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

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Calling all Trekkies; Buscot impresses again!

Last Saturday I tutored another Photo Trek at Buscot Park near Faringdon.  Once again Buscot impressed with its mixture of open parkland and more formal gardens, giving a superb variety of locations for photography and, of course, photography training. Thank you to Lord Faringdon for allowing us to run Photo Treks there.

The Trek delegates were a nicely mixed group with a range of experience and equipment.  All came with a  desire to improve their photography in a beautiful place.

As always on a Photo Trek there were surprises…

"Toady back?" by Derek Gale

The central pond in Buscot’s 4-seasons walled garden has fabulous dark red water lilies and quite a number of frogs, but we were surprised to see a toad sat on a lily pad with a toadlet on its back.  You can imagine it’s thinking something like, “Go into the pond and play!  I’m trying to get a bit of rest here.”

The weather on the Trek was perfect.  The sky was partly cloudy with sunny intervals, and the light was changing all the time.  This allowed me to demonstrate to the Trek delegates the importance of looking at the sky and waiting for the right light to come along.

"Buscot House 1" by Derek Gale

Here the sky is very atmospheric but the house is too dark.  The difference in brightness between the house and the sky is too large to give a good exposure for both of them.  Using the camera’s Exposure Compensation control made the sky too bright.  What was needed was more light on the house.  A quick look at the sky and wind direction showed that it would be in sunlight in a few minutes.

"Buscot House 2" by Derek Gale

The sun came out, the house became much brighter, and it was then possible to get both the sky and the house properly exposed.  Just by waiting a few minutes.

"Buscot House 3" by Derek Gale

There’s a perfect spot at Buscot for discussing the use of foreground objects to frame the main subject.  The swimming pool by the east end of the house has a pavilion next to it.  The pavilion contains a theatre and a squash court.  The archway through to the pool is a perfect frame for the east elevation, and is useful for getting rid of the otherwise bright sky.

"Buscot canal leaf" by Derek Gale

One of Buscot’s defining landscape features is the water garden designed by Harold Peto.  The gardens are arranged as a series of canals and rectangular ponds down the hill towards the lake.  Here we talked about using different camera viewpoints to give more interesting images.  The leaf was floating on one of the ponds and I held my camera just above the surface.  It was hard to see what I was framing on, but the beauty of digital is that it costs nothing to try again.

They say that “time flies when you are enjoying yourself”, and all too soon it seemed, we had to return to our starting point.  It had been a great afternoon, with lots of photographic ideas flying around, and lots of “How do I…” questions being raised.  Thanks to everyone for making it fun for me too.

Look for the unusual

If I am at my portrait studio near Swindon, or on a location portrait shoot, as well as taking great classically-composed images, I try and capture portraits from an unusual angle, or ones that have a more unusual look.

"Behind the subject 1" by Derek Gale

Here’s an example from a family portrait shoot.  Mum was waving a brightly coloured toy to attract her son’s attention so I got behind him and took an image from his point of view.  I made sure there was a separation of focus to make the bright colour less dominant in the composition.

"Behind the subject 2" by Derek Gale

This image from another family portrait shoot is the same idea but a bit more extreme.  I’ve concentrated on the couple’s teenage son’s hair.  It was gelled into spikes and made a fabulous foreground to the very out of focus parents.

"Split image" by Derek Gale

This image is more conventional in its viewpoint, but is made unusual by the split from left to right.  There was some white muslin hanging from the ceiling and I framed the subject so that one half of her face was behind the muslin.  I kept the focus on her so the muslin was completely out of focus.  It gave a real sense of mystery to the image.

"Viewpoint 2" by Derek Gale

This “low flying children” image is from a location portrait shoot.  They had a trampoline in the garden and loved bouncing around on it.  I got down nice and low and shot them looking up.  Their expressions are great because they were concentrating on having fun, not on being photographed.  I like the way her hair is changing direction as she starts to come down.

Looking for these unusual viewpoints is great fun and really develops your “seeing eye”.  If you would like to learn this, and lots of other photographic tips, then come along to my Photo Trek at Buscot Park this weekend.  It’s photography training, but “al fresco”.

The Red Arrows – almost live…

My photography studio is near the Defence Academy, and every year at their graduation ceremony they have a big display by the RAF’s famous formation aerobatics team “The Red Arrows”.  This year’s display was today so I thought I would try and blog it “almost live”.

First thing to do was to get my equipment ready.  I was a bit restricted as to where I stood so I needed my longest lens.  I used my superb Sigma 70-200 f2.8 with a dedicated Sigma 2x converter.  This gave me an equivalent focal length of 210-600mm.  I also had another camera body with a 28-300 (42-450mm equivalent) in case the long lens was too long.  I set the ISO on 400 to keep the quality up and give me a short shutter speed.

The weather was just right with clear blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and sunshine.  That gave the Red Arrows the chance to do their full display with loops, rolls, and the crowd’s favourite; the heart stopping duos.  My, they do fly very close together!

"Red Arrows 1" by Derek Gale

Arrival in arrow formation.

"Red Arrows 2" by Derek Gale

Very close!

