Archive for April 2010

An eccentric photographer.

April 29, 2010

I think that eccentric photography is a good thing! 

There are various meanings of the word “eccentric”, but let’s use the one that, according to Wikipedia, means “out of the centre”. 

It’s really easy to put the main subject of your images in the exact centre, as most of the time it’s how we see things.  When we look at a person or thing, we place them (especially their eyes) in the centre of our field of vision.   With portrait photography that’s not always the best way to get an interesting composition.

"The orange cup" by Gale Photography

In this natural light portrait, the strong lighting on the orange cup catches the eye, and the dark space above his head reinforces the fact that he’s small.  If the cup was central it would not be as strong an image.  The strongly directional light has given a lovely rim lighting to his head and body. 

"Abby off centre" by Gale Photography

In this image, shot in my portrait studio near Swindon, I’ve put the person well off to the right.  As we “read” images from left to right, our eyes reach the main subject last.  She is, in fact, acting like a “bookend”, which keeps our interest, because it stops our eyes from leaving the frame.  Her face is the lightest part of the image, and isn’t white because of the warm toning.

"Off centre boy" by Gale Photography

In this studio portrait, the boy’s eyes are the darkest part of the image, and the rest of the image is made of very pale tones.  Having his eyes so near the top of the frame, and on an angle, gives an interesting perspective.  His intense expression adds to that perspective.

"The red hat" by Gale Photography

Finally, this location fashion portrait was taken with off-camera flash, and bright sunlight shining through a hole in a wall.  The red hat is the strongest colour present and really holds the composition together.  The brightest point is very close to the top of the frame, but that doesn’t matter.

Remember to put your main subject off-centre, and you will get more interesting images.  Why not join me and become an eccentric photographer!

Off-centre composition is one of the subjects in my “The Creative Eye” photographic training workshop.

See you next time, 

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

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Travels with a compact camera.

April 22, 2010

I have mentioned on this blog before that  it’s all about the photographer, and not about the camera.  It’s still true! 

I’ve been invited by a local photographic club to talk to them about using digital compact cameras, compared to using digital SLRs.  At that talk I’ll mention the benefits, and the challenges, of creative photography with compact cameras. 

On the basis that I should practice what I will preach, on a trip round the Cotswolds yesterday I took my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 digital compact with me instead of my Nikon DSLRs.  Why?  Well, it was a day off, and I didn’t want to carry a large, heavy DSLR and loads of large aperture lenses with me.  OK, so the ultimate image quality on a digital compact with a small sensor isn’t as good as a DSLR, but as I wasn’t planning to produce large prints that didn’t matter.  Also it was a sunny day, and these small sensor cameras work very well when it’s sunny. 

We stopped for lunch on the way to our final destination, and I was able to get a nice abstract image through some distorting glass.  Simple with the close focusing ability of the FX-500. 

"Distorting glass" by Gale Photography

The Cotwolds looked fantastic in the Spring sunshine, and driving across them was a real pleasure.  After a quick divert to Adlestrop, made famous in the poem that starts with, “Yes, I remember Adlestrop…”, we arrived at our destination.  Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, is one of England’s finest and most original Jacobean houses.

"Chastleton House facade" by Gale Photography

The facade of the house, unaltered since it was built, looked fab  in the spring sunshine.  The only problem was getting an image with no other visitors in it.  You need patience whatever camera you are using. 

Chastleton operates a timed ticket system, so while we were waiting, we took the opportunity to look round the gardens.  The daffodils were mostly over but other spring flowers were looking at their best. 

"Chastleton flowers" by Gale Photography

I dropped the camera down to a low viewpoint with a wide-angle lens (24mm equivalent), so I could concentrate on the foreground flowers, whilst still showing the mass of other flowers.  

"Chastleton fritillaries" by Gale Photography

In this second flower image, I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint looking upwards, to show the flowers against the trees and sky in the background.  Easy to see the image on the compact camera’s rear screen; not so easy with a DSLR unless it has Live View. 

The house is well worth a visit, if only for the Long Gallery with the longest barrel-vaulted ceiling in Britain.  The plasterwork is fabulous.  To get a good shot I used a technique that works really well.  I turned off the flash, set the self timer, put the camera on the floor, pressed the shutter, and stepped back.  Result? A sharp image. 

"Chastleton ceiling" by Gale Photography

On the way back to the car after visiting the house, we saw these spring lambs sunning themselves under the dovecote.  Lambs and the Cotswolds really go together, as the landscape has been shaped by years of sheep farming. 

"Chastleton lambs" by Gale Photography

So, having a digital compact camera on your belt allows you to get great images without lugging a DSLR about.  You just need to work within its limitations. 

Although yesterday was a day off for me, I was still taking pictures.  That’s how it is when you’re passionate about photography.  If you want to develop your passion for photography, come along to one of my training courses and be inspired. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s the Photo Trek season

April 15, 2010
Now that the weather here in Oxfordshire is thinking of becoming spring-like, it’s time to update you with news about my programme of half-day and day Photo Treks. 

What’s a Photo Trek I hear you cry?   Well, it’s a fun way to have “al fresco” photography training from a professional photographer (me!), whilst enjoying a walk in a beautiful place.  

"Buscot Park feet" by Gale Photography

On a Photo Trek I’ll show you how to see the photographic potential in the world around you, and teach you the camera techniques to get the great images you want. 

So where do we go?  Treks planned for this year cover such diverse areas as; Buscot Park, Savernake Forest, Lechlade & Buscot Weir, and the Ridgeway near Wantage.  

Buscot Park, near Faringdon, is the home of Lord Faringdon. It has beautiful gardens and parkland, and a famous water garden designed by Harold Peto.   The first Trek there for 2010 is on May 15th. 

"Buscot Park tulips" by Gale Photography

Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, is the largest privately-owned woodland in the UK.  It has a collection of famous oak trees, and remnants of its role in WW2 as an ammunition store. 

"Savernake ruin" by Gale Photopgraphy

Lechlade and Buscot Weir show the relaxed face, and also the powerful face of the River Thames.  There are lots of opportunities for photographing water, fast or slow, at Buscot Weir as there’s 2 weirs, a lock and deep pools. 

"Buscot Weir" by Gale Photography

The last location is on the Ridgeway above the town of Wantage.  The views from the Ridgeway are spectacular, and the chalk landscape of the Marlborough Downs has its own beauty. 

"Ridgeway tree" by Gale Photography

You don’t need to have a complicated camera to benefit from a Photo Trek.  You can still get great shots with a simple compact digital camera; I use one a lot.  Of course, if you do have a complicated camera you’re still welcome to come along! 

All Buscot Park Photo Treks are half-day, in the afternoon.  The Savernake, Lechlade & Buscot Weir, and Ridgeway Photo Treks are all-day.  We’ve recently revised our programe, so please check  our website to see the current dates and availability.

Do contact me if you have any questions.

Hope to see you on a Trek soon!

Cheers,

Derek.

It’s all done with mirrors!

April 9, 2010
In essence, photography is all about recording the light reflecting from surfaces.  If nothing was reflected then we wouldn’t be able to record anything of the people we meet, the places we go to, and the things we see. 

In this post I’ll show you how you can get interesting, creative images by using the numerous highly-reflective surfaces in the world around you. 

"Ellis Island reflective floor" by Gale Photography

In this first image, of Ellis Island in New York, I noticed how the shape of the window was reflected in the shiny floor, and that the pattern of the floor tiles mimicked the pattern of the windows.  I was able to use the shiny floor to make the overall photographic composition symmetrical, yet keep the areas of colour off centre. 

"Prague reflections" by Gale Photography

This image, taken in Prague, shows how you can mix the old and the new in one image.  The new office building had partly mirrored windows, so that the older building opposite was nicely reflected in them.  I chose a viewpoint that let me divide up the image into a 3×3 grid, with the sky in the top set of three windows, the roof in the middle set of three, and the front of the building in the bottom set of three.  It’s one way to use the so-called “Rule of Thirds“.  The whole image looks a bit like one of those puzzles that you have to rearrange by sliding the sections around. 

"Lydiard House cabinet" by Gale Photography

One great feature of reflective surfaces is that they can often distort the subject that’s reflected.  Here I’ve used the multiple glass panels of a display cabinet in Lydiard House, Swindon, to make an image that shows a distorted reflection of the window in front of it, and the person passing.  Each panel is set at a slightly different angle, so they each show a slightly different viewpoint, and the old glass is quite wobbly, so the reflection gets broken up. 

Finally, I’ve used a shiny curved surface that was reflecting a common object, to produce an abstract image that’s not really anything to do with the original subjects.  

A Mini reflection by Gale Photography

The shiny curved surface was the highly-polished front wing of a friend’s red Mini (she does look after it very well!), and the common object that was reflected was a fence panel.  

So, you can see that the world is full of surfaces that can help you with your creative photography.  I cover this, and many other things,  in my “The Creative Eye” workshops.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk