Posted tagged ‘bokeh’

A Capital compact camera: Panasonic GF1 in London

April 7, 2011

In my last post I said I was taking my Panasonic GF1 to London when I dropped off the Royal Academy stuff.  My artworks were safely delivered to the RA, so here are some  images from that day.  

Regarding the post title, the GF1 is not a really a “compact camera”, but with the 20mm pancake lens on it’s pretty small, so it’s compact in that sense.  That makes it very pocketable, and inconspicuous to use.  The 20mm lens is the equivalent of a 40mm lens on a 35mm film camera.  Using a fixed focal length lens sounds as if it should be restricting, but it means you look very hard at composition, and adjust your position to get it just right, rather than just changing the focal length if you are using a zoom lens.  It’s actually very liberating.

"Jumping pigeon" by Derek Gale

There are lots of pigeons in London!  There were a few pecking round us at lunchtime whilst we were sat in Victoria Gardens.  I held the camera with one hand, finger ready on the shutter button, and then waved my other hand to make the pigeons react.

"Wings ready" by Derek Gale

I really like how different the two images are given it’s the same bit of ground, and the same bird(s).  In one image there’s a sense of space and freedom, whereas in the other it’s all rather crowded, and there’s a problem with the neighbours.

"Trees: Tate Modern" by Derek Gale

The pigeon images used a short shutter speed to stop the action.  For  this image, of birch trees outside the Tate Modern art gallery, I’ve used a long shutter speed (1/6th of a second) and moved the camera down during the exposure.  The white tree trunks and red/brown bricks combine to give an ethereal image with lovely twirling shapes.

"Tate sunflower seeds" by Derek Gale

Inside Tate Modern was Ai Weiwei’s installation “Sunflower seeds”.  There are over 100 million (!) hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds in the turbine hall.  You can read more about it on Tate Modern’s website. I dropped down nearly to floor level to give a different view, and used a wide aperture to give sharpness on one area of seeds, whilst letting the other seeds go softly out of focus.  Concentrating on the corner of the mass of porcelain seeds gave a good idea of the scale of the work.

"Tate silhouette" by Derek Gale

This final image, looking up towards the exit of the Tate’s turbine hall, was shot hand held with the lens wide open at f1.7.  The fast maximum aperture on the 20mm pancake lens gives you the creative flexibility which makes this sort of image possible.

In a way the day in London was a personal Photo Trek.  I was in an interesting place and looking for photographic opportunities.  If you would like to do that yourself, and get “al fresco” photography training from me at the same time, then why not come along to one of my 2011 Photo Treks?  You can get more information on the Photo Treks page of the website.


Derek Gale                                          


A right Royal event: Part 2

March 31, 2011

OK, let me state at the start that this blog post is not about the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.  No, it’s about the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition, in London from 7th June to 15th August 2011.

Their website says, “The Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art exhibition. Now in its 242nd year, the exhibition continues the tradition of showcasing work by both emerging and established artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film.”     Note the word “photography“.

To have work accepted by the Royal Academy for their Summer Exhibition is a real achievement, as they get over 10,ooo works submitted.  As they say, “Nothing ventured…” 

"Bokeh 073" by Derek Gale

I decided to enter two of my Fine Art Photography “Invisible Beauty” Bokeh series.  I’ve mentioned these before, and they don’t look like photographs at all.  As you can see from the image above, they are much more like abstract paintings.  The images I am entering are printed on aluminium laminate and are 1 metre wide, and there’s the complication…  Works have to be delivered to the Academy in an unwrapped/unpackaged condition, which rules out most couriers, so I’m taking them myself.

"Bokeh 048" by Derek Gale

It was interesting deciding what category they were, as different types of works need to be delivered on different days.  After some discussion with the RA it we agreed that they were, as unframed images mounted on aluminium, best categorised as “Unglazed works”. 

To keep them in great condition I’ve had to get some corner protectors and side protection foam.  With the foam on, the two works just fit into my exhibition board carrying case; it might have been made for them.  There’s no parking at the RA so it’s down to public transport. I’ve sorted out a route which involves no changes of Tube line, which will be useful with a large bag to lug around.

