If you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
Photography through the mind’s eye; the space between a dream and reality…
Why are you so drawn to long exposure photography?
From the very first time I saw a long exposure photograph, the genre has captured my imagination in a way no other kind of photography has. I clearly remember the first time I saw a long exposure image. It was in 2008 whilst on holiday in New York– at a time when I was starting to take a serious interest in photography. The image in question was Michael Levin‘s “Reveal” (aptly titled looking back now). I was immediately drawn to the dreamlike quality of the scene– beautifully delicate, yet detailed, posts fading into a seemingly endless horizon, with water and reflections rendered in a way I’d never seen before. Of course, being a relative newcomer to photography at that time, I didn’t know it was a long exposure and instantly dismissed it as something I could never hope to achieve, but when I got home I started to research Michael’s work, discovering other LE photographers, neutral density filters, what the ‘bulb mode’ setting on my camera actually does. This confirmed two things for me (1) I just knew this was the direction I wanted to take my photography and (2) I needed to get to a grip on the workings of the camera before i started
throwing filters into the mix.
A year or so later, my passion and appreciation of long exposures had only grown stronger, and I felt confident enough with the technical aspects of the camera to buy my first 10 stop filter. I never realised at the time just how much of an impact that filter would have.
Fast forward to now and long exposure photography has become a big part of my day-to-day life. In a way, it has changed me as a person, and those closest to me have seen that change. It’s given my life a different direction and purpose, slowed me down and helped me to relax; overall I’m a happier and better person for it.
Something that started out as ‘just’ a hobby has become so much more, and I know now that I’d be lost without it.
Why do you prefer black and white photography?
I find colour distracting. By removing that distraction it allows me to focus my attention on the subject at hand, the simplicity of lines, shapes and textures becoming apparent– essential elements that otherwise would be lost in the presence of colour.
That said, I’ve been experimenting lately with minimal colour images. Not sure if I’ll continue in that direction, but for the moment it’s something I’m enjoying.
Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
(1) Michael Levin
As I already said, Michael Levin‘s work began my journey into long exposure photography. His vision and processing is second to none. I don’t think there is a single image I’ve made that doesn’t have a Levin influence buried somewhere — a testament to the strength of his inspiring work.
(2) Marc Koegel
I’ve followed Marc Koegel‘s work for a number of years now. He has a bold, distinct style that is very much his interpretation of a scene, yet it retains a documentary style feel to it, one that is completely opposite of how I choose to present my work, but a style that inspires me, nevertheless. What I’ve taken most from Marc’s work is how to use negative space positively in an image– and to look beyond simply presenting my work as a 1:1 square crop.
It was a complete honour for me recently to have the opportunity show my work alongside Marc’s in a long exposure exhibition in Canada. It was partly organized by Marc to give lesser known artists the chance to showcase their work at an exhibition level. I’m very grateful to all involved to have had that chance.
If you have the time, take a look at Marc’s blog; it’s a fantastic resource for all things long exposure, and his ‘RAW to final’ series is a great insight into the workflow of an award-winning fine art photographer.
(3) Keith Aggett
Keith Aggett has what I can only describe as a beautiful vision…
Each and every image he creates is a master class in composition, tonal control and creativity. His work has been one of my greatest sources of inspiration ever since i started using the LE technique. Seeing Keith’s work really made me realise the level I wanted to try and achieve in my own work as well as what can be achieved with hard work, dedication, vision and a passion for what you do. Of course the underlying ingredient to all this is talent, and he’s definitely not lacking in that regard.
I look forward to hopefully meeting up with Keith at some point; it’s something we’ve talked about, but never organised, mainly because we live on opposite sides of the UK and both have limited spare time at the moment.
(Note: You can read a spotlight on Keith’s work here.]
What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)?
My Grandfather is a great influence. He spent almost his entire life painting in water & oil colours– landscapes, seascapes anything outdoors really. Self taught, he became quite accomplished selling works in galleries around London where he lived. He would never paint on the spot, but merely sketch out the basic elements of the scene, and it would be days, weeks, even months before he started painting from memory or how he envisioned the scene. This resonates greatly with me; as a matter of fact, I apply a similar process with my photography.
I don’t consider myself an ‘arty’ person, but as my appreciation for photography grows, so does my appreciation for other art forms.
I discovered Zvonimir Mihanovi’s work a few months ago after someone mentioned how one of my boat images reminded her of his work. At first glance, I thought he was a photographer, but quickly realised Mihanovi was a painter and a master of the hyper-realism style.
Antony Gormley‘s work fascinates me, particularly “Another Place“, which is a permanent installation near Liverpool in the UK, consisting of 100, cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the shoreline.
What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
I think it’s important to set yourself a budget and buy the best (or what you consider the best for your needs) within that budget. At the end of the day, whatever equipment you choose to use, the most important factor in creating a great image is the person behind the camera.
How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
I would define Fine Art Photography as: Photography that is created, not just captured, which expresses an artist’s vision of the subject.
Why would you want to label that?
If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
To take pictures for yourself and no one else; it doesn’t matter what others think of your work. As long as you’re 100% happy with the end result, that’s all that matters. As soon as I realised that fact, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was truly free to express myself.
Never be afraid to view the world through your eyes….
What are your thoughts about the benefits of online sharing? Are there any particular social media or image sharing sites you prefer or do not prefer?
Online sharing is massively important these days, not just to get your work seen by a worldwide audience, but more importantly for the opportunity to interact and view the work of other like-minded photographers.
I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Everything good that’s happened with my photography from publications, exhibitions, to interviews like this, is because of these sites and the individuals who use them.
Flickr is the first online site I signed up for, and where I feel most comfortable uploading my work. That’s largely due to the small, but close group of contacts I’ve made, photographers whose work continues to amaze and inspire me almost on a daily basis. They provide me with a tremendous amount of support for my own work and motivation to continue to strive to become a better photographer. I’m sincerely grateful to each and every one of them.
The huge reach of Facebook is undeniable, and it’s probably the best platform to get your work seen by a non-photography-based community, but for me, personally, I can’t get past the poor image quality, so I’ve stopped uploading my work there. I only really use it now to post links and follow people who don’t post work anywhere else, but if they decided to fix the image quality, I would probably use it on a regular basis.
Ipernity, which is based in France and run by a small, but dedicated team, had a sudden surge in new users (myself included) with the recent changes to Flickr. It has similar layout to the old Flickr, but with more customisation options and some innovative features, as well as a really friendly community feel– and most importantly it doesn’t cripple image quality with massive compression.
What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most?
Nothing irritates me to be honest…
The questions I get asked the most are about how I process my images, particularly the “horizon-less” shots. I’m always happy to try and answer any questions people have. I’m humbled by the fact that people consider my work interesting enough to want to know a bit more about the techniques I use.
If you were stranded on an island, and you could have one camera, one lens, one filter, one tripod, two books, and ten CDs, what would they be and why?
I would be quite happy with my current set-up: my faithful old Nikon D7000, Sigma 17-70mm, B+W 10 Stop filter and Vanguard tripod. I’d use the video feature on the camera to a keep a video diary of my time on the island, and, of course, surrounded by that much coastline, it would be rude not to do some long exposures.
I don’t read many books these days because all my spare time is devoted to photography, but these would be helpful.
- How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O’Shei – I’d need all the help i could get… never been much of a boy-scout.
- Zebrato by Michael Levin – purely for an inspiration fix!
I’ve always had quite a varied taste in music – This is just a random selection.
- The Verve – Urban Hymns
- Passenger – All the Little Lights
- Bill Withers – Just As I Am
- Thomas Newman – Composer & Conductor
- Rob Dougan – Furious Angels
- Sasha & Digweed- Northern Exposure
- Sasha & Digweed- Northern Exposure: Expeditions
- Aretha Franklin – Respect: Very Best Of
- Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials
- Of Monsters and Men – My head Is an Animal
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
My immediate goal is to give myself more time for photography.
Like most, I work a full-time job and find myself with increasingly less time to get out with the camera. Realistically and financially, I don’t think photography will ever become a full-time job for me, but certainly it will be a part-time one. I’m a little surprised and very flattered that sales of my work have been steadily increasing over the last year: via my website and stock photography sites like Getty Images, giving me a modest, but regular income. So splitting my time evenly between work and photography is my aim this year.
Is there any specific place that you would like to visit to take photos?
Iceland and Japan have always been top of my list.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit Iceland on three occasions now, the first being back in 2006. Each visit has left me more and more captivated with the country. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited; the landscape is simply stunning and the transformation between seasons is quite remarkable. Iceland is one of the few places I’ve felt a true sense of solitude.
Although I’ve been to Iceland a number of times, each visit has been, first and foremost, a holiday rather than anything photography related. I’ve managed to get a few shots here and there, but nothing substantial, so I’m planning another trip in April, and this time it will be all about the photography. I’m going to spend two weeks travelling around the island. In a way, my previous visits feel like a build-up for the April trip. I’ll be going with a better knowledge of the island, a few more years experience and much clearer vision of what I want to achieve. To say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement!
As for Japan, I point you to the works of David Burdeny, Michael Levin, and one of my Flickr contacts whose work I admire greatly — Stephen Cairns — for the answer.
Is there anything else you wish to add?
I’d like to thank you, Nathan, for including me in your spotlight series. I know this site is very much a labour of love for you, so I feel very privileged, indeed, to be part of this and extremely proud to be among so many other talented photographers.
Explore more of Darren’s photography: Website | Flickr | Ipernity | Facebook
Spotlight on Three Images
The Gallery Selection