Long Exposure Photography Interview #10: Michael Diblicek

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Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

This article is part of a series of interviews with long exposure photographers to celebrate the release of my ebook Slow. You can keep track of the interviews by clicking on the Long Exposure Photography Interviews link under Categories in the right-hand sidebar.

 

Michael Diblicek is an English graphic designer and photographer who lives in a beautiful part of eastern France. Like many photographers he used film cameras early on and then his passion for the craft was reignited by the digital age. Inspired by the work of modern photographers Joel Tjintjelaar, Xavier Rey and Josef Hoflehner, his first love is black and white. Long exposure photography plays a major role in his portfolio.

Interview

How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?

I’m trying to look for a zen like minimalist feel in my seascapes and snowscapes. I am also looking for the graphic elements and lines in my snowscapes and architectural work. I’m trying to eliminate the superfluous from around my subject, looking for clean lines and angles, pure uncluttered scenes.

Name three photographers you like and why.

Always a hard one this type of question as there are so many excellent photographers around the world, and throughout history. When I first got interested in photography in my late teens, the first photographer on my list of three that had the biggest influence on me was the British Photographer Bill Brandt, and he will always be at the top of my list. This may seem strange for someone who shoots minimalist long exposures but it was his images that showed me the beauty of black and white and how it conveyed the feeling in an image.

Number two on my list is Don McCullin, the British photojournalist and war photographer. This is another photographer who shot some of the the most powerful visual images of the 20th century.

My third and final choice would have to be Chris Friel, a UK based photographer specialising in ICM (intentional camera movement). Chris shoots in both colour and black and white, but it’s his background in art that comes through so strongly in his images, and his ability to express emotion that I find so appealing in his work. I am always in awe with what Chris publishes, there is just something in his images that touches the soul. I can’t speak highly enough about Chris’s work, it is for me so powerful. The art world really needs to open its eyes to his work.

I’ve seen other interviews where photographers decided the third option would include all and everyone not covered in the first two choices, but you asked for three, so I’ll give you three.

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?

I like the fact that with long exposure photography I am able to convey the effect of movement in a still image. I’m able to place before the viewer a scene that only I am able to show them. I am able to shoot a scene that, even if someone was standing next to me at the moment I opened the shutter, until the moment I closed the shutter, only i could see what I visualised at that moment, my vision.

The attraction of long exposure photography is a bit like working with large format but with a digital SLR, or any other camera for that matter, taking my time to study the subject, not being rushed. Having the opportunity to appreciate my surroundings and the environment that I’m in at the time, be it next to the sea, or in a snow covered field, or in the heart of a city. I like to take in the sights and sounds, the smells, the light. I like being out alone with my camera.

Why black and white? What’s the appeal?

I love the feel and power of black and white, it enables me as a photographer to take away the distractions that colour can sometimes bring to a photograph. I use the square format in 99% of all my work which again allows the viewer to concentrate on the subject matter. The eye doesn’t search the image for anything else but the subject matter. The viewer or audience can immediately see what I wanted to convey. I just find black and white fits my view on the world.

You live in a beautiful part of France, yet there are a lot of seascapes in your portfolio. What’s the attraction of the sea for you and how is it influenced by living inland?

I moved to Eastern France 12 years ago, and live in a region surrounded by forests and mountains, and 650 km from the nearest coastline. But I spent the majority of my life (around 40 years) living, if not a few metres from the sea, then four to five kilometres from the sea, and it is one of the things I really miss a lot. Whenever I get the chance to go back to the UK, or have an opportunity to visit the coast either in the UK or Europe I grab it with two hands.

I love the openness, the long flat limitless horizons which are suited to what I am looking for in my photography. As the saying goes “it’s in the blood” and I guess it is. I would love to be paid to walk along the coastline and just photograph. Maybe I’ll do that one day, get a crowd funding project up and running to walk the coastline from Norway in the north to Greece in the south, with all countries in between. That would be the best job in the world.

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Photographing architecture. What is the appeal? How is it similar, or different, to photographing the landscape?

