Archive for the ‘Equipment tips’ category

Panasonic GF1 first impressions

March 24, 2011

Normally I blog about photography rather than cameras, but this post is a bit different.

Panasonic’s highly regarded GF1 micro 4/3rds camera has been discontinued, and a new model, the GF2, has replaced it.  So why the report of a GF1?  Well, it’s because I’ve just bought one!  I reckon that buying an outgoing model is a sensible option as it gets significantly discounted, and offers most of the performance of the new model.  It’s true of the GF1.  I also prefer the control dials on the GF1 to the touch screen controls on the GF2.

So what’s special about the GF1?  Well, it’s small but packs a real punch.  It takes interchangeable lenses and the sensor is much bigger than a compact digital camera so the image quality is there.  It’s on Alamy’s list of approved cameras, so it must be good.

"Vibrant colour!" by Derek Gale

Here’s a shot with the kit 14-45mm lens of some pegs, a sheet and the blue sky.  It’s really crisp and punchy.  Using the rear screen to compose isn’t too bad in the sun, so the lack of an optical viewfinder shouldn’t be a real problem.  Panasonic do sell an electronic viewfinder, but it’s not too good, and very pricey.

"GF1 stones" by Derek Gale

This still life of stones in a small bowl shows a lot of subtle tones.  It will focus to about 1 foot, and the Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) makes using a small lens aperture easy without recourse to a tripod.

"GF1 abstract" by Derek Gale

For this abstract plant image, using a lot of camera movement during the exposure, I turned the OIS system off.   There’s no point trying to get a blurry image if the camera’s trying to stop you!

"GF1 fruit" by Derek Gale

The GF1 has a hot shoe for fitting a flash gun, or in this case a Yongnuo radio flash trigger controlling a Nikon SB-800 flash.  The flash was bounced off a grey ceiling to control the reflections, especially those off the shiny lemon.  I’ve done a bit of colour control and vignetting in Photoshop CS5 to give a nice old-fashioned feel to the image.

"GF1 glass elephant" by Derek Gale

This last image is of a glass elephant and was set up in low light to see how the live view viewfinder coped.  It was OK.  As with the previous image I’ve fired a remote flash using a radio trigger.  The flash was about 18 inches below and behind the elephant, which back-lit it very well.

So what are my impressions?  So far, very good!  I’m about to get the fabled 20mm f1.7 prime lens, so will give you a report about that at a later date.

Cheers,

Derek                                        www.galephotography.co.uk

Photographic training update – mini blog post

January 25, 2011

Just updated my photography training calendar with some new Photo Treks at Buscot Park near Faringdon. 

You can get more info and book your place here.

"Buscot Park Tulips" by Derek Gale

See you soon!

Cheers,

Derek                                 www.galephotography.co.uk

Here’s to the next 10 years!

January 6, 2011

It’s my 10th anniversary!  On Jan 1st 2011 Gale Photography celebrated being in business for 10 whole years. Woo hoo!!!

It’s been great fun working with all the changes since 2001.  Back then it was hard to predict just how much the technology of photography would change in just a few short years.  The digital revolution was underway but many photographers still used film.  Today the default is digital, and there are very few users of film. 

When I went professional I used a Rolleiflex 2.8f medium format film camera.  It was, and is, a fabulous tool ( I still have it), but it only took 12 images on one film, so it meant that I had to change films quite often.  I shot colour on the Rollei, but as my wedding photography involved black and white images as well, I also had to have a 35mm film camera loaded with B&W film.  I also carried a 2 spare 35mm cameras loaded with colour film.  It was all very heavy, and all the wedding guests shot film too.

"It's a film camera!" by Derek Gale

Digital arrived in my professional photography life in the middle of 2001, and my first digital camera was a compact.  The Kodak DC4800 “Professional Digital Imaging System” was a 3 million pixel camera that cost an eye-watering £600.  The 128Mb compact flash card I needed for it cost an even more eye-watering £175!!  To put that into perspective, nowadays a typical 8Gb compact flash card, (64 times more capacity) is around £20. 

"3 mega pixels" by Derek Gale

I did use the Kodak the following week for an urgent commercial photography job and it was great.  This shot was done in camera with a colour-filtered Vivitar 283 flashgun on a long lead lighting the background, and another 283 on the camera lighting the bag in the foreground. What you can’t see is my assistant standing up a ladder out of shot pouring the grain into the sack.

2003 saw the really big change when I got my first digital SLR.   It was the oddly named Pentax *istD.  This 6Mp camera cost me £1200 just for the body, and would be considered to have a very low specification today.  From the first day of using it I was inspired!  I loved the freedom, the flexibility, and the “insurance”.  Insurance?  Well, with a film camera you send away the precious original negative to be processed/printed, and if it gets lost you’re in trouble. With a digital camera you only ever send a copy, so you increase your customers’ confidence.

"Ian & car" by Derek Gale

The really great thing about digital that I found so liberating was the ability to experiment and see the result immediately.  This portrait of a guy and his beloved Range Rover is an example.  I was able to slightly rearrange the composition and check it, then alter the exposure and check it again, to give the image I wanted.  With film this would have been much more difficult.  Digital makes the whole photographic experience much more interactive and much more fun.

"Dog portrait" by Derek Gale

In 2006 I moved from Pentax to Nikon as I wanted a wider range of lenses than Pentax offered, and I’ve stayed with Nikon since then.  The fast response and great lenses let me get candid images, of people or their pets, that would have been very hard in the Rollieflex days.

"Hands" by Derek Gale

That’s some of the technology changes over the last 10 years, but what’s stayed the same?  Well, the need to be as photographically creative as possible and to offer customers; the best possible images, the best customer experience, and the best value, have been constants.  Without offering these the equipment used is irrelevant.

I’ve met some fantastic people over the last 10 years, and it’s been a real pleasure to be part of your families’ lives, if only for a short time.  Thank you!

I’m looking forward to the next 10 years!

Cheers,

Derek    www.galephotography.co.uk

Gone walkabout!

November 26, 2010

I like walking and I like photography.  On a walk it’s great to have a wide variety of lens focal lengths; wide-angle to telephoto, to give maximum photographic flexibility.  I’ve got a Lumix superzoom compact digital camera that’s really light, but the online photo library I use won’t accept images from that camera.  To produce images that the library will accept I need to use a DSLR.  My DSLR lenses all have large maximum apertures, and as a result they’re very heavy – not great if you are on a walk! 

I’ve been looking for a “walkabout” lens for a while, and bought one last weekend.  A “walkabout” lens is one that removes the need to keep changing lenses while you are walking about, as it has a large focal length range.  The lens I bought is a Tamron 28-300mm.  On my crop sensor Nikon DSLRs it has an equivalent focal length range of 42-450mm.  It’s not that wide-angle, but it’s very light and has great telephoto “reach”.  I decided to test it out…

"Jackdaw with bacon" by Derek Gale

This shot, of a jackdaw having its breakfast bacon, is a perfect example of the lens’ “reach”.  It’s perched on our chimney stack, and was posing nicely in the morning sunshine.  Taken from ground level @ 300mm.

The lens doesn’t have a large maximum aperture, and isn’t image-stabilised, but that just means my camera stabilisation technique will need to be up to scratch.  Lots of leaning on posts, walls, fences, car roofs, etc.

"Car roof bokeh" by Derek Gale

Rather than using a car roof to stabilise my camera, here’s a shot of my car roof with frost on it.  I used the longest focal length again, and the largest aperture, to get a small depth of field.  I like the look of the out of focus areas or “bokeh”.

"Tree bokeh" by Derek Gale

Here’s another “bokeh” image.  The morning sun melted the frost on a tree in the garden, giving lovely sunlit water droplets.  I’ve set the aperture to its maximum again and focused on some branches in the foreground.  The out of focus highlights in the background look beautiful.

"Clothes peg & contrail" by Derek Gale

You will have noticed from previous blog posts that I like simple images.  I saw the clothes peg and a drying frosty car cover against the blue sky, and thought it would make an interesting wider angle image.  As I was taking it a plane flew past high up leaving a white contrail.  I quickly lined up the peg and the trail and took a few shots.  It looked best cropped to a letterbox format.

"Sunset glass" by Derek Gale

This last image is of the sunset a couple of days ago.  The sky went an attractive colour but needed something else to make it interesting.  I took a shot of the sky and a hedge through the wobbly glass of the bathroom window.  Now, instead of being a straight shot of the plain sunset sky, it’s a beautiful abstract of interlocking colours and shapes.

Thus far I am pleased with the results from my new lens.  It won’t replace my professional specification lenses for creative portrait photography, but as long as I work within its limits I’m sure it’s going to be a very useful part of my photographic arsenal.  It’s going to be especially useful on my Photo Treks – photography training “al fresco”.

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

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

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