Archive for July 2010

30-minute challenge: Part 2

July 29, 2010

A few weeks ago, I set myself a little challenge.  It was to take as many creative images as I could in just 30 minutes.  As I said before, I restricted myself to a fixed focal length/prime lens, that was still very versatile; a Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX macro. 

I’ve already posted the first set of images from that creative half-hour, and here are some more…

"Against all the odds" by Derek Gale

This is taken at ground level.  It’s a little viola plant on the edge of the road outside the pub in our street. It’s in a tiny little crack in the tarmac next to the kerb, and it gets almost flattened every time a car parks there – but it’s still going strong.  I’m pretty sure that nearly everyone that goes past doesn’t see it, but there is beauty in the most unlikely places.  I had to lie down in the road to take it, so I was very careful about the traffic!

"Feather macro" by Derek Gale

Whilst I was getting up I spotted a feather, probably from a jackdaw.  I held it up to the light and focused by moving the feather backwards and forwards slightly.  Result?  A cool pattern picture.  The strong diagonal line from the main quill of the feather breaks the pattern and stops it being too repetitive.

"Close up scabious" by Derek Gale

Another flower image.  This time it’s a blue scabious flower in the garden.  These flowers are, as you can see, very popular with pollen beetles.  There was quite a number crawling across the pollen-bearing parts of the flower.  This is the sort of thing that the Sigma macro lens is perfect for.  It’s performance close up is fantastic.

"A cherry on the table" by Derek Gale

I recently made a “rustic” table for the garden.  It was used today, as a prop for a family portrait shoot.  The top is made of decking wood, and we store the table under a cherry tree.  During my 30-minute Creative Photography Challenge, I noticed that a cherry had fallen on to the table top.  I liked how the lines of the decking wood gave a great perspective and an interesting background.  The highlights are only on the cherry, which helps draw your eye to it.

"Lily spadix" by Derek Gale

Finally, here’s an image taken inside rather than outside.  The spadix of this Peace Lily plant was in a very shady place on the window sill.  I spot metered just for the spadix, and allowed the background, which was much brighter, to become over-exposed.  It simplifies the image, and that allows us to concentrate on the complex structure of the spadix.

So, there’s the final selection of my 30-minute challenge images.  As I said previously, why not set yourself a challenge, and see what you can produce?  It’s great fun, and improves your photography.

I’ve noticed that there is a common feature in all these images – except one.  What’s the common feature, and which is the odd one out?  No prizes – but I will blog to say who got it right! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

PS   There are places on my Savernake Forest Photo Trek on September 4th.  You can book online here.

Tripping the light fantastic: Part 2

July 22, 2010

In an earlier post I talked about light, and how altering it, or using it to the best advantage, can make images more dramatic.  In this post I’ll continue the discussion, and give you some more examples. 

If you think about it, the fundamental state of nature, or a photographic studio, is darkness.  You have to add light to be able to see or to take photographs.  Most of the time, the things we see are illuminated by a combination of direct light and reflected light coming from a number of directions. Interesting things happen if you restrict the light to just one direction. 

"Silhouette 1" by Derek Gale

In this creative portrait there’s no light reaching the side of the person that’s facing the camera.  The background has been carefully lit so that it comes out plain white, and the person comes out as a plain black silhouette; the ultimate black and white image!  It’s a modern take on the classic cut out paper technique developed in 18th century France. 

"Silhouette 2" by Derek. Gale

This image uses a similar method, but has a completely different end result.  Here the black background isn’t lit, and the single light is turned to point towards the subject from behind.  It gives a fantastic light outline to the person’s hair and face, but shows no other facial detail.  It’s a great look, and pretty difficult to achieve by cutting paper! 

"Portrait with attitude" by Derek Gale

In this image the light is still coming from one direction (high to the left), but it’s now lighting the person’s face.  It’s quite a focused light, so the background hasn’t been lit very much, and the person’s hair makes a good background to the profile of their face.  The position of their arm and hand, and their direct expression, gives this individual portrait quite a bit of “attitude”. 

Once you get out of the studio there’s generally quite a bit more light around.  It’s harder to get the light coming from the direction you want unless you bring your own light along in the form of a portable electronic flash.  

"Jumping boy" by Derek Gale

With this jumping boy image, I used a wireless off-camera flash low to the right to give the look I wanted.  He’s lit mostly by the flash, which is strongly directional.  I’ve set the exposure so that the background, lit by ambient light, comes out quite dark.  To get him high in the frame I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint, and there’s just a bit of movement blur, which gives more dynamism to the image. 

"Stylish portrait" by Derek Gale

Sometimes you don’t have access to portable flash, and you have to use the flash on the camera to give you the directional light you want.  This image was taken with a compact digital camera, a Panasonic Lumix FX-500, which has a very small built-in flash unit.  It’s part of my continuing  project to see just what sort of creative images you can take with these cameras.  I chose a dark barn to give me enough chance for the small flash to be effective, and moved the camera during the exposure.  It’s given an image with a really good mix of blur and sharpness, and excellent separation of the subject and background.  The flash catchlights in her stylish sunglasses make it look like a paparazzi shot of a film star. 

So, control of the light direction gives you better images.  To give me even more control I’ve recently bought some radio flash triggers.  These will allow me to fire my flash units from much further away, even in daylight.  I’ll be posting some example images soon, so why not subscribe to my blog so you’re the first to know? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Calling all Trekkies – once again

July 15, 2010

It was easy to choose a subject for this week’s blog post; last week’s Photo Trek at Buscot Park.  We were at Buscot Park near Faringdon again, courtesy of Lord Faringdon, and it all came together very well.  The weather, the location, and most importantly the Trek delegates, were excellent.  They had a wide range of camera types, and a wide range of photographic experience.  

"Wobbly glass abstract" by Derek Gale

Just before the Trek started I found a nice bit of wobbly glass and took an abstract image with my trusty Panasonic Lumix FX-500.  To find out where it was taken you’ll have to visit Buscot Park for yourselves. 

We started our Photo Trek near the Ticket Office, assigned the delegates their photographic projects for the afternoon, and moved on to a clump of trees nearby.  Even on a bright sunny day like last Saturday it’s a great place to learn about the use of long shutter speeds and camera movement.  It’s also chance for the delegates to gain the confidence to move the camera off the fully automatic settings.  We had great fun with camera movement, subject movement and combining them with flash. 

"Invisible arms" by Derek Gale

Here’s one of the delegates with invisible arms!  It was taken with a long shutter speed as he was waving his arms up and down.  There’s a little pop of flash as well to give some light in his eyes. 

Our next port of call was the Four Seasons Walled Garden.  It was full of colour and texture, and the sea hollies were a particular feature. 

"Sea Holly circle" by Derek Gale

The wind was quite strong which helped the delegates to learn about the challenges of close-up plant photography, as a lot of the plants were moving around quite a lot.  The sea  hollies are very useful to show the changes that occur as a subject is viewed with the light falling directly onto it, or shining from behind it. 

A new feature of the gardens at Buscot this year is the small army of terracotta warriors.  They were a real hit with the group, as they allow practice at portrait photography, pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field. 

"Leica compact warrior" by Derek Gale

Here’s a delegate hard at work with his Leica compact… 

"Face to face" by Derek Gale

.. and here’s another delegate getting “up close and personal” with another terracotta warrior. 

"Buscot Warriors" by Derek Gale

This what I meant about pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field.  The front warrior is nicely sharp, and the others in the background are becoming less and less sharp. 

"Close-up shooting" by Derek Gale

As mentioned previously, the delegates each had a photographic project during the afternoon.   The project here was “Red”.   It really shows just how close some digital compact cameras will focus – there is a red leaf on the wooden bench.  This macro focusing ability opens up a wealth of creative photography opportunities.  You can see the image being taken here, and other images taken by the Buscot Park Photo Trek delegates on my website. 

All too soon we had to return to the start point as our time at Buscot was up.  I’d had a great afternoon, and so, according to their feedback, had the delegates.  

We’re back at Buscot Park for another Photo Trek on Aug 14th. It’s fully booked, but there’s space on our 1-day Photo Trek on the Ridgeway near Wantage on July 31st.  Loads of chances for great landscape images. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

30-minute challenge

July 8, 2010

I’m running a Photo Trek at Buscot Park this weekend, so this morning, to get into the swing of things, I set myself a little challenge.  It was to take as many creative images as I could in just 30 minutes.  To give myself the best chance I chose a very versatile lens; a Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX macro.  This lens focuses really closely, and at its maximum aperture it has a very shallow depth of field, allowing you to be very selective about which part of the image is in focus.  It’s great for the simple images that I love taking. 

"Dandelion macro" by Derek Gale

This shot of a dandelion shows that very well.  Just part of the flower is sharp and the rest, including the background, is nicely out of focus.  The sky was cloudy when I took the image, with a lovely diffuse light, making it easy to keep the highlights under control.   

"Painted wind turbine" by Derek Gale

This image is highly relevant to the village I live in, as there’s a wind farm here.  What it seems to show is a child’s drawing of a wind turbine, in a yellow field, against a blue sky.  It’s actually some cracked paint on the yellow arrow of a “Footpath” sign.  I loved the contrast of the colours, and the fact that there’s some little tiny pieces of lichen growing in the cracks. 

"Your number's up" by Derek Gale

This image is a bit more complicated.  I’m amazed at just how much information telegraph poles have on them these days.  There are labels all over them, and as this one is shared with the electricity supply there’s also a big “Danger of Death” sign.  I loved the way the nail in the top sign was bent over when it was put in, the fact that nothing quite lines up, and the decaying state of the letter and number labels in the bottom half of the frame.  What do all these labels mean? 

"Reflector" by Derek Gale

This shot tells a story.  At the end of the street there’s a black and white post with red and white reflectors on it.  It’s to protect a household gas pressure-reduction valve which is in a big green box.  A few years ago someone drove over the box, and broke the valve completely off.  The resulting gas leak was very noisy, and they were lucky it didn’t catch fire.  The post is there to stop it happening again.  The image, of the red reflector, shows just how much control over the in-focus areas the macro lens gives you, and how getting in close can produce great pattern images.  

"Abstract clematis" by Derek Gale

With this final image, of a clematis “Montana” plant with lovely purple flowers, I used a long shutter speed (1/5 of a second), and moved the camera during the exposure.  The blurry mixture of purple and green has given a sort of “Wimbledon” feel to this abstract image. 

So, there’s a selection of my 30-minute challenge images; I took lots more.  Why not set yourself a challenge, and see what you can produce? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

PS   There’s a few places left on my Buscot Park Photo Trek on July 10th.  Call me on 01793 783859 to book.

The Shadows, but no Cliff!

July 1, 2010

This post is about shadows, but first here’s a question which follows on from my last blog post: 

Just how simple can an image be, and still tell a story?  Here’s an example… 

"Beach/ball" by Derek Gale

This ball was at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsular.  At first glance it’s just a ball on the ground, but if you look more closely you can see it’s wet sand with seashells, so it’s on a beach near the sea.  You can tell the direction of the sea from the pattern of the sand.  There’s a distinct blue colour reflected in the sand at the top of the image, so the sky is blue.  There’s also a hard shadow beneath the ball, so you can tell the sun is out and it’s near midday.  It’s apparently simple, but actually there’s lots of information there.  What the image doesn’t tell you is why the ball was on its own in the middle of a spectacular 2 mile beach! 

Anyway, to get back to shadows…. 

We were talking to a friend last week, and he was telling us about his granddaughter, aged around 2, who on a recent sunny day discovered she had this strange thing attached to her feet: her shadow.  She was transfixed by it, and we as adults should try to look at shadows in that same, “It’s a thing I’ve never seen before” way. 

"Shadow 1" by Derek Gale

Here’s a shot where the late evening sun has thrown a long shadow.  The dips in the ground have distorted the shadow into a curious shape.  It’s a bit like the shape of the robots in the Studio Ghibli animation “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”.  These images are fun to take, and often moving just a few yards can give a completely different image

I like images that show the effect of something on its environment, rather than directly showing the thing itself. 

"Shadow 2" by Derek Gale

This image is of a “ship in a bottle” at a hotel we stayed at.  The sun was shining through the thick glass of the bottle and throwing a shadow of the ship on to the window sill.  The glass distorted the shadow and also refracted the sunlight into swirling shapes.  I waited until the shadow was at its longest to get the best shot. 

"Shadow 4" by Derek Gale

 With creative photography, you often have to wait until the right time of day, or even the right time of year.  This shadow of some railings on concrete steps only looked “just right” for about 30 minutes.  If it’s not “just right” it’s well worth making a mental note to go back at a different time, to get the best image. 

If you don’t want to wait, or can’t wait, then you can make your own shadows and control how they look. 

"Shadow 3" by Derek Gale

For this image I used a Nikon SB800 flash inside a wicker basket.  The flash was fitted with a green filter, and I fired it wirelessly using Nikon’s CLS system.  The holes in the basket caused an interesting pattern to be thrown on to the ceiling.  I took lots, some of which were very abstract, but preferred this one that had the lampshade in it.  It gives a sense of scale to the pattern, and if you stretch your imagination a bit (or a lot!), it looks like a flying saucer landing on a strange green planet… 

So, shadows are fun, and you don’t always need to wait for the right weather to get good shadow images. 

Remember: Think like a 2-year-old! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk