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  • Samuele Bertoli

Imaging the Shutter Speed as the Storyteller’s voice


One of the most fascinating and stimulating concepts I've encountered over the years for evolving and elevating our photographs is that our images should, among other things, tell a story.

In principle, I couldn't agree more with this idea. If only because, as I've introduced in my bio on this site, I feel I have a decidedly storytelling and anecdotal nature. My greatest aspiration is to tell and share the world as I see it through my eyes. My ultimate goal is for my images to convey emotions and sensations to those who view them, even those who weren't present at the moment of the shot.

It's normal to feel something when one looks at their own photo. At least for me, it's impossible to look at one of my photos and not relive the sensations and feelings I experienced at the moment of the shot.

Each image serves as a powerful key to reopen the door of memories, even long after the shot. However, conveying these emotions and sensations to those who weren't present is much less straightforward. Often, these sensations are created by sounds, smells, and other elements that can't be shown in a photo.

Fortunately, some elements can be used in an image to recreate a certain atmosphere and mood effectively. I believe that photographs should be taken first and foremost to satisfy our inner needs.

I firmly believe that there is no right or wrong way to tell a scene and a moment we've experienced. How we experience and see a scene is personal and subjective and varies from person to person. Each of us is different, and photography, in its subjectivity, is a very powerful means of giving voice to every subjective point of view.

One of the tools that allows us to tell a scene personally is the shutter speed, especially when elements are in motion.

Close your eyes momentarily and imagine yourself in front of a seascape.

How do you imagine it?

How would you like the water and the waves to be captured and described?

Your first option might be to go for a long exposure, or perhaps you're fascinated by rough, stormy seas?

When I find myself in a seascape, my first instinct is to freeze the moment with fast shutter speeds.

Do not get me wrong (yes, this is a phrase I sometimes use in stories and anecdotes that I enjoy writing to indulge and please my fiery nature as a storyteller, but let's not digress...); I like long exposures for seascapes.

Or rather, more precisely, I like them in the right amount and if the resulting atmosphere is functional to the message I want to convey. But on this last aspect, I'll come back later.

But of course, there is a BUT (otherwise, I would have started this last paragraph with another rhetorical formula).

And my big BUT is that "sea" means something else to me.

Probably because I was born and raised a stone's throw from the sea, maybe because my memories of the sea have different colours, it will be for a million other things.

The fact is that I associate the word "sea" with images of dark skies and storm clouds; I think of a sea where there are no tourists, a sea all for me, a sea disturbed by big waves crashing and echoing on the rocks. An atmosphere full of dynamism and frenzy. A wave that seems never to end. Because at sea, you go to find yourself, to observe and reflect, and to find balance and harmony in the air full of salt that saturates the nostrils.

stormy seascape

If a mischievous and spiteful spell were to wake me up tomorrow in the painter of Baricco's Ocean Sea, I would probably agree with his idea of using seawater to paint the sea with the sea.

I would also agree that the portrait of the sea should begin with finding its eyes.

But here, my Ocean Sea would become dystopian, and I would seek and find its eyes in the waves crashing against the rocks because this would make me feel at home. And so when I'm lucky enough to find myself in a suitable setting (stormy sea), my first instinct is to freeze the moment with fast shutter speeds. I could very well call the above image "air of home".

stormy sea

It's an image that balances me in capturing the movement of the crashing waves. I captured the same scene also using a long exposure (two minutes).

I also like this photo.

long exposure seascape photograph

And I certainly appreciate its vibrations. But the question is, "What is this vibration for?" I would probably associate it with the background of a beautiful and masterful illustration by Alan Lee depicting the Elves boarding the last ship departing from the Grey Havens.

With a general climate of melancholy for having had to leave Middle-earth forever; while, at the same time, with a feeling of peace to underline being at peace with their conscience. The resulting peace came from knowing their time on those lands was over.

The long exposure of the photo is a kind of homage to their different sense of time, a hint at their millennial life where all human problems and events last only the simple blink of an eye. Unfortunately, I am not, alas, neither an elf nor Middle-earth is my home.

In fact, my first instinct when I see beautiful waves remains to capture and convey that dynamism and those sensations that I associate with the sea.

These two photos are like my eyes recently saw an iconic spot on the Livornese coast in Tuscany during the southwest wind (named libeccio), respectively, in the golden hour and at dusk.

seascape photograph in the Livornese coast in Tuscany

seascape photograph in the Livornese coast in Tuscany

However, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip. Because the conditions do not always allow you to take the photo you would like.

The following photo was taken in the same place on a day when the sea was completely flat, or at least the waves weren't so interesting.

The long exposure, in my opinion, works because it eliminates distractions towards the main subject of the photo. To fill the sky and give a bit of dynamism and interest to the few clouds present, I had to extend the exposure time to 8 minutes.

seascape photograph in the Livornese coast in Tuscany

In the following photos, I adopted the technique of long exposure to create a composition in which the sea is not the leading actor but the supporting cast.

Photograph in Cinque terre, Italy

Photograph in Cinque terre, Italy

Photograph in Cinque terre, Italy

This approach helps to reduce distractions and focus attention on the main subjects of the photo.

In conclusion, although my instinct is often to freeze the moment with fast shutter speeds, the most reasonable way is always to adapt to the conditions and opt for a different approach to tell the most suitable story to reality.

I also wanted to share with you a last image recently taken.

In this photo, I used a long exposure to capture the dynamism of the wind that whipped the rape field where I was during an afternoon of a storm.

The blurring of the flowers in the foreground conveys the idea of movement and dynamism, while the storm clouds and the mist around the castle give an atmosphere of imminent storm.

Italy and flowers

I hope this article has inspired you to explore your world through the camera lens and always strive to tell your unique stories.

Whether it's a golden sunset over the sea or a field of flowers swayed by the wind, every shot is an opportunity to convey a part of oneself and the world around us.

Keep capturing the beauty and essence of life through your personal lens, and always remember that there's a story behind every photo.

Thank you for being with me on this journey, and I invite you to continue exploring and sharing your world through your eyes.



Samuele Bertoli

I was born and grew up in Lunigina, Tuscany, and now I live in Parma, Italy. Embarking on a visual odyssey, I am not merely a photographer but a passionate storyteller, navigating the tapestry of existence through the lens.

The art of photography, an enchantment that held me captive, has transformed from fascination to a fervent mission in recent years. In the dance of pixels and light, my lens becomes an instrument of ancient yearning- an overwhelming need to tell stories, to share the vibrant tales that pulse within our world.

Call it a devotion, a tribute to the sublime beauty and unyielding pride that permeates our surroundings. Driven by the innate inclination for storytelling, my photography journey is an act of communion with the soul of the universe. Immanuel Kant aptly noted that it is about “showing how reality is interpreted once filtered through the coloured lenses of my eyes.” Each click of the shutter is a passionate declaration, a testament to my deep connection with the diverse facets of reality.

My photography seeks to capture the very essence and soul of the subjects, believing that a sensitive soul should choose a style that harmonises with the message it aims to convey. I strive to channel passion, love, and dedication in every frame. Each photograph is not a mere snapshot but a deliberate act to communicate a profound message and evoke emotions.

As memories intertwine with challenges overcome, my aim is for viewers not to glance indifferently but to be captivated, moved, and inspired. Let the images tickle the imagination and awaken curiosity as they reveal the stories that beg to be told.



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