“The kids are alright”

Posted February 24, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: black & white, Portrait photography, Studio Photography

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In 1965 The Who had a song called, “The kids are alright”.  As a portrait photographer it’s great working with kids.  Until they are about 4 years old they’ll just do what they want to do.  It makes for exciting shoots, as I’m never sure of what they are going to do next.  It’s also fun working out the lighting, and sometimes it’s best to leave it simple and fairly broad.

Here are some examples from a recent shoot with two kids of different ages…

"Eyes only" by Derek Gale

This shot was taken with a single big softbox quite close to the little boy, which gave pretty even lighting.  He was looking up at his reflection in a curved mirror on the studio ceiling.  The mirror was put there for just this sort of shot.  His eyes said everything, so I didn’t need to show the rest of his face.

"Looking right" by Derek Gale

With this image the lighting is the same.  It was important to catch her great expression and smile without her looking at the camera.  A simple request for her to “Look at Mum and laugh”, gave the perfect balance of  spontaneity and control.  Her face is quite central, but that’s because I wanted to include her hair, which was falling nicely over her shoulders.

“Twirling hair” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve asked her to spin round so her hair was moving.  It usually takes a few tries to get a good shape, but we nailed it first time. It’s great the way her hair has wound round to the back of her head.  You can really see the energy she was putting into getting it right. 

"Cute expression" by Derek Gale

After the studio portraits we moved outside.  As the weather was kind, with soft overcast light, I managed to get some good outdoor images.  Using a wide aperture gave a good soft background, which allowed me to concentrate on his cute expression and eyes.

So yes, taking portraits of kids is great fun.  Don’t worry if you aren’t one, or don’t have any, I’m happy shooting adults too!

Cheers,

Derek                                       www.galephotography.co.uk

A visit to Diagon Alley

Posted February 17, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: Creative Photography, Photo Tips, Travel Photography

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In the Harry Potter wizard books, (that you may have heard about), there’s a place called Diagon Alley where wizards go to shop/bank and buy ice-creams.  It’s a magical and powerful place, and has a counterpart in creative photography; the diagonal composition line.  Think of it as your Diagonal Ally (groan).

Let me explain…

"Diagonal 1" by Derek Gale

Images with strong subject lines, in this case going from one corner to the opposite corner, help the viewer by giving them a lead into the image.  This aircraft image is an extreme example.  The diagonal line from bottom left to top right takes us straight up to the aircraft.  It looks as if it’s climbing steeply to fly off to a far away place.  The plane is almost at the corner of the frame, so we get an idea that it’s leaving our space.

"Diagonal Angel" by Derek Gale

Unlike a plane the “Angel of the North” is firmly rooted, but I’ve used the diagonal here as well.  The wings going from top right to bottom left give the image its basic shape, allowing me to use the sun as a balancing element.  I used a 20mm wide-angle lens in order to exaggerate the perspective. 

"Diagonal Pembroke" by Derek Gale

Wings again but on another aircraft rather than a statue.  This is a privately owned Percival Pembroke C-1 that’s preserved and gives flying displays.  As it passed along the display line it was banked to the left to give the spectators the best view.  I’ve cropped the image so that the wings go along a diagonal from top left to bottom right.  It makes the image much stronger.   Taken with a 400mm telephoto lens.

"Diagonal jump" by Derek Gale

Diagonal lines also work in creative portrait photography.  This portrait of someone jumping has a diagonal line made by his right arm and left leg.  It’s not as pronounced as the other images. It’s more of a Z-shape than a straight line, but it still adds to the impact of the image.  I’ve used a low viewpoint and a wide-angle lens so it’s hard to see just how high off the ground he is.

"Diagonal champagne" by Derek Gale

This final example, taken at Avebury, doesn’t have such an extreme diagonal line as the others.  It still shows just how much better the composition is with a diagonal.  The whole feel of the image is more relaxed than it would be if the bottle was vertical.  The torn foil, open bottle, and minimal contents let us know it was very relaxed.  I used a long lens and wide aperture to make the image as simple as possible.

Remember to visit Diagon Alley with your own images!

On a non-diagonal note, I’ve entered the Macallan Masters of Photography competition.  The theme is “Great Journeys”.  The prize winners will be decided by popular vote, then by expert judging.  There are some fantastic travel images well worth having a look at.  You need to be over 18 to enter the site, as it’s sponsored by a whisky company. Once you’ve entered your date of birth you can then click back on to my blog and vote for my images here, here, here and here.  If you would like to of course…

Cheers,

Derek                               www.galephotography.co.uk

“Water, water, everywhere.”

