Posted tagged ‘wide angle’

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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Putting it into perspective

June 10, 2010

Greetings blog readers, and welcome to another post by me, Derek Gale of Gale Photography near Swindon. 

At my photography training courses I’m often asked, “What’s the best sort of lens to use” ?  That’s an impossible question to answer because so much depends on the type of photography the person wants to do.  If you like photographing insects, or other small things, then a macro lens would be perfect.  

"Paua shell" by Gale Photography

I used a macro lens (a lens that gives it best performance focussed on near objects), for this shot of some paua shell/abalone.  It’s beautiful stuff and is great to photograph.  Here it’s lit from behind as well as in front. 

If you like photographing birds, or distant objects, then a telephoto lens would be perfect.  

"The Weather Project" by Gale Photography

A telephoto lens is one that magnifies compared to the normal human field of vision.  This shot of “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in London, was taken with a lens with a focal length of ca. 150mm.  This gives a magnification of around 3 times. 

If you like landscapes, then a wide-angle lens might be the right thing for you.  A wide-angle lens generally has a wider field of view than the human eye. 

"Lake District landscape" by Gale Photography

This shot, of some bad weather approaching in the Lake District, was taken with a lens that had a focal length of about 35mm, which gives a slightly wider view than normal. 

Whatever type of lens you have, it’s important to remember that the “look” of an image changes depending on the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  The perspective, and the relationship of objects that are closer or further away, can change dramatically.  

Here’s a series of images to show you what I mean… 

I’ve shot a phone box with a number of different lens focal lengths ranging from very wide-angle to long telephoto.  I moved further away as I increased the focal length, and tried to keep the phone box the same height in the frame in each image. 

"Constant subject size: 18mm" by Gale Photography

 The first image is with a very wide-angle lens.  Note the wide-angle distortion, and how we are looking at the pillar box almost from the side. 

"Constant subject size:36mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the image magnification is approaching that of the human eye, so the perspective is looking more natural. 

"Constant subject size: 135mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the focal length used produces an image magnification of about 2.5 times.  Note how the background is beginning to look much flatter relative to the phone box, and also how the pillar box has appeared to rotate compared to the very wide-angle image.  This sort of lens is great for creative portrait photography as it produces a slight flattening of the facial features which is generally quite flattering. 

"Constant subject size: 300mm" by Gale Photography

This final image uses a lens focal length of 300mm, which gives a magnification of about 6 times compared to the human eye.  The foreground and background now all seem to be in the same plane, and we are looking straight at the pillar box. 

So you can see that the “look” of an image depends on a combination of factors; the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  Remember, when you use your zoom lens, that it doesn’t just get you closer or further away, it changes the perspective as well.  Using your feet to get closer or further away can be just as powerful; I call it “pedual zoom” – or “zooming with your feet”!  

So, what’s the best lens to use?  The one that gives you the results you want!  

Have fun with your creative photography, and if you want to learn more why not book one of our training courses

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk 

It’s a stitch up!

May 13, 2010

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, “there are times when you just can’t get everything in because your camera’s lens isn’t wide enough, or you just can’t get far enough away”.   Under these circumstances you need to either; walk away and say, “It can’t be done”, or you can turn a problem into a solution by making a panoramic or a stitched image.  

I call an image that is a long, thin, horizontal or vertical composition a “classic panorama”, and an image that has a squarer composition a “stitched image”. 

Making this sort of image used to be hard, but now it’s much easier.  There’s lots of programs available that do most of the hard work for you.  I use Autostitch (the demo version is free), and the Photomerge facility in Photoshop. 

What you do is take a series of images that cover the whole area you want in the final composite image, download them, run them through the software, and it’s done.  Well, there’s a bit more to it than that of course, but you get the picture.

This stitched image of the gate in the Chinatown area of Liverpool is made from 9 separate images.  I used Autostitch, and then tidied it up in Adobe Photoshop CS5, including using the new “Content-Aware Fill” control.  It’s cool!

"Liverpool gate" by Gale Photography

Here’s a classic panorama.  It’s of Arsenal FC’s football ground; The Emirates Stadium, in North London.  I was behind a window, so was shading the camera from reflections with my coat.  It must have looked a bit odd!  It uses 10 images, and I think it captures the feel of the “amphitheatre of football” very well.

“Emirates panorama” by Gale Photography

 This stitched image of the keep at Dover Castle shows the sort of perspective distortion that you can get when you use a wide-angle lens.  CS5 has tried to correct this during the merging of the images, but it’s still present.  I like the effect, as it makes the building look even more imposing and powerful.

"Dover Castle Keep" by Gale Photography

Finally, this classic panorama was made of 14 images taken from the Observatory at Greenwich, London.  I used a Panasonic FZ-50 compact camera, and it’s extraordinary just how much detail can be seen in the image.  It was perfect weather to take this type of image with a digital compact camera; clear and sunny.  There’s no perspective distortion because I used a telephoto lens. 

"Greenwich panorama" by Gale Photography

Here’s a detail from the centre of the image. 

"Greenwich panorama detail" by Gale Photography

You can quite clearly see the banks’ signs on the skyscrapers.  In other parts of the image you can see boats on the River Thames, and people getting a coffee! 

This technique should be part of your creative photography arsenal.  We discuss panoramas as part of the “Viewpoint” section of my “The Creative Eye” course.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Mobile fun.

May 6, 2010

I’ve been asked to do a talk, to a local photographic club, about creative photography using digital compact cameras.  Whilst I was preparing the talk, I realised something.  It was that lots of people have a digital compact camera, but call it something else; a mobile phone.  To be sure of covering all possible questions in my talk, I thought I’d try some  creative photography with my own mobile phone camera. 

It was then that I discovered something wonderful …

… it’s that the camera takes a quite a while to read the image from the whole sensor. 

So why is that so wonderful?  Well, it means that if you move the phone camera during the exposure you get an interesting “shape” to the image.  It’s because by the time the last bit of the sensor is read, the camera is looking at something different to what it was looking at when it started reading the sensor.

"Oilseed rape field" by Gale Photography

In this image of oilseed rape flowers, I moved the camera in a quarter circle as I pressed the shutter.  The very curved horizon makes it look as if I’ve used a fisheye lens!  It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what you’ll end up, but it’s easy to experiment, and take another image if the first one needs improvement.

"The wavy notice" by Gale Photography

Here, I’ve used an S-shaped movement, which has given a lovely wave to the fence.  It took a few tries before the writing was sharp enough.  I think it’s a really cool effect.

"Distorted window" by Gale Photography

In this image, of an English country cottage window, the wide-angle lens on the mobile phone camera has given an exaggerated perspective which the creative use of camera movement has emphasised.

“Insect eye abstract” by Gale Photography

In this final image I’ve not used camera movement.  I’ve used a small plastic optical toy (an insect eye kaleidoscope) to make an abstract image.  The phone camera’s lens is very small and fitted nicely inside.  You can’t do this with a digital SLR as the lenses are too big.  Part of the image is of the inside of the toy, and part is through the insect eye lens.  It’s a blank DVD in its case, but it looks completely unrecognisable.

So, be creative with your phone camera and have some photographic fun!

If this has inspired you to want to know more about creative photography, then why not come to one of my courses? 

There’s lots of info on my website at www.galephotography.co.uk

Cheers,
 
Derek
 
 

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

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

Calling all Trekkies

August 13, 2009

On Saturday 8th the day dawned bright and sunny.  This boded well for our first Photo Trek at Buscot Park, near Faringdon.  Given what the weather on Thursday had been like, I was very relieved.  On Thursday I was photographing a group of people in a giant “conservatory”, and it was raining on to the roof so hard that they couldn’t hear me! 

Anyway, Saturday was fab; a great place, great weather, and a great group of people.  Thanks again to Lord Faringdon for allowing us to run Treks at Buscot.

Buscot gates

At 2pm the elegant gates to Buscot Park’s gardens were opened and our Photo Trek was underway.  We started the Photo Trek near the stables/tea rooms and experimented with use of wide-angle lenses for architecture, exposure compensation, and with long exposures to make interesting blur patterns and swirls.  From there we moved on to the Four Seasons Walled Garden, one of Buscot’s highlights.

Buscot Trekkies 1

The garden has beds that are absolutely full of plants in wide variety and interesting juxtaposition; yellow courgettes next to flowers, runner beans climbing up apple trees, and photographically it’s hard to know where to start.  One good rule is “Keep it Simple”, so we concentrated on simple compositions with one flower, but showing the mass of plants in the background in a nicely out of focus way.

Buscot sea holly & rose

In the walled gardens there is a circular fish/lily pond.  Whilst we were there someone found a white feather, and I demonstrated the use of a cobweb as a way to support it for photography.  Here it is shot in macro mode on a Lumix compact digital camera, and it works a treat!

Buscot feather

From the walled garden we made our way up the steps to the lawn in front of the house, and then down to one of Buscot’s other highlights, the Harold Peto Water Gardens.  It’s always worth trying different viewpoints for your images, and one participant dangled his camera by its strap to get a water’s eye image of the ponds.  As with the walled gardens the simple images were most successful, like this leaf floating on the pond.

Buscot leaf

All too soon we had to wend our way back to our Photo Trek starting point, pausing to shoot the very smug-looking frog in the pond at the back of Buscot House.

Buscot Trekkies 2

Buscot frog

The feedback from the group was excellent, and I had a great time too.  We’re planning lots of other Photo Treks next year, including more at Buscot, so do come along.  You can find out about our Photo Treks and other Photographic  Training on our website at www.lifestylephotos.co.uk/Training.htm

Looking forward to seeing you soon!