November 17th 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.
Martin Mattocks is a photographer based in Cornwall in the UK. Those of you who have been there will know that this is a truly beautiful part of the world with some stunning beaches and coastline. So it comes no surprise that Martin likes long exposure photography. A relative newcomer to the hobby of photography he has certainly achieved a lot in a short time.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
To be honest I do not have a specific photographic vision though I do feel that my photographs have a certain expression. I would like my photography to inspire others as I am inspired by many.
My main focus is Landscape Photography and long exposure/fine art. From what I see in the work of my favourite photographers and also contacts on Flickr I am learning more about photography and the skill and creativeness required. Post-processing is a very important piece in the jigsaw for a number of reasons and I am slowly learning this. Though remembering what I have done to achieve one thing isn’t always that easy to remember. Hopefully what I am learning shows in what I produce.
When did you start taking photos? What made you decide to explore photography as a means of artistic expression?
It wasn’t until Easter 2010 I actually started taking photos. After having a camera for about ten months and just not getting to grips with it I suppose it was a case of use it or lose it scenario.
I joined Flickr and got some inspiration from what I saw there and the more I explored the more interesting photography became. After a little encouragement I started to get out more with the camera and with that started to understand the basics of photography.
The turning point for me I think would have been using filters for the first time in January 2011, the difference was very noticeable straight away. From that point I think my photography has improved enormously and is still improving.
Name three photographers you like and why.
Josef Hoflehner: An amazing minimalistic photographer, probably one of the best in the world.
Ansel Adams: His black and white photography is so inspirational and what he had to go through to achieve his images is amazing.
Michael Levin: His work is always inspirational, the creative use of light and smoothness in his images is second to none.
I also have to name Andy Brown, an exceptional photographer who I met by chance one evening two years ago. After checking his photostream on Flickr I was amazed at his work and this was a turning point for me. He has been a source of inspiration and friendly help when needed since then.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
There is a beauty in long exposure photography to me as there is in still life or portrait photography to others. It is the feel of being drawn into the image that I am attracted to.
I am not artistic, but what others produce in their work really inspires me. Long exposures seem to be the way that I am able to show some form of artistic creativeness .
There are a lot seascapes in your portfolio. What is the attraction of the sea for you as a subject?
Living in Cornwall and being wrapped in a coastline of nearly 300 miles it is hard not to be attracted to it. When out walking along the coast you can be in another time it is so beautiful and peaceful.
You can visit the same spot several times over a week and it will be different each time you visit. Whether it is the weather, different tides or the time of day, the tide is continually changing that is the attraction.
How does living in Cornwall affect your approach to photography and the landscape? Can you name some good locations in Cornwall for long exposure photography for those new to the county?
I think living in Cornwall affects my approach to photography the same as it would if I lived in Scotland or New Zealand, I would appreciate the landscape that is there probably the same way.
To name some good locations for long exposures a static focal point is usually required; Mevagissey harbour, St.Michaels Mount and Lands End are a few locations that are more commonly known. Cape Cornwall, Bedruthan Steps and Bottallack Mines are also worth visiting.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
Light is very important as it dictates how you take a photograph. This is why filters are a must have for taking long exposures. Overcast light would be the preferred type of light. But for seascapes, as they tend to not be as long an exposure, you can get away with more light. It all comes down to what you want from the image.
Describe your approach to composition. Is there any benefit to keeping the composition simple?
When I come across a potential shot I check the surroundings and picture the shot in my head, then try to get that into the viewfinder and end product. Sometimes it works nice and easy, others it takes a little more time. As you may have noticed from my images I tend to compose the shot to what I want to see rather than conforming to the rules.
A nice simple composition always works well but this depends on what you are trying to achieve in the shot and whether the image is to be cropped in any way. This way the image is re-composed afterwards.
How do you decide whether to shoot in black and white or colour? Do you make the decision when you take the photo, or does it come later in post-processing?
All my shots are taken in colour and converted to mono in post-processing. The decision is based on what I am taking a photo of and the weather conditions. Long exposures are all usually converted to mono with the exception of sunsets, though some shots work very well in both formats.
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?
A bit of both really it depends on several factors. The weather most importantly, where I am going, and whether I am alone or with someone. In my experience long exposure photography tends to be done alone, as it can be boring for others unless they are also doing it themselves.
Sometimes I do got out with a mission to a specific location while other times it is responding to where you go. Having the opportunity to take a long exposure will always be in the back of my mind.
The images on Martin’s website are for sale, anyone interested can email him on info [at] martinmattocksphotography [dot] com or use the contact box on his website. Some of his work is also for sale at these sites:
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.