Black and White Photography by Matej Michalík: interview and award from

Two weeks ago I received an award from the editors of the largest Internet photo portal in Slovakia, on this occasion was published an interview with me, which in Slovak can be viewed here. Its transcript in English is presented here in my blog.


Matej´s work is characterized by a symbiosis of positive and negative space. When choosing the theme itself the photographer must pay attention to the entire scene in detail. While in the negative space are usually included clouds depicted by long exposure times, in positive space figures as the main object particularly architecture. To combine everything into one unit that it would not act dilettantish, requires considerable talent.

Eye-catching feature that you will notice is own work with perspective. Using a wide focus gives photographer the possibility to create different orientations of lines. They attract the viewer´s eye and allow him due to the very way of orientation acquire various emotional experiences such as tension, peace, majesty, gloom and many other.

Thorough analysis of the scene is very important that the photos might act with such a charming artistic purity as Matej´s photographs really act. The process of photo formation does not do without a significant dose of experimentation. The resulting images are not born easily and quickly but they are accompanied by a demanding procedure at the camera and also in postprocessing on computer. How beautifully it manages to realize today´s award-winning user you can persuade yourselves.

Matej introduce yourself to us

I am 31 years old, I was born and I live in Bratislava. I studied economics and work in construction. Perhaps it is a reason why architecture attracts me so much in photography. Beside architecture I like photography of landscape and street. I started with photography in 2010, the initial plan was to buy a better camera for vacation. However, I started taking photos very interesting, I began to read a lot and attend different photographic courses. Thanks to the photo I began to travel more and met a lot of nice people what I appreciate the most on this hobby.

In the gallery you have photos solely in black and white. Why?

I found very quickly that most attracts me just black and white photo. By detachment from colours I have the opportunity to focus more on the shapes, lines, contrast and light. Photo thus obtains the simplicity and purity which I like very much.

Not only photos in grayscale are characteristic for you but similarly the photos with long times. What do you find so attractive on them?

Once I knew that black and white is the right “colour” for me, it did not last long till I came across a long time exposures. Using filters I can see something what is impossible to see with the naked eye. I immediately knew that this was it. Although I shoot something that departs from reality, I hold certain principles, I never combine more exposures, always use filters and do not blur clouds or water in software. Thus, every photo looks the same to the eye but at the same time each photo is different what gives me more space to be creative.

What photographic technique do you use for photos with long times?

I use LEE filters and also filters Formatt known as Hitech. Regarding to filters, it is for a longer debate, As soon as there is more time I will write an article purely about ND filters. When you want to photograph long times you need to have a solid tripod that can withstand strong wind or water to achieve sharp photos. I use Manfrotto 055XPROB and standard spherical head. Next, you need the camera with Bulb function, wide angle lens and remote trigger. Half of the photos in my gallery is shot by Nikon D90, later I switched to Nikon D800. In my opinion, however, more important than technique is photographic vision itself.

Are there any ideal weather conditions for an impressive photo with beautifully blurred clouds? Of course, except for necessary presence of clouds themselves…: D

As you say Jozef, the very presence of clouds is basis 🙂 Basically we can say that the ideal conditions are when there is the 60 % of blue sky and 40 % of clouds. Then is also very important their direction to the object itself etc. Under the conditions then I adapt the length of time. It is necessary to constantly experiment.

On the official website you also keep your photo blog. Why is it all in English?

In Slovakia and the Czech republic is a very small community which devotes exclusively to this genre. Photographers which I am in contact with are from various parts of the world and of course, we communicate in English. In my blog I share my previous experiences and postprocess techniques, I want them to serve the widest audience, therefore English.

On the blog you devote to photo editing. Is editing of photos with long times specific in something? For example, no need to sharpen more when taking photos through thick ND filters?

Despite the fact that the base is properly exposed photograph, edit my photos takes a long time. It is about, of course, what is the desired result. Basically, the way I edit photos is that I adjust individual parts of photograph separately. In a simple scene, for example with pier, I edit pier separately, water separately and also clouds separately. Often it is much more difficult. Sometimes I edit photo for 10 hours or even longer. For someone incredible but for me the result is worth it. Regarding to sharpening, using quality filters there is no need to sharpen photo specially.

Do you take photos to RAW format? What programs do you use for editing?

I always take photos to RAW. It is more or less a necessity. I use Lightroom 3 for initial adjustments in colour, trim etc. and the rest I finish in Photoshop using the plugin Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2.

I like your compositions. They are as from textbook but not humdrum at all. Arrangement of scene reflects honest study or inner feelings?

Early on I realized very quickly that without knowing the basics of composition photographer does not move further. It was my second photography workshop immediately after the basics with DSLR that I attended. And I do not regret a penny, immediately after completion of the course, my photos moved at least 50 % ahead. Then study followed. It can be said that the compositions I have read and viewed from other photographers.When composing I put emphasis on purity and simplicity – minimalism. I love the clean lines and negative space. When I come to the place of photographing, always do first a few test photos and then decompose tripod.

Surely you know some top photographers who shoots with long times. Tell us someone favourite.

If I shall mention one I do not have to think so long, he is a man I know personally and can be said that he is my mentor from whom I learned almost everything. His name is Joel Tjintjelaar, Dutchman who take photos of architecture and landscape using long exposure techniques and is extremely good in it.

Thank you for the interview.