Posted tagged ‘landscape’

“Water, water, everywhere.”

February 10, 2011

In Coleridge’s epic poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, one verse goes…

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

Well, there is water everywhere, and it’s a great source for creative photography.  It can be still, moving slowly, moving rapidly, or frozen solid.  It can be creative or destructive, and it’s effect on light is fantastic.

"Grand Canyon puddle" by Derek Gale

This image is my favourite from a series I took of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  There had been a huge rain shower, and it was just clearing away.  The reflection of the dead tree in the newly-formed puddle was broken up by the ripples from the raindrops.  To me it summed up the way the Grand Canyon was made, and so the actual canyon didn’t need to be in the shot.

"Window condensation" by Derek Gale

Condensation is another form of still water, and the effect of surface tension on the window has caused these water droplets to stay separate.  It’s produced a beautiful pattern image.  Each droplet acts as a lens, and each gives their own view of the world outside the window.  As with many pattern images it’s hard to get an idea of the scale of the droplets. 

"Christchurch fountain" by Derek Gale

Once water starts moving it really comes to life.  This is a close up of the famous dandelion fountain by the banks of the river Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand.  It looks like an explosion of water, and the highlights off the moving surface are lovely.  The 135mm lens has given a bit of perspective compression which adds to the drama.

"Stream waterfall" by Derek Gale

Longer shutter speeds give a wonderful blur to fast-moving water.  This image is of just a small part of a stream waterfall, and was taken at 1/8 of a second. A little pop of flash gave highlights “like the stars of the night sky” off some of the water drops.

"Watering a poppy head" by Derek Gale

We think of watering the garden as a gentle pursuit.  As you can see, what happens when water droplets hit a flower head is anything but gentle!   The drop has splashed on the poppy head like a small explosion, and you can imagine the pressure the water exerts on its surface.  The shutter speed was 1/100th of a second, and the water was moving so fast that it hasn’t stopped the movement at all.  The use of a 600mm long telephoto lens has isolated the seed head to make the image nice and simple.

As you can see water is everywhere, vital for life, and great for creative photography. 

Cheers, 

Derek                                           www.galephotography.co.uk

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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.

Cheers,

Derek                       www.galephotography.co.uk

Photographic training update – mini blog post

January 25, 2011

Just updated my photography training calendar with some new Photo Treks at Buscot Park near Faringdon. 

You can get more info and book your place here.

"Buscot Park Tulips" by Derek Gale

See you soon!

Cheers,

Derek                                 www.galephotography.co.uk

Taking the wide, and long, view.

January 20, 2011

A client came to me recently with a very special job.  It was to turn his eighty-four RAW image files into a stunning High Dynamic Range (HDR) panorama, to place 24 priceless family images around it, and then produce a large, framed, composite print.

Some of the family images were very damaged and needed some serious editing time to rebuild them.  Some were faded, or taken under challenging lighting conditions, and again needed a lot of photo restoration to make them look right. 

"Before and after" by Derek Gale

This image is an example.  The original had been folded in half at some point, and had serious creasing, a partly missing background, and other problems.  The new “Content-aware” Fill tool in Photoshop CS5 was very useful here, although it doesn’t work miracles, so I did quite a bit a regular cloning as well.

The HDR panorama side was very interesting as well.  One issue with HDR is that the final result can look somewhat unreal.  The challenge comes when you want the benefits of HDR without the unreality.

"Rusty Morris 8" by Derek Gale

This image, of a very rusty old Morris 8, shows the classic unreal HDR style, as it looks almost like a cartoon.  (The car is not for sale but you can buy a print of the image from me).  This treatment, whilst interesting with the right images, was not appropriate for the composite image I was working on.  For that image I chose a more photorealistic look which was more natural. 

The final HDR panorama needed quite a bit of editing too.  As the images for the panorama were taken over a reasonably long period, some of the sheep in the foreground had moved around quite a bit, and had to be de-ghosted/cloned so they were nice and tidy.  As well as the moving sheep, the lighting had changed while the separate images were being exposed, so the brightness variation across the image needed to be levelled out.

"Panorama section" by Derek Gale

The HDR panorama, made from so many separate images, was quite a large file in Photoshop at over 350 Megabytes.  It was amazing just how much detail could be seen in it.  This image is of a section of the final image and is just 0.4% of the total panorama area.  There’s good texture on the mountain and plenty of detail in the fields in the foreground.

