Posted tagged ‘camera shake’

Autumn: Season of colour & movement.

September 30, 2010

It’s now officially autumn here in the UK, and I for one am looking forward to the fabulous colours that the season can offer.  The brightest colours in autumn come from the Acers (maples), so a while ago I went to Westonbirt Arboretum which has a fabulous collection of them. 

On my arrival the weather was horrible!  The sky was grey, it was very windy, and it was raining.  The thick clouds made it very dark, which I thought wasn’t going to help with my creative photography.  However, in this case I was wrong… 

I realised that I would not be able to take hand-held images, as the light level was too low, so I set up my trusty Uniloc tripod.  It’s perfect for an uneven ground surface as its legs are independently adjustable.  The wind was causing the trees to move about, so I decided to use that movement creatively.   Selecting a red maple as my subject, I used a small aperture to give a shutter speed of a few seconds, and during the exposure gave a pop of flash from a hand-held flash gun. 

"Blurry maple 1" by Derek Gale

 As you can see, the movement during some of the long exposure gave a misty red feel to the leaves.  The pop of flash helped give some sharpness, and stopped a falling leaf in mid-drop! 

I liked the effect of the movement so I chose another maple, an orange one this time, to see just how misty I could get it. 

"Blurry maple 2" by Derek Gale

 This exposure, of about 5 seconds, gave a sort of “time -average” of where the leaves were as they moved.  The tree’s trunk is nice and sharp – it didn’t move – but the leaves have become very abstract.  It looks more like the smoke from a coloured flare than a tree.  What this type of image shows is that photographs aren’t just about a “moment in time”, they’re also about the effect of time. 

In the first image I used a pop of flash to give a little bit of sharpness along with the movement blur.  In the next image the flash is more important. 

"Blurry maple 3" by Derek Gale

 Having removed the camera from the tripod, I tried a number of images where I moved the camera around during the exposure, and fired the on-camera flash.  This image is of lots of different coloured maple leaves at my feet.  I didn’t want a really long exposures, so I opened up the lens aperture and set the shutter speed to about 1/15 of  a second.  I quickly moved the camera in a semi-circle during the exposure. The camera movement has given a fabulous shape, and the flash has recorded a sharp image of the leaves underneath the blur. 

"Blurry maple 4" by Derek Gale

 Selecting some different leaves, and moving the camera up and down instead of in a semi-circle, gave an even more abstract image. The wet leaves lit by the flash shone back and gave a bit more contrast.  Here the fact that it was raining really helped! 

So, despite my initial misgivings about the weather, and how it might compromise my creative photography, I was pleased with my images.  Next time I go to Westonbirt I’ll make sure it’s raining!
We’re currently putting together the programme for next year’s Photo Treks and Photography Training, where you can learn photographic techniques like these.  Do subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to be kept up to date with developments.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

June 24, 2010

Now that Summer’s officially here (hooray!) it’s really tempting to go off to the seaside with your camera.  After all, anywhere where there’s a boundary, such as the sea and the land, gives interesting images.  I prefer the coast to the seaside (there’s a difference), and love the light you get off the water.

"Sea stripes" by Derek Gale

Here the gentle waves are lapping onto a very flat beach on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.  I used a telephoto lens, carefully supported to avoid camera shake, to turn the waves into a series of stripes.  The breaking wave at the bottom right also breaks the pattern, giving more interest.

The weather is not always so kind, and if you have lots of salt spray flying about it can damage sensitive cameras and lenses, so you do need to be careful.

"Big wave" by Derek Gale

This huge wave crashing into the rocks, also in South Wales, was spectacular to see, and I chose the lowest viewpoint I could to make it look as big as possible.  This meant I was getting covered in spray, so I was very careful about how long I exposed my lens to it.  I kept my camera well covered under my coat and only took the image, handheld, at the last moment, rapidly putting my camera away again afterwards.  600mm lenses are expensive!  

"Cliff strata" by Derek Gale

It’s safer to avoid that salty stuff in the air by moving away from the beach and shooting the land that’s been eroded by the waves.  These cliff strata make fabulous patterns.  I chose a viewpoint that removed everything that gave clues as to how big it was.  It made the scale of the image difficult to determine; adding ambiguity to images adds interest.  

