November 16th 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
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.
Chris Friel is a British photographer who is known for his intentional camera movement photos. He has pushed the technique further than anyone else I know of and built an impressive portfolio in the process. No doubt his background as a painter has helped, and he has picked up a number of awards and publications over the last few years.
You will see Chris mentioned as an influence by many photographers as we work our way through this interview series.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
Not convinced I have a photographic vision, certainly not a long term one. All I know is the sort of photos that excite me, and these tend to be interpretative rather than representational images.
When did you start taking photos? What made you decide to explore photography as a means of artistic expression?
I started photography in 2006 after being a painter for many years. I actually bought an early Canon digital SLR to photograph some painting for a catalogue, and got excited by what the camera was capable of. I haven’t painted since.
What attracts you to the intentional camera movement technique – why do you use it?
The unpredictability of the whole process, you never know what will show up.
What type of subject do you take photos of using intentional camera movement techniques?
I mainly shoot landscapes and seascapes using intentional camera movement. I have tried with people but failed miserably.
What techniques do you use? What are your preferred shutter speeds and do you move the camera a certain way during the exposure?
Depends on the subject matter. I usually shoot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and either a 45mm tilt-shift lens or a 50mm prime, coupled with an neutral density graduated filter and a polariser. Most shots are two or three seconds in duration with some movement towards the end of the exposure. The direction of movement depends on the composition.
Describe your approach to composition. Is there any benefit to keeping the composition simple?
There is certainly a benefit in keeping composition simple. I always think that if you can’t visualise an image the day after you took it, then it’s too complicated.
One of my issues with intentional camera movement is how to tell if my photos have actually worked. Sometimes I’m not sure whether I’ve created a good image or just a blurred one. How do you tell if an intentional camera movement photo has worked? What do you look for when you’re editing your photos?
It should look vaguely like the picture you were trying to take. There should be some elements in the image which are sharp or at least recognisable, and the composition should work.
Please give the readers three tips for taking good intentional camera movement photos.
1. Keep taking hundreds of photos. When I started my shoot to print ratio was appalling – about 1,000:1. I’ve now got it down to about 20:1, but that’s taken six years of trial and error and over 100,000 photos on my hard drive.
2. Try to imagine what you want from a scene before you pick up the camera, then keep going until you have something that approximates with your imagined image.
3. Wait a few days before deleting your rejected images. It’s good to have a little distance on the subject.
Who are your three favourite photographers and why do you like them?
Difficult. Here’s a short list of 80
You have a lot of beautiful photos. But if you had to pick one as your favourite, which would it be – and why?
Usually the last photo I took.
If I had to pick one it would probably be this:
Mainly because it was the first of my intentional camera movement images to win an award in a national photographic competition.
A few more of Chris’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.