"Family panorama" by Derek Gale

The final image was printed to the agreed size, mounted on Foamex to give it rigidity, and then framed with a complementary moulding.  It was a fascinating exercise to do the work, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  Much more importantly, so was my client.

That’s the “wide” part of my post title, so what about the “long” part.  It’s about taking a long-term view of the potential uses of the images you are shooting today.  A lot of the images surrounding the HDR panorama were old.  Some were well over 50 years old.  You need to be keeping the images you take now in a form that will enable people in 50 years time to do a similar thing to what I’ve done here.  The best form for that is a good print kept in a cool, dry, dark place.  We don’t know that we will be able to read a digital file from a CD/DVD in 50 years, but in 50 years we will still be able to see a printed image.

Cheers,

Derek                     www.galephotography.co.uk

* All non-Gale Photography images are copyright their respective owners, and were used with permission.

Taking images that sell.

January 14, 2011

I’m a subscriber to a stock image library called Alamy Images.  A stock library is a source of images for book publishers, website designers, magazines, newspapers, in fact anyone who needs images for their publications.  Alamy is a large stock library, and it now has over 21 million (!) images for sale.  The deal is simple: I take the images. I upload the images to Alamy. Someone searches for and then buys an image.  They pay Alamy and use the image.  Alamy take a commission and pays me the balance.

So what is it that people buy? 

"Whirling Hygrometer" by Derek Gale

This image is my best-seller.  It’s of a whirling hygrometer that’s used to measure the humidity of the air.  It was great fun taking the image whilst holding the camera one-handed and whirling the hygrometer with the other.  Not usually a good recipe for a sharp image!  It’s been used in various textbooks in a number of countries round the world.

"Fly tipping" by Derek Gale

This image was my first ever sale on Alamy.  It’s of some fly tipping just off the A420 near Swindon in Wiltshire.  I was passing, and as always was carrying a camera.  I stopped and took some shots.  It’s not exactly very pretty, and it’s not a very creative image, but earned me a $250 sale, so I wasn’t complaining!  This is a really good example of something that most people would walk past producing a saleable image.

"The Sage, Gateshead" by Derek Gale

This image, of the Sage Arts Centre in Gateshead, has also sold several times.  I was on my way to a friend’s wedding in Scotland, and stopped off in Newcastle overnight.  The weather the next day was great so I wandered around taking some stock images.  This image was taken from the Newcastle side of the River Tyne, and it’s probably so successful because it’s a very simple clear image of a landmark building in sunny weather.

"Kit's Coty" by Derek Gale

This is another wedding-related image.  It’s of “Kit’s Coty” which is a Neolithic chambered long barrow near the Medway valley in Kent.  It was taken whilst I was photographing a wedding reception in an appropriately named venue nearby.  The blue colour comes from the use of a blue filter in front of the flash.  The flash was on the ground just inside the railings and was fired remotely.  This shot was used in a Halloween-related publication in October 2010.  They clearly liked the spooky blueness.

"Westmill wind farm" by Derek Gale

This image is my most recent sale, I only found out about it today!  It’s of the wind farm at Westmill near Watchfield, in Oxfordshire.  It took most of a day to find the best place to take the shot.  On another day, with the wind and light in different directions, somewhere else would be the best place.  The image was used in a UK national newspaper this week (11th/12th Jan 2011).  With Alamy you aren’t told where your images have been used, just that a sale has been made.  If you are lucky someone sees it, and posts a report on the Alamy forum.  So if you’ve seen it please let me know!

I’ve just had another batch of images accepted by Alamy’s Quality Control department, so I now need to do the keywording that will enable the images to be found, and then hopefully be bought.  The great thing about stock libraries like Alamy is that you can earn money while you are sleeping!

Cheers,

Derek   www.galephotography.co.uk

A highly dynamic photographer

December 9, 2010

Our eyes are wonderful things.  They can see texture on brightly lit surfaces and in deep shadows, let you read a newspaper by moonlight, and even see in starlight. Cameras aren’t quite as good as our eyes.  They can record good highlight detail, or they can record good shadow texture, but most of the time they can’t record both simultaneously.  The amount of brightness and shadow that a camera can record is known as its “dynamic range”.

There’s a photographic technique that you can use to produce images that more closely resemble how the eyes see.  It’s called “High Dynamic Range” photography, or HDR for short.  In this technique you take a series of images with different exposure settings; known as “Exposure Bracketing”.  The simplest method uses images taken at; the correct exposure, one unit under exposed, and one unit overexposed, however you can take other combinations.  I’ve taken up to 9 shots with varying exposures for some of my HDR images.  The sets of images are then put together on the computer using special software.

