I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location.

160 Seconds

‘Benacre’, Suffolk
Pre-Production Fujifilm X-T2, Fujinon XF14mm f/2.8, 160 seconds @ f/11, ISO 200
LEE Seven5 Super-Stopper, 15-stop near neutral-density filter.
Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 tripod with XPRO-3WG head.
Adobe Lightroom: Fuji Classic Chrome Profile.

“It feels quite liberating to make such dynamic minimalist images, more usually associated with dusk or night-time, in the middle of a sunny afternoon.”

160 Seconds

Here’s an image from one of my recent shoots along the Suffolk coast. This virtually deserted beach stretches for miles, and the tide was high as I ambled north from Covehithe to Benacre; where this latest arboreal victim of coastal erosion presented itself as a spectacular juxtaposition for a minimalist maritime backdrop. Until recently, the decaying remnant of one of it’s companions continued to stand upright close to this spot, like a tree growing out of the sea: regrettably, it is no more, a lamentable demise for those of us with a love for minimalism. Indeed, during the last 200 years, half a kilometre of this coastline has been reclaimed by the sea.

I was shooting with a pre-production Fuji X-T2 paired with the ultra-sharp 14mm Fujinon prime and mounted on to one of the latest lightweight tripod and head combinations from Manfrotto: a tripod is an obvious necessity for long-exposures because it ensures that the static elements of the scene are rendered tack-sharp against a dynamic background. However, there is another less obvious benefit of using a tripod: it creates a more relaxed working environment allowing for a more patient methodical approach, where each aspect of framing can be finely tuned to perfection using the three-way geared head, before finally releasing the shutter.

I manually focussed on the main part of the tree-trunk then carefully attached the LEE Super-Stopper 15-stop near neutral density filter. Pre-focussing is a necessity because the image on the LCD becomes too dark to accurately focus once such a dense filter is attached. I then set my default aperture of f/11 and selected an ISO of 12,800 to enable a quick test exposure in aperture priority mode. After examining the histogram of my test image, I adjusted the exposure compensation dial to fine tune the exposure and made a further image that resulted in an 2.5 second exposure with a perfect histogram. I then had to double this value six times to calculate the necessary final exposure of 160 seconds before changing the ISO to 200 and making my final exposure in bulb mode using a remote release.

It feels quite liberating to make such dynamic minimalist images, more usually associated with dusk or night-time, in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.