[Editor’s note: Petros Mitropolous is a Greek photographer based in Athens. Only a little over a year ago did he start exploring long-exposure photography, and yet in that time he’s produced some really moving pieces of work in the genre. Creating more than just a pretty picture, Petros is exploring light, time, composition, and story. Here are seven of his favorite images since he started this journey, and the stories behind them.]


I'd recently bought my new angle lens and was trying to experiment with long-exposure photography. For this image, I drove more than two hours to find a secret spot near Athens I'd heard about located south of the city. It was a beautiful day with no one there to interrupt me, though I'd brought a friend along to share a beer with while waiting for sunset. I really had no idea what I was doing but went with my instincts and composed around the big rock. I like the motion of the clouds alongside the motion of water and the yellowish of the sky against the blue / violet of the whole scene. Even though this was one of my first long exposures, I'm still really happy with this photo.
[iso 200 25mm f16 90s]


I quickly got addicted to long-exposure photography, to the point where I started to take big risks to get the shots I wanted. To get this image, for example, I had to hike down a steep rock path to get close to these rocks. It was spring, and the rocks were slick. The camera was set on a tripod that was half a meter into the sea, and I was trying to hold it with my left hand to avoid my gear getting washed out to sea. I stood with splayed legs on two different and very wet rocks. Hooked up with a trigger in my right hand, I made some long-exposure shots to capture the motion against the sunset. I could have injured myself easily, soaked the camera, or even lost it out to sea in a wave, but, personally, I think it was worth it.
[iso 100 16mm f22 0.5s]


I've since started chasing harder and harder long exposures—both risky or simply compositionally hard to achieve. I can't even count how many shots I made for this image. Hundreds at least. In the winter, I found these tires used for landing fishing boats and tried to create something—I'm not even sure what. What drove me to this composition was a strange thought that the tires waited there patiently for the fishing boats to return, every day. That's a hell of a lot of devotion and no glory. I found it oddly inspiring and thus took dozens and dozens of frames, trying to get the story I was feeling. It's a short-exposure shot as far as long exposures go, just enough to capture the flow of the water around the tires, but I think it does justice to what I was feeling standing there.
[iso 200 22mm f16 1/3s]


Some images come easier than others. Here, I was searching for a rocky beach south of the city, for a nice flat ocean and a setting sun. An easily executed shot, the tripod legs extended high and the viewfinder right to my eye level, the image only required a little patience—I just had to wait for the sun to set and press the shutter.
[iso 100 20mm f22 1.5s]


Other images require some manual labor on my part. When I arrived at this location, the composition was flat. There was nothing to anchor it, nothing to compose around. So I made my own anchor. I found a broken tree down the shore and pulled it into the water. I literally created the composition. Tried different angles and focal lengths and moved around the tree to decide what was the best composition considering the light and elements. I got to thinking this tree probably died of old age and give up its life to make room for the next generation of trees. It felt like the end of an era. My interpretation and composition came from that. The dead, old tree appearing to float in the perfectly flat water, waiting to sink away and be forgotten. The stillness of it all, I think it creates quite a melancholy image, which is just how I felt when I was making it.
[iso 200 19mm f22 2s]


I took this photo on New Year's Eve in a classic spot for swimmers so close to the town of Athens you can actually use the normal public transportation to visit. In the summer, the place is teeming with locals and tourists, sunbathers and swimmers. On this day, the first day of the New Year, it was empty except for my trusty tripod halfway in the water and me, like a ballet dancer trying to balance between the rocks. It's an extra-long-exposure shot. You can see it in the motion of the clouds, despite the fact that they were moving very slowly. No one was there except me, my tripod, and my little sandwich, which I luckily remembered I had inside my backpack mere minutes before I'm pretty sure I would have died from starvation. Long exposures take a lot of time to compose and execute. After three hours in the cold, trying to picture this place in the heat of the summer, I left the beach quite satisfied with this image.
[iso 200 16mm f22 140s]


Eventually I turned my love for long exposures from the ocean to the sky. That's me standing like a statue for 30 seconds staring at the Milky Way. Taken this past summer near Pylos in Greece, it's an image that was a joy to create. Our galaxy can be amazingly clear even with our naked eyes, but it's even more incredible using the long exposures of a camera, which can pick up even the faintest lights from our galaxy and beyond. That's pretty amazing. As I took this photo, all I felt was grateful, small, and filled with awe, which is pretty much exactly how this journey into long-exposure photography has felt.
[iso 3200 17mm f4 30s]