Creative Exploration

Creative Inspiration

My landscape photography is a constantly evolving thing and what I look for in my photographs changes over time.  Some of this change comes as I discover my personal style but it also comes from being inspired by the work of other photographers.  Recently one such source of inspiration has been the work of fellow local photographer Neil Burnell.  You may remember me highlighting Neil's work on a blog post last year where I took a look at his book Seascapes

Neil, who recently won Amateur Photographer of the Year, is best known for his long exposure and minimalistic photography.  As someone who takes long exposure photographs myself, I find Neil's work compelling and he has a very distinctive style.  Neil's ethereal and minimalistic style is very different from my style of long exposures with big views.  It's not only the processing style of his images that I find fascinating but also his choice of locations. 


As I mentioned earlier, Neil is a local photographer living only a few miles down the coast (well, as the crow flies that is!).  Much of his long exposure coastal work is taken on the south Devon coast but unlike my work from the same area, it's not easily identifiable as being so. 

Looking at Neil's work from the south Devon coast I realised that I really needed to explore the nooks and crannies of this part of the coastline a lot more.  While locations like Start Point and Dawlish Warren are firm favourites of mine, there was obviously a whole other world out there to discover on my local coastline.  So that's exactly what I decided to do one evening. 

Going Minimal

Some of south Devon's coastal locations like the aforementioned Dawlish Warren and Start Point are nice and easy to access, while others require a reasonable amount of effort to get to.  The location I decided to go and shoot was one of the latter.  I'd seen photographs of this location before but it took a little bit of effort to work out where exactly it was and how to get there.

I also knew that I would probably be taking long exposure images but I also knew that this location would also suit a much more minimalistic type of image akin to the images that Neil takes.  So this trip out with the camera would not only be an opportunity to do some exploration of a new location but to also explore my creativity.

Treacherous #1, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 at 70mm, f/11, 100 seconds at ISO 64

Arriving at the location I could see where the inspiration for some of Neil's work came from.  Rather than go straight for the wide angle lens I opted for a longer focal length lens and go to searching for compositions that might make for some interesting long exposure, minimalistic images.

Some photographs look like they are easy to create, and one might be mistaken into thinking that minimalistic long exposures would fall into that category.    I was certainly under no illusions that this was the case and my experience of capturing those images only reinforced that.  The location was certainly inspiring with the jagged rocks of the cliffs and the small rocky islands, but actually picking out a composition was tricky.  Even when I spotted a composition, there was the very real challenge of getting into a spot to set up your tripod.  There was no doubt that this location has some treacherous areas and I had to be very careful where I was standing and where I placed my tripod.

Treacherous #2, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 at 40mm, f/8, 200 seconds at ISO 64

Challenges aside though, the whole experience was a lot of fun.  Exploring a new location and trying something a little different with my photography was very rewarding.  I've got a long way to go before I become proficient in this style of photography but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the experience.  I really enjoyed sitting about and soaking up the scene while I waited for my exposures to complete.   I even had seal pop it's head up a couple of times to say hello!

Treacherous #3, Devon - Nikon D850, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8 at 70mm, f/8, 240 seconds at ISO 64

I also enjoyed the post-processing of the images.  My normal post-processing technique is fairly straight forward and involves reducing the highlights, increasing texture and clarity, but I enjoyed experimenting with selectively increasing highlights and reducing clarity and texture in these images.  Overall it was time very well spent and this is definitely a style of photography I want to develop.  It was also a great reminder that I need to get out and explore a bit more!!

Do you have a personal style?  How do you go about developing it?  Have you been inspired by the work of others to try something a little different?  Let me know in the comments below.