Archive for October 2010

One light portraits

October 28, 2010

It’s quite common for people to ask me about studio lighting.  Typically they’ll ask about the minimum photographic kit they need to get great portraits.  My reply is simple, “One light and a camera”.  After all, the sun is only one light…

Here’s a selection of images taken using just one light.  Most are in my portrait photography studio near Swindon, and the last one is taken on location using the “strobist” off-camera flash technique.

"One light #1" by Derek Gale

Here the single studio light is slightly below the subject’s eye line, and this gives a great edge light to her neck and face.  There’s enough light reaching her right eye to give a good catch light, which lifts her eye nicely out of the shadow.  The light was set up so nothing reached the background, hence it’s completely black.

"One light #2" by Derek Gale

This is using the same light but with a red gel on it.  I asked the subject to turn her head a bit towards me.  As a result of that very small movement, we now concentrate on her left eye instead.  As with the previous image I’ve cropped it to a vertical letterbox shape.  This gives a better line across the image frame.

"One light #3" by Derek Gale

I’ve moved my viewpoint so that I am looking straight down on her hair.  It’s being lit in a glancing way so that the texture has been picked out very clearly.  The vertical letterbox crop and off-centre composition with lots of dark space add mystery to the image.

"One light #4" by Derek Gale

This studio shot uses one light fitted with soft box, which acts as a light diffuser.  The diffused light directly on her face gives even areas of light and shade, with very soft shadows  It’s a completely different treatment to the previous images.  I’ve reduced the colour saturation in Photoshop to give the right mood.

"One light #5"

This final image is from a location portrait shoot in a disused quarry in the Forest of Dean.  The light is coming from a single remotely-triggered flash off to the left.  It’s going straight down the subject’s nose line.   The unlit side of the large block of stone makes a great background to her face.  The flash was quite close, and the area was fairly dark, so there’s no contribution to the exposure from the daylight.

So, you just need one light!

If you want to learn how to take more creative images, and to learn the composition techniques I’ve used here, why not book on to my “The Creative Eye” course near Wantage, Oxfordshire on Saturday 13th November?

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

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You might not think so…

October 21, 2010

… but if you have a flat bed scanner you have a digital camera.  It’s got a light source, a light sensor, and builds up an image from individual elements.  You can put objects on the scanner, scan them, and then use the resulting digital files in creative compositions

As I understand it, photography means “Writing with Light”, (the name of the Gale Photography newsletter – subscribe here!), so scanning is photography, but as Bones from Star Trek would say, “It’s photography, but not as we know it”.

"Scanned maple leaf" by Derek Gale

This maple leaf was scanned, its outline cut out, and then had a graduated background added in Photoshop.  The background was made of colours found in the leaf.  It was nice and simple to do, and it made an excellent greetings card.

"Scanned Angel" by Derek Gale

This wire christmas decoration was done in the same way.  Scanners often have a large depth of field, so you can get a “macro” shot of a small object with everything in crisp focus.  The decoration was only about 2 inches high.

"Scanned orange & hand" by Derek Gale

Scanners aren’t very good at imaging things that move, especially people.  But it can be done.  Here I’ve cut an orange and placed it cut side down on the scanner.  I held my hand over the orange, and started the scan.  While it was scanning I moved my hand as if I was using a juicer.  I held a wicker basket lid over my hand as a background.  The movement of my fingers makes for an interesting image.  If you do this sort of thing remember to give your scanner a wipe afterwards!

"3 fishes & Great Court roof" by Derek Gale

Here I’ve scanned a little wooden fish into Photoshop, and then copied and resized to give 3 versions.  I’ve dropped them on to a background which was an image of the  roof of the Great Court at the British Museum.  I made the background a bit wobbly to make it look as if it was water, and there we have it, a geodesic fishbowl!

"Scanned flowers blue" by Derek Gale

Finally, these images are part of my “Blue Florals” series of Fine Art images.  I took a series of flowers and scanned them.  It was important to avoid squashing them, so I scanned with the lid off and held a black cloth over the flowers.  The background is a shot of some blue glass with lots of Gaussian blur added.  The  text colour is a colour from the flower.  The text was taken (with permission from the publishers – Dorling Kindersley) from a plant encyclopedia.

So, if you have a scanner gathering dust on the corner of your desk, turn it on and take some photographs!

Cheers,

Derek                             www.galephotography.co.uk

A Canadian adventure

October 15, 2010

Well, we’re back from our 2 week trip to Canada.  Still feeling a bit jet-lagged after the flight from Toronto, but we had a great time over there.  Canada is a huge country, and we only had the time to travel in the province of Ontario.  Mind you, it is 2.5 times larger than Texas!

