Posted tagged ‘cars’

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.




The Car’s the Star: Part 2

January 27, 2011

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.



The Car’s the Star!

August 5, 2010

You may have noticed from previous blog posts that I am a bit of a fan of cars.  I own a classic Pininfarina Spidereuropa.  It sounds glamorous, but it’s really just an old FIAT in a party dress.  

The shapes of cars are fascinating subjects for creative photography, and I love the little details. 

"Jaguar C-type bonnet" by Derek Gale

This is the bonnet of a Jaguar C-type Le Mans racing car from the 1950’s.  I was attracted to the louvres – cut into the bonnet to help engine cooling – and the way that the highlights in the background made a complementary pattern.  I used a long lens and a wide aperture to give great bokeh

"Le Mans Audi grime" by Derek Gale

Often, selecting just a part of a car can tell a story.  Take this image for example.  It’s part of the front/side bodywork of the modern Le Mans 24 Hour Race-winning Audi R8.  You can see just how effective the aerodynamics of the car were, because the oil from other cars has spread in perfect lines on the Audi’s curves.  Not really pretty, but it tells us so much more about the car than completely clean bodywork. 

"Maserati Birdcage reflection" by Derek Gale

This car, the Maserati Birdcage concept car, does have completely clean bodywork.  It’s very shiny, and reflecting the chequered flag pattern of the marquee the car was under.  It’s made a great pattern/abstract shot, which also reflects the fabulous racing history of the original Maserati Birdcage. 

"Mercedes star" by Derek Gale

Bonnet/radiator badges on cars are a perfect example of branding.  This 1930’s Mercedes badge really sums up everything about the car; quality engineering, style without (too much) ostentation, and exclusiveness.  I don’t need to show the rest of the car.  You get enough of an idea of how it is from the out of focus bonnet hinges, and the split windscreen in the background. 

"American car tail light" by Derek Gale

This car did have style with a lot of ostentation.  It’s a 1950’s Cadillac, and was made in the era where cars looked a lot like jet fighters or rockets.  These tail lights have it all; lots of chrome, space-age design, and they are “loud and proud”.  I used a long telephoto lens to throw the second light in the background out of focus.  This lets us concentrate on the foreground light. 

"Bentley Mk VI bonnet" by Derek Gale

Lest we forget, cars are made for driving, and not just for admiring their design.  This image is of my view from the passenger seat of a friend’s early 1950’s Bentley Mark VI Park Ward convertible.  It shows an empty open road, the sheen of the coachbuilt bonnet reflecting the sky, and the proud Bentley “Flying B” pointing the way. You can follow the line of the bonnet, and that of the road, to that magical place called “just around the corner”, that makes you want to keep on driving. 

Cars and photography; the perfect partners. 



What can you do with a marshmallow?

February 4, 2010

Digital photography is wonderful!  It allows you to experiment with your images when you take them, and experiment with them after you’ve taken them.  You can be as creative as you want, and there don’t seem to be limits to what you can do.  It’s really all down to your imagination. 

Take this marshmallow for example… 

"Marshmallow volcano" by Gale Photography

"Marshmallow volcano" by Gale Photography

I was trying some creative lighting techniques in the studio, and came up with the idea of illuminating the marshmallow from the inside.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but it worked really well.  I reckon it made the marshmallow look like a  mini “volcano”.  Just a bit of contrast enhancement in Photoshop, and it was done. 

You don’t need to go to extent of using a studio to get creative images.  Here I’ve photographed a car rear light cluster using a cheap optical toy – an insect eye kaleidoscope – on a digital compact camera.  It’s made a really interesting abstract image. 

"Insect eye lamp" by Gale Photography

"Insect eye lamp" by Gale Photography

Again there’s not much post-processing done in Photoshop, just a bit of contrast enhancement, resizing and sharpening.  I used my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact camera for this image, as the lens fitted nicely inside the toy.  It’s a good example of the fact that you don’t always need, (or as in this case, can’t use!!), a complex DSLR to get great images. 

The last image is a bit more complex as it’s actually three images combined.  The basic images are of smoke, which has been backlit in the studio with a remote flash.  You need to be very delicate with your movements and breathing when you’re taking smoke images because if you charge around, the air currents can completely spoil the smoke patterns.  The fun, and colour, in this image comes from Photoshop. 

"Colourful smoke" by Gale Photography

"Colourful smoke" by Gale Photography

I can’t put the whole process into this blog post, but basically I’ve taken one colour channel (Red or Green or Blue) from each of the three images, and recombined them into one new image.  It’s great fun to do, and you can get a completely different set of colours by taking a different combination of images/colour channels.  

My photography training workshop, “The Creative Eye”, is designed to help you to free your photographic imagination, so you can start experimenting with your own creative photography.  At the time of writing this post (4th Feb 2010), there are still places on the February 20th 2010 course at Stanton House Hotel near Swindon. 

So, what can you do with a marshmallow? 



Less is more…

June 22, 2009

Some days it all just comes together nicely.   I need to take my small, green, Italian classic car for a spin, and we noticed that there was a classic car show, and open gardens day, at a village about 10 miles away.  So it was out with the polish and off to the show – and the gardens.   There were about 170 cars there ranging from 1920’s stuff up to new Aston Martins.  It was a real treat to see such a mixture of machinery.  I was very surprised to see that my Pininfarina was the only Italian car there!  No Alfas, Lancias, Fiats or even Ferraris. 

I had taken along my Panasonic FX-500 compact digital camera and tried to capture the atmosphere.  If I took images of whole cars I  found that it was hard to get “clean” compositions.  There was usually a person (or lots of people) in the background, and the other cars, whilst giving context, confused things photographically.  Here’s an example of a small, green, Italian car…

small spider for blog

It’s an OK image, with a good colour contrast between the green Pininfarina and the red TVR behind it, but the roofs of the other cars in the background do break up the lines a bit too much.  The FX-500, like so many compact digital cameras, will focus to within a few centimeters of the subject, so I decided to experiment with clean, simple, close up images of the cars’ badges instead trying to get the  whole car; “Less is more”.  Chrome radiators and shiny bonnets are very reflective, so you do need to be careful that your own reflection isn’t in the pictures! 

Car designers spend a lot of time getting the badges just right, and they are often small works of art in themselves.  Triumph’s badge shows them ruling the world…

triumph for blog

Bentley’s badge on the other hand, is a model of simplicity and elegance.  The red B with wings either side echoes Bentley’s older “Flying B” bonnet mascot.

bentley for blog

Here I think that the sunny highlight on the badge really lifts the image. 

Hope this has given you some food for thought, and that you will enjoy taking this sort of image on your own compact digital cameras in future.