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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

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

    If you are looking to improve your photographic creativity, skills or knowledge, check out the Photography Training pages.

    For beautiful Fine Art images that showcase my personal vision take a look at the Fine Art Photography pages.

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“Tyger, tyger, burning bright”

What does a quote from the famous William Blake poem have to do with portrait photography?  Well, another part of the verse goes, “…could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, and this post is about facial symmetry.

Most of the time we see people’s faces as being symmetrical, but that’s not the case.  In fact, pretty well everyone’s face is not symmetrical to some extent, it’s just that most of the time we don’t notice it, or look for it (unless we are talking to Lembit Opik).

Take a look at this girl’s face…

“Asymmetric face?” by Derek Gale

At first glance she looks nice and symmetrical, but what happens if you look a bit closer?  I used Photoshop to split her face in two (ouch!), and copy each side.  Flipping each side and lining it up, I then made composite images that were either “2 left sides” or “2 right sides”.  You can see some striking differences between the two.

“Asymmetric faces x2” by Derek Gale

If we ignore the differences in her hair and the lighting background, you can see that the image that is made from “2 right sides” is much wider than the image that is made from “2 left sides”.  To me, one of the composite images looks more like the real person than the other image does.  That tells me that there are certain parts of peoples faces that are the key things we use to identify them.

So why does this matter when we’re shooting portraits?  Well, knowing that faces are nearly always asymmetric should make us look much closer, and choose the lighting that best suits the shape of the person’s face.  We should also try and work out what it is about a person’s face that makes it recognisable, and then try to emphasis those features.

Who needs a camera?

There are so many ways to take pictures these days. You can take them on compact cameras, DSLR cameras, mobile phones, tablets, etc.  There’s an awful lot of photography going on these days that doesn’t use a dedicated camera.  In fact, images taken on mobile phones now account for the majority of images being uploaded to the photo-sharing website Flickr.

Even though there are lots of conventional ways, you can still capture digital images without using a camera at all.  One option is to use a desktop scanner.  It uses a light source and a light sensitive detector, so to me it’s still photography.

“Scanned juicer” by Derek Gale

This is a orange/lemon juicer scanned with the lid open.  The scanner can’t light the background much so it’s come out nice and dark.  The fairly non-directional light source has given some interesting highlights and edge lighting, with a few spectra thrown in for good measure.

Scanners don’t write the whole image all at once, and you can take advantage of the slowness to be a bit creative.

“Scanned orange and hand” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve scanned a cut orange (face down on the scanner glass), and held my hand over it as the scanner head passed along.  Whilst the scan was underway I moved my hand to mimic the action used when juicing the fruit.  My fingers have gone into some very strange shapes.  I didn’t want the background to be black so I held wicker basket lid above the scanner with my other hand.  The end result is somewhat surreal.

Got a desktop scanner?  Why not give it a go?

It’s plane to see… …or not!

A few days ago, whilst walking across Greenham Common, I came across a very strange object.  It’s a steel “replica” of a B-52 bomber (if you look at it sideways, with one eye closed, on a very dark day), that was used for fire fighting practice when the airfield was operational.

“Fireplane whole” by Derek Gale

It’s abandoned now, and appeared to be floating in a circular pool of water.  Luckily the fence has been pushed over so I could get closer to it. Also luckily, I was wearing wellies.  As it was quite near to sunset the sun was very low in the sky, and I thought there must be some photographic potential there.

“Fireplane front” by Derek Gale

It’s not a very sophisticated bit of engineering, being made from flat sheets of steel welded together.  The construction of the front section had light falling at quite different angles, giving great dimensionality to it.  Cropping off all but the plane’s hull gives an image where it’s hard to say exactly what it is, or in fact if it is coming out at you or going away from you.

“Fireplane tail” by Derek Gale

The low angle light shining through the open structure of the tail also gave an interesting image.  It’s been reduced to very few tones, with a great colour gradation in the sky, and the “sun star” catches your eye nicely.  The Lumix G3’s 20mm lens has done a great job of coping with the very direct light without losing contrast.

So how could I make an abstract image?

“Fireplane pyramid” by Derek Gale

Well, I was struck by the fantastic rusty texture of the steel, and the angle shapes at the front.  I selected just a small section of the hull, and reduced it to a simple pyramid.  Now it really is unidentifiable, being just a study in red tones and simple shapes.

Have a great Christmas and a phabulously photographic 2013!

Derek.

I demand compensation!

During these short winter days, the lighting can sometimes be wonderful, but it can sometimes hinder photography.  It’s the overcast days where it can hinder.  The reason is the much higher level of brightness that an overcast sky has compared to the brightness of the foreground.  Your camera tries hard to average out the scene’s brightness and the result is a dull foreground.

“Catalina no compensation” by Derek Gale

Her’s an example.  It’s of something that’s really interesting to an aviation enthusiast; the fuselage of a Consolidated Catalina flying boat.  Anoraky types will notice it’s an amphibious version…  The sky was bright so the camera has underexposed the foreground, leading to loss of detail. So how do we get round this? Your camera will probably have a control that can help.  It’s called the Exposure Compensation control.  There may be a dedicated button identified with a +/-  symbol, but it may be in a menu.

“Catalina plus one compensation” by Derek Gale

Here it is in action.  I’ve dialled up +1 unit of Exposure Compensation.  + numbers add brightness, –  numbers reduce brightness.  You can see that there is more detail visible in the fuselage, and the sky has gone much brighter.  If all we want is the detail in the foreground we’re done, but if we still want detail in the sky we need to get it back.

“Catalina graduated filter” by Derek Gale

One way to get it back is using an accessory called a “graduated grey neutral density filter”.  It’s a piece of plastic (or if you’re very posh it’s glass), that’s grey near the top and gradually goes clear towards the bottom.  The grey top reduces the exposure at the top of the image, so it gets darker.  Being plain grey it adds no extra colour.  The clear part lets all the light through, so the exposure for that part stays the same.  It gives you the best of both worlds; good foreground detail and still some sky detail.  You can see from this image that we’ve got the detail we want all over the image.

Put one on your Christmas list (along with a photography training gift voucher…).

Plain or filtered?

I recently stayed (for a very special birthday) at the wonderful Woodsford Castle in Dorset, UK.  Parts of it go back to the middle of the 14th Century, and it is very atmospheric.  It’s owned by the Landmark Trust, and you can rent it.  It sleeps up to 8 people, and is, in effect, a very large holiday cottage.

I wanted to show how the castle looked on a beautifully crisp sunny day, but couldn’t get it all in one frame as the widest lens on my Panasonic G3 was a 20mm (40mm equivalent).  To get round this I took 3 images and combined them in Photoshop CS5 to give a panorama.

I felt that the image needed to be in black and white, so set up a B&W layer in Photoshop. You don’t get a good B&W image just by desaturating a colour image.  A B&W layer gives you much more control.

“Woodsford Castle – no filter” by Derek Gale

It looked OK with the default settings, but I wanted a bit more, so I delved into the B&W filters menu.  These simulate the effect of putting a coloured filter on your lens when shooting with B&W film.

“Woodsford Castle – Blue filter” by Derek Gale

Simulating a blue filter took away all of the saturation in the blue sky. The sky is now much too light.  The filter has also accentuated the texture of the stone, and it makes the building look a bit older.

“Woodsford Castle – Red filter” by Derek Gale

This image uses a simulated red filter (and a bit more Contrast).  The blue sky has darkened down, and overall the image has much more impact.  The filter has also removed some apparent imperfections in the stonework so it looks much newer.  You can imagine it being used by a 14th cent estate agent…

So, one image and three very different looks, and that’s without putting in any variations in the filter effects, or adding further adjustment layers.  Of course, there’s also the choice of how to tone the final printout, by choosing the right paper and ink combination.

Isn’t photography fun!