So off to the RA I go, and I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on.  Wish me luck!



PS   Once the works are safely delivered, I’ll be free to spend some time in London doing some street photography with my Panasonic GF1 and 20mm lens.  It’s a perfect combination for that.

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”.



Now you see me. Now you don’t.

February 11, 2010

I always aim to look beyond the obvious and try out new creative photography ideas.   

This image was taken on a location portrait shoot.  I saw the cobweb hanging down, and thought it would make a good frame for the subject.  It did, but then I realised it would be better if I used a shallow depth of field to throw the person out of focus.  I opened up the lens aperture,  reduced the flash power, and focused tightly on the cobweb.
"Cobweb portrait" -by Gale Photography

"Cobweb portrait" -by Gale Photography

It turned the image into something a bit more mysterious and abstract.  You can see that there is a person there, you can see that they are looking at you, but you can’t see any detail.

With creative portrait photography, sometimes you don’t even need to show the person directly at all.  You can tell a story in an image, or provoke the viewer into imagining their own story.

"Shadow portrait" by Gale Photography

"Shadow portrait" by Gale Photography

With this location portrait shoot image I used an off-camera flash to throw a big shadow on the wall of the room.  We look at the architecture and the pose, ask ourselves questions, and start making up a story to fit it.  Is the person relaxed or cross?  What is the room they are in?

Sometimes it’s just worth trying an old idea too.  Here’s a creative use of the common photographic mistake where you have an object growing out of the subject’s head.   Here the person is behind a sculpture, and just their hand is visible growing out of what seems to be a cut off tree trunk.

"The hand in the quarry" by Gale Photography

"The hand in the quarry" by Gale Photography

Actually it raises questions about what is real and what is unreal.  The sculpture, part of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, is a mould of the quarry face behind it.  It’s an exact copy but made of fibreglass instead of rock.  The hand is wearing a flesh-coloured glove, so is it really a person or another replica?  If it is a person, then because the glove covers up the person’s hand, in one sense we are seeing the replica rather the person.

We discuss the meaning of images at my photographic training courses, so enough of this philosophising! 

You can also experience a creative portrait shoot with me. Why not book yourself a session?



Creative Christmas Photography: Episode 1

December 4, 2009

Ever wondered why your Christmas photographs lack a little pizzazz or atmosphere? 

Want to do it better? 

I’ve got some tips to help you, but firstly here’s some very important advice. 

If you are going away for Christmas then ensure that you’ve packed your digital camera.  Sounds simple, but it’s easy to forget.  Make sure your digital camera battery is fully charged – and take your spare battery and the charger.  Delete or transfer all of the files from your memory cards, and take spare cards – they’re really cheap these days.   You don’t want to miss the best shot because your card is full! 

Here’s the first tip… 

Photography Tip #1.  Get in close and fill the frame 

It’s very tempting to try and get everything about Christmas in just one photograph.  The classic image is the whole family round the Christmas lunch table, or round the tree.  By all means take that image, (in fact take three or four to avoid “blinks”), but also try and get lots of those magic little details that make up the whole; single tree decorations, the pile of presents, a nativity scene, mistletoe, sweets/chocolates, Christmas candles, holly berries, the wreath on the door, crackers, tinsel, the remains of the turkey, the flame on the Christmas pudding, in fact anything that says “Christmas”.  For the really small things you may need to set your camera to close-up or macro mode.  

"Christmas tree decoration" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree decoration" by Gale Photography

Make sure when you are getting these details that you fill the frame with what you want to record.  Look at the subject, decide what the most important thing to record is, and record just that.  These simple compositions can work really well, and having unrelated objects in images can make them less successful. 

"Christmas wreath" by Gale Photography

"Christmas wreath" by Gale Photography

When you put your Christmas photographs together on a page, or show them on your digital media, they’ll tell a great story about your Christmas. 

