Archive for May 2010

Calling all Trekkies: Part 2

May 27, 2010

Last Saturday we had the first Photo Trek of the season down at Buscot Weir, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire.  It’s a great location on the River Thames, and not too far from my photographic studio near Swindon.  

When I’d researched the Buscot Weir Photo Trek I’d planned for all sorts of weather conditions, and I was delighted that the day dawned sunny, bright, and warm. 

"Buscot Weir panorama" by Gale Photography

 The weir pool looked peaceful in the morning light, so I shot a 6-image classic panorama, complete with swan.  I used my Lumix Fx-500 digital compact, and stitched it together in Photoshop PS5.  As with other Photo Treks, I took a selection of cameras; a compact, a superzoom compact, and a DSLR.  Most of the time I ended up using the two compacts, as they both have full manual control, and are great for demonstrating techniques.  

The trek attendees were an excellent group, with a range of photographic experience, and a range of equipment. What they had in common was a willingness to learn how to improve their photography, and they all had some great ideas during the day. 

The Buscot Weir Photo Trek has an emphasis on water.  The Thames splits into 3 parts at Buscot; one part going to the lock, one to a sluice, and one to the weir.  There’s a lot of dramatic moving water, and it makes for great images. 

"Buscot water 1" by Gale Photography

This water shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 superzoom compact.  I chose a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second and an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The long shutter speed has given a nice blur to the water.  We had to find a part of the weir out of direct sunlight, as the brightness was making selection of a long shutter speed difficult. 

"Buscot Weir sluice" by Gale Photography

With this image, of water rushing under one of the sluice gates, I’ve used the bright sunshine to my advantage.  The light was shining deeply into the water from the other side of the sluice, and it’s given a fantastic luminosity and colour.  Shot with the FZ-50. 

"Buscot pebbles 2" by Gale Photography

This image is of some rather more peaceful water.  In a field near the river there’s a cattle trough.  It was full to the brim with nice clean water, and for some reason it had a load of pebbles at the bottom.  The sunlight playing through the water onto the  pebbles made for a stunning semi-abstract image.  An ideal subject for my FX-500. 

Away from the weir we found a field full of grasses, buttercups, and seeded dandelions.   It was hard to do the field justice by trying to photograph it all at once, so we concentrated on details.  It was a perfect place to show the difference that changing your lens focal length can make. 

"Wide-angle grasses" by Gale Photography

"Telephoto grasses" by Gale Photography

The first image used an equivalent focal length of 24mm, and the second an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The first image gives a better idea  of the relationship between the different types of plant. The second has a more abstract feel, due to the out of focus background.  Which do you prefer? 

"Swallow music" by Gale Photography

This final image is of a swallow resting on electric cables at St John’s Lock which is upstream from Buscot.  I loved the simple composition of one bird, the cables, and that wonderful blue sky. 

So, an excellent day.  The weather was great, the people were great, and it was a great learning experience. 

There’s still some places on our other Photo Treks this year, so if you would like some photography tuition, ” al fresco”, why not come along? 

See you soon, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

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I’m just a regular guy: Part 3

May 20, 2010

Just before I write the next post I thought you might like to know about another creative photography award!  Well, I thought you might like to know, so here goes… 

I’ve just won an award at the MPA Great Western Regional Portrait Awards.  It was in the “Under 5’s ” category and was from a child’s portrait shoot.  The judge liked the creative lighting, the boy’s expression, the well-controlled background, and the off-centre composition.  Here’s the shot: 

The award winner!

To get back on track with my post… 

You will remember from previous “I’m just a regular guy” posts,  that I love doing shoots for people who I’ve shot in the past.  I’ve just enjoyed a studio portrait shoot for the family of a couple whose wedding I photographed a couple of years ago.  The shoot was great fun, and I got some really good individual images as well as the family groups. 

"Jumping" by Gale Photography

In this jumping image he’s got a great shape and a great expression.  It’s tough to get both at the same time.  This sort of action shot can really give “life” to an image. 

Candid portrait by Gale Photography

 This image shows that it’s possible to get candid images during a studio portrait shoot.  I was using white umbrellas which allow quite a bit of light to go away from the subject, as well as towards them.  This means that the people behind me waiting for their individual portraits were well lit.  Great portraits are about the person’s expression, and her expression is fab.  There’s a real communication between her and the person she was looking at. 

"Black background portrait" by Gale Photography

 Here, I’ve used the same “It’s behind you” technique to get a relaxed shot of Mum sitting on a chair.  I turned round, she realised what I was doing, smiled, and “click”.  It’s clear that she put a lot of thought into what she was going to wear, and I really like the way she chose her lipstick to match the colour of her chunky necklace. 

You could enjoy your own portrait shoot.  Just give me a call on 01793 783859 to book. 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s a stitch up!

May 13, 2010

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, “there are times when you just can’t get everything in because your camera’s lens isn’t wide enough, or you just can’t get far enough away”.   Under these circumstances you need to either; walk away and say, “It can’t be done”, or you can turn a problem into a solution by making a panoramic or a stitched image.  

I call an image that is a long, thin, horizontal or vertical composition a “classic panorama”, and an image that has a squarer composition a “stitched image”. 

Making this sort of image used to be hard, but now it’s much easier.  There’s lots of programs available that do most of the hard work for you.  I use Autostitch (the demo version is free), and the Photomerge facility in Photoshop. 

What you do is take a series of images that cover the whole area you want in the final composite image, download them, run them through the software, and it’s done.  Well, there’s a bit more to it than that of course, but you get the picture.

This stitched image of the gate in the Chinatown area of Liverpool is made from 9 separate images.  I used Autostitch, and then tidied it up in Adobe Photoshop CS5, including using the new “Content-Aware Fill” control.  It’s cool!

"Liverpool gate" by Gale Photography

Here’s a classic panorama.  It’s of Arsenal FC’s football ground; The Emirates Stadium, in North London.  I was behind a window, so was shading the camera from reflections with my coat.  It must have looked a bit odd!  It uses 10 images, and I think it captures the feel of the “amphitheatre of football” very well.

“Emirates panorama” by Gale Photography

 This stitched image of the keep at Dover Castle shows the sort of perspective distortion that you can get when you use a wide-angle lens.  CS5 has tried to correct this during the merging of the images, but it’s still present.  I like the effect, as it makes the building look even more imposing and powerful.

"Dover Castle Keep" by Gale Photography

Finally, this classic panorama was made of 14 images taken from the Observatory at Greenwich, London.  I used a Panasonic FZ-50 compact camera, and it’s extraordinary just how much detail can be seen in the image.  It was perfect weather to take this type of image with a digital compact camera; clear and sunny.  There’s no perspective distortion because I used a telephoto lens. 

"Greenwich panorama" by Gale Photography

Here’s a detail from the centre of the image. 

"Greenwich panorama detail" by Gale Photography

You can quite clearly see the banks’ signs on the skyscrapers.  In other parts of the image you can see boats on the River Thames, and people getting a coffee! 

This technique should be part of your creative photography arsenal.  We discuss panoramas as part of the “Viewpoint” section of my “The Creative Eye” course.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Mobile fun.

May 6, 2010

I’ve been asked to do a talk, to a local photographic club, about creative photography using digital compact cameras.  Whilst I was preparing the talk, I realised something.  It was that lots of people have a digital compact camera, but call it something else; a mobile phone.  To be sure of covering all possible questions in my talk, I thought I’d try some  creative photography with my own mobile phone camera. 

It was then that I discovered something wonderful …

… it’s that the camera takes a quite a while to read the image from the whole sensor. 

So why is that so wonderful?  Well, it means that if you move the phone camera during the exposure you get an interesting “shape” to the image.  It’s because by the time the last bit of the sensor is read, the camera is looking at something different to what it was looking at when it started reading the sensor.

"Oilseed rape field" by Gale Photography

In this image of oilseed rape flowers, I moved the camera in a quarter circle as I pressed the shutter.  The very curved horizon makes it look as if I’ve used a fisheye lens!  It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what you’ll end up, but it’s easy to experiment, and take another image if the first one needs improvement.

"The wavy notice" by Gale Photography

Here, I’ve used an S-shaped movement, which has given a lovely wave to the fence.  It took a few tries before the writing was sharp enough.  I think it’s a really cool effect.

"Distorted window" by Gale Photography

In this image, of an English country cottage window, the wide-angle lens on the mobile phone camera has given an exaggerated perspective which the creative use of camera movement has emphasised.

“Insect eye abstract” by Gale Photography

In this final image I’ve not used camera movement.  I’ve used a small plastic optical toy (an insect eye kaleidoscope) to make an abstract image.  The phone camera’s lens is very small and fitted nicely inside.  You can’t do this with a digital SLR as the lenses are too big.  Part of the image is of the inside of the toy, and part is through the insect eye lens.  It’s a blank DVD in its case, but it looks completely unrecognisable.

So, be creative with your phone camera and have some photographic fun!

If this has inspired you to want to know more about creative photography, then why not come to one of my courses? 

There’s lots of info on my website at www.galephotography.co.uk

Cheers,
 
Derek