Posted February 10, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: Creative Photography, Landscape Photography, Travel Photography

Tags: , , , ,

In Coleridge’s epic poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, one verse goes…

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

Well, there is water everywhere, and it’s a great source for creative photography.  It can be still, moving slowly, moving rapidly, or frozen solid.  It can be creative or destructive, and it’s effect on light is fantastic.

"Grand Canyon puddle" by Derek Gale

This image is my favourite from a series I took of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  There had been a huge rain shower, and it was just clearing away.  The reflection of the dead tree in the newly-formed puddle was broken up by the ripples from the raindrops.  To me it summed up the way the Grand Canyon was made, and so the actual canyon didn’t need to be in the shot.

"Window condensation" by Derek Gale

Condensation is another form of still water, and the effect of surface tension on the window has caused these water droplets to stay separate.  It’s produced a beautiful pattern image.  Each droplet acts as a lens, and each gives their own view of the world outside the window.  As with many pattern images it’s hard to get an idea of the scale of the droplets. 

"Christchurch fountain" by Derek Gale

Once water starts moving it really comes to life.  This is a close up of the famous dandelion fountain by the banks of the river Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand.  It looks like an explosion of water, and the highlights off the moving surface are lovely.  The 135mm lens has given a bit of perspective compression which adds to the drama.

"Stream waterfall" by Derek Gale

Longer shutter speeds give a wonderful blur to fast-moving water.  This image is of just a small part of a stream waterfall, and was taken at 1/8 of a second. A little pop of flash gave highlights “like the stars of the night sky” off some of the water drops.

"Watering a poppy head" by Derek Gale

We think of watering the garden as a gentle pursuit.  As you can see, what happens when water droplets hit a flower head is anything but gentle!   The drop has splashed on the poppy head like a small explosion, and you can imagine the pressure the water exerts on its surface.  The shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, and the water was moving so fast that it hasn’t stopped the movement at all.  The use of a 600mm long telephoto lens has isolated the seed head to make the image nice and simple.

As you can see water is everywhere, vital for life, and great for creative photography. 

Cheers, 

Derek                                           www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s an ill wind…

Posted February 3, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: black & white, Car Photography, Creative Photography, Landscape Photography, Photographic Training

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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

The Car’s the Star: Part 2

Posted January 27, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: Car Photography, Creative Photography, Photo Tips

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If, like me, you love cars especially classic cars, you will have probably got frustrated trying to photograph them at car shows.  They aren’t always parked in the best place, you have little control over the lighting, and there always seems to be other people in the way!

"Pininfarina Spider in Bristol" by Derek Gale

Here’s an example.  It’s a very nice Pininfarina spidereuropa 2000i (mine!) at last’s year’s Bristol Italian Auto Moto Festival.  It was taken in a brief moment when there was no-one walking past or looking at it.  The Festival is held on the street in the old part of Bristol, so there are often distracting buildings in the background, as can be seen here.  In case you were wondering, the roads and the bank were closed, so I wasn’t parked illegally!

Under these circumstances, instead of trying to get the whole car, it’s better to capture the details that are often missed.  These little details, such as badges, are often works of art in themselves.  Getting in close allows you to hide (or creatively use) the background, lose people, and control the light a bit more.

"Lamborghini Espada badge" by Derek Gale

This is the badge of a fabulous Lamborghini Espada in classic Italian red.   The Espada was Lamborghini’s 4-seat supercar, and was made between 1968 and 1978.  The badge shows the bull that they adopted as their symbol.  Some say it’s a dig at Ferrari, whose badge symbol is a prancing horse, because bulls are more powerful than horses!  The badge and strake on the bonnet are like an arrow pointing forwards. 

"Vignale coachbuilder's badge" by Derek Gale

As well as the badge of a car’s manufacturer, you may also find the badge of the coachbuilder.  Coachbuilders are the people who build bodies for cars/coaches/lorries etc.  This is a Vignale badge on a very rare Triumph Italia 2000.  The car was designed by Michelotti, and built in Turin by Vignale on Triumph TR3 running gear.  The badge is a lovely piece of enamelling featuring the Mole Antoelliana, a famous Turin landmark, and the “V”  shape reflects the shape of the Turin coat of arms.

