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

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“It ain’t what you got, it’s the way that you use it”

The title of this post is in homage to the famous Ella Fitzgerald (or Bananarama) song “It ain’t what you do…”.

Yesterday I was talking to someone about the “Introduction to the Creative Eye” photography course that I run at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath.  We talked about how it’s not the camera that gives great images, but that it’s the photographer and the way they use their brain.

I’ve decided to give this idea a test, and to take a set of images with my tablet computer’s camera. It’s harder to take pictures than with a mobile phone camera because it’s a bit of a big, flat thing to hold.  There are some controls, but it’s got a fixed focal length lens with a small aperture and a tiny sensor, which does give some photographic constraints.

Here’s my first image…

"The tablet at the window" by Derek Gale

Earlier this morning the sun was shining on to our neighbour’s window, and the light was reflecting on to our kitchen window.  I liked the shape of the window bars through the red window blind, and the way that the plant was nearly silhouetted.

I’ll post more images when I have them, so do keep checking back.

Location portrait shoot

As you will have seen from a previous post, (with two dogs), I recently did a portrait session for a family on location at their farm.  The light outdoors was excellent for portrait photography, although being January it was a bit chilly.  As it was a bit windy too, I first set up a studio light in a garage.  I put a large brolly on the flash which gave a softly directional light.  The end wall of the garage had a highly textured surface which made an excellent background.

"Studio flash portrait" by Derek Gale

The first person I shot was their teenaged son.  I asked him to turn his face toward the light and then look at me without moving his head.  His not-quite-a-smile gave a sort of “Mona Lisa ” look.  The B&W conversion made the shot a bit more moody, and stopped his T-shirt, which was quite a strong blue, from being distracting.

"Natural light portrait" by Derek Gale

For this shot of their daughter I moved outside and used the soft reflected light from a wall.  Getting close and using a large lens aperture allowed me to throw the background out of focus.  I left this image in colour as her scarf acted as a great frame for her face, and was a colour that went well with her eyes.

"Natural light family portrait" by Derek Gale

One of the challenges when taking family portraits is getting everyone to have natural expressions.  As I was taking this family group one of the farm workers went past and made an amusing comment.  They all looked at him and spontaneously laughed.  Result?  An image where everyone had a great expression.

Wet and cold, or cold and wet?

Even though here in the UK the birds are singing and the bulbs are pushing up out of the ground, it’s still winter.  Winter in the UK means that the weather outside may well be cold and wet (or wet and cold).  It’s not very tempting weather for outdoor photography, so why not stay indoors and photograph the effect of the cold weather?  One effect is condensation on your windows…

"Window condensation" by Derek Gale

The droplets in the window condensation image are almost fractal.  There are large droplets, smaller droplets the same shape, and even smaller droplets between them.  It’s hard to tell the size of any of them.  It’s a sort of miniature landscape photograph.  There’s a lovely gradation of light across each droplet.  I made the dark background by holding a piece of dark material (a T-shirt) behind the open window.  It meant that the side light became dominant.

So what about other windows such as the car windscreen?

"Frosty car window" by Derek Gale

If you decide to brave the outside, on a cold morning you may well get frost on your car’s windscreen.  Frost can make wonderful patterns which demand to be photographed.  Here I’ve used a macro lens (50mm f2.8 Sigma EX) to get in close and show the feathery details of the ice.  My car was parked near the studio, so that worked well as a dark background.

Wet and cold?  No photographic worries.


Are you simple or complex?

When it comes to photographic composition, are you a simple photographer or a complex one?  By that I mean do you like your compositions to have many layers of shape and colour with interest all over them, or do you deliberately produce simple images that lead the viewer in, and let them create their own complexity?  Each approach has its own merits.

"The effect of gravity" by Derek Gale

This simple image of grass, with an out of focus background, could be anywhere.  The main stem grows from corner to corner, and the lower leaf bends towards the bottom right corner.  It’s a sort of meditative image that allows the viewer freedom to add their own memories.

"Beach pebbles" by Derek Gale

This image is much more complex.  Although it has a simple diagonally breaking wavelet, there’s loads more shapes and colours and textures.  It invites closer inspection of the wonderful diffraction patterns in the moving water, and the fact that the water is invisible until it mixes with air as the wavelet breaks. A mineralogist could spend time guessing the makeup of the pebbles, and everyone can imagine the sound of the water on the stones.  Here the complexity adds to the image.

"Beach figure" by Derek Gale

And what do you think about colour?  Do you use it sparingly, such as with this image of a man on a beach?  He’s the only real point of colour, and he’s wearing red, the colour that really catches our eye.  The lack of other colours makes him stand out and emphasizes his solitude.  It’s an image that definitely shows solitude rather than loneliness.  In black and white it might feel different.

"Doorway colours" by Derek Gale

Do you use colour so that the image wouldn’t work without it?  This doorway is painted in strong bright colours that can’t help but cheer you up.  It tells you something about the person who lives there, and invites you to ask if they ran out of the purple paint on the left hand side.

There’s an optical illusion happening with this image.  Because the doorway and door aren’t quite straight we try and make it straight in our head.  This makes the text above the image look crooked – well it does to me anyway!

So, as I asked at the start, are you simple or complex??

Whatever your style of photography, have a phabulously photographic 2012!!

Happy New Year!

Yesterday I was on my first family portrait shoot of the New Year.  It was outdoors, on location, and the family had a couple of little dogs that were very interested in what was going on.

"The portrait shoot audience 1" by Derek Gale

Here’s the first dog.  I dropped down to get a view that fully showed his sturdiness, and included all four nicely muddy paws.  He’s got a very 4-square “don’t mess with me” look.

"The portrait shoot audience 2" by Derek Gale

The other dog was a bit smaller, and by taking a slightly higher viewpoint I was able to emphasise that, and make him even more appealing.

They weren’t just spectators in the shoot and they both got in on the act, and were included in some of the full family group images.

My next portrait shoot is tomorrow, but this time it’s animal free.