Long Exposure Photography Interview #11: Arnaud Bertrande

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Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

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.


Arnaud Bertrande is a French fine art photographer and a relative newcomer to photography, having pursued it for just five years. His work is hauntingly beautiful and his portfolio is dominated by long exposure images.


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

I often take my photos very quickly. My eye sees something, a moment or a situation and the picture itself as a brief instant of time. Besides, I do not always see what I shoot when I take it. I like to play with the idea of stealing an image that lasted only seconds and that virtually nobody has seen. I want to capture a moment, to be able to isolate it and then show it.

But with regards to long exposures, I have images in my head, and even stories; dreamlike visions, intimate landscapes. I look for the right place to achieve them. In this case there is no question of stealing but patiently building, communicating with nature. I need silence to discover the places and light that will allow my ideas to flourish.

Generally, I try to push the limits of imagination, to stage my dreams and emotions. Photography allows me to both display and transmit, to share. I love stories, to listen and to tell. Sometimes I realise that when I took a photo it’s because I saw a story. It’s one of the advantages of digital to enrich the expressive possibilities of the photo, open horizons and further creation.

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Name three photographers you like and why.

There are two photographers I want to mention. I love Michel Rajkovic for his black and white photos, both soft and high contrast. His shots are very well balanced. I also like Willy Ronis for his style, his photographic eye.

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

The discovery of long exposures is a key finding in my practice of photography. This technique is perfect for my imagination and allows me to escape reality. I love the balance, harmony, zen and timelessness. With long exposures, I found the opportunity to work in the abstract.

A part of me can express itself through this technique. It represents for me an opening to poetry, a passage to somewhere else softer, smoother, more peaceful. Long exposure photography is a way to escape the real, to move into another world. It is also a magic trick that stops time, which slows down the movement.

This for me is the possibility of creating a suspended reality. My intention is to take the viewer by the hand and travel in my story.

How do you decide whether to shoot in colour or black and white? Do you make up your mind at the time of shooting or during post-processing?

There are no rules. Sometimes colour or black and white are needed for themselves when I take the photo. Sometimes when processing I realise that one or the other choice is better. Sometimes it becomes evident. Perceiving that or not makes the difference.

There are a lot of seascapes in your portfolio. What is the attraction of the sea for you as a subject? What is your favourite place to take long exposure photos?

I am touched by water as an element. It has a very strong and evocative sense of mystery. It is one of my favourite subjects. I love working with water minimalism. Water is both present and absent, it is there but you cannot take it or immobilise it. It is always the same and always different. Landscapes of water are immutable and yet constantly changing. Depending on the seasons, the time and the light, their music varies. In front of water, my mind feels free and able to create. I’m not interested in long exposures by classical landscapes. I prefer to look for detachment from reality, a look into another dimension, a mixture between a landscape of water, an intimate landscape and an imaginary landscape.

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

I believe you live in France. Can you recommend some good locations for long exposure photography to photographers who are not familiar with your country? Where are your favourite places to take photos?

I can give you a few spots that I love but I don’t know if other photographers will agree. I like the calm waters, lakes, water without foam. The Bassin d’Arcachon, lakes of Hourtin, Soustons, Sanguinet and the Aquitaine coast.

It looks like you have taken a photographic trip to Iceland this year. How was the experience for you? What did you learn and how did it influence your work on an artistic level?

Every photographer dreams of going to Iceland. It is known for its landscapes and its very special light. My stay was short and intense because the island is small but very rich. The Icelandic climate constantly imposed its conditions on us. I suffered a three-day storm during my stay this September, Iceland had not experienced such weather for 17 years! So there are pictures that I have not done or that should be redone.

I learned over there to take photos in harsh conditions. Photography suffers and I had to constantly adapt. Landscapes of Iceland have strong contrast. Black sand, white ice and bright light were my triggers. This country of fire and ice has changed my view of black and white. Since returning, I look at my pictures differently. I have remade some seeking more powerful contrasts.

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

I don’t like light to be too hard or strong. Grey and misty light lends itself to the development of the images I have in mind. Grey is an important concept for me. It reminds me of light and peace. There are an infinite number of greys as there are infinitely many values of light. In the West, grey is often associated with depression or sadness or considered a non-colour, a dull colour. Quite the contrary for me. It is a subtle colour that allows full opportunities to work and develop the idea of weightlessness and levitation. It is an elegant and airy colour that reinforces what I want to express: calm, well-being, disorientation, dreams.

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

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?

Yes my photos are very graphic. I think this is a characteristic of photographers when they photography what seems like chaotic scenes. They sometimes isolate elements, detached from their context. For me sometimes, to capture these lines of force are another way to recreate the reality, to change our perspective on things.

How important is visualisation for you when it comes to capturing then processing the image? Do you have a final image in mind when you take the photo, or do you let that happen in post-processing?

It all depends on what mood I’m working, artistic mood or a leisurely and relaxed mood. In general most of my colour photos are in landscape format, but I like to process my black and white images in the square format.


Arnaud Bertrande fine art photography
Arnaud Bertrande blog
Arnaud Bertrande on Flickr

Photo Gallery

Here are some more of Arnaud’s photos:

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande

Long exposure photography by Arnaud Bertrande


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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