Archive for the ‘Photographic Training’ category

It’s an ill wind…

February 3, 2011

I was driving home along a rural road one evening last week, and came across a burning van in a lay by.   The driver was OK, but the van was completely destroyed.  It seems to have been an under bonnet fuel fire that caused it. 

Going past it again in daylight a few days later, I thought the van did look a bit incongruous stuck next to a beautiful area of the Lambourn Downs, but that it may have creative photography possibilities.

"Burnt van HDR" by Derek Gale

My first shots concentrated on the whole van, as I liked the diagonal flame patterns on the sides.  This image is an HDR composite of various exposures.  It was amazing just how fast rust had formed on the exposed steel.  The heat had burnt off all the protective coatings on the metal, and the van had been sprayed with water.  I decided to take a closer look…

"Burnt landscape 1"

To me, the burnt paint on the van looked like a parched landscape from above.  With this sort of photography, where all the clues about scale have been excluded, it’s hard to determine the size of things.  Is it from miles away or is it something very close?

"Burnt landscape 2" by Derek Gale

It was fascinating how much variation in shape and colour there was on the van’s surface.  The colours ranged from rust red to blue-white.  The texture varied as well.  This area of the bonnet had lots of scrape marks from some sort of tool.  The curve made it look a bit like a planet floating in space.

"Burnt landscape 3" by Derek Gale

Some areas look more like images of giant gas planets taken from a passing satellite.  The areas of colour swirled into each other.  I’m sure a chemist who studies fires would be able to explain the processes involved, but how it ended up looking like this doesn’t really matter.  All that matters is that it did end up looking like this.

"Burnt landscape 4"

Other areas looked more structured.  The lines in this image could be roads in a town, or paintings on the wall of a cave.  Perhaps they are ski runs in the snow.  Anything with straight lines or a grid always looks more artificial than natural. 

"Burnt landscape 5" by Derek Gale

This final image is a volcanic island floating in a twinkling sea.  Cloud shadows make darker areas on the water.  It was taken from the small plane that’s due to land on the small airstrip on the north of the island.  It is, of course, none of these things.  It’s another shot of paint on the burnt out van, but these images let us free our imagination, and we can read many things into them.

The van fire was a huge inconvenience to the driver, and he has my sympathy, but it opened up a wealth of photographic possibilities.  It really shows that it’s “An ill wind that blows nobody any good.”

My “The Creative Eye” course, and 1-2-1 training can help you look for the beautiful in the apparently mundane.

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

“If you stop learning you stop growing”

November 11, 2010

Continuing to learn is especially important in creative photography because there are so many different subject areas and photographic styles, not to mention the changes in technology. I try to continuously develop my own photography and, as today is my birthday, it’s time for a bit of reflection on some of the things I’ve learnt in the past year.

"Biker" by Derek Gale

This shot, from an advanced studio photography course I attended, shows that sometimes you need lots of lights to get a great shot.  The person was lit with just 2 lights, it was the bike that was the challenge.  It was lit by light reflecting off a large white sheet that was itself lit with 5 lights.  This technique gave a better quality of illumination on the bike’s shiny surfaces, and I’m using it in my commissioned work for clients.

"Below Niagara HDR" by Derek Gale

Digital photography involves the use of computers, and these days keeping up to date with developments in image editing software is vital.  I was happy with the composition of this shot of Niagara Falls from below, after all my “The Creative Eye” course includes sections on composition, but I wanted to add a bit more punch to the image.  I used the latest version of Adobe Photoshop to make a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image from a single RAW file.  It’s a technique I learned this year, and it’s great for giving more detail in the shadow areas while keeping the highlight detail.

"Wild strawberry" by Derek Gale

Setting yourself photographic challenges is a great way to learn, and this year I challenged myself to take as many creative images as I could in 30 minutes.  I blogged about this previously, and this is another image from that shoot.  A simple shot of a wild strawberry taken with a 50mm Sigma macro lens.  Getting effective simple shots takes a lot of practice.

"Horse's eye" by Derek Gale

Pushing the boundaries of your cameras is also a great way to learn.  I use a Lumix FX-500 digital compact camera, and it’s a great photographic tool.  It has a surprising close-up ability, and by experimenting I’ve found that it’s ideal for close up portraits.  This shot, of a horse’s eye, shows that you don’t need to show the whole of the face to show the subject well.  To me there’s a sadness in there.

"Ashmolean statue" by Derek Gale

This year I’ve also been inspired by other photographers’ work, and by other works of art.  We can learn so much by looking at paintings, sculpture (and the way it’s displayed), architecture, film and TV.  The newly revised Ashmolean museum in Oxford is fabulous, and I loved the way this sculpture was silhouetted against the sun on the window blinds.

