Posted tagged ‘low angle’

It’s a mystery to me.

March 10, 2011

I have a book, by ex-BBC journalist John Timpson, called, “Timpson’s England”.  It’s a celebration of the unusual and mysterious things to be found all over England.  We can look for our own unusual things and mysteries.  Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes we have to search hard to find them. 

The face in the hedge" by Derek Gale

This one was obvious.  It’s a topiary face cut into the hedge round James Dyson’s house, Dodington Park,  near Chipping Sodbury in Gloucestershire.  It’s not in very high relief, so it’s hard to photograph, but it is a very curious sort of decoration.  Perhaps it’s some sort of totem to keep unwanted visitors away, or perhaps it’s the face of someone whose vacuum cleaner has broken?

"Entrance to wonderland?" by Derek Gale

This strange little entrance, not too far from James Dyson’s house, looks to have been made to allow visitors rather than stop them.  It was in a very long, and high, brick wall.  The very small gothic arch is an elegant way to make an animal entrance.  Perhaps it’s for a cat that appreciates architectural details?  Would be useful to replace the missing stone on the left hand side though…

"Hanging around" by Derek Gale

I saw this branch, apparently floating in mid-air, whilst out for a walk one day.  There was a gentle breeze so it was slowly turning round and round, and then going back the other way when the breeze dropped; it was most odd.  I took a long telephoto shot with my trusty Panasonic FZ-50 and checked the image.  Only then could I see the fishing line and hook that was attached to the branch.  It’s interesting to imagine the language of the angler when they caught their line!

Sometimes we can produce the mystery photographically, by looking for distortions of reality, or by post-processing an image.

"Wobbly branches" by Derek Gale

This is a reflection of a dead tree in a puddle on the road.  The shallow water, with a breeze blowing, distorted the tree into a strange and disturbing shape.  It could be just a tree, or it could be a creature from the Tolkein’s Fangorn forest.

"Celtic cross" by Derek Gale

The mystery here has been added in Photoshop.  The base image was a low-angle shot of a Celtic cross in a Welsh churchyard, but it’s been given a simulated infra-red black & white treatment.  The image now takes us back into the myths, and to the great Celtic Kings battling for control of the Welsh Marches.

Mysteries abound everywhere, so why not go out and look for some?

Cheers, 

Derek                                     www.galephotography.co.uk

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A visit to Diagon Alley

February 17, 2011

In the Harry Potter wizard books, (that you may have heard about), there’s a place called Diagon Alley where wizards go to shop/bank and buy ice-creams.  It’s a magical and powerful place, and has a counterpart in creative photography; the diagonal composition line.  Think of it as your Diagonal Ally (groan).

Let me explain…

"Diagonal 1" by Derek Gale

Images with strong subject lines, in this case going from one corner to the opposite corner, help the viewer by giving them a lead into the image.  This aircraft image is an extreme example.  The diagonal line from bottom left to top right takes us straight up to the aircraft.  It looks as if it’s climbing steeply to fly off to a far away place.  The plane is almost at the corner of the frame, so we get an idea that it’s leaving our space.

"Diagonal Angel" by Derek Gale

Unlike a plane the “Angel of the North” is firmly rooted, but I’ve used the diagonal here as well.  The wings going from top right to bottom left give the image its basic shape, allowing me to use the sun as a balancing element.  I used a 20mm wide-angle lens in order to exaggerate the perspective. 

"Diagonal Pembroke" by Derek Gale

Wings again but on another aircraft rather than a statue.  This is a privately owned Percival Pembroke C-1 that’s preserved and gives flying displays.  As it passed along the display line it was banked to the left to give the spectators the best view.  I’ve cropped the image so that the wings go along a diagonal from top left to bottom right.  It makes the image much stronger.   Taken with a 400mm telephoto lens.

"Diagonal jump" by Derek Gale

Diagonal lines also work in creative portrait photography.  This portrait of someone jumping has a diagonal line made by his right arm and left leg.  It’s not as pronounced as the other images. It’s more of a Z-shape than a straight line, but it still adds to the impact of the image.  I’ve used a low viewpoint and a wide-angle lens so it’s hard to see just how high off the ground he is.

"Diagonal champagne" by Derek Gale

This final example, taken at Avebury, doesn’t have such an extreme diagonal line as the others.  It still shows just how much better the composition is with a diagonal.  The whole feel of the image is more relaxed than it would be if the bottle was vertical.  The torn foil, open bottle, and minimal contents let us know it was very relaxed.  I used a long lens and wide aperture to make the image as simple as possible.

Remember to visit Diagon Alley with your own images!

On a non-diagonal note, I’ve entered the Macallan Masters of Photography competition.  The theme is “Great Journeys”.  The prize winners will be decided by popular vote, then by expert judging.  There are some fantastic travel images well worth having a look at.  You need to be over 18 to enter the site, as it’s sponsored by a whisky company. Once you’ve entered your date of birth you can then click back on to my blog and vote for my images here, here, here and here.  If you would like to of course…

Cheers,

Derek                               www.galephotography.co.uk

30-minute challenge: Part 2

July 29, 2010

A few weeks ago, I set myself a little challenge.  It was to take as many creative images as I could in just 30 minutes.  As I said before, I restricted myself to a fixed focal length/prime lens, that was still very versatile; a Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX macro. 

I’ve already posted the first set of images from that creative half-hour, and here are some more…

"Against all the odds" by Derek Gale

This is taken at ground level.  It’s a little viola plant on the edge of the road outside the pub in our street. It’s in a tiny little crack in the tarmac next to the kerb, and it gets almost flattened every time a car parks there – but it’s still going strong.  I’m pretty sure that nearly everyone that goes past doesn’t see it, but there is beauty in the most unlikely places.  I had to lie down in the road to take it, so I was very careful about the traffic!

"Feather macro" by Derek Gale

Whilst I was getting up I spotted a feather, probably from a jackdaw.  I held it up to the light and focused by moving the feather backwards and forwards slightly.  Result?  A cool pattern picture.  The strong diagonal line from the main quill of the feather breaks the pattern and stops it being too repetitive.

"Close up scabious" by Derek Gale

Another flower image.  This time it’s a blue scabious flower in the garden.  These flowers are, as you can see, very popular with pollen beetles.  There was quite a number crawling across the pollen-bearing parts of the flower.  This is the sort of thing that the Sigma macro lens is perfect for.  It’s performance close up is fantastic.

"A cherry on the table" by Derek Gale

I recently made a “rustic” table for the garden.  It was used today, as a prop for a family portrait shoot.  The top is made of decking wood, and we store the table under a cherry tree.  During my 30-minute Creative Photography Challenge, I noticed that a cherry had fallen on to the table top.  I liked how the lines of the decking wood gave a great perspective and an interesting background.  The highlights are only on the cherry, which helps draw your eye to it.

"Lily spadix" by Derek Gale

Finally, here’s an image taken inside rather than outside.  The spadix of this Peace Lily plant was in a very shady place on the window sill.  I spot metered just for the spadix, and allowed the background, which was much brighter, to become over-exposed.  It simplifies the image, and that allows us to concentrate on the complex structure of the spadix.

So, there’s the final selection of my 30-minute challenge images.  As I said previously, why not set yourself a challenge, and see what you can produce?  It’s great fun, and improves your photography.

I’ve noticed that there is a common feature in all these images – except one.  What’s the common feature, and which is the odd one out?  No prizes – but I will blog to say who got it right! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

PS   There are places on my Savernake Forest Photo Trek on September 4th.  You can book online here.

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. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Get on down – for the sake of clarity

March 4, 2010

There are signs of spring here in Southern England.  The snowdrops are almost over, the birds are nesting like mad, and all of those lovely spring flowers are getting ready to pop out.  What with the days getting longer as well, the winter hibernation of many photographers will soon be over too. So how do you get great photographs of the new season’s growth?  Well, here are some photo tips.  

It pays to get yourself down to the level of the plants themselves.  What you are trying to produce with outdoor plant and flower pictures is something that sums up the plant/flower and its environment.  If you stay at normal human height relative to the plant you’ll just get a shot of it from above.  Drop down and you can simplify the image. 

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

Here the snowdrops were in a raised bed which meant that I didn’t have to drop down so far.  Here I’ve gone for three clumps of snowdrops, rather than isolating a single flower.  Snowdrops look their best as drifts of flowers, with each clump of flowers relying on the others for the best effect, so I’ve tried to record that here. 

If you can’t bend down or lie down on the ground to get a low viewpoint, it can be hard to see the viewing screen on the back of your camera.  The Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact digital camera that I used for the snowdrops picture, has a rear screen viewing angle option for where you hold the camera above your head.  If you set it to that, and then turn the camera upside down, you can hold it closer to the ground and still see the screen clearly. 

As another example of the simplifying effect of getting down to where the flowers are, here’s a shot of a cowslip (primula). 

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

I’ve been able to make the flower the simple main subject.  You can tell that the plant is growing in a grassy area, yet the background is not distracting whilst still having enough detail to give you an idea of the plant’s environment. 

You can do this with other plant types as well.  Here’s a shot of some catkins on a weeping silver birch tree. 