"Canadian street HDR" by Derek Gale

This is a simple HDR image of the sunset in a small town in Canada.  Without HDR I had the choice to expose for the sky or to expose for the trees, not both.  The images were taken hand-held.  That’s always a bit of a risk with this sort of photography as you can get “ghosting” where the images don’t quite overlap because you’ve moved a bit.  You’re better off using a tripod.

"Tithe Barn HDR" by Derek Gale

I used a tripod for this 9-image HDR shot of the 13th-century tithe barn at Great Coxwell near Faringdon.  I loved the dramatic sky, and wanted to really show it against the texture of the stone barn. Converting the final image to black and white helped to give an air of mystery to the image.  I used a very wide angle lens to give a bit of perspective drama.

"Tractor & farm HDR" by Derek Gale

One thing you need to be careful of with HDR images is the “cartoony” effect that you can get.  The software I use has settings for various styles of image.  I like the “photorealistic” option as it leaves the images looking more natural.  This tractor shot shows what can happen if  you use the “surrealistic” setting.  The contrast and colour are significantly changed from the original images.  It’s OK for a few images but can be a bit intense for some subjects.

"Leopard tank interior HDR" by Derek Gale

This image is from a trip to the “tank shed” at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham.  It’s of the interior of a sectioned Leopard tank; Germany’s main battle tank for many years.  The lighting was quite contrasty and using HDR helped me to get detail in the shadows that was not recorded in a normal exposure.  HDR’s not a good technique for portraits as the need to take multiple images means your subject has to stay absolutely still.  Here the crew were dummies so it was easy!

"The Folly HDR" by Derek Gale

HDR is useful in architectural photography too.  This image, of an 18th-century folly in Berkshire, shows detail in the artificially lit interior as well as the naturally lit exterior.  On the day there was a significant difference between the brightness of the inside compared to the outside, but HDR was able to show both well.

So, to improve the dynamic range in your creative photography try a bit of HDR!

Cheers,

Derek                www.galephotography.co.uk

Snow, snow, quick, quick, snow!

December 2, 2010

The winter weather has come early to the UK, but instead of  hiding away inside in the warm, treat it as a chance to take some stunning winter images.  As long as you keep yourself safe, (no walking on icy lakes), and keep your camera as warm as you can, it’s a great time for creative photography.  You’ll also see things that you never see the rest of the year.

"Frosty windscreen" by Derek Gale

A frosty car windscreen is a perfect example.  I’ve used a 50mm macro lens from inside the car (out of the wind!), and made sure the background was dark to give better contrast.  These ice crystals are a pain to shift when you want to drive, but are simply beautiful to photograph.  Their fractal character means they look like feathers, or ferns.

"Icicle" by Derek Gale

Icicles are excellent photographic subjects.  This one, at the base of a wind turbine, seemed to be not very bothered about which direction it grew in.  It only started to point downwards near its end.  Again I needed to control the background to make the icicle stand out.  The out-of-shot sky was blue, which gave blueness to the shadows, and gave a very cool feel to the image.

"Snow shadows" by Derek Gale

Snow images often benefit by being turned into black & white.  I loved the way the winter sun formed long shadows across the snow by the table.  The low early morning sun really picked out the snow’s textures, and the black & white conversion simplified the image.  My high viewpoint helped to give a strong, simple composition.  As with most snow pictures I needed to give some positive Exposure Compensation so the snow came out white, and not grey.

"Trees in snow" by Derek Gale

For most of the year the ground under these trees is mostly brown.  This means that the colour contrast between the trees and the ground is quite low.  The snow on the ground changed all that, and allowed a pattern picture with a contrasting foreground.  The trees’ shadows gave more contrast and texture to the snow.  I cropped it into a vertical letterbox to accentuate the trees’ shapes.

"Birdtracks" by Derek Gale

Although a lot of the time it’s quite hard to see birds, the snow lets you see where they have been.  This bird has walked, not hopped, and left a great trail running diagonally across the image.  I’ve dropped down to get the best angle, and focused on the nearest track.  I let the other tracks go out of focus, into the darker area. Control of focus is a powerful compositional tool for photographers.

As you can see the winter weather is a great aid to your photography.  Wrap up warm, and use all that reflected light creatively!

Cheers,

Derek                          www.galephotography.co.uk