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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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30-minute challenge

I’m running a Photo Trek at Buscot Park this weekend, so this morning, to get into the swing of things, I set myself a little challenge.  It was to take as many creative images as I could in just 30 minutes.  To give myself the best chance I chose a very versatile lens; a Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX macro.  This lens focuses really closely, and at its maximum aperture it has a very shallow depth of field, allowing you to be very selective about which part of the image is in focus.  It’s great for the simple images that I love taking. 

"Dandelion macro" by Derek Gale

This shot of a dandelion shows that very well.  Just part of the flower is sharp and the rest, including the background, is nicely out of focus.  The sky was cloudy when I took the image, with a lovely diffuse light, making it easy to keep the highlights under control.   

"Painted wind turbine" by Derek Gale

This image is highly relevant to the village I live in, as there’s a wind farm here.  What it seems to show is a child’s drawing of a wind turbine, in a yellow field, against a blue sky.  It’s actually some cracked paint on the yellow arrow of a “Footpath” sign.  I loved the contrast of the colours, and the fact that there’s some little tiny pieces of lichen growing in the cracks. 

"Your number's up" by Derek Gale

This image is a bit more complicated.  I’m amazed at just how much information telegraph poles have on them these days.  There are labels all over them, and as this one is shared with the electricity supply there’s also a big “Danger of Death” sign.  I loved the way the nail in the top sign was bent over when it was put in, the fact that nothing quite lines up, and the decaying state of the letter and number labels in the bottom half of the frame.  What do all these labels mean? 

"Reflector" by Derek Gale

This shot tells a story.  At the end of the street there’s a black and white post with red and white reflectors on it.  It’s to protect a household gas pressure-reduction valve which is in a big green box.  A few years ago someone drove over the box, and broke the valve completely off.  The resulting gas leak was very noisy, and they were lucky it didn’t catch fire.  The post is there to stop it happening again.  The image, of the red reflector, shows just how much control over the in-focus areas the macro lens gives you, and how getting in close can produce great pattern images.  

"Abstract clematis" by Derek Gale

With this final image, of a clematis “Montana” plant with lovely purple flowers, I used a long shutter speed (1/5 of a second), and moved the camera during the exposure.  The blurry mixture of purple and green has given a sort of “Wimbledon” feel to this abstract image. 

So, there’s a selection of my 30-minute challenge images; I took lots more.  Why not set yourself a challenge, and see what you can produce? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

PS   There’s a few places left on my Buscot Park Photo Trek on July 10th.  Call me on 01793 783859 to book.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sinless Photography, Gale Photography. Gale Photography said: Just published a blog post about a 30-minute Photo Challenge. http://wp.me/ppD4z-lc […]

The Shadows, but no Cliff!

This post is about shadows, but first here’s a question which follows on from my last blog post: 

Just how simple can an image be, and still tell a story?  Here’s an example… 

"Beach/ball" by Derek Gale

This ball was at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsular.  At first glance it’s just a ball on the ground, but if you look more closely you can see it’s wet sand with seashells, so it’s on a beach near the sea.  You can tell the direction of the sea from the pattern of the sand.  There’s a distinct blue colour reflected in the sand at the top of the image, so the sky is blue.  There’s also a hard shadow beneath the ball, so you can tell the sun is out and it’s near midday.  It’s apparently simple, but actually there’s lots of information there.  What the image doesn’t tell you is why the ball was on its own in the middle of a spectacular 2 mile beach! 

Anyway, to get back to shadows…. 

We were talking to a friend last week, and he was telling us about his granddaughter, aged around 2, who on a recent sunny day discovered she had this strange thing attached to her feet: her shadow.  She was transfixed by it, and we as adults should try to look at shadows in that same, “It’s a thing I’ve never seen before” way. 

"Shadow 1" by Derek Gale

Here’s a shot where the late evening sun has thrown a long shadow.  The dips in the ground have distorted the shadow into a curious shape.  It’s a bit like the shape of the robots in the Studio Ghibli animation “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”.  These images are fun to take, and often moving just a few yards can give a completely different image

I like images that show the effect of something on its environment, rather than directly showing the thing itself. 

"Shadow 2" by Derek Gale

This image is of a “ship in a bottle” at a hotel we stayed at.  The sun was shining through the thick glass of the bottle and throwing a shadow of the ship on to the window sill.  The glass distorted the shadow and also refracted the sunlight into swirling shapes.  I waited until the shadow was at its longest to get the best shot. 

"Shadow 4" by Derek Gale

 With creative photography, you often have to wait until the right time of day, or even the right time of year.  This shadow of some railings on concrete steps only looked “just right” for about 30 minutes.  If it’s not “just right” it’s well worth making a mental note to go back at a different time, to get the best image. 

If you don’t want to wait, or can’t wait, then you can make your own shadows and control how they look. 

"Shadow 3" by Derek Gale

For this image I used a Nikon SB800 flash inside a wicker basket.  The flash was fitted with a green filter, and I fired it wirelessly using Nikon’s CLS system.  The holes in the basket caused an interesting pattern to be thrown on to the ceiling.  I took lots, some of which were very abstract, but preferred this one that had the lampshade in it.  It gives a sense of scale to the pattern, and if you stretch your imagination a bit (or a lot!), it looks like a flying saucer landing on a strange green planet… 

So, shadows are fun, and you don’t always need to wait for the right weather to get good shadow images. 

Remember: Think like a 2-year-old! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

Now that Summer’s officially here (hooray!) it’s really tempting to go off to the seaside with your camera.  After all, anywhere where there’s a boundary, such as the sea and the land, gives interesting images.  I prefer the coast to the seaside (there’s a difference), and love the light you get off the water.

"Sea stripes" by Derek Gale

Here the gentle waves are lapping onto a very flat beach on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.  I used a telephoto lens, carefully supported to avoid camera shake, to turn the waves into a series of stripes.  The breaking wave at the bottom right also breaks the pattern, giving more interest.

The weather is not always so kind, and if you have lots of salt spray flying about it can damage sensitive cameras and lenses, so you do need to be careful.

"Big wave" by Derek Gale

This huge wave crashing into the rocks, also in South Wales, was spectacular to see, and I chose the lowest viewpoint I could to make it look as big as possible.  This meant I was getting covered in spray, so I was very careful about how long I exposed my lens to it.  I kept my camera well covered under my coat and only took the image, handheld, at the last moment, rapidly putting my camera away again afterwards.  600mm lenses are expensive!  

"Cliff strata" by Derek Gale

It’s safer to avoid that salty stuff in the air by moving away from the beach and shooting the land that’s been eroded by the waves.  These cliff strata make fabulous patterns.  I chose a viewpoint that removed everything that gave clues as to how big it was.  It made the scale of the image difficult to determine; adding ambiguity to images adds interest.  

"Stone diagonal" by Derek Gale

Another way to add interest is to add simplicity.  This composition is, at first glance, very simple with the rounded stone sitting on a diagonal line, but the longer you look at it the more complexity you see.  It’s a sort of “Zen” image.

I had to change my lens here, and could not put it down on the rocks because of the sand that might have got into it; not a good thing. 

"Gower beach" by Derek Gale

Here, I’ve shot the beach from above and included the people to give a sense of its scale.  They are on their own, which tells a story, and also makes you ask questions.  Again although it looks simple at first, there’s a suprising amount of complexity in this image.  The shape of the area they are standing in is mirrored by the wave arriving at the bottom left, which gives more symmetry to this asymmetric image, and even though the sky is not in the shot, you can tell that it’s blue, as there’s a blue reflection in the water.

So, as you can see, you can get great shots by the sea, but you need know how to look for them.  I’m thinking of running a one-day/weekend coastal photography training course/Photo Trek in South Wales.  If you are interested in that do e-mail me, and I’ll keep you up to date with developments.

Cheers

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

A bit of background information.

In creative portrait photography, as well as making sure that the person is shown at their best, it’s important to control what’s happening in the background.  Most of the time a simple, uncluttered background works best.

"Blurry background 1" by Gale Photography

In this child’s portrait I liked the background because the neutral grey matched the colour of his top very well, and was a perfect complement to his hair and skin colour.  It was taken with a telephoto lens set at a wide aperture to blur the background. 

With this type of image you should experiment with the position of the subject relative to the background, so as to give good blur but also retain some texture.  The closer the subject is to the background the less blurry the background will be.

"Blurry background 2" by Gale Photography

In this image, of a boy with a confident expression, I’ve controlled both the blur in the background and its brightness.  He was lit by a studio flash set at a low power to allow the use of a wide lens aperture, and the shutter speed was set so that the background rendered quite dark.  This meant that the light tones in the background weren’t distracting.

"Blurry background 3" by Gale Photography

This business profile portrait, although it was taken in my portrait studio near Swindon, was lit with natural light through a doorway.  I’ve used a white muslin background which was nicely creased, and once again the use of a large lens aperture has given a simple background with a little bit of texture. 

When I was shooting this image there was a bit too much sunlight bouncing off the wood laminate floor, so I used an appropriately-sized rectangle of material with a low level of surface reflectivity, (the studio mat), to control it.  The mat is mottled grey with a rough texture, and is perfect for absorbing excess light!

"White background" by Gale Photography

There are times when you want the background to be as simple as possible, and a plain white background is ideal for that.  In this second business profile portrait, the light is coming from a flash shooting through a white umbrella to the left of the camera.  As before, it’s important to keep the subject away from the background; in this case it’s mostly to reduce shadows, but it also blurs any imperfections in the background paper.

So, as you can see, it can be quite complicated to ensure that your portraits have a simple background!

Cheers,

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

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Bill RyanJune 17, 2010 - 5:32 pm

Very nice photos of the delightfully gorgeous Julie.

Putting it into perspective

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 

KenJune 10, 2010 - 4:12 pm

Hi derek, very useful. I think I need to get a couple more lenses!