Before we left I had a long discussion with myself about what cameras to take; I was concerned about the weight and size of my “fast glass” lenses.  I eventually chose my Nikon DSLR and a 28-75 f2.8 zoom, with my Lumix FX-500 digital compact for when I was walking and wanted to carry a very light camera.

"Canadian Maple leaf" by Derek Gale

As you will have seen from previous posts, I really like the little Lumix, and it’s great for creative photography.  Here whilst on a walking trail in Algonquin Provincial Park, I’ve set the camera to Macro and held a red maple leaf up between me and the sun.

"Avro Lancaster in the rain" by Derek Gale

I’m into aircraft, both historic and modern, and made sure to take a trip to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.  The museum owns one of only 2 flying Avro Lancasters in the world.  The other is in the UK, and is flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.  The Canadian one is different in that you can pay for a flight in it; $2000 though… I was lucky to go on a flying day, and even though it was raining hard they were still flying.  The image is through a wet window, and the softening caused by the rain adds a bit of nostalgia.

"Bluecoats at Niagara falls" by Derek Gale

The museum isn’t far from one of Canada’s premier tourist attractions; Niagara Falls.  It’s a fantastic sight, even with all the hotels and other touristy stuff around it.  This shot was from the “Maid of the Mist”, a boat that goes very close to the base of the falls.  I loved the contrast between the falls and the blue rain coats everyone was given to keep dry (ish).

"Bee at Niagara Falls" by Derek Gale

On the promenade overlooking the falls I spotted this bee having a rest.  It may have got wet from the spray and needed to dry out.  Once again I’ve set the Lumix on Macro to get a nice sharp bee with the falls in the background.

"Halloween Pumpkins in Canada" by Derek Gale

Autumn/Fall in Canada is pumpkin season.  There were fields of them and loads of roadside stalls selling them.  These were on a table in the reconstructed village of “Sainte Marie among the Hurons”.  It was very dark so needed a 1/4 of a second exposure.  The window sill came in very useful as a temporary camera support.

"Beaver lake reflection" by Derek Gale

I mentioned Algonquin Park at the start of this blog.  Fabulous place!  We didn’t have long enough there, but managed to fit in an 11km trail which took 5 and a half hours to complete.  We lunched, accompanied by very tame Gray Jays, by the side of a beaver lake.  We walked across the dam to get to our lunch spot, a detail of which is featured above.  It’s just amazing how much change these animals bring to an area.  Streams turn to lakes, lakes silt up and turn into swamps, then into meadows.

"Moose in Algonquin Park" by Derek Gale

Finally, as we were heading out of the park at dusk we saw this bull moose.  He had a fine set of antlers and probably weighed about 700 lbs!  My 200mm lens would have been useful here…

In summary, a superb trip and a great place for creative photography.

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

They’re not all there…

October 7, 2010

One question that’s come up in discussions about portrait photography, is whether it’s necessary for a portrait to show the whole of a person’s face, or even to show their face at all?  In a previous blog post I explored the use of shadows and out of focus areas in creative portrait photography, and I’d like to develop that a bit more. 

"Part portrait 3" by Derek Gale

In this outdoor portrait I’ve cropped the image at the centre of the subject’s nose.  It helps to contrast their skin tones with the tones of the rusty corrugated metal behind them.  It also puts the person in a more interesting place in the frame, with much more space above them than the space they take up. 

"Part portrait 2" by Derek Gale

This is a horizontal treatment of the same compositional technique.  Here the empty space was black, so it was better to convert the image into black and white rather than leaving it in colour.  You get a real idea of the boy’s character even though you can’t see all of his face. 

"Part portrait 1" by Derek Gale

This is an even tighter crop on a girl’s face.  It’s said that the eyes are the “windows to the soul”, so I’ve really concentrated on a single eye.  As it was so strikingly blue, I left the eye in colour and converted the rest of the image to B&W.  This splash of colour helps to draw your eye to the girl’s eye. 

"Part portrait 6" by Derek Gale

So how small a part of a person can we show and still show their character?  This shot of an eye, taken with a macro lens, shows a good line of communication between the subject and the viewer.  The fact that the person’s “laughter lines” aren’t creased tells you that they aren’t smiling.  The direct gaze, with a large pupil, shows confidence. 

So what if we don’t show their face at all? 

"Part portrait 4" by Derek Gale

To me this is still a portrait even though the child’s face isn’t visible.  There’s a delightful contrast between the girl’s dress and the chunky boots; a contrast between smartness; “I’m being photographed”, and practicality; “It’s raining”.  Her parents would immediately recognise it as her. 

So, it’s clear to me that you can show a person’s character in a portrait without showing the whole face.  Set yourself a project to take a person’s portrait without showing their face at all! 

You can learn how to look for images like this, and learn creative compositional techniques, on my “The Creative Eye” course on November 13th at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage.  You can book your place here

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk