Archive for June 2010

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

June 24, 2010

Now that Summer’s officially here (hooray!) it’s really tempting to go off to the seaside with your camera.  After all, anywhere where there’s a boundary, such as the sea and the land, gives interesting images.  I prefer the coast to the seaside (there’s a difference), and love the light you get off the water.

"Sea stripes" by Derek Gale

Here the gentle waves are lapping onto a very flat beach on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.  I used a telephoto lens, carefully supported to avoid camera shake, to turn the waves into a series of stripes.  The breaking wave at the bottom right also breaks the pattern, giving more interest.

The weather is not always so kind, and if you have lots of salt spray flying about it can damage sensitive cameras and lenses, so you do need to be careful.

"Big wave" by Derek Gale

This huge wave crashing into the rocks, also in South Wales, was spectacular to see, and I chose the lowest viewpoint I could to make it look as big as possible.  This meant I was getting covered in spray, so I was very careful about how long I exposed my lens to it.  I kept my camera well covered under my coat and only took the image, handheld, at the last moment, rapidly putting my camera away again afterwards.  600mm lenses are expensive!  

"Cliff strata" by Derek Gale

It’s safer to avoid that salty stuff in the air by moving away from the beach and shooting the land that’s been eroded by the waves.  These cliff strata make fabulous patterns.  I chose a viewpoint that removed everything that gave clues as to how big it was.  It made the scale of the image difficult to determine; adding ambiguity to images adds interest.  

"Stone diagonal" by Derek Gale

Another way to add interest is to add simplicity.  This composition is, at first glance, very simple with the rounded stone sitting on a diagonal line, but the longer you look at it the more complexity you see.  It’s a sort of “Zen” image.

I had to change my lens here, and could not put it down on the rocks because of the sand that might have got into it; not a good thing. 

"Gower beach" by Derek Gale

Here, I’ve shot the beach from above and included the people to give a sense of its scale.  They are on their own, which tells a story, and also makes you ask questions.  Again although it looks simple at first, there’s a suprising amount of complexity in this image.  The shape of the area they are standing in is mirrored by the wave arriving at the bottom left, which gives more symmetry to this asymmetric image, and even though the sky is not in the shot, you can tell that it’s blue, as there’s a blue reflection in the water.

So, as you can see, you can get great shots by the sea, but you need know how to look for them.  I’m thinking of running a one-day/weekend coastal photography training course/Photo Trek in South Wales.  If you are interested in that do e-mail me, and I’ll keep you up to date with developments.

Cheers

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

A bit of background information.

June 17, 2010

In creative portrait photography, as well as making sure that the person is shown at their best, it’s important to control what’s happening in the background.  Most of the time a simple, uncluttered background works best.

"Blurry background 1" by Gale Photography

In this child’s portrait I liked the background because the neutral grey matched the colour of his top very well, and was a perfect complement to his hair and skin colour.  It was taken with a telephoto lens set at a wide aperture to blur the background. 

With this type of image you should experiment with the position of the subject relative to the background, so as to give good blur but also retain some texture.  The closer the subject is to the background the less blurry the background will be.

"Blurry background 2" by Gale Photography

In this image, of a boy with a confident expression, I’ve controlled both the blur in the background and its brightness.  He was lit by a studio flash set at a low power to allow the use of a wide lens aperture, and the shutter speed was set so that the background rendered quite dark.  This meant that the light tones in the background weren’t distracting.

"Blurry background 3" by Gale Photography

This business profile portrait, although it was taken in my portrait studio near Swindon, was lit with natural light through a doorway.  I’ve used a white muslin background which was nicely creased, and once again the use of a large lens aperture has given a simple background with a little bit of texture. 

When I was shooting this image there was a bit too much sunlight bouncing off the wood laminate floor, so I used an appropriately-sized rectangle of material with a low level of surface reflectivity, (the studio mat), to control it.  The mat is mottled grey with a rough texture, and is perfect for absorbing excess light!

"White background" by Gale Photography

There are times when you want the background to be as simple as possible, and a plain white background is ideal for that.  In this second business profile portrait, the light is coming from a flash shooting through a white umbrella to the left of the camera.  As before, it’s important to keep the subject away from the background; in this case it’s mostly to reduce shadows, but it also blurs any imperfections in the background paper.

So, as you can see, it can be quite complicated to ensure that your portraits have a simple background!

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

Putting it into perspective

June 10, 2010

Greetings blog readers, and welcome to another post by me, Derek Gale of Gale Photography near Swindon. 

At my photography training courses I’m often asked, “What’s the best sort of lens to use” ?  That’s an impossible question to answer because so much depends on the type of photography the person wants to do.  If you like photographing insects, or other small things, then a macro lens would be perfect.  

"Paua shell" by Gale Photography

I used a macro lens (a lens that gives it best performance focussed on near objects), for this shot of some paua shell/abalone.  It’s beautiful stuff and is great to photograph.  Here it’s lit from behind as well as in front. 

If you like photographing birds, or distant objects, then a telephoto lens would be perfect.  

"The Weather Project" by Gale Photography

A telephoto lens is one that magnifies compared to the normal human field of vision.  This shot of “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in London, was taken with a lens with a focal length of ca. 150mm.  This gives a magnification of around 3 times. 

If you like landscapes, then a wide-angle lens might be the right thing for you.  A wide-angle lens generally has a wider field of view than the human eye. 

"Lake District landscape" by Gale Photography

This shot, of some bad weather approaching in the Lake District, was taken with a lens that had a focal length of about 35mm, which gives a slightly wider view than normal. 

Whatever type of lens you have, it’s important to remember that the “look” of an image changes depending on the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  The perspective, and the relationship of objects that are closer or further away, can change dramatically.  

Here’s a series of images to show you what I mean… 

I’ve shot a phone box with a number of different lens focal lengths ranging from very wide-angle to long telephoto.  I moved further away as I increased the focal length, and tried to keep the phone box the same height in the frame in each image. 

"Constant subject size: 18mm" by Gale Photography

 The first image is with a very wide-angle lens.  Note the wide-angle distortion, and how we are looking at the pillar box almost from the side. 

"Constant subject size:36mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the image magnification is approaching that of the human eye, so the perspective is looking more natural. 

"Constant subject size: 135mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the focal length used produces an image magnification of about 2.5 times.  Note how the background is beginning to look much flatter relative to the phone box, and also how the pillar box has appeared to rotate compared to the very wide-angle image.  This sort of lens is great for creative portrait photography as it produces a slight flattening of the facial features which is generally quite flattering. 

"Constant subject size: 300mm" by Gale Photography

This final image uses a lens focal length of 300mm, which gives a magnification of about 6 times compared to the human eye.  The foreground and background now all seem to be in the same plane, and we are looking straight at the pillar box. 

So you can see that the “look” of an image depends on a combination of factors; the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  Remember, when you use your zoom lens, that it doesn’t just get you closer or further away, it changes the perspective as well.  Using your feet to get closer or further away can be just as powerful; I call it “pedual zoom” – or “zooming with your feet”!  

So, what’s the best lens to use?  The one that gives you the results you want!  

Have fun with your creative photography, and if you want to learn more why not book one of our training courses

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk 

Use the right angle.

June 3, 2010

It’s a lovely summer’s day here at Gale Photography HQ, and looking through the office window at the plants outside, I couldn’t help noticing just how much difference the angle of the light makes to their appearance.  

If we just look at one leaf to see what I mean.. 

"Kolomikta leaf 1" by Gale Photography

 This Kolomikta leaf has direct sunlight on it, coming from over my shoulder.  This direct lighting is great for showing what the leaf looks like, and would be good for a plant recognition book.  The leaf does look a bit flat however. 

"Kolomikta leaf 2" by Gale Photography

In this image I’ve turned the leaf so that the light is now glancing across its surface at an angle.  Shadows have appeared, and the leaf looks much more 3-dimensional.  There’s much more of an idea of its structure than the previous image.  

"Kolomikta leaf 3" by Gale Photography

In this image, still of the same leaf, I’ve shot through the leaf with the sun directly behind it.  There’s now a lovely luminosity to the leaf, the structure is clear to see, and it’s much more than a simple record of how it looks.  The “contre-jour” lighting has really lifted the image.  We’re now seeing the leaf by transmitted light instead of reflected light. 

If we look at some leaves on a Japanese maple tree, there’s even more of a difference.  For those who want to know such things it’s an acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”. 

"Japanese maple 1" by Gale Photography

Here the leaves all look much the same, with little image contrast, and once again it would be a useful shot for a text book.  Where the leaves cross you just see more of the same colour.  It was easier to take than the next shot, as I had to lie on the ground to get the sun at the right angle. 

"Japanese maple 2" by Gale Photography

The sun shining through the leaves gives a much greater contrast, because where the leaves cross gives areas of darker red.  You can now see why the plant is called “Red Dragon”; the red leaf colour is much more fiery. 

Finally, here’s a studio image creatively using transmitted light, and shadow.  

"Lily flower" by Gale Photography

I set up an Nikon SB-800 remote flash behind the flower; a Peace Lily.  The shadow of the spadix is clearly picked out against the white spathe.  There’s great texture and structure as the light shines through the spathe.  Because the only light source is the flash behind the flower, there’s no light on the background, so it has come out black, giving excellent image contrast. 

So, next time you’re out photographing plants on a sunny day, think about where you want the light to be coming from, and you’ll get better images. 

Looking for the best angle for the light is covered on my Photo Treks.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek