Benjamin Mercer, a graphic designer by day, has spent the beginnings of his career directing others in photography, but, after an eye opening experience walking the 88 Temple Pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku in Japan, he has discovered the pleasure of taking photographs himself. His pictures are predominantly seascapes as he finds that coastlines, constantly under the influence of time and erosion, are an ever changing, always fascinating source of inspiration. He enjoys photographing the coasts of Essex and Suffolk where he is based and has also traveled around the UK, to the north coast of Northern Ireland, Glencoe and the Isle of Skye in Scotland as well as parts of North Yorkshire and Northumbria to photograph their more rugged coastlines. To find out more about Ben and download the amazing seascapes he has chosen to share with us, we recommend reading this interview.
Introducing Benjamin Mercer
Benjamin spoke to us about the awakening of his passion for photography and coastlines in a short interview:
How did you get into photography?
I left my job a few years ago to go traveling and thought it might be wise to take a camera with me, so I bought a Canon 350D and a 35-125mm zoom and off I went. I'd never really been that interested in photography before, as a designer I was more interested in the final product and how I was going to use it, rather than in the process itself. If I ever needed something specific I was quite content to art direct a freelancer.
But when traveling, I walked the 88 Temple Pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan and most of it was located along the coast. As I was a little bit strapped for cash I tended to camp near empty shrines and so on… but if there weren't any around I'd end up sleeping on the beach. Apart from the occasional early morning to catch flights I hadn't really been up and about at dawn too much, but camping next to the sea showed me what I'd been missing! A beach, at dawn, is one of the best places you can be.
The coast! I just love the interaction of the sea with the land, plus it's such a lovely place to be at any time of the day, but especially early in the morning. This is one of the main reasons I take seascapes, the photos are almost secondary to the pleasure of walking along the beach at that time of day. As a bonus the coast is always different, always changing. Even though you might have photographed that stretch of sand a hundred times before it's never quite the same thanks to the effects of time and tide.
What type of camera do you use and what sort of post-processing software?
I use a Canon 40D, usually with a Sigma 10-20mm lens and a selection of Lee Neutral Density filters. I shoot in RAW and so use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for cleaning up water drops on the filters, lens corrections etc. I try not to do too much post-processing, as it feels like a bit too much like my day job! For me the pleasure is in actually taking the photos, rather than playing around with them on the computer.
What do you think was the biggest influence in your photography?
This is a hard one to answer, so many things are an influence. Certainly my friend Dave Peck (another landscape photographer), has been a big influence. There's nothing like shooting with another photographer on the beach, it doesn't matter how pleased you are with your own composition, you've always got the nagging feeling that they've found a better one! So it does help push you. New pieces of equipment can also influence how you approach a shot, I picked up an Infra Red filter a couple of years ago and it made a big difference to how I thought about lighting: times of the day where I wouldn't usually bother taking photos are now viable when shooting in Infra Red.
Which photograph that you've taken are you most proud of and why?
I think it's probably this one: Stormy Seas in Southwold, Suffolk. Not because it's the best photo I've ever taken, but because it encapsulates everything I like about coastal photography. It was during storm conditions and I had to run down the beach, chasing the retreating wave to get the shot. I only had one chance to get it as the next wave completely covered me and the camera! I like the feeling of movement it captures in the water and the sky, even the distortion of the lens on the pier seems to work. Just feels very dynamic to me.
There are so many places I'd like to photograph, too many to list but top of my list is the Isle of Skye. I've photographed it before, but the weather was terrible and I didn't do it justice, so I'm anxious to return for another go.
What are your plans with photography from here on out?
Just to carry on what I'm already doing, for as long as I still enjoy doing it!
Enjoy Ben's Work Through a Windows Theme - Download Links
Ben has chosen to share with us some of his most amazing seascapes and we bundled them in two themes: one for Windows 7 and one for Windows 8,
COPYRIGHT:Benjamin Mercer. If you plan to use the pictures included in this theme for something other than your desktop backgrounds, you need written permission from their author.
Follow Benjamin Mercer & His Work
We would like to thank Ben for sharing his work with us and our readers and wish him all the best in all his future projects.