"Sunbathing potatoes" by Derek Gale

Sometimes by being a photographer we learn things about subjects other than photography.  I saw these through a “potting shed” window in the grounds of Chastleton House in Oxfordshire.  At first glance they looked like eggs, although I did wonder why eggs would be there.  They are in fact potatoes, and they are getting a good start to growing by being left in the sun for a while.  They did look as if they were sunbathing!

If my learning this year has inspired you to learn then my “The Creative Eye” course could be ideal.   The next course is on Sat 13th Nov 2010 at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage.  Online sales have ended, but you can still book by calling 01793 783859.

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

Show and tell!

September 23, 2010

So here it is, my report from the Royal County of Berkshire Show (aka The Newbury Show) which happened last weekend (18/19 Sep 2010).   Our stand was in the Shopping Pavilion down near the BBC Berkshire performance area.  It was a very busy weekend, and the threatened rain didn’t happen, which was a pleasant surprise.  

"Newbury stand" by Derek Gale

We had some very complimentary remarks about our display, and the acrylic block in the centre of the table really seemed to catch people’s eyes.  Several visitors to the stand knew the person featured!  As well as meeting lots of new people, and discussing portrait photography and photography training with them, it was good to catch up with some existing clients as well.  The Mum of one 2-year-old was very excited to see images of him on the stand. 

"Newbury info stand" by Derek Gale

Before the show started it was really interesting to wander round the showground with my trusty Lumix Fx-500, and capture a few candid shots of people getting their stands ready.  I liked the way the “Information” board was at such an angle. 

"Wickerman 1" by Derek Gale

It was also an opportunity to photograph the impressive 38 feet tall Oxford Wickerman, which is being burnt on Nov 6th in Oxford to raise money for the charity “Rosy”.  The early morning sun on Saturday really made it stand out against the blue sky. 

"Wickerman 2" by Derek Gale

A bit later it had clouded over, so I moved behind the sculpture and shot it with the morning light behind it.  The silhouette makes for a completely different type of image.  It’s a great example of why the direction of the light is so important in photography. 

"Newbury chicken" by Derek Gale

Finally, here’s a portrait of a fine-looking chicken.  It was in a cage in the livestock area, but the small lens of the Lumix just fitted in between the bars.  I used a pop of flash to highlight the bird, and exposed the background so it was nice and bright.  I like the bird’s expression, and the way it’s still looking at me even though it’s a profile shot.  It’s a reminder that the Show is still very much an active agricultural show.

It was a great show, and we’re already thinking about our display for next year.  See you there!

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

Calling all Trekkies: the story continues…

August 18, 2010

Once again I’m pleased to report a successful Photo Trek at Buscot Park.  It was last weekend and we had a “full house”.  These photographic training events are great fun, and Buscot Park is a perfect venue for them.  The group was terrific, with a wide range of photographic experience, and equipment ranging from a digital compact camera, to a digital SLR and lots of lenses.  I assigned everyone their afternoon’s photographic projects, and we were off. 

"Buscot swirl" by Derek Gale

Once again, we started under the trees near the garden entrance.  The exercise we do here is great for breaking the ice.  It gets everyone off the “Fully Automatic” setting, and shows them the freedom that digital cameras give you.  The rapid camera movement I’ve used here made for a fabulous off-centre swirl.  

"Buscot garden entrance" by Derek Gale

It has to be said that the weather at this Buscot Park Photo Trek wasn’t as good as it has been previously.  The relatively bright sky made the exposure compensation exercise even more important.  With this image of the garden entrance I tried to get as little of the sky in the shot as possible.  Even though I did that, I had to use some positive Exposure Compensation to get the details right in the stonework.  

"Dramatic Buscot sky" by Derek Gale

Moving through to the walled garden, the sky was looking very threatening.  It was great for photography, as the light was changing all the time.  We had a really good discussion about exposure, and one delegate was dressed perfectly, in white and black, to demonstrate the fact that meters always want to turn things mid-grey. 

"Buscot Trekkies" by Derek Gale

The delegates loved the terracotta warriors.   The sun came out as we reached them and it gave a really good range of light angles on the faces of the warriors.  They are very easy to photograph; they don’t move and never get bored with modelling! 

"Dramatic Buscot House" by Derek Gale

The clouds got even more threatening as we reached the house itself.  The angling sunlight across the front of the house, with the dark rainclouds behind, made for a stunning image.  There was an almost machine gun sound of shutters firing, and then, as quickly as it had come out, the sun went in.  You must always take your photographic chances… 

…and then it rained.  Luckily it was nearly the end of the Trek, so we sheltered under a handy tree and looked at everyone’s project images.  There were some stunning shots, and everyone had produced something they were pleased with. 

"Rainy Buscot water garden" by Derek Gale

A quick look back down the famous water garden, and another Buscot Photo Trek was over.  It was our last Trek there for this year, but we hope to run some more next year, so keep checking our website for details, or sign up to our e-mail newsletter and we’ll keep you informed. 

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