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

I chose a low viewpoint that was level with the catkins (lovely word!), and made an image that had just two of the catkins and some newly emerged leaves.  The leaves have that fabulous acid green colour that only spring can produce.  By using a long focal length lens, I’ve thrown the background well out of focus.  We cover how to achieve this sort of image on our outdoor photography training – the Gale Photography Photo Treks. 

Finally, one of the classic flowers of Southern England is the snakeshead fritillary.  They love damp areas, and I’m lucky enough to have them growing in my garden, by the pond.  They are one of the few plants in nature to have a regular checkerboard pattern. 

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

The ground was pretty wet, so I put a waterproof sheet on the ground and laid on that.  You do need to be careful that you won’t damage any plants when you do this.  The foreground plant was fully out, and the two others; one white, one normal, were still to flower fully.  This gave a good contrast with the flower that was out. 

I hope that you’ll try some of these techniques for yourself this spring, and perhaps I’ll see you on a Photo Trek soon. 

Cheers, 

Derek.

www.galephotography.co.uk

Whiter than white.

January 12, 2010

The snow in Britain has been great for photographers wanting to try some creative photography!   All of a sudden there’s lots more light about as the snow acts as a giant reflector, filling in shadow detail.  Snow builds up on familiar objects, such as this wire fence, makes them look unfamiliar, and produces interesting patterns. 

"Wire fence and snow" by Gale Photography

"Wire fence and snow" by Gale Photography

The snow can also make a sharp object into something much softer, as can be seen in this shot of the razor wire on top of the Defence Academy fence! 

"Razor wire and snow" by Gale Photography

"Razor wire and snow" by Gale Photography

With the sun out, all that light bouncing around on the snowy landscape can make getting the correct exposure a bit challenging.  One of the turbines of the Westmill Wind Farm standing in a snowy field definitely looked worth the effort – even though it was bitterly cold walking to it in order to photograph it.  I’d forgotten just how hard it is to walk in 8 inches of snow!  

"Westmill Wind Farm No. 5" by Gale Photography

"Westmill Wind Farm No. 5" by Gale Photography

I used a polarising filter to intensify the blue of the sky.  As it was very windy, and the turbine blades were rotating quite fast, I used the high-speed continuous drive to make sure I got an image with the blades in the right place.  Sure is a good way to fill up a memory card! 

The sun is very useful because it melts the snow and, if the air temperature is below freezing, this can lead to icicles forming.  Like many transparent things, they benefit from a bit of back/side lighting. 

"Icicles" by Gale Photography

"Icicles" by Gale Photography

Here I’ve had to push myself against a wall so I could shoot them from behind against the blue sky.  The sun is low down off to the right.  I’ve cropped it vertically to accentuate the shape of the icicle. 

Whilst out taking these shots, I had the camera inside my jacket to keep it warm.  This improves battery life, and reduces the risk of condensation forming on the camera when it’s taken back into the house.

Finally, don’t put your camera away when the daylight ends.  You can take long exposure images of snowy scenes, which can be very moody.

"Twilight snow scene" by Gale Photography

"Twilight snow scene" by Gale Photography

Here the tungsten light on the building has made a nice warm-coloured patch of light on the snow.  This contrasts with the overall blueness of the rest of the image.

If these images have whetted your appetite, why not get out there and take some yourselves before it all melts?

If you would like to know more about creative photography, we still have some spaces on our “The Creative Eye” course on February 20th.  For details go to our website at www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s only words…

September 10, 2009

All around us there are words.  Our environment is full of notices, adverts, signs (mostly directing, allowing or forbidding!) and other visual paraphenalia.  These words can make for interesting and thought-provoking images, especially if you deliberately remove the context.  Here’s an example…

very_old

Who, or what, or where, is “VERY OLD”?   Who carved the letters, and why?  The image of just the words and sky doesn’t actually help you answer these questions, so you need to let your imagination take over.

Sometimes the sign seems odd even when you know the context.  At first glance this sign is laughing at you – like the Nelson Muntz character in “The Simpsons”.  It’s actually to indicate the presence of a “ha ha” or sunken ditch to keep animals from straying.  Use a low angle to remove the background and you have an instant mystery.

ha_ha

Finally, here’s an Extra image.  Like the other two images it works well because it’s been simplified with a low angle, and a plain blue sky.

extra

As a project you could think of a well known phrase, go round looking for the words in that phrase, take a series of images of those words, and then put together a composite image showing the whole phrase.   Try it!

To really get your photographic ideas going, why not come to one of our Training courses? Check out www.lifestylephotos.co.uk/Training.htm