"Triumph Italia badge" by Derek Gale

The badge denoting the car model is another beautiful bit of design and engineering.  It’s delightful how the stroke of the “t” lines up with the “2” of 2000, and how the zeros get smaller towards the right.  This level of detailing helps make the car look as if it’s moving even when it’s standing still.  The reflected building in this image gives a good curved zigzag line which adds to the sense of movement.

"Superleggera badge" by Derek Gale

This badge denotes the method that’s been used to construct the car’s body.  “Superleggera” means “Super lightweight”, and is a system of steel tubes covered with aluminium panels to give the final shape of the car.  The system was developed by the coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring in Milan.  Their own badge is also in the shot.  This image of the badge and panel gap really benefitted from a diagonal composition.  I was careful to ensure that the reflection in the background didn’t break the line of the Touring badge.

"VT badge" by Derek Gale

This final badge is on the back of a supercar.  It’s only when you look closely at the badges that you see the tiny little features that the designer has put in.  On the bottom left of each letter there’s a small stroke off to the left that gives the impression of speed; it’s a very clever bit of iconography.  Any ideas as to what car it’s on?  Obviously it’s Italian, as it was at an Italian car show.

You don’t need a DSLR to be a creative photographer.  All of these images were taken with a Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact digital camera set on wide-angle and macro.  It’s all down to the photographer.

Cheers,

Derek.                           www.galephotography.co.uk

Photographic training update – mini blog post

Posted January 25, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: Creative Photography, Equipment tips, Landscape Photography, Photo Trek, Photographic Training, Photographic workshops

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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

Taking the wide, and long, view.

Posted January 20, 2011 by Derek Gale
Categories: Car Photography, Creative Photography, Landscape Photography

Tags: , , , ,

A client came to me recently with a very special job.  It was to turn his eighty-four RAW image files into a stunning High Dynamic Range (HDR) panorama, to place 24 priceless family images around it, and then produce a large, framed, composite print.

Some of the family images were very damaged and needed some serious editing time to rebuild them.  Some were faded, or taken under challenging lighting conditions, and again needed a lot of photo restoration to make them look right. 

"Before and after" by Derek Gale

This image is an example.  The original had been folded in half at some point, and had serious creasing, a partly missing background, and other problems.  The new “Content-aware” Fill tool in Photoshop CS5 was very useful here, although it doesn’t work miracles, so I did quite a bit a regular cloning as well.

The HDR panorama side was very interesting as well.  One issue with HDR is that the final result can look somewhat unreal.  The challenge comes when you want the benefits of HDR without the unreality.

"Rusty Morris 8" by Derek Gale

This image, of a very rusty old Morris 8, shows the classic unreal HDR style, as it looks almost like a cartoon.  (The car is not for sale but you can buy a print of the image from me).  This treatment, whilst interesting with the right images, was not appropriate for the composite image I was working on.  For that image I chose a more photorealistic look which was more natural. 

The final HDR panorama needed quite a bit of editing too.  As the images for the panorama were taken over a reasonably long period, some of the sheep in the foreground had moved around quite a bit, and had to be de-ghosted/cloned so they were nice and tidy.  As well as the moving sheep, the lighting had changed while the separate images were being exposed, so the brightness variation across the image needed to be levelled out.

"Panorama section" by Derek Gale

The HDR panorama, made from so many separate images, was quite a large file in Photoshop at over 350 Megabytes.  It was amazing just how much detail could be seen in it.  This image is of a section of the final image and is just 0.4% of the total panorama area.  There’s good texture on the mountain and plenty of detail in the fields in the foreground.

"Family panorama" by Derek Gale

The final image was printed to the agreed size, mounted on Foamex to give it rigidity, and then framed with a complementary moulding.  It was a fascinating exercise to do the work, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  Much more importantly, so was my client.

That’s the “wide” part of my post title, so what about the “long” part.  It’s about taking a long-term view of the potential uses of the images you are shooting today.  A lot of the images surrounding the HDR panorama were old.  Some were well over 50 years old.  You need to be keeping the images you take now in a form that will enable people in 50 years time to do a similar thing to what I’ve done here.  The best form for that is a good print kept in a cool, dry, dark place.  We don’t know that we will be able to read a digital file from a CD/DVD in 50 years, but in 50 years we will still be able to see a printed image.

Cheers,

Derek                     www.galephotography.co.uk

* All non-Gale Photography images are copyright their respective owners, and were used with permission.