Photography Tip #2. Christmas Tree Lights 

Photographing Christmas tree lights at home is something that can be tricky to do. The secret is to balance the lighting in the room and the tree lights.  You don’t need to use flash, so switch it off; the lights are already illuminated!  Put the camera on a tripod or table, and use the self-timer (to reduce vibration) and a long exposure so that you get some light from the room lights well as properly recording the tree lights.   Then try turning the room lights off and photographing the lights by themselves, and seeing how different it looks.  You may need to experiment with the White Balance setting (check your camera’s manual to see how to change this) to give the right colours. 

"Christmas tree lights" by Gale Photography

"Christmas tree lights" by Gale Photography

 Lights also make great images if they are very out of focus.  Try focussing on a close object so the lights go out of focus, and then reframe to make the lights your subject.  

"Christmas Tree lights bokeh" by Gale Photography

"Christmas Tree lights bokeh" by Gale Photography

Tip within a tip:  If you want to photograph displays of Christmas lights on the outside of a house, then your car makes a great “tripod”.  It’s great for getting sharper images without camera shake.  Turn off the engine, to reduce vibrations, and rest the camera on the car’s roof.  Again, you don’t need the camera’s flash turned on. The best time to photograph lights outside is at twilight after the sun has set, so there will still be a bit of light in the sky. 

So, there’s the first couple of tips for better Christmas photography.  Check again next week (or subscribe to our blog feed) for the next set of tips… 

…and have a great Christmas!!!

Showing my metal

August 7, 2009

You will have noticed from an earlier post that I’ve produced some new abstract Fine Art images using the “Bokeh” technique.  I’ve done some ruthless editing, and got it down to about just 50 or so of my favourites.  Working on the premise that the rest of the world has a right to know about these images, I’ve joined the Swindon Open Studios (SOS) weekend in September.  “Today Swindon, tomorrow the World!”

Invisible Beauty 36 for blog

SOS is run over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of September between 11am and 6pm each day, and is an Art exhibition with a difference; it’s interactive!  During the w/e you can visit a number of locations, see the work of  many artists, and perhaps even buy something.  At each location the artist(s) exhibiting there will be available to talk to about their work.  I’m going to be at Location 25; that’s Sculptor Pat Elmore’s house and studio at Nutford Lodge, Longcot in South Oxfordshire.  It’s easy to get to with lots of free parking.

Invisible Beauty 48 for blog

I’ll be exhibiting some large (over 1 metre wide) images from the “Invisible Beauty” series, that are printed directly on to aluminium, hence the terrible pun in the title of this post.  This type of printing really suits these  abstract images.  They are lightweight, durable, and even waterproof, which means you can hang them almost anywhere. 

Invisible Beauty 53 for blog

Do come along to have a chat about these images – or photography in general.  As well as Pat and me, there are three other artists exhibiting at Nutford Lodge, so there’s lots to see.  Pat’s also serving teas!

To find out more about SOS check out their website:

Visit the Swindon Open Studios website

See you in September!!

Fine Art Photography awards

June 24, 2009

Last week was the Master Photographers’ Association (MPA) Regional Fine Art Photography awards, held near Bristol.   The competition, for creative and artistic images, was judged by Peter Ellis, an ex-chairman of the MPA, and a respected international photography judge. 

Peter awarded two of my images prizes.  The first of these was a view of a couple on the beach at Rhossili on Gower.  I chose a very narrow crop for this image as it really lifted the composition, and helped to show the romantic isolation of the couple.  The image is effectively in three sections; the breaking waves, the receding waves, and the sand with the couple.  The small dark triangle in the top-right corner stops your eye from going right out of the frame.  We cover this sort of composition in our photography training courses.

FA-111-9551 for blog

The other image was one of my “Bokeh” series.  Taken with a long telephoto lens, it’s of a leafless weeping silver birch tree covered in water droplets after the frost that was on it had melted in the sun.  The sunlight shining through the droplets caused a myriad of colours due to diffraction.  The branches made a lovely pattern across these highlights, and gave the image some “compositional energy”. 

FA-999-9551 for blog

 These “Bokeh” images are really beautiful and I’m looking forward to doing even more.