"Red Arrows 3" by Derek Gale

Pulling up in “Big Vixen” formation.

"Red Arrows 4" by Derek Gale

Diamond 9.

"Red Arrows 5" by Derek Gale

Solo display.

"Red Arrows 6" by Derek Gale

Making smoke.

"Red Arrows 7" by Derek Gale

Fast 5.

"Red Arrows 8" by Derek Gale

This image is not upside down!

After 20 minutes they had gone; until next year.  It was, as usual, a great display, and was free!

 

 

Anne RogersJuly 15, 2011 - 9:01 am

I was bell ringing at Hinton Waldrist so sadly missed this, but lots of interesting aircraft flying about coming in for the Air Tattoo. Just hope it’s not rained off…!

Testing a new Travel Zoom camera; by travelling!

After several years of using Panasonic’s Lumix range of compact digital cameras, I’ve bought myself another brand (shock!).  I have kept true to one of my principles, taken advantage of the very short production cycles that cameras have these days, and bought a model that’s been replaced by a “better” one.  The new camera is a so-called “Travel Zoom” compact.  That’s a small camera with a large zoom range to give maximum photographic flexibility.

The camera I’ve bought is a Samsung WB650.  It has many “bells and whistles” most of which I will never use!  One such feature is the Smile Detection where the camera will only take a picture, without the need to press the shutter button, when your subject smiles.   The built-in GPS system is potentially useful but takes forever to lock on to the satellites.  The time taken means that your photographic moment might have gone.

"Boat at Laugharne 1" by Derek Gale

It does have a very large lens focal length range; a 15x zoom.  At the wide end it’s the equivalent of a 24mm lens, and at the telephoto end it’s the equivalent of a 360mm lens.  The 24mm equivalent allows for big landscapes and was a “must have” feature for me.  This shot of a boat at Laugharne in South Wales, a town made famous by Dylan Thomas, was taken with the 24mm equivalent.  The visibility that day was amazing and you could see the distant Gower Peninsular very clearly.  Rhossili Down on Gower, nearly 15 miles away, can be seen on the extreme right of the horizon.

"Boat at Laugharne 2" by Derek Gale

This image shows the other extreme of the lens focal length at the equivalent of 360mm.  It was a very warm day and the heat haze shimmer has made the boat look like a watercolour painting.  You can also see the perspective compression that you get with long lenses.  It made the background look closer to the boat than it really was.

"The writing shed" by Derek Gale

Laugharne is a place of pilgrimage for Dylan Thomas fans.  His writing shed (not the more famous boathouse) is perched on top of the cliffs and has a great view over the estuary.  It wasn’t open so I had to shoot through some very dirty perspex in the window, and give a lot of positive Exposure Compensation because of the light pouring in through the far window. The camera dealt with the extreme contrast pretty well.  I’ve used an “aged photo” action in Photoshop to give a nostalgic feel.  It almost looks as if he’s just popped out for lunch, or several beers…

The wide zoom range means that it’s easy to get the composition “just so”.  With this image of an ice-cream kiosk on the beach at Tenby I was unable to change my position as I was on a walled path.  I focused with the kiosk in the centre and then reframed to give the correct composition.

I’ve used the same reframing technique here on the stunning Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire.  The image was taken on a very warm and sunny summer Saturday and there were hardly any people there.  We were on a 6 mile walk, and when doing long walks on hot days it’s important not to carry excess weight.  A DSLR and equivalent lenses would have been much bulkier and heavier.  The WB650 was easy to carry, being so light, and gave excellent results.  It meant I was also able to take my Panasonic GF1 and 20mm lens with me…

I’m looking forward to further real life tests, because that means more travelling!

 

[…] measures, taken advantage of the very most short production rotations that cameras will offer…Read more… This entry "Testing a nice Travel Zoom african; by travelling!?? Gale Photography" was […]

Focus on the difference.

The point of focus in your images is very important, and it’s amazing how much an image alters when you change it.   Here are the results of an exercise where I’ve set up the camera on a tripod and taken a series of three images.  The only thing that has changed in these images is the point of focus.  The lens was set to its maximum aperture to give the shallowest depth of field possible.

"Focus: Interior" by Derek Gale

Here I have focused on the interior of the car.  You can see various interior bits and bobs such as the speedo and wiper control stalk.  There’s an out of focus red and yellow shape in the lower right of the image, but you can’t see what it is.  The highlight on the mirror is quite narrow.

"Focus: Glass" by Derek Gale

This second image is focused on the driver’s side window, as can be seen by the dust (Note to self: clean your car!).  There’s no interior detail visible and the mirror highlight has got much bigger but is still lined up with the mirror’s edge.  Interestingly the red and yellow shape is now more blurry.  That’s because it’s now further away from the in focus area than the speedo was.

"Focus: Reflection" by Derek Gale

In this last image I’ve focused on the reflection in the glass of a red maple tree and green bay tree.  They were the blurry red and green shape.  The reflection is quite distorted and it looks like the car is going along at high speed.  The mirror highlight has rotated through 90 degrees and is now at right angles to the mirror edge.

You can see how much the image has altered simply by changing the point of focus.  Why not try it for yourself?