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Tony Sellen, who’s won plau­dits in both the EISA Mae­stro and APOY com­pe­ti­tions, dis­cusses his min­i­mal­ist ap­proach

Amateur Photographer - - 7days - Tony Sellen is a self­taught pho­tog­ra­pher shoot­ing with Nikon FX and DX cam­eras. He is pas­sion­ate about fine-art, long-ex­po­sure im­ages and, as he is based in London, the City is where he finds most of his in­spi­ra­tion. You can see more of his work on his we

award-win­ning pho­tog­ra­pher Tony Sellen talks about his work

When did you first be­come in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy?

I bought my first DSLR back in 2009, but I don’t think I re­ally got into pho­tog­ra­phy se­ri­ously un­til 2014. In those first five years of own­ing a DSLR it was re­ally an on/off hobby where I’d go months with­out touch­ing the cam­era, yet I would learn some­thing new every time I did pick it up. Then, in 2014, I de­cided to start tak­ing it more se­ri­ously. I did a work­shop with the tal­ented Vul­ture Labs (www. vul­ture­labs.pho­tog­ra­phy) at the end of 2014, and then I was re­ally was hooked. Since then, I’ve been tak­ing my cam­era ev­ery­where I go and, as a re­sult, I shoot most weeks.

Why do you like black & white?

Black & white for me is time­less; it’s a style that will never go out of fash­ion. I be­lieve ar­chi­tec­ture and street pho­tog­ra­phy re­ally suit black & white pro­cess­ing, and they just hap­pen to be the two gen­res that I fre­quently shoot.

What is it about long ex­po­sures that you love?

Long-ex­po­sure pho­tog­ra­phy al­lows you to be cre­ative, tak­ing a scene and mak­ing it your own. Whether it’s smooth­ing out wa­ter or turn­ing fluffy clouds into sleek streaks across the sky, it’s a look that you can’t see with­out us­ing the long­ex­po­sure process.

Have you dab­bled in any other gen­res of pho­tog­ra­phy?

I do en­joy wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy and I’m al­ways drawn to good pho­to­graphs of an­i­mals. I’ve been on sa­fari and I’ve taken pho­tos of birds while I was learn­ing. But when you’re liv­ing in the city, wildlife is a genre that is hard to main­tain in­ter­est in.

What is your go-to kit?

I’ve al­ways used Nikon cam­eras and I cur­rently have a Nikon D810 and an in­frared con­verted D7000. I only use prime lenses now, which means the bag is a lot heav­ier, but I think the fixed fo­cal length helps you im­prove as a pho­tog­ra­pher. My 25mm and 50mm lenses tend to go ev­ery­where with me. I find the 50mm is ideal for street pho­tog­ra­phy and the 25mm is per­fect for ar­chi­tec­ture and cityscapes. I’ve also got a good set of ND fil­ters that I use for my long ex­po­sures, along with a cou­ple of grads.

‘I find the 50mm is ideal for street pho­tog­ra­phy and the 25mm is per­fect for ar­chi­tec­ture’

Can you ex­plain your typ­i­cal long-ex­po­sure tech­nique?

With long-ex­po­sure pho­tog­ra­phy I first set up a com­po­si­tion just hold­ing the cam­era. Once I find that I have roughly what I want, I set the cam­era up on the tri­pod and con­cen­trate on get­ting the fram­ing ex­actly right. I man­u­ally fo­cus in live view and then plug the re­mote in and cover the eye­piece. I have the cam­era set to aper­ture pri­or­ity mode at the start. I ad­just the aper­ture to try to achieve a shut­ter speed of about 1/250sec. From here, I know what my ex­po­sure time will be, al­though I must say there are many phone apps avail­able that will do the cal­cu­la­tion for you. Next, it’s time to put on the ND fil­ter. There are many types of fil­ters, and I use For­matt-Hitech screw-on range. The cam­era then needs to go into man­ual and/or bulb mode to set the cor­rect ex­po­sure time.

How of­ten do you get a chance to go out and shoot?

Last year I man­aged to get out at least once a week. It’s not been quite as fre­quent this year, but I’ve been on quite a few trips where I have spent sev­eral days tak­ing pho­to­graphs, so it’s pos­si­ble I have taken more pho­to­graphs this year than I did last year. I’ve usu­ally got my cam­era with me, so even if I haven’t planned to go out shoot­ing, I’ve al­ways got the op­tion to take a few shots.

What is your favourite time of day and lo­ca­tions to shoot?

I don’t like busy lo­ca­tions, so I tend to try to avoid busy times of day. A stroll around London on a Sun­day shoot­ing some street and ar­chi­tec­ture is al­ways nice. Trips to Venice and Ice­land in the win­ter were cold, but all the good lo­ca­tions were not as busy as they would have been at peak tourism times.

