist (that’s me!). I’m proud of the result and it makes me feel… accomplished.

I’ve sold my work before, many times. But this feels different.

Hear me out. I went on a trip, took photos on said trip, posted them online and somebody reached out to me directly with an interest in purchasing a print (already amazing). I then take the time to learn how to properly make a photo print that lasts, that has value, and before you know it there is a physical version of a photo I’ve made.

If you think about it, this might be the only way of going full circle with photography.

First, you see something in the real world, a physical thing. Then, you take a photo of it. Which is an abstract representation of that physical thing in the form of (these days) ones and zeroes. Finally, you convert those ones and zeroes back to a photo print, placing it back into the physical world. Full circle!

This print was made on request and it’s a one-off like many I’ve made in the past. I’m now looking into a proper way to implement selling prints in my shop as well though. More on that later!

My mailing list has a name, and elevator pitch

I’m keeping today’s Monologue short on purpose to temper the expectations a little. I wrote a few hundred words each day now and, though allowed, that was never the point.

I did write this new elevator pitch for my mailing list though. I also decided on a name for it. I’m calling it:

Dialogue.

I’ll get into more depth about why I chose this name but you should be able to digest it from this short version too:

Dialogue is a no fuss mailing list about photography, its philosophies and an open invitation to have a conversation about those.

You get direct replies and one-click unsubscribe.

It’s a first iteration but, as everything, it’s a work in progress.

Prints are better than Instagram, change my mind

This is a cliché. As creatives, we need to make more physical products. Photographers in particular can benefit a lot from printing out their work.

Looking around, I see many people making photos with the sole purpose of posting them on Instagram. I used to do that too. The reason for that was I had no other place to put them. I was constantly looking for other outlets though.

In my search for a better, more worthy, place for my photos, I grew a bigger and bigger resentment of social media. Not to sound elitist, or like I figured it all out. Not at all. I simply no longer believe that social media should be the end product of your work.

Social media is a tool, not the goal, and should be treated as such.

I try to accomplish this by making photographs that have some coherence between them. Something that tells a story. Something that has meaning. Even when I’m taking random shots of everyday moments, I treat them as part of a bigger thing that will someday have value.

Think about those 30 year old photos that we now look at like: “damn, those were times, weren’t they?”. That’s exactly the reason why we should document our current life as well. This will sound a little pretentious but I believe it is my duty as an image maker to provide the future with a record of the present.

With that in mind, I have upped my production quite a lot. At the same time my output has been minimal. I have a few things in the pipeline though. A few more Zines, fine art prints (finally!) and maybe even a book. All these are the result of longer-term photography projects. Projects that are meant to live on my website and in the physical world. Places that have longevity. Places that I own and have control over.

As I said a few days ago, impatience only prohibits your creativity. Therefore I think it’s a good call to try and make more physical work. Print your photos and look at them on something other than a screen. Feel them in your hands. Shuffle a stack of them around and create pairs, combinations, compositions. Make a book out of them.

It takes a little more time making something but then it lasts a little longer as well.

Notes to self

It’s day number 3 and I already don’t know what to write. That shouldn’t matter though. The goal is to write down anything, so I could just call it a day with these four lines. Most of these daily updates are just notes to self and they should be treated as such.

Okay a few more then.

I’m thinking about adding a separate email campaign that will deliver these daily writings to your mailbox. Until I figure out how to do that, you can use this RSS feed to stay updated. Not that anybody still uses RSS but it’s something.

I have a first draft ready for my first email to my mailing list. I’m also figuring out how to properly approach that as well.

I should update my websites homepage. Loading 30 images does not make it particularly fast. Plus I have many more things to share than this images. Next week might be a good time to make this happen.

I’m working out a way to add a BIMI record to my websites DNS. This allows my email to display my logo icon. Nerdy, but pretty cool to have. I think these little upgrades are appreciated by people, even when it’s not clear how much work it is to add such tiny upgrades.

It’s all a process. It’s all progress.

Thinking out loud

I find myself thinking out loud a lot recently. Sure, it’s something that I’ve always done. Haven’t we all, on occasion? Though in recent times it has transformed into rule, rather than exception. Why is that?

To start, I’ve noticed that saying my thoughts out loud help me structure my inner dialog. This is especially true when there is a lot of it, as it quickly tends to get messy then. All these words flying around in my head, bouncing off each other, without a clear trajectory or conclusion. It’s not productive and thinking out loud helps alleviate that.

It also helps when I can hear my own thoughts. The sound of my own words resonating in a room, back into my ears, helps bring perspective.

Is this thought as good as I think it is, or does it sound stupid once I say it out loud?

After all, it adds another of your senses, hearing, to the process. It’s immediate feedback.

So why did this habit intensify lately then? Is it because I have more thoughts? Or am I simply less good at structuring them? I can think of multiple reasons for that but the one that comes to mind first, is that I’m working on many different things at the same time.

Perhaps that’s something that I should be cautious of. Tone it down a notch and keep more focus. That will almost certainly focus my thoughts as well. On the other hand though, I’m having too much fun with everything I’m doing. Why stop that? As long as I move with purpose, I can’t go wrong.

All I need to do is make sure I’m not merely talking out loud, but actually *think*. Ask questions, summarise, conclude. Oh, and write things down. That helps a lot.

Let’s try again tomorrow.

How impatience is prohibiting your creativity

Photography is easy when you know where to point your camera. Finding those things might be the biggest challenge.

The trick is perseverance. As long as you keep pointing your camera at things, you will eventually point it at something meaningful. And then something more meaningful. Then twice in a row. Eventually you start to just get a *feeling* for things that might be worth a shot.

Until one day it becomes a part of how you view the world.

This brings me to an excellent point Kyle McDougall makes about impatience in his ‘Field Notes’ mailing list:

“Impatience will only lead to you creating images that are a fraction as deep and impactful as they could be, because you end up focusing on the outcome rather than consistency and honesty.”

This resonates with me a lot and I could pull a bunch more quotes from his email to underscore this.

Regardless of your feelings towards today’s instant-media culture, you can’t deny that it feeds on impatience. Everything needs to be shared immediately and people expect instant access to anything you create. Being impatient with your work does not benefit you at all. Making good work takes time. Give yourself that time.

Take the time to wonder, to wander, to find focus and allow yourself to be the best you can be.

A new 365 project: daily writing all 2021

Daily writing. That’s something I want to do. Why? I’m not sure yet. Partly because I want to become better at writing. Maybe even more because I think that keeping a constant flow of though can lead to many new things. New thoughts.

On some days I have these contant words echoing in my head. For those days, I think writing things down might be cathartic. Bring some structure to the chaos.

On other days I feel completely blank and have trouble formulating concrete ideas. Daily writing might help bring more clarity on those moments.

Next to that, daily writing might be a good 365 project for the coming year. It’s been too long since I’ve done anything like that. It was 2015, when I started my photography journey.

Regarding any rules, writing can be in any form or shape. Preferably it’s a blog post like this one. Though a tweet is also fine. Maybe even a photo of an entry in my physical journal. It doesn’t matter that much.

Let’s see if I can make this last a full year again.

UPDATE: You can now subscribe through RSS!

UDPATE 2: You can now join the Monologue Telegram Channel!

UDPATE 3: You can now receive email notifications when I post new Monologues!

It’s almost 2021 and I’m starting a mailing list

Mitchel Lensink De Lens Mailing List

TL;DR
Why a mailing list? Because I like to talk to you directly. We don’t need social media for that. Here’s what I promise:

  • I create beautiful, easy to digest, straight to the point, emails.
  • I put everything I have to say in the body of the email. No need to click anything to view the whole story.
  • I only send an email when I have news. Otherwise I say nothing.
  • I keep it concise, just one or two points per email.
  • I’m honest about my intentions. Do I want something from you? I just ask for it.
  • You can directly reply to my emails with any thoughts you might have. Feel free to forget about standard email conventions as well and just speak your mind.

Overview

A fictional case study in email marketing

“I need a thing, let’s search for it online.

Ah, this company sells that thing. Great!

Oeh, I can get a 10% discount when I subscribe to the newsletter. Awesome.

PING!

YOU ARE NEARLY THERE!

Okay I did it, now where is my discount?

Oh, I just need to confirm my email address.

PING!

