Posted tagged ‘digital’

Fine Art in the simplest things.

September 2, 2010

What’s the perfect subject for a Fine Art photograph?  Well, to me it can be anything and everything. 

"Macro feather" by Derek Gale

 Take this image for example.  I was walking along and saw a feather on the ground.  I picked it up, held it between me and the sun, and using a 50mm macro lens took a close up shot.  It works because the pattern of light and shade is interesting, and because it’s not entirely clear that you’re looking at a feather. Some people have thought it was a ploughed field. 

"Car cobweb" by Derek Gale

 This is a cobweb.  It was built by an enterprising spider between my car door and my door mirror.  Once again I used a macro lens and was able to throw the background, of water droplets on my door mirror, out of focus. I like the contrast between light and dark, and also the contrast of the carefully made radial lines and more random concentric lines. 

Water light patterns" by Derek Gale

 Sometimes it’s a simple thing like the sun playing on water that makes a great Fine Art image.  This pattern of lines, a bit like those on an oscilloscope, were on the sandy bed of a small stream near the sea.  The sun shining through the irregular water surface was getting refracted which gave the pattern.  It was changing all the time, and you could take a hundred images and get a different one each time.  It was great for creative photography

"Oily water" by Derek Gale

 This image uses the reflectivity of a water surface rather than its transparency.  It’s of the oily water in the Venice Lagoon, and shows how pollution can produce great images.  I shot it from a vaporetto whilst everyone else was looking at the fabulous buildings.  Again the changing water surface made every image different. The conversion to black and white made it simpler. 

"Wide Enigma" by Derek Gale

 This final image is an enigma.  I don’t ever explain what it is, but let people use their imagination and come with their own ideas.  It’s often thought to have been taken, “under the sea, with lots of red seaweed”, but also has been described as, “looking across a river valley to a forest”.  It’s neither, and really shows just how complex an image can be made from a simple activity/thing. 

So there you have it; a feather, a cobweb, a stream, polluted water – and a mystery.  You don’t need to find exotic subjects for Fine Art images, just look around you. 

Remember, we’re at Coleshill Open Day and Food Festival on Sep 11th.  We’re part of the Arts and Crafts displays in The Granary.  Do come and have a chat about portrait photography and photography training




Putting it into perspective

June 10, 2010

Greetings blog readers, and welcome to another post by me, Derek Gale of Gale Photography near Swindon. 

At my photography training courses I’m often asked, “What’s the best sort of lens to use” ?  That’s an impossible question to answer because so much depends on the type of photography the person wants to do.  If you like photographing insects, or other small things, then a macro lens would be perfect.  

"Paua shell" by Gale Photography

I used a macro lens (a lens that gives it best performance focussed on near objects), for this shot of some paua shell/abalone.  It’s beautiful stuff and is great to photograph.  Here it’s lit from behind as well as in front. 

If you like photographing birds, or distant objects, then a telephoto lens would be perfect.  

"The Weather Project" by Gale Photography

A telephoto lens is one that magnifies compared to the normal human field of vision.  This shot of “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in London, was taken with a lens with a focal length of ca. 150mm.  This gives a magnification of around 3 times. 

If you like landscapes, then a wide-angle lens might be the right thing for you.  A wide-angle lens generally has a wider field of view than the human eye. 

"Lake District landscape" by Gale Photography

This shot, of some bad weather approaching in the Lake District, was taken with a lens that had a focal length of about 35mm, which gives a slightly wider view than normal. 

Whatever type of lens you have, it’s important to remember that the “look” of an image changes depending on the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  The perspective, and the relationship of objects that are closer or further away, can change dramatically.  

Here’s a series of images to show you what I mean… 

I’ve shot a phone box with a number of different lens focal lengths ranging from very wide-angle to long telephoto.  I moved further away as I increased the focal length, and tried to keep the phone box the same height in the frame in each image. 

"Constant subject size: 18mm" by Gale Photography

 The first image is with a very wide-angle lens.  Note the wide-angle distortion, and how we are looking at the pillar box almost from the side. 

"Constant subject size:36mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the image magnification is approaching that of the human eye, so the perspective is looking more natural. 

"Constant subject size: 135mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the focal length used produces an image magnification of about 2.5 times.  Note how the background is beginning to look much flatter relative to the phone box, and also how the pillar box has appeared to rotate compared to the very wide-angle image.  This sort of lens is great for creative portrait photography as it produces a slight flattening of the facial features which is generally quite flattering. 

"Constant subject size: 300mm" by Gale Photography

This final image uses a lens focal length of 300mm, which gives a magnification of about 6 times compared to the human eye.  The foreground and background now all seem to be in the same plane, and we are looking straight at the pillar box. 