What post-pro­duc­tion soft­ware do you use?

I use Light­room and Sil­ver Efex Pro for most of my post-pro­duc­tion work. Dur­ing the past year I’ve also started adding Pho­to­shop to my work­flow.

Do you tend to ap­ply the same ad­just­ments in post-pro­duc­tion?

I al­ways try to go for the same style through­out most of my

pho­to­graphs. Yet, I don’t have any pre­sets saved and start every process from scratch. While I want the same style, every photo needs dif­fer­ent treat­ment.

Do you have any big projects you’re cur­rently work­ing on?

I’ve never been one for projects. Last year I en­tered the Wex Pho­to­graphic weekly so­cial me­dia com­pe­ti­tion #WexMon­days every week. This was a project of some sorts, hav­ing to take a dif­fer­ent photo every week through­out the year. It was quite a chal­lenge to pro­duce a good shot each and every week. I’m cur­rently try­ing to get a dif­fer­ent pho­to­graph from a dif­fer­ent coun­try each month. I may have to bend my own rules a lit­tle on this, but it’s not go­ing too badly at the mo­ment.

Do you have a dream lo­ca­tion you’d like to shoot at?

The list of lo­ca­tions to go and shoot is a list that gets longer and longer. Places like New York, Chicago and Paris would be great cities

‘I’d say a small strong port­fo­lio is much bet­ter than a large weak one; a good port­fo­lio takes time’

to visit, and are high up on my list, as are more re­mote places such as Ja­pan and the Faroe Is­lands. I’m hope­ful that I’ll get the chance to go to some, if not all of them.

What at­tracts you to a scene?

Shapes and lead­ing lines are al­ways good places to start when look­ing for a good com­po­si­tion. Nice clean lines in ar­chi­tec­ture al­ways draw my at­ten­tion, and if this can be in­cor­po­rated into street pho­tog­ra­phy too then even bet­ter.

How do you feel about be­ing the Bri­tish win­ner of the 2017 EISA Mae­stro com­pe­ti­tion and sec­ond over­all?

I was thrilled to have won the Bri­tish leg of the com­pe­ti­tion. Hav­ing seen the other pho­to­graphs that were en­tered, I re­ally thought it was quite an achieve­ment, es­pe­cially with it be­ing a port­fo­liobased com­pe­ti­tion. When I went up against the win­ners from 14 other coun­tries for the over­all com­pe­ti­tion, I never ex­pected to do so well by fin­ish­ing sec­ond. I’m so pleased to have placed in such a big com­pe­ti­tion.

You’ve also en­tered our com­pe­ti­tion, APOY, on Pho­tocrowd. How im­por­tant are com­pe­ti­tions to you in terms of rais­ing your pro­file and help­ing your pho­tog­ra­phy?

It’s a good way of gaug­ing how good your work is, but you shouldn’t read too much into it. Win­ners are of­ten one per­son’s or a small group’s col­lec­tive opin­ion. It’s al­ways nice to do well, of course, but you shouldn’t get too up­set if you don’t.

What ad­vice would you give some­one when cre­at­ing a se­ries/ port­fo­lio of co­he­sive shots?

I’d say a small strong port­fo­lio is bet­ter than a large weak one, and a good port­fo­lio takes time to achieve, so don’t ex­pect it to hap­pen overnight. Try to have a style – if your pho­to­graphs can be recog­nised with­out your name next to them, you’re do­ing some­thing right.

Left: Af­ter read­ing an in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle by Joel Tjin­t­je­laar on split ton­ing I thought I’d give it a go Nikon D810, 25mm, 396sec at f/8, ISO 100

Above: This is a new res­i­den­tial build­ing in London. It has some in­ter­est­ing shapes, which caught my at­ten­tion right away Nikon D810, 20mm, 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 100

Above: This is such an un­usual build­ing with its curved struc­ture and slop­ing sides. It re­ally stands out in the War­saw sky­line catch­ing the light so well Nikon D810, 20mm, 1/250sec at f/9, ISO 80

Above: This shot is called ‘Step on Up’ and gives a unique ar­chi­tec­tural view Nikon D810, 25mm, 1/320sec at f/8, ISO 250

Above: This fan­tas­tic lit­tle house sur­rounded by wa­ter was taken in Venice Nikon D810, 18mm, 251sec at f/6.3, ISO 100

Above: This shot was taken on the new un­der­ground line in War­saw Nikon D810, 20mm, 1/80sec at f/7.1, ISO 1600

Above top: Ber­lin Cathe­dral sat next to the Spree gave a dreamy re­flec­tion Nikon D810, 25mm, 52sec at f/11, ISO 64

Above: The Bromo Teng­ger Se­meru Na­tional Park with low cloud and its ac­tive vol­cano smok­ing Nikon D810, 50mm, 1/80sec at f/3.2, ISO 500

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