THANK YOU FOR JOINING OUR FAMILY!

Okay nice, let’s buy that thing now.

PING!

Wait, another email?

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THESE ITEMS

But I just bought an item, leave me alone.

PING!

Please read our top 5 blogs about things that are a little related to your purchase

Oh my days, are they for real with this? Where can I unsubscribe again? I already claimed that discount anyway.

We are sorry to see you go! Would you rather receive our bi-weekly updates instead of our daily emails? Please click below. If you want to unsubscribe, please fill in your email, phone number, first- and lastname, residential address, current profession and what you ate for breakfast.

Screw this, I’m definitely cancelling my order.”

Why I don’t like newsletters

Sounds familiar? That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like newsletters. Another reason is that everybody seems to have a newsletter these days and they’re all stuffed with calls to action and psychological tricks to get you to buy stuff. It might work, but I don’t like it and I think it’s clutter. If I care about something, a brand, a person, anything; give me clear and genuine communication and you got me hooked.

We can all feel it when we’re being sold something. I don’t want to receive your email to then having to click something to go to your website, so that you can monitor my behaviour, so that you can create a persona around me, so that you can then send me better targeted emails, so that I eventually give you my money. That happens so often now that I’m completely desensitised when it comes to email marketing. The only button I still look for is the unsubscribe button.

Social media isn’t the answer

Okay so I don’t like email marketing, social media should be the perfect (semi-)modern solution to communicate with an audience then! It’s personal, it’s direct, it’s easy to access. Everything you’d want.

Almost.

I also have an issue or two with social media. That is that even when you approach it with a genuine and personal angle, it’s still oversaturated. Even if you manage to be an actual human being on social media and don’t fall victim to tricks to game the algorithm (read: buying advertisements) there is still so much stuff going on there. How do you stand out without doing some crazy aerobics?

The fact that these platforms are all owned by big corporations that are in it to eventually sell you stuff (or your stuff) doesn’t help either. I might be overreacting to all this but it just doest sit well with me.

Email without marketing

Which brings me back to email. It’s still a great medium and it’s not going anywhere soon. You might hear messages about how it’s broken and not user-friendly anymore but I think it still beats the user-friendliness of these social media corporations. At least with email, you know what the service is. It’s linear. You write a message and send it to somebody, that somebody receives the message and reads it (and sometimes they respond!).

Email is great. Just, without the ‘marketing’ part. It’s slow enough for you to have to think about what you are writing and it’s direct enough for you to get your message across reliably. You can also assure that there isn’t some algorithm messing with the amount of people who actually get to see your message. If you send it out to 10 persons, those 10 persons receive your message as well.

What do I like about email?

Sure, everyone already receives multiple emails everyday so how do you make sure they actually read your messages. The chances of getting lost in the chaotic mailboxes are everything but slim. I don’t know if all this will even work but I do know which emails I still like to receive:

  • Simple and easy design that’s pleasing to look at. Just some good formatting can go a long way. No need for fancy designs.
  • A clear and concise message. I want to know why you’re emailing me. Spill it out. Don’t send me a list of things you think I might be interested in.
  • I know a real person wrote the email. Not some marketing expert that’s hired to sell me something.

What can you expect from me?

So, what do I plan on sending in my emails? Right now I’m thinking about sending the usual stuff like:

  • Photography tips and tricks I’m learning along the way that I think might benefit other people as well.
  • New blog posts but then with the full text already in the email.
  • Keep you in the loop about work in progress that I’m still finding a place for (this is an exciting one!)
  • New expositions or events I’m hosting or attending so we can link in real life.
  • Major updates to my portfolio page with exclusive new work that I’d like you to look at.
  • New publications like Zines, prints or books that I want you and your family to buy but only if you like them (I don’t want sympathy-buys).
  • Other future endeavours I can’t begin to understand yet.

Final thoughts

Concluding, will I stop posting to social media? No, but I don’t want to rely on that being my only way of connecting as well. Also, can you click through to my website after reading an email? Sure! You don’t have to though. I think that’s special.

Do I think people are interested enough in what I have to share? I have no clue. I don’t have the illusion that I unequivocally deserve your attention. I can ask for it though.

So, will you please subscribe to my mailing list?