"Stone diagonal" by Derek Gale

Another way to add interest is to add simplicity.  This composition is, at first glance, very simple with the rounded stone sitting on a diagonal line, but the longer you look at it the more complexity you see.  It’s a sort of “Zen” image.

I had to change my lens here, and could not put it down on the rocks because of the sand that might have got into it; not a good thing. 

"Gower beach" by Derek Gale

Here, I’ve shot the beach from above and included the people to give a sense of its scale.  They are on their own, which tells a story, and also makes you ask questions.  Again although it looks simple at first, there’s a suprising amount of complexity in this image.  The shape of the area they are standing in is mirrored by the wave arriving at the bottom left, which gives more symmetry to this asymmetric image, and even though the sky is not in the shot, you can tell that it’s blue, as there’s a blue reflection in the water.

So, as you can see, you can get great shots by the sea, but you need know how to look for them.  I’m thinking of running a one-day/weekend coastal photography training course/Photo Trek in South Wales.  If you are interested in that do e-mail me, and I’ll keep you up to date with developments.



“Wiltshire’s Favourite Radio Photographer”!

December 17, 2009

Now, given that there are no pictures on the radio, it may seem odd to you that I am “Wiltshire’s Favourite Radio Photographer” but please bear with me.  After all, in the days when “the wireless” meant the radio instead of 802.11n or Bluetooth, there was a BBC radio programme called “Educating Archie” that had a ventriloquist.   “I swear that I heard his lips move…”  

"Christmas Present labels" by Gale Photography

"Christmas Present labels" by Gale Photography

You will recall that the last two blog posts have been all about creative Christmas photography.  Well, you can now listen to those tips on the radio as well as reading them.   They’re called “Cold Snaps” (I didn’t think of the title!), and are being broadcast on BBC Radio Wiltshire.  You can listen to my dulcet tones on Annie Weston’s splendid Sunday afternoon programme on 20th December between 1pm and 4pm.   

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

"Christmas presents" by Gale Photography

The first set of creative Christmas photography tips was broadcast on Sunday 13th December, so you’ve missed them!   Well actually you haven’t, because you can listen again on the BBC website.  The first Tip starts at 43m 13 secs into the programme.  You’ll have to be quick though as the listen again programme changes every week! 

"Creative camera movement" by Gale Photography

"Creative camera movement" by Gale Photography

So, you can read the creative photography tips on the blog, listen to them on the radio, and come along to one of our training courses.  So there’s no excuse for your Christmas photographs not being as good as they can be! 

 Have a great Christmas!!!

“They’re just holiday snaps.”

October 7, 2009

How many times do I hear people say, “They’re just holiday snaps”?   Well, your holidays are the time off you’ve earned as a result of all the hard work you’ve done during the rest of the year, so shouldn’t your holiday photographs be the best they can be!   Luckily, there are techniques you can learn to get great holiday images. 

Here are some of my recent holiday images.  They were all taken with a digital compact camera, which shows that you don’t need a fancy camera to get great holiday images.

Holiday images need to capture the feelings you had on your holiday, or recreate the experiences.  This image of the sky at Whitstable in Kent sums up my feelings of relaxation on that day, and also the superb view.

sea-&-sky by Gale Photography

"Sky at Whitstable" by Gale Photography

Once you have chosen your subject, you should then compose your shot to give the greatest impact.

"O2 arena at dusk" by Gale Photography

"O2 Arena at dusk" by Gale Photography

With this image of the O2 Arena in London I’ve waited till sunset so I got the arena’s lights with an interesting sky behind the arena’s supports.  I’ve then cropped off  some of the foreground to give the best composition.  This is the “fill the frame only with interesting stuff” rule.

Some of our trips on holiday involve going to historic buildings where photography can be a bit of a challenge.  Here’s an example from Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral ceiling by Gale Photography

Canterbury Cathedral ceiling by Gale Photography

I wanted to capture the fantastic vaulted ceiling on the “Bell Harry Tower”, but the exposure set by the camera meant that hand-holding wasn’t practical because of camera shake.  The little flash on my Lumix digital compact camera wasn’t anywhere near powerful enough to light it, so what could I do?  Easy !!  Put the camera on the floor underneath the centre of the ceiling, set the self-timer, press the shutter, and move out of the way.  The result is a sharp image showing just what I wanted.

"Ightam Mote panorama" by Gale Photography

"Ightham Mote panorama" by Gale Photography

Finally, there are times when you just can’t get everything in because your camera’s lens isn’t wide enough, or you just can’t get far enough away.  I had this problem at Ightham Mote in Kent.  I couldn’t fit it all in because a hedge stopped me going far enough back.  The solution was to take a number of images (6 I think) that covered the whole of the building, and then stitch them together afterwards to give one complete image of the whole building.  Sounds a bit complicated but it’s actually very easy.  I used a free program called Autostitch, but there are plenty of others available.

All of these tips, and plenty more, are covered in our “The Creative Eye” photographic training course which we’re running in the New Year.  Our website has details of the dates and venues.

A right Royal event!

August 27, 2009

Avid readers of the blog will know that I was due to run a “Creative Eye” photographic workshop at the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) HQ in Bath.  Well, it’s happened and was very enjoyable!

We had a full group of 10, and they had a good range of photographic skill and experience.  All came with a willingness to learn, and have fun while they did it.  Here they are, photographed during the “creative use of camera shake” exercise…

RPS camera shake exercise

Fenton House, the RPS HQ, has an excellent range of spaces, and lots of photographic opportunities.  One of the training course exercises involved looking for textures and patterns, and we were spoilt for choice.

RPS pattern 2

This shot of a Venetian blind is an optical illusion.  It is rectangular, with parallel sides, but your eyes keep wanting to make the diagonal lines straighter, so the image edges start to look crooked.  Try looking at it for a minute!

One of the exercises involved the group taking a “creative group photo”; this was hilarious.  They arranged themselves on the floor of Fenton House’s exhibition space, and let their feet do the talking.

RPS group exercise

All in all I, and more importantly the delegates, thought the “Creative Eye” workshop went really well.  We are planning to run this photographic workshop with the RPS again next year, so keep your eyes on the RPS website, or on our Training and Treks pages.

Shake, rattle and roll!

July 9, 2009

Many of you have got digital cameras.  

Given that almost every mobile phone now has a camera built into it, and also that everyone seems to have at least one digital compact camera in their household, I think there must be many more digital cameras in the UK now than there are people.  That’s a very interesting statistic.   It would be interesting to know how many of the people who have a digital camera have read the manual or been on a photographic training course…

creative camera movement blog image

The automatic focusing and exposure systems on newer cameras are simply extraordinary.  They can identify faces, allow you to choose which person is the most important in a group, and then follow that person around the frame as they move.  Some cameras even take two pictures in quick succession, compare them, and then tell you if the people in the pictures have blinked, thus giving you a chance to retake it.  10 years ago this would all have seemed like science fiction.

Despite all this marvellous technology there are still an awful lot of images out there that can be improved.  The main problem I see has been around for ages; it’s camera shake.  Camera shake gives you images that are not sharp, so you aren’t getting the benefit of all those shiny new pixels.  Here’s an example that I took for this post:

camera shake

So how can you stop camera shake?   The best way is to support the camera firmly during the exposure, and use the shortest shutter speed you can.  The trend for cameras to have a viewing screen on the back, and to not have an optical viewfinder hasn’t helped with supporting the camera.  Using the screen on the back forces you to hold the camera away from your body and this increases the risk of camera shake.  If you can, rest the camera on a wall, shelf, tree, or anything that will stop it from moving around as you take the picture.  I’ve even used the roof of my car – with the engine turned off of course. 

The second trend that increases the risk of camera shake is zooming the lens in order to get closer.  The more you zoom the more risk of shake there is.  If you can, it’s better to get closer to your subject by moving yourself and then using less zoom.   In these examples the first image shows shake, as I was further away and zoomed the lens as much as it would go.  Like the door and tiles image above, these two images were taken to deliberately to show how it can go wrong!

zoom shake 1

With this image I got closer to the flowers and used less zoom.  As you can see, the result is much sharper.

zoom shake 2

Digital cameras make it much easier to practice, so give it a try!

Once you have mastered the art of taking pictures without camera shake, you can move on to using it in a creative way, as shown in the first image of this post, and also below.

creative shake 1 watermarked

I’ll be writing more tips on improving your photography in future, so do keep checking the blog, or subscribe so you don’t miss any.