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    Hello, and welcome to my website! I'm Derek Gale, photography trainer and Fine Art photographer.

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Same person different look #3

I published a couple of blog posts on this theme before, but it’s a point worth making again.  It’s amazing how a simple lighting change can dramatically change how a portrait looks.  Both of these portraits were lit with a single light, but they look so different.

"Wide light portrait" by Derek Gale

“Wide light portrait” by Derek Gale

This first image has a broad light source, a north-facing window, coming from the left of frame.  The light is softly directional, with good falloff from one side to the other.  There’s some nice modelling on her left cheek.

"Slit of light portrait" by Derek Gale

“Slit of light portrait” by Derek Gale

This image is also lit by a light source from the left, but this time it’s a shaft of direct sunlight coming through a gap in a door.  The light is hard and very directional.  I noticed that with her head in just the right position the shadow side of her face made a profile portrait.  It’s an optical illusion but most effective.

So: 1 light from roughly the same direction, the same model, but completely different looks.  Try it!

Stuck inside ‘cos it’s raining again!

It’s probably not escaped your attention that here in the UK it’s been raining quite a lot this winter.  There’s a limit to how many water images you can shoot (I’ve shot loads this year!), so what can you photograph when you’re stuck inside again because of the weather?  I reckon there’s lots, especially abstract images!  Just turn on your imagination.

"Kaleidoscope window" by Derek Gale

“Kaleidoscope window” by Derek Gale

You could get out your optical toys, here a simple plastics-lensed insect eye kaleidoscope, and just look out of the window.  You need to use a camera phone or compact camera for this type of image as DSLR lenses are just too big to fit inside the toy.

"The clothes airer" by Derek Gale

“The clothes dryer” by Derek Gale

You could take advantage of the lack of light when it’s raining, use a long shutter speed, combine it with flash, and move the camera during the exposure.  It’s a fun way to get images where there’s blur mixed with sharpness.  Here’s the clothes dryer!

"Wrapping paper" by Derek Gale

“Wrapping paper” by Derek Gale

Not got a clothes dryer?  Wrapping paper works well too!  In this case it’s holographic wrapping paper which gives spectra from incident light sources. The swirling colours and shapes are fabulous.  Don’t use flash, just use a long shutter speed and move the camera in a twisting motion.

"Kaleidoscope toes" by Derek Gale

“Kaleidoscope toes” by Derek Gale

If you’ve got access to a better quality insect-eye kaleidoscope you can get different types of  images. Just ask a passing person if you can photograph their toes, (OK, it was a visiting friend), and behold “foot flowers”.

Stuck inside because of the weather?  It’s a great photographic opportunity!

De-composing an image

Just the one image today, but a very useful one indeed.  It’s a great example because it shows just how complex an image can be whilst seeming to be quite simple.  It’s of a piece of marble sculpture, and was a jagged line going up into the sky, like an inverted lightning bolt.

"God Rod - no lines" by Derek Gale

“No added lines” by Derek Gale

I carefully choose a low angle to get rid of any background distractions, and to emphasise the height of the sculpture.  I made sure that the composition started in the bottom left corner and went diagonally up to the right.  I was also very careful to ensure that the white tip of the sculpture reached, and defined, the top edge of the frame and “trapped” the cloud inside the shape to its left, leaving a dark area to the right.

"God Rod - main diagonal line" by Derek Gale

“Main diagonal line” by Derek Gale

Even though there’s a break in the line, where the sculpture kinks sharply, you can see quite clearly that the main composition line goes from corner to corner.  The final third of the line is implied rather than explicit.

"God Rod - corner lines" by Derek Gale

“Mirrored corner lines” by Derek Gale

In the top right corner the last part of the sculpture crosses from right to left to form a triangle with the edges of the frame.  In the bottom right corner there’s another, less defined, dark triangle that mirrors it.  It’s formed by the soft edge of the cloud and the edges of the frame.  This shape mirroring makes the composition more interesting.

"God Rod - triangles" by Derek Gale

“Implied triangles” by Derek Gale

There are other triangles in the image.  Having these triangles adds to the image complexity, and the soft edged ones contrast with the hard edges of the sculpture.  For example there’s a triangle formed by the “trapped” cloud’s edge and the kink in the sculpture, and another below it formed by the cloud and the frame edge.  If you look hard you’ll see even more!

As for the patterns in the marble being similar to the texture of the cloud, or the colours/tones of the sculpture matching the colours/tone of the background, or both the sculpture and the background going from a darker base to a lighter top…

Not such a simple image then!

So, I married an axe murderer!

If you look at photography forums (fora?) and blogs you’ll see a lot about capturing as much detail as possible in an image.  Well I reckon that you can get great images without very much detail in at all, by taking silhouettes.  Expose for the background (most often a bright sky) and the foreground detail will disappear leaving contrast and mystery…

"The boy & the aerial" by Derek Gale

“The boy & the aerial” by Derek Gale

This urban image shows a boy in a man-made landscape.  There are no curves in his environment, and, to me, his body position implies a sense of enclosure.   The buildings are taking over the countryside.  There’s just little bit, by his right hand, that looks natural, and his fingers are almost, but not quite, touching it.

"Ying and yang portrait" by Derek Gale

“Ying and yang portrait” by Derek Gale

In the studio you can expose against a bright light, in this case a large softbox directly behind the subject, to produce the same silhouette effect.  You can tell it’s a woman’s face, not smiling, but there’s no other expression information.  It’s an exercise in black, white and curves.

"So, I married an axe murderer!" by Derek Gale

“So, I married an axe murderer!” by Derek Gale

Just to be clear, she’s not a real bride!!  It’s from a bridal model shoot where one of the locations was a wood yard.  She picked up the axe and the idea for the image came from that.  Some might argue that the shape of the left side of the axe head resembles the curve of a woman’s waist, but that might be reading too much into it.

Remember: less can be more.

PS  The title of this post comes from the title of a film!

A reservoir, but no dogs.

I recently went to Farmoor reservoir in Oxfordshire.  I was surprised to see that despite all the rain we have had the water level in the reservoir was quite low.  It was due, apparently, to the very high sediment levels in the flood water, which means that it can’t be used.  To paraphrase the famous winter railway announcement about snow, it was clearly the “wrong kind of water”.

It was the right sort of light though!!

"Farmoor Curves" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor Curves” by Derek Gale

The low angle of the sun picked out the texture of the corrugated concrete on the sides of the reservoir.  Using a vertical composition helped accentuate the curves, and the gentle breeze gave the water a good texture too.

"Farmoor lines" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor lines” by Derek Gale

Looking at the water and concrete from another direction gave shapes and colour that worked well as a simple horizontal composition.  There’s a nice gradation of colour from the yellowy-beige (ish) of the concrete, to the blues and dark magenta in the water.  The cracks/gaps in the concrete under the water stop it from being too simple.

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“No soap here?” by Derek Gale

This simple composition works due to the strong colours.  The top of the orange lifebuoy holder contrasts really well against the intense blue of a winter sky.  I cropped it so the orange shape starts in the lower corners. I’m not sure of the function of the square full-stop after the word though.

"Farmoor rays" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor rays” by Derek Gale

The low angle of the sun and the reflections off the water meant there was lots of light about.  It gave me a chance to play with a small aperture and see what sort of diffraction rays I could get.  In this image, taken with a Panasonic 14mm lens on my G3, the shape of the light star in the sky is interesting as it’s not very symmetrical.  The original image was a bit soft due to an effect called “diffraction softening”, that happens at small lens apertures, but came back well with a bit of sharpening in Photoshop.

Reservoirs?  Water, light, reflections, movement.  What more does a photographer want?