So you can see that the “look” of an image depends on a combination of factors; the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  Remember, when you use your zoom lens, that it doesn’t just get you closer or further away, it changes the perspective as well.  Using your feet to get closer or further away can be just as powerful; I call it “pedual zoom” – or “zooming with your feet”!  

So, what’s the best lens to use?  The one that gives you the results you want!  

Have fun with your creative photography, and if you want to learn more why not book one of our training courses



Mobile fun.

May 6, 2010

I’ve been asked to do a talk, to a local photographic club, about creative photography using digital compact cameras.  Whilst I was preparing the talk, I realised something.  It was that lots of people have a digital compact camera, but call it something else; a mobile phone.  To be sure of covering all possible questions in my talk, I thought I’d try some  creative photography with my own mobile phone camera. 

It was then that I discovered something wonderful …

… it’s that the camera takes a quite a while to read the image from the whole sensor. 

So why is that so wonderful?  Well, it means that if you move the phone camera during the exposure you get an interesting “shape” to the image.  It’s because by the time the last bit of the sensor is read, the camera is looking at something different to what it was looking at when it started reading the sensor.

"Oilseed rape field" by Gale Photography

In this image of oilseed rape flowers, I moved the camera in a quarter circle as I pressed the shutter.  The very curved horizon makes it look as if I’ve used a fisheye lens!  It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what you’ll end up, but it’s easy to experiment, and take another image if the first one needs improvement.

"The wavy notice" by Gale Photography

Here, I’ve used an S-shaped movement, which has given a lovely wave to the fence.  It took a few tries before the writing was sharp enough.  I think it’s a really cool effect.

"Distorted window" by Gale Photography

In this image, of an English country cottage window, the wide-angle lens on the mobile phone camera has given an exaggerated perspective which the creative use of camera movement has emphasised.

“Insect eye abstract” by Gale Photography

In this final image I’ve not used camera movement.  I’ve used a small plastic optical toy (an insect eye kaleidoscope) to make an abstract image.  The phone camera’s lens is very small and fitted nicely inside.  You can’t do this with a digital SLR as the lenses are too big.  Part of the image is of the inside of the toy, and part is through the insect eye lens.  It’s a blank DVD in its case, but it looks completely unrecognisable.

So, be creative with your phone camera and have some photographic fun!

If this has inspired you to want to know more about creative photography, then why not come to one of my courses? 

There’s lots of info on my website at


Travels with a compact camera.

April 22, 2010

I have mentioned on this blog before that  it’s all about the photographer, and not about the camera.  It’s still true! 

I’ve been invited by a local photographic club to talk to them about using digital compact cameras, compared to using digital SLRs.  At that talk I’ll mention the benefits, and the challenges, of creative photography with compact cameras. 

On the basis that I should practice what I will preach, on a trip round the Cotswolds yesterday I took my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 digital compact with me instead of my Nikon DSLRs.  Why?  Well, it was a day off, and I didn’t want to carry a large, heavy DSLR and loads of large aperture lenses with me.  OK, so the ultimate image quality on a digital compact with a small sensor isn’t as good as a DSLR, but as I wasn’t planning to produce large prints that didn’t matter.  Also it was a sunny day, and these small sensor cameras work very well when it’s sunny. 

We stopped for lunch on the way to our final destination, and I was able to get a nice abstract image through some distorting glass.  Simple with the close focusing ability of the FX-500. 

"Distorting glass" by Gale Photography

The Cotwolds looked fantastic in the Spring sunshine, and driving across them was a real pleasure.  After a quick divert to Adlestrop, made famous in the poem that starts with, “Yes, I remember Adlestrop…”, we arrived at our destination.  Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, is one of England’s finest and most original Jacobean houses.

"Chastleton House facade" by Gale Photography

The facade of the house, unaltered since it was built, looked fab  in the spring sunshine.  The only problem was getting an image with no other visitors in it.  You need patience whatever camera you are using. 

Chastleton operates a timed ticket system, so while we were waiting, we took the opportunity to look round the gardens.  The daffodils were mostly over but other spring flowers were looking at their best. 

"Chastleton flowers" by Gale Photography

I dropped the camera down to a low viewpoint with a wide-angle lens (24mm equivalent), so I could concentrate on the foreground flowers, whilst still showing the mass of other flowers.  

"Chastleton fritillaries" by Gale Photography

In this second flower image, I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint looking upwards, to show the flowers against the trees and sky in the background.  Easy to see the image on the compact camera’s rear screen; not so easy with a DSLR unless it has Live View. 

The house is well worth a visit, if only for the Long Gallery with the longest barrel-vaulted ceiling in Britain.  The plasterwork is fabulous.  To get a good shot I used a technique that works really well.  I turned off the flash, set the self timer, put the camera on the floor, pressed the shutter, and stepped back.  Result? A sharp image. 

"Chastleton ceiling" by Gale Photography

On the way back to the car after visiting the house, we saw these spring lambs sunning themselves under the dovecote.  Lambs and the Cotswolds really go together, as the landscape has been shaped by years of sheep farming. 

"Chastleton lambs" by Gale Photography

So, having a digital compact camera on your belt allows you to get great images without lugging a DSLR about.  You just need to work within its limitations. 

Although yesterday was a day off for me, I was still taking pictures.  That’s how it is when you’re passionate about photography.  If you want to develop your passion for photography, come along to one of my training courses and be inspired. 



It’s all done with mirrors!

April 9, 2010
In essence, photography is all about recording the light reflecting from surfaces.  If nothing was reflected then we wouldn’t be able to record anything of the people we meet, the places we go to, and the things we see. 

In this post I’ll show you how you can get interesting, creative images by using the numerous highly-reflective surfaces in the world around you. 

"Ellis Island reflective floor" by Gale Photography

In this first image, of Ellis Island in New York, I noticed how the shape of the window was reflected in the shiny floor, and that the pattern of the floor tiles mimicked the pattern of the windows.  I was able to use the shiny floor to make the overall photographic composition symmetrical, yet keep the areas of colour off centre. 

"Prague reflections" by Gale Photography

This image, taken in Prague, shows how you can mix the old and the new in one image.  The new office building had partly mirrored windows, so that the older building opposite was nicely reflected in them.  I chose a viewpoint that let me divide up the image into a 3×3 grid, with the sky in the top set of three windows, the roof in the middle set of three, and the front of the building in the bottom set of three.  It’s one way to use the so-called “Rule of Thirds“.  The whole image looks a bit like one of those puzzles that you have to rearrange by sliding the sections around. 

"Lydiard House cabinet" by Gale Photography

One great feature of reflective surfaces is that they can often distort the subject that’s reflected.  Here I’ve used the multiple glass panels of a display cabinet in Lydiard House, Swindon, to make an image that shows a distorted reflection of the window in front of it, and the person passing.  Each panel is set at a slightly different angle, so they each show a slightly different viewpoint, and the old glass is quite wobbly, so the reflection gets broken up. 

Finally, I’ve used a shiny curved surface that was reflecting a common object, to produce an abstract image that’s not really anything to do with the original subjects.  

A Mini reflection by Gale Photography

The shiny curved surface was the highly-polished front wing of a friend’s red Mini (she does look after it very well!), and the common object that was reflected was a fence panel.  

So, you can see that the world is full of surfaces that can help you with your creative photography.  I cover this, and many other things,  in my “The Creative Eye” workshops.  Why not come along to one? 



It’s all around you

February 18, 2010

Modern digital cameras are fabulous things.  They have a level of performance and sophistication that we could only have dreamed of 10 years ago.   To me, the most important feature of a digital camera is the instant review of the images.   You can see straight away what you have taken, and this gives you the freedom to experiment and be creative with your photography.  This opens up a wealth of possibilities.  You can search your environment looking for images, and it’s fantastic what you can find there.  

Creative photography by Gale Photography

"Bubbles in shampoo" by Gale Photography

As an example, this image is of bubbles in a bottle of clear shampoo.  I used off-camera flash to make the lighting directional, and to give a black background.  The image was taken in my photographic studio near Swindon, but could just as well be done in a darkened room on a table top.   It was easy to try again with a new bubble pattern just by shaking the bottle.  Because shampoo is nice and thick, the bubbles rise very slowly, which gives you more time to get them just right.  

Creative close-up photography by Gale Photography

"Paperweight abstract" - by Gale Photography

The abstract image above was taken with a Panasonic Lumix compact digital camera set on close-up/macro.  It’s of a glass paperweight (so the bubbles rise very slowly indeed!), which was on a shelf lit by natural daylight.  I rested the camera on the shelf to get the right angle, and to reduce camera shake.  Result: an instant abstract image.   

This final image was of another paperweight, which had a lovely metallic sparkle to it.  

Creative photography by Gale Photography

"Paperweight abstract 2" by Gale Photography

My initial images showed more of the paperweight, but I kept taking images, reviewing them, and eventually reduced the image to just the shapes and colours shown here.  It shows that sometimes less is indeed more.  Again it’s taken with natural lighting; the image was there waiting, and just needed to be found.  

These images show that there are great photographic subjects everywhere.  They are often quite easy to take, but much harder to see.  If you would like to learn how to see, and take, images like this, why not come on my “The Creative Eye” photographic training course, or on a fun Photo Trek?  

Happy photography!  


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?