January 07th 2013 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.
Spencer Brown is a photographer from the UK. Like so many other long exposure photographers from that country, he lives on the south coast. He won his first award this year, a commendation in the Sony World Photography Awards.
How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of look do you try and create in your photos?
My own vision is still developing as I feel I am still exploring the world of long exposure black and white photography. I have only been into photography for just over two years but nearly all of this time it has been long exposure.
I believe there is nothing wrong in following great photographers, and photographic artists whose images you admire, who have created an elegant and exciting body of work. Their passion is contagious. It will give you strength while you’re laying the foundations for your own vision to flourish.
At the moment I try to create a mystical, magical feeling to my images something that draws the viewer into the image.
Name three photographers you like and why.
There are many photographers who inspire me.
Michael Kenna, for his tree and snow images.
Michael Levin, for his vision.
Andy Brown for his misty, dark tonal work.
Keith Agget for his great minimal non-horizon work.
Long exposure photography – what’s the attraction and why do you do it?
I found some long exposure work on the net just after I started photography and fell in love with this style straight away. So I ordered my own Big Stopper and B&W ND110 filters as soon as I could. I felt I had to try and re-create these milky waters and blurred skies. I was off on this addictive field of photography, learning as much as I could from the internet, YouTube and books. Anywhere I could find information on it. I was hooked and still am – it’s my passion. My work has been 90% self-taught through trial and error. But now feel I am on the way to getting what I want to achieve in my own work.
There are a lot of seascapes in your portfolio. What is the attraction of the sea for you as a subject?
I know there are a lot of seascapes in my work, but who could blame me? I live only five minutes from the sea, plus I have a fascination with anything which sticks out into the water such as jetties, piers, fences and posts.
You live in Dorset, a county renowned for its beautiful coastline. How has this affected your development as a photographer? Where are your favourite places in Dorset to take long exposure photographs?
Dorset is fortunate in having one of the most varied coastlines of any county in the country and also one of the most photographed places. I have visited many places along the Jurassic south coast, but to name just a few:
Swanage is a fantastic place for anyone wanting to shot long exposure photography with its old pier, stone walls and some stunning rocks.
The next has to be Kimmeridge Bay with its great rock formations. But don’t go on a weekend, there are too many photographers and photography workshops going on.
Then there are some hidden jetties, piers and boats which I will keep to myself.
Why do you use the square format and how does it affect the composition? How important is aspect ratio for you?
I crop all my work to a square format. I think that it suits black and white long exposure photography well. I spend a lot of time at a location picking my composition to be able to crop the image, but still play around with the composition when in the processing stage. I was told by the great Michael Levin that you should try and place a jetty or pier from the left as you would read a book this way, from left to right. So you would also look at a picture in the same way.
How important is light in your imagery? What types of light do you prefer for long exposure photography?
I try and plan a trip around an overcast day, but also tide times. I love getting out just before or after storms. It’s such a great time to be out and the light is always changing.
I believe you attended a Michael Levin workshop in Brighton earlier in the year. How was the experience and what did you learn from it?
I have been on two workshops this year. The first being the Michael Levin one in Brighton. Michael is a master of marketing himself and the vision this man has is unreal. He’s kept his passion still after many years. I came back buzzing from the weekend .
The second was with Paul Wheeler, a master in processing. I spent a day with him at his computer going though some processing skills that he was more than willing to share with me. I can highly recommend him to anyone wanting to improve their processing skills and also long exposure photography .
As for the future I have a passion to be one of the great long exposure photographers around. I want to find my own style and vision. Also to find new locations; next year I will travel to Canada, the United States, Iceland and Norway.
I have been on hold with my work over the last month as I was burgled four weeks ago and had all my photography gear stolen. Just over £15000 worth. I was gutted, I felt as if my left arm had been ripped off. I was lost. It has taken me this long to come to terms with it. I have done daily checks on all the secondhand sites on the net, but nothing has turned up yet. But I live in hope. I am still waiting for payment from my insurance company but have been getting so low and grumpy my wife made me go out and buy a new camera. I bought a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a 24-105 lens. It’s a move over from my Nikon D800e, but Canon have a greater resale value than Nikon so the Canon is my new tool.
Here are some more of Spencer’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.