December 14th 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.
Keith Aggett is a photographer from the south of England, born and raised in Devon, one of the most picturesque parts of the country. His love for photography grew from fishing, another hobby that took him outside to see morning sunrises and the fading light at the end of the day. This sparked a desire to photograph these moments.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
Most of my images have a surreal look with only a few elements. I try to get the viewer to reach out and get pulled in. My vision of this is planned out long before I leave on a photo shoot.
Name three photographers you like and why.
There are a few names I could come up with but my favourites are Michael Kenna, David Burdeny and Josef Hoflehner.
Kenna for his incredible talent to capture almost anything and give the viewer a feast for the eyes with his compositions and tonal displays. Burdeny his minimal images with subtle colours – when you look close there’s so much to see and take in. Hoflehner for his sleek and stylish well thought out images – I could look at these all day long and really get lost in them.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
The power in an image that’s created from doing a long exposure with neutral density filters attached draws me in. The tones, textures and highlighted areas within a dark scene really makes me want to get out and shoot. Also there’s a surreal element with this type of photography.
Why black and white? What’s the appeal?
Black and white is a firm view of what you see. Colour for me just gets in the way and clouds your vision. Tones, textures and compositions come alive in monochrome.
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?
The sea is very close to where I live. When I started long exposure photography I headed to the coast – after capturing long exposed silvery water with fast moving cloud gliding along the horizon I knew this was my interest. I’m only a stones throw away from Teignmouth and have taken countless shots from this location so it’s top of my list of locations.
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 time is very limited due to family commitments. I only get the odd hour here and there so I plan my locations and photo shoots down to the finest detail. I use Google maps to find locations and compositions and also research the internet for the place I’m to venture to. I can then arrive, fire off a few shots and head back home – my time is really limited at the moment.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
Light really does play a key part as any photographer knows. This really can transform an image, so all I can hope is that it plays ball when I arrive at my destination (I think that’s called luck). I prefer dawn with fast moving cloud where the sun as it rises just glimmers through the cloud breaks, shedding some beautiful soft light across the water. When combined with a long exposure this can produce some gorgeous silvery tones.
You crop some of your photos to the square format. Why do you do this and how does it affect the composition? How important is aspect ratio for you?
I’m just pulled to the square format. I find compositions come easier. I also find with the equal sides that you are pulled straight into the main focal point without losing your way within the image. This makes it easier on the viewers eye.
You seem to use graduated neutral density filters to darken the skies in a lot of your images? Can you tell us (briefly) which filters you use and give a few tips for getting the best results with ND grads?
I use Cokin and Hitech filters which are attached to the lens with white tack, a cheap alternative and very quick. I don’t like missing out on that shot. These are not only used to hold the sky back when too bright but also, if I’m after a dark and moody image, I will use my 1.2 grad and under exposure. I only use soft edge grads. I’m not one for hard edges, I love gradients!
How important is post-processing to creating the final image? Briefly, what software and techniques do you use?
Post processing is key to unlocking the image you want to achieve. Not everything is possible when you arrive at your location – conditions, people – there could be a number of things that could upset that vision you had initially. I use Silver Efex for the BW conversion and Photoshop CS3 for all the other tweaks to an image.
Here are some more of Keith’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.