Posted tagged ‘Gower’

The Shadows, but no Cliff!

July 1, 2010

This post is about shadows, but first here’s a question which follows on from my last blog post: 

Just how simple can an image be, and still tell a story?  Here’s an example… 

"Beach/ball" by Derek Gale

This ball was at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsular.  At first glance it’s just a ball on the ground, but if you look more closely you can see it’s wet sand with seashells, so it’s on a beach near the sea.  You can tell the direction of the sea from the pattern of the sand.  There’s a distinct blue colour reflected in the sand at the top of the image, so the sky is blue.  There’s also a hard shadow beneath the ball, so you can tell the sun is out and it’s near midday.  It’s apparently simple, but actually there’s lots of information there.  What the image doesn’t tell you is why the ball was on its own in the middle of a spectacular 2 mile beach! 

Anyway, to get back to shadows…. 

We were talking to a friend last week, and he was telling us about his granddaughter, aged around 2, who on a recent sunny day discovered she had this strange thing attached to her feet: her shadow.  She was transfixed by it, and we as adults should try to look at shadows in that same, “It’s a thing I’ve never seen before” way. 

"Shadow 1" by Derek Gale

Here’s a shot where the late evening sun has thrown a long shadow.  The dips in the ground have distorted the shadow into a curious shape.  It’s a bit like the shape of the robots in the Studio Ghibli animation “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”.  These images are fun to take, and often moving just a few yards can give a completely different image

I like images that show the effect of something on its environment, rather than directly showing the thing itself. 

"Shadow 2" by Derek Gale

This image is of a “ship in a bottle” at a hotel we stayed at.  The sun was shining through the thick glass of the bottle and throwing a shadow of the ship on to the window sill.  The glass distorted the shadow and also refracted the sunlight into swirling shapes.  I waited until the shadow was at its longest to get the best shot. 

"Shadow 4" by Derek Gale

 With creative photography, you often have to wait until the right time of day, or even the right time of year.  This shadow of some railings on concrete steps only looked “just right” for about 30 minutes.  If it’s not “just right” it’s well worth making a mental note to go back at a different time, to get the best image. 

If you don’t want to wait, or can’t wait, then you can make your own shadows and control how they look. 

"Shadow 3" by Derek Gale

For this image I used a Nikon SB800 flash inside a wicker basket.  The flash was fitted with a green filter, and I fired it wirelessly using Nikon’s CLS system.  The holes in the basket caused an interesting pattern to be thrown on to the ceiling.  I took lots, some of which were very abstract, but preferred this one that had the lampshade in it.  It gives a sense of scale to the pattern, and if you stretch your imagination a bit (or a lot!), it looks like a flying saucer landing on a strange green planet… 

So, shadows are fun, and you don’t always need to wait for the right weather to get good shadow images. 

Remember: Think like a 2-year-old! 




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.



Always carry a camera!

November 12, 2009

One of the things we suggest to people on our photographic training courses is that they should always carry a camera.  It’s much easier nowadays, as there are some very high quality compact digital cameras around, that hardly weigh anything. 

I’m often asked what the best camera is and my answer is, “The one you have with you.”   Here’s a series of images that illustrate why you should always carry a camera…

We were out walking at Rhossili, on the Gower Peninsular near Swansea, and we saw this female wheatear on top of a drystone wall.  It was very confident and wasn’t bothered about having its portrait taken with my Panasonic Lumix Fz-50 camera.

"Female wheatear" by Gale Photography

"Female wheatear" by Gale Photography

You could even say that it had posed for me!   It was a very different story when a kestrel flew over.


"Kestrel" by Gale Photography

The wheatear saw the characteristic falcon wing shape and pushed itself into the drystone wall in order to hide.

"Wheatear hiding" by Gale Photography

"Wheatear hiding" by Gale Photography

Once the bird of prey had passed, the wheatear resumed its confident perching on the wall.  If I hadn’t had my camera with me then I would still have seen this all happen, but wouldn’t have been able to capture a lovely little sequence of images.

It was obviously a day for interesting flying things.  A bit further round the coast we saw this plane flying very low, and as my camera was out and ready I took a shot as it flew over us.

"C-130J" by Gale Photography

"C-130J" by Gale Photography

It was a Lockheed C130-J “Super Hercules” transport, operated by the Royal Air Force, and probably based just up the road from us at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. 

So, these images sum up how important it is to always carry your camera (at the ready), know how to use it, and that you should try and get a series of images, so you can put them together to tell a story.

You can learn more on one of our training courses, or Photo Treks.  Check for details.

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.