November 30th 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
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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.
Gary Newman is a landscape photographer based in Bristol in south-west England. His portfolio naturally covers many beauty spots in south-west, but he also ventures further afield to places like Norway in search of dramatic and stunning landscapes. Unlike most of the photographers in this interview series, a good deal of his work is in colour.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
Blimey, I’m not sure I have a specific vision that I could write on paper. I guess I’m trying to produce images that I enjoy and can feel a sense of achievement in producing. I love the simplicity and clean lines of minimal photography. The use of long exposures is an important tool to create this look. It allows you to blur & smooth the transient elements in the shot.
I’m always looking for locations where I will be able to achieve a minimal composition. I’m always looking to add a sense of atmosphere into my shots. Clouds are a very important consideration for me. They can be used to create a brooding feel or add drama in the case of moving clouds through a long exposure.
Name three photographers you like and why.
Michael Levin and David Fokos: Both these guys are masters at black and white long exposure photography. They both have a distinctive style of they’re and produce exquisite works. They both have a phenomenal eye for composition. Their work is inspirational.
Mitch Dobrowner: This guy is one awesome photographer, his work amazes me every time I look at it. For me he is producing the best black and white landscape photography bar none. More than that its totally distinctive. The quality & sharpness of the images is superb. He uses light superbly in his images & the contrast in the shots makes them almost 3D.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
Back in 2006 when I was persuaded to buy a digital SLR by a mate I thought that I’d better book myself on a course to learn how to use it. I did an entry course at a local camera club and one of the field trips covered night photography. Being forced to take long exposures created photographs of an altered reality. In that case it was mainly the light trails of traffic. This really grabbed my imagination, I loved the concept of being able to take photos that have aspects that I couldn’t see with the naked eye. Daytime long exposure photography was then just a natural progression.
Colour or black and white? Which do you prefer and how does your approach differ for each medium?
It’s hard to pick a preference. I usually make the decision based on the quality of the light when taking the shot. I would say that in general colour does suit landscapes like I have shot in Norway better, whereas black and white tends to suit more abstract shots. However this is not a hard and fast rule. Black and white shots can handle a lot of processing without causing any degradation to the image. In general there is only minimal editing that a colour shot will handle before the colours look over saturated and fake.
There is a sense of space in your images. And time, solitude, loneliness. Are these conscious themes you are trying to express in your work?
I have a feeling that I should say something deep and meaningful here, but the short answer is no. I have always been drawn to these types of images, it’s just what I find beautiful. You have made me think though, maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something!?
There are a lot of seascapes in your portfolio. What is the attraction of the sea for you as a subject?
There’s something timeless about the sea, it has a special atmosphere. Water in general works really well in long exposures as the ripples get averaged out to produce a flat glass-like effect. When looking to produce a minimal shot it’s much easier to isolate your point of interest against a coastal horizon.
What is your favourite place to take long exposure photos?
Well given the answer to my last question the obvious answer is indeed the coast. I am however fascinated by industrial scenes, especially when derelict and abandoned. I hope to investigate doing a series at some point.
I believe that you have taken a recent photographic trip to Norway. How was the experience for you? What are your favourite locations there for long exposure photography?
Yes, I have been up to the Arctic Circle around Tromso and the Lofoten Islands. Initially drawn to chase the Aurora, but I really hadn’t been prepared for how epic and stunning the scenery is. Every corner has something photogenic around it.
The highlight is definitely the Lofoten islands where the landscape just goes into overdrive. Huge snow topped mountains just rising straight out of the sea. They tell you the aurora is an experience of a lifetime, but the scenery is every bit as good. It’s an expensive place to visit, but boy is it ever worth it! By far my favourite locations are the fjords, especially Ersfjordbotn. As you can tell I like Norway! The worse thing about it is the disappointment with the local landscape when you get back home!
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
I would say that light is extremely important, especially in black & white photography. There’s nothing like some nice side lighting to add some contrast into a shot. Lighting makes the difference between a mediocre and a great shot in my opinion. As I say I like side lighting so I favour shooting in the morning or getting on for dusk. You do however have to pick the right time, as the closer you get to sunrise or sunset the more the levels of light are changing. This can make calculating the correct time for your long exposure difficult.
Your photos show a mastery of composition. What are the principles behind the way you compose your photos?
Well that’s very kind, but I’m not sure they’re quite there yet. Obviously there is the good old rule of thirds, but to be honest it’s more of a natural process. Normally when I decide I want to shoot at a location I will spend quite some time pacing around with the camera to my eye. When I believe I have found the optimum spot I place my tripod down and use a geared head to make the finer alterations to my composition. You often hear people mention that you need “an eye for composition”. I do believe that it’s one of those skills that you either possess or not.
How important is post-processing to creating the final image? Briefly, what software and techniques do you use?
Extremely important, crucial even. I believe that a style of processing can be individual to a certain photographer. Like most photographers I use Photoshop and one of the great things about it are there are 101 ways of achieving similar results. Depending on what and how you have learnt will have an impact on the final shot.
Hopefully this leads to addition of something that is distinctive. I will happily spend hours processing a single shot. I use selective curves and levels to alter light and to add contrast. I also frequently dodge and burn my shots by hand by using a graphics tablet.
Here are some more of Gary’s photos:
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.