Posted tagged ‘tips’

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

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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

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

“If you stop learning you stop growing”

November 11, 2010

Continuing to learn is especially important in creative photography because there are so many different subject areas and photographic styles, not to mention the changes in technology. I try to continuously develop my own photography and, as today is my birthday, it’s time for a bit of reflection on some of the things I’ve learnt in the past year.

"Biker" by Derek Gale

This shot, from an advanced studio photography course I attended, shows that sometimes you need lots of lights to get a great shot.  The person was lit with just 2 lights, it was the bike that was the challenge.  It was lit by light reflecting off a large white sheet that was itself lit with 5 lights.  This technique gave a better quality of illumination on the bike’s shiny surfaces, and I’m using it in my commissioned work for clients.

"Below Niagara HDR" by Derek Gale

Digital photography involves the use of computers, and these days keeping up to date with developments in image editing software is vital.  I was happy with the composition of this shot of Niagara Falls from below, after all my “The Creative Eye” course includes sections on composition, but I wanted to add a bit more punch to the image.  I used the latest version of Adobe Photoshop to make a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image from a single RAW file.  It’s a technique I learned this year, and it’s great for giving more detail in the shadow areas while keeping the highlight detail.

"Wild strawberry" by Derek Gale

Setting yourself photographic challenges is a great way to learn, and this year I challenged myself to take as many creative images as I could in 30 minutes.  I blogged about this previously, and this is another image from that shoot.  A simple shot of a wild strawberry taken with a 50mm Sigma macro lens.  Getting effective simple shots takes a lot of practice.

"Horse's eye" by Derek Gale

Pushing the boundaries of your cameras is also a great way to learn.  I use a Lumix FX-500 digital compact camera, and it’s a great photographic tool.  It has a surprising close-up ability, and by experimenting I’ve found that it’s ideal for close up portraits.  This shot, of a horse’s eye, shows that you don’t need to show the whole of the face to show the subject well.  To me there’s a sadness in there.

"Ashmolean statue" by Derek Gale

This year I’ve also been inspired by other photographers’ work, and by other works of art.  We can learn so much by looking at paintings, sculpture (and the way it’s displayed), architecture, film and TV.  The newly revised Ashmolean museum in Oxford is fabulous, and I loved the way this sculpture was silhouetted against the sun on the window blinds.

"Sunbathing potatoes" by Derek Gale

Sometimes by being a photographer we learn things about subjects other than photography.  I saw these through a “potting shed” window in the grounds of Chastleton House in Oxfordshire.  At first glance they looked like eggs, although I did wonder why eggs would be there.  They are in fact potatoes, and they are getting a good start to growing by being left in the sun for a while.  They did look as if they were sunbathing!

If my learning this year has inspired you to learn then my “The Creative Eye” course could be ideal.   The next course is on Sat 13th Nov 2010 at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage.  Online sales have ended, but you can still book by calling 01793 783859.

Cheers,

Derek                     www.galephotography.co.uk

You might not think so…

October 21, 2010

… but if you have a flat bed scanner you have a digital camera.  It’s got a light source, a light sensor, and builds up an image from individual elements.  You can put objects on the scanner, scan them, and then use the resulting digital files in creative compositions

As I understand it, photography means “Writing with Light”, (the name of the Gale Photography newsletter – subscribe here!), so scanning is photography, but as Bones from Star Trek would say, “It’s photography, but not as we know it”.

"Scanned maple leaf" by Derek Gale

This maple leaf was scanned, its outline cut out, and then had a graduated background added in Photoshop.  The background was made of colours found in the leaf.  It was nice and simple to do, and it made an excellent greetings card.

"Scanned Angel" by Derek Gale

This wire christmas decoration was done in the same way.  Scanners often have a large depth of field, so you can get a “macro” shot of a small object with everything in crisp focus.  The decoration was only about 2 inches high.

"Scanned orange & hand" by Derek Gale

Scanners aren’t very good at imaging things that move, especially people.  But it can be done.  Here I’ve cut an orange and placed it cut side down on the scanner.  I held my hand over the orange, and started the scan.  While it was scanning I moved my hand as if I was using a juicer.  I held a wicker basket lid over my hand as a background.  The movement of my fingers makes for an interesting image.  If you do this sort of thing remember to give your scanner a wipe afterwards!

"3 fishes & Great Court roof" by Derek Gale

Here I’ve scanned a little wooden fish into Photoshop, and then copied and resized to give 3 versions.  I’ve dropped them on to a background which was an image of the  roof of the Great Court at the British Museum.  I made the background a bit wobbly to make it look as if it was water, and there we have it, a geodesic fishbowl!

"Scanned flowers blue" by Derek Gale

Finally, these images are part of my “Blue Florals” series of Fine Art images.  I took a series of flowers and scanned them.  It was important to avoid squashing them, so I scanned with the lid off and held a black cloth over the flowers.  The background is a shot of some blue glass with lots of Gaussian blur added.  The  text colour is a colour from the flower.  The text was taken (with permission from the publishers – Dorling Kindersley) from a plant encyclopedia.

So, if you have a scanner gathering dust on the corner of your desk, turn it on and take some photographs!

Cheers,

Derek                             www.galephotography.co.uk

A Canadian adventure

October 15, 2010

Well, we’re back from our 2 week trip to Canada.  Still feeling a bit jet-lagged after the flight from Toronto, but we had a great time over there.  Canada is a huge country, and we only had the time to travel in the province of Ontario.  Mind you, it is 2.5 times larger than Texas!

Before we left I had a long discussion with myself about what cameras to take; I was concerned about the weight and size of my “fast glass” lenses.  I eventually chose my Nikon DSLR and a 28-75 f2.8 zoom, with my Lumix FX-500 digital compact for when I was walking and wanted to carry a very light camera.

"Canadian Maple leaf" by Derek Gale

As you will have seen from previous posts, I really like the little Lumix, and it’s great for creative photography.  Here whilst on a walking trail in Algonquin Provincial Park, I’ve set the camera to Macro and held a red maple leaf up between me and the sun.

"Avro Lancaster in the rain" by Derek Gale

I’m into aircraft, both historic and modern, and made sure to take a trip to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton.  The museum owns one of only 2 flying Avro Lancasters in the world.  The other is in the UK, and is flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.  The Canadian one is different in that you can pay for a flight in it; $2000 though… I was lucky to go on a flying day, and even though it was raining hard they were still flying.  The image is through a wet window, and the softening caused by the rain adds a bit of nostalgia.

"Bluecoats at Niagara falls" by Derek Gale

The museum isn’t far from one of Canada’s premier tourist attractions; Niagara Falls.  It’s a fantastic sight, even with all the hotels and other touristy stuff around it.  This shot was from the “Maid of the Mist”, a boat that goes very close to the base of the falls.  I loved the contrast between the falls and the blue rain coats everyone was given to keep dry (ish).

"Bee at Niagara Falls" by Derek Gale

On the promenade overlooking the falls I spotted this bee having a rest.  It may have got wet from the spray and needed to dry out.  Once again I’ve set the Lumix on Macro to get a nice sharp bee with the falls in the background.

"Halloween Pumpkins in Canada" by Derek Gale

Autumn/Fall in Canada is pumpkin season.  There were fields of them and loads of roadside stalls selling them.  These were on a table in the reconstructed village of “Sainte Marie among the Hurons”.  It was very dark so needed a 1/4 of a second exposure.  The window sill came in very useful as a temporary camera support.

"Beaver lake reflection" by Derek Gale

I mentioned Algonquin Park at the start of this blog.  Fabulous place!  We didn’t have long enough there, but managed to fit in an 11km trail which took 5 and a half hours to complete.  We lunched, accompanied by very tame Gray Jays, by the side of a beaver lake.  We walked across the dam to get to our lunch spot, a detail of which is featured above.  It’s just amazing how much change these animals bring to an area.  Streams turn to lakes, lakes silt up and turn into swamps, then into meadows.

"Moose in Algonquin Park" by Derek Gale

Finally, as we were heading out of the park at dusk we saw this bull moose.  He had a fine set of antlers and probably weighed about 700 lbs!  My 200mm lens would have been useful here…

In summary, a superb trip and a great place for creative photography.

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk