Photo series spotlight - Long exposure photography by Philipp Dase

Photo series spotlight - Long exposure photography by Philipp Dase

The Bodemuseum in Berlin during sunrise, by Philipp Dase

Photographer Philipp Dase talks us through his sublime series of long exposure images, and the techniques and inspiration behind his work

Philipp is a photographer based in Germany specialising in urban landscape and long exposure photography.

Where did the idea originally come from to create your series? Tell us a little bit about the story behind your work

In general, when I'm doing a series of images I try to capture the essence of that particular place frozen in a moment of time. The goal with every image is to isolate it from the usual busy surroundings to give it that quiet, magical and serene feel.

A seaweed farm in Japan

The long exposure look is a recurring theme throughout your images, and it is really beautiful. Tell us a little bit about how you perfected the long-exposure technique behind your images.

I remember first coming into contact with long exposure images in 2016. I was immediately amazed by the interesting look as it makes typical everyday scenes look so much different and in my eyes oftentimes quite more beautiful. I started out with my first neutral density filters and roamed around the streets of Berlin every chance I got. I quickly learned that you can use the long exposure technique to achieve a unique look and experimented a lot in the beginning. With my earlier work (the Berlin and Kyiv images) I did a lot of really long exposures (between 2 to 8 mins) because I was hooked on that flat smooth water and the streaky cloud effect which you can see in a lot of my images from that time.

Double bridge in Kiev during the winter season

"I remember first coming into contact with long exposure images in 2016. I was immediately amazed by the interesting look as it makes typical everyday scenes look so much different and in my eyes oftentimes quite more beautiful."

With time I gradually moved away from that look as I wanted my images to be more focused on a single subject, isolating it from all distractions surrounding it. With that I also moved away from the really long exposure times. Partly because it took too much time getting a single image (doubly costly if I messed up the settings) but mainly because I noticed that you lose a lot of  small but interesting little details if you expose for too long (especially with the reflections in the water).

The iconic Charles  ridge in Prague on a misty morning

Nowadays I only expose for how long a particular scene needs it, which usually falls in between 0.5 seconds to 60 seconds. With these exposure times I can still achieve that smooth water look without compromising on the fine details in the water. In 2022 I also moved in a direction where I try to capture the scene as close to reality as it is, which means I like it when you can see the sand through the water, little reeds or leaves in the water, details in the background on the horizon etc.

Mirror image of Berlin Central-Station

Where did you get your inspiration for creating this series? Did you have any key sources such as work from other photographers, films, books, or anything else?

In the beginning I looked a lot at other photographers who did similar work and tried to replicate their look as best I could. With time I found a look I quite like myself (the Japan images look) and started to look more at photographers who did things differently to keep my perspective fresh and not get boxed into a too specific look.

One big inspiration over the years has been the fantastic work of
Irish photographer Rohan Reilly who I did a few workshops with. At the moment I´m also looking more and more into different art forms (paintings, architecture sketches) for inspiration. Music too is very important for my work to get me into a certain mood and mindset (especially during editing sessions).

A foggy forest scene in Poland

What was your process to get these shots? Did you plan your images and map out locations, or were the photos more opportunistic? Is there a particular time of the day you like to shoot to get the best look for your images?

If I can I try to plan the shot ahead. Which involves scouting out locations, doing a series of test shots to figure out the composition I want to use and deciding on the right weather conditions. Most of the time I only shoot during the autumn and winter season. The light and overall conditions work best then for me. Foggy and misty days with an overcast sky allow me to get the image very close to it final result right there in camera already. I also quite like the beautiful light which you get during sunrise/sunset during the winter months. And of course I don't have to get out of bed too early then as well.

Bodemuseum in Berlin during sunrise

Were there any difficulties or obstacles in creating this series?

Most of the time the difficulties come in terms of the weather conditions (too windy, sunny) or overall traffic around the scene (boat traffic, other people, tourist, cars etc.) If necessary, I spend a lot of time working one scene and waiting for the right conditions to get the image I have in my mind.

Sunrise at Berlin East-Harbor

How did you choose which images appeared in the final edit?

When deciding which image to work on, I look at a lot of small details. Again often related to which particular image of a series of similar shots has the best reflection. And of course just the standard technical aspects (the one which is sharp and in focus and has the composition I like the most).

An under the bridge view across the Vltava river in Prague

What are your favourite photos?

See below, my favourite pictures are the one of the Budapest Parliament building, which took the most time and effort to get. Two of my Japanese images as I like the serene and beautiful mood, and the winter market square in Wismar, Germany, where I live at the moment.

The stunning Budapest parliament building reflected mirror-like in the Danube River
A beautiful temple in the water near Kyoto
A red torii standing tall in the waters of Lake Biwa within Shiga Prefecture in Japan
The beautiful Wismar town square during the Christmas season

The aesthetic across your images is gorgeous. Did you do much in post-production to refine the look?

I used to do quite a lot of work in Photoshop when I started out (2016-2018). Usually in terms of playing around with colors and contrast to get a certain look. Nowadays with being a father, having a family and having to work a full time job in an executive role I try to get the images as close to perfect right in camera out in the field. Which means shooting in close to perfect conditions and planning ahead on which frames I want to capture as detailed above.

With my latest images I do very little post-processing. The main thing I try to achieve in Photoshop is to get the colours exactly as I want them to look ( by using white balance and the HSL tab) and making sure the brightness levels of the sky and water are nicely balanced (usually by applying gradients and tweaking the levels and contrast).

A foggy winter morning in Berlin city

Have you any future plans to expand this series?

I still have hundreds of very good images from all the trips I did the last few years waiting to be processed and published... This year I also did a small exhibition in London.

In the future I would like to get into printing the images myself, working more on series with specific themes, building a body of work I'm happy with and turning that into a book.

Berlin TV-tower clouded in fog
More from this series:

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