Posted tagged ‘unusual’

A right Royal event: Part 2

March 31, 2011

OK, let me state at the start that this blog post is not about the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.  No, it’s about the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition, in London from 7th June to 15th August 2011.

Their website says, “The Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art exhibition. Now in its 242nd year, the exhibition continues the tradition of showcasing work by both emerging and established artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film.”     Note the word “photography“.

To have work accepted by the Royal Academy for their Summer Exhibition is a real achievement, as they get over 10,ooo works submitted.  As they say, “Nothing ventured…” 

"Bokeh 073" by Derek Gale

I decided to enter two of my Fine Art Photography “Invisible Beauty” Bokeh series.  I’ve mentioned these before, and they don’t look like photographs at all.  As you can see from the image above, they are much more like abstract paintings.  The images I am entering are printed on aluminium laminate and are 1 metre wide, and there’s the complication…  Works have to be delivered to the Academy in an unwrapped/unpackaged condition, which rules out most couriers, so I’m taking them myself.

"Bokeh 048" by Derek Gale

It was interesting deciding what category they were, as different types of works need to be delivered on different days.  After some discussion with the RA it we agreed that they were, as unframed images mounted on aluminium, best categorised as “Unglazed works”. 

To keep them in great condition I’ve had to get some corner protectors and side protection foam.  With the foam on, the two works just fit into my exhibition board carrying case; it might have been made for them.  There’s no parking at the RA so it’s down to public transport. I’ve sorted out a route which involves no changes of Tube line, which will be useful with a large bag to lug around.

So off to the RA I go, and I’ll keep you posted as to how I get on.  Wish me luck!

Cheers,

Derek      www.galephotography.co.uk

PS   Once the works are safely delivered, I’ll be free to spend some time in London doing some street photography with my Panasonic GF1 and 20mm lens.  It’s a perfect combination for that.

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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

“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

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.

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

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

They’re not all there…

October 7, 2010

One question that’s come up in discussions about portrait photography, is whether it’s necessary for a portrait to show the whole of a person’s face, or even to show their face at all?  In a previous blog post I explored the use of shadows and out of focus areas in creative portrait photography, and I’d like to develop that a bit more. 

"Part portrait 3" by Derek Gale

In this outdoor portrait I’ve cropped the image at the centre of the subject’s nose.  It helps to contrast their skin tones with the tones of the rusty corrugated metal behind them.  It also puts the person in a more interesting place in the frame, with much more space above them than the space they take up. 

"Part portrait 2" by Derek Gale

This is a horizontal treatment of the same compositional technique.  Here the empty space was black, so it was better to convert the image into black and white rather than leaving it in colour.  You get a real idea of the boy’s character even though you can’t see all of his face. 

"Part portrait 1" by Derek Gale

This is an even tighter crop on a girl’s face.  It’s said that the eyes are the “windows to the soul”, so I’ve really concentrated on a single eye.  As it was so strikingly blue, I left the eye in colour and converted the rest of the image to B&W.  This splash of colour helps to draw your eye to the girl’s eye. 

"Part portrait 6" by Derek Gale

So how small a part of a person can we show and still show their character?  This shot of an eye, taken with a macro lens, shows a good line of communication between the subject and the viewer.  The fact that the person’s “laughter lines” aren’t creased tells you that they aren’t smiling.  The direct gaze, with a large pupil, shows confidence. 

So what if we don’t show their face at all? 

"Part portrait 4" by Derek Gale

To me this is still a portrait even though the child’s face isn’t visible.  There’s a delightful contrast between the girl’s dress and the chunky boots; a contrast between smartness; “I’m being photographed”, and practicality; “It’s raining”.  Her parents would immediately recognise it as her. 

So, it’s clear to me that you can show a person’s character in a portrait without showing the whole face.  Set yourself a project to take a person’s portrait without showing their face at all! 

You can learn how to look for images like this, and learn creative compositional techniques, on my “The Creative Eye” course on November 13th at the Court Hill Centre near Wantage.  You can book your place here

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk