I am very pleased to announce that two of my long exposure images have been Commended at the Sony World Photography Awards 2013.
This year there were in excess of 120,000 submissions in the Awards and I am told that my two photographs were picked from a staggering 54,851 entries in the Open competition – I am always humbled by the mention of numbers like that.
What is particularly pleasing for me is that incredibly both were taken at Brighton during the Michael Levin Workshop I attended last August. Was there a hint of magic there from the living legend that is Mr Levin? Who knows, but regardless, given that entries came from 170 different countries I guess Brighton’s appeal just gained a little extra kudos for having something photogenic.
The first image mentioned is Dark Water. I very much like this one, it was the initial composition I wanted to process once I had returned from the Levin weekend. After the formalities of the workshop had concluded, the highly inspirational Michael Diblicek and I decided to take the quaint Victorian electric train from Brighton Pier up to the Marina to shoot this wonderful alien looking structure around the edge of the harbour. It’s basically a sophisticated sea defence but has a delicious curvaceous design that just begs for the long exposure treatment.
There had been pretty wild conditions all weekend, and I remember sheltering in a dip well away from the sea trying to stabilise my Nikon 70-200, fighting to stop my umbrella from turning inside out and protect my gear from the squally continuous sea spray in the process. Images sometimes take a lot of effort! I still don’t know how, but I managed a sharp 95 second exposure at 160mm which was no mean feat given the conditions – the final result is of course just below. I certainly took my time on processing this one later – it had about thirty hours of work put into it and even had the critical eye and assessment from my good friend Joel Tjintjelaar a couple of times for which I remain very appreciative of. I wanted to get this one just right because it was the basis of other images to follow – I guess in the end this recognition means it was all worth it…
The second image, and it does seem to make a nice pair with the view of Brighton Marina, is a shot of the slowly decaying old Brighton West Pier – which I titled Shadow Dance. What is surprising for me here is that I’ve seen probably every possible composition of the West Pier. It’s a landmark that’s as famous as Dorset’s Durdle Door to British landscape and long exposure specialists so in many ways I guess it’s an achievement to have something so easily recognisable receive some attention in this way.
I was only down in Brighton this week leading a 1-2-1 session and this iconic structure was of course part of the day. It’s so important for such a heavy looking subject as this to be lifted out of the water giving it just a little more space to breath. There are so many iron struts and crossing pieces of dark metal that it is in danger of disappearing into a dark blob in your frame. That’s why to me it is essential to take up a low position and shoot the pier during a receding tide, at least giving it a chance to stand out of the sea and hold the viewers attention for a minute or two with all of its intricate detail.
At the moment I shot this there was some great side light from the left which certainly helped raise those mid-tones a little and of course those seagulls who were rapidly performing The Tango and plucking shellfish from from top of this small ledge created a rare bit of foreground interest in the scene. I don’t often include multiple aspects to my compositions because it raises questions of competing elements but in this case I just couldn’t ignore the sea birds who may of course ultimately grabbed the attention of the judges. The other key aspect here was that despite having a pretty twisted skeleton, maintaining what remains of all those vertical supports was critical, and my Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E Tilt Shift lens once again allowed me to retain that essential ‘real world’ look, just as the eye sees it.