Architectural photography for me is all about angles and graphic lines, it’s really great to wonder around a modern building and search for something graphic or abstract coupled with long exposure photography it makes for a wonderful image.

It’s something I’ve always loved since I was a child, graphics, lines, angles, shapes. I don’t see any real difference to shooting landscapes. It’s an object or subject in a scene, and I want to interpret that, and turn into a piece of visual art.

Can you recommend some good locations for long exposure photography in your area to photographers who are not familiar with France or nearby Switzerland? Where are your favourite places to take photos?

It’s very difficult to find good places to shoot Long Exposures where I live due to the fact that i am surrounded by small mountains and hills densely covered with trees. I find it a little suffocating in fact, although there are some really beautiful places here where I live for landscape photography.

In Haute Saone, there are the “Mille etangs” or thousand ponds (lakes), then there is another region quite close called the Vosges. I have recently visited Switzerland which is only a two hour drive away from me, and discovered Lac Estavayer and Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) two large lakes. In the case of Lake Geneva 80Km long and around 10Km at its widest which has given me the chance to go out shooting long exposure waterscapes. There are just so many beautiful places around here.

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

What is your approach to long exposure photography? Do you plan the shoot first, and try to take an image that matches your vision? Or do you go out without a fixed idea, and respond to what you find?

My approach to long exposure photography depends on the subject and whether this is a planned visit somewhere, or a spur of the moment thing. But in general I like to plan the shoot in advance. If I am visiting the sea I will look at the area on Google maps and see what is in the area in terms of what is around the coastline. I will then do another search on Google images to get a closer look at something that interests me.

Again if it’s by the sea I will check the weather and most importantly tidal levels, and at what time I will have the low and high tides which is very important. Again all this depends on how long I am staying in the area. If it’s a short visit I will want to be there an hour or two before either the low or high tides which will give me enough time to walk around a look at the subject I am shooting, i.e. composition and light etc.

As long as I can have a fairly clear and unobstructed background, no matter where I am on this planet I will always come back with an image that I would be proud to put on a my wall, or a gallery wall.

How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?

This depends on the subject. If it’s architecture I do like to find some hard light which creates shadows that I can use to my benefit in the final composition. If I am shooting long exposure architecture I like to have a 60 – 70% blue sky with 30 – 40% clouds with some wind in the upper sky pushing those nice clouds around. But in the case of seascapes I like to have very little sun. Grey skies are the order of the day, which gives a nice even light, although clouds are of course very welcome.

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

There is a strong design element in your compositions – an awareness of geometry, graphic design and negative space. Do you agree? How would you sum up your approach to composition? Does your background in graphic design influence your approach to composition?

Yes I do agree about strong design element in my compositions. The geometry, design and negative space in my compositions is important, and I think I have always looked for these types of things in my work. I’m not sure if my background in graphic gesign has any real bearing on this. It is something that has always interested me since I was a child, as I spoke about earlier, so I guess it’s just something that I’ve been aware of or conscious about in my everyday environment. I do love design in all its forms. Whether in photography, fashion, cars, architecture and buildings, it’s everywhere we look and around us all the time.

Links

Michael Diblicek on 500px
Michael Diblicek on Flickr

Photo Gallery

Here are some more of Michael’s photos:

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Long exposure photography by Michael Diblicek

Slow

Slow: The Magic of Long Exposure Photography ebook by Andrew S. Gibson

If you’d like to learn more about long exposure photography, my ebook Slow takes you through the creative possibilities of using slow shutter speeds, from blurring motion with a shutter speed of 1/30 second all the way to long exposure techniques using shutter speeds of five minutes or longer.

 

All photos in this interview are protected by copyright. Please contact the photographer for permission to use in any way.

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2 Responses to “Long Exposure Photography Interview #10: Michael Diblicek”

  1. Russ Barnes says:

    Nicely done Mike, great to see you in this series with the other great interviews!

  2. Gavin Dunbar says:

    Nice interview Mike, and super selection of images you have included!

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