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

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I’m just a regular guy: Part 3

Just before I write the next post I thought you might like to know about another creative photography award!  Well, I thought you might like to know, so here goes… 

I’ve just won an award at the MPA Great Western Regional Portrait Awards.  It was in the “Under 5’s ” category and was from a child’s portrait shoot.  The judge liked the creative lighting, the boy’s expression, the well-controlled background, and the off-centre composition.  Here’s the shot: 

The award winner!

To get back on track with my post… 

You will remember from previous “I’m just a regular guy” posts,  that I love doing shoots for people who I’ve shot in the past.  I’ve just enjoyed a studio portrait shoot for the family of a couple whose wedding I photographed a couple of years ago.  The shoot was great fun, and I got some really good individual images as well as the family groups. 

"Jumping" by Gale Photography

In this jumping image he’s got a great shape and a great expression.  It’s tough to get both at the same time.  This sort of action shot can really give “life” to an image. 

Candid portrait by Gale Photography

 This image shows that it’s possible to get candid images during a studio portrait shoot.  I was using white umbrellas which allow quite a bit of light to go away from the subject, as well as towards them.  This means that the people behind me waiting for their individual portraits were well lit.  Great portraits are about the person’s expression, and her expression is fab.  There’s a real communication between her and the person she was looking at. 

"Black background portrait" by Gale Photography

 Here, I’ve used the same “It’s behind you” technique to get a relaxed shot of Mum sitting on a chair.  I turned round, she realised what I was doing, smiled, and “click”.  It’s clear that she put a lot of thought into what she was going to wear, and I really like the way she chose her lipstick to match the colour of her chunky necklace. 

You could enjoy your own portrait shoot.  Just give me a call on 01793 783859 to book. 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

It’s a stitch up!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, “there are times when you just can’t get everything in because your camera’s lens isn’t wide enough, or you just can’t get far enough away”.   Under these circumstances you need to either; walk away and say, “It can’t be done”, or you can turn a problem into a solution by making a panoramic or a stitched image.  

I call an image that is a long, thin, horizontal or vertical composition a “classic panorama”, and an image that has a squarer composition a “stitched image”. 

Making this sort of image used to be hard, but now it’s much easier.  There’s lots of programs available that do most of the hard work for you.  I use Autostitch (the demo version is free), and the Photomerge facility in Photoshop. 

What you do is take a series of images that cover the whole area you want in the final composite image, download them, run them through the software, and it’s done.  Well, there’s a bit more to it than that of course, but you get the picture.

This stitched image of the gate in the Chinatown area of Liverpool is made from 9 separate images.  I used Autostitch, and then tidied it up in Adobe Photoshop CS5, including using the new “Content-Aware Fill” control.  It’s cool!

"Liverpool gate" by Gale Photography

Here’s a classic panorama.  It’s of Arsenal FC’s football ground; The Emirates Stadium, in North London.  I was behind a window, so was shading the camera from reflections with my coat.  It must have looked a bit odd!  It uses 10 images, and I think it captures the feel of the “amphitheatre of football” very well.

“Emirates panorama” by Gale Photography

 This stitched image of the keep at Dover Castle shows the sort of perspective distortion that you can get when you use a wide-angle lens.  CS5 has tried to correct this during the merging of the images, but it’s still present.  I like the effect, as it makes the building look even more imposing and powerful.

"Dover Castle Keep" by Gale Photography

Finally, this classic panorama was made of 14 images taken from the Observatory at Greenwich, London.  I used a Panasonic FZ-50 compact camera, and it’s extraordinary just how much detail can be seen in the image.  It was perfect weather to take this type of image with a digital compact camera; clear and sunny.  There’s no perspective distortion because I used a telephoto lens. 

"Greenwich panorama" by Gale Photography

Here’s a detail from the centre of the image. 

"Greenwich panorama detail" by Gale Photography

You can quite clearly see the banks’ signs on the skyscrapers.  In other parts of the image you can see boats on the River Thames, and people getting a coffee! 

This technique should be part of your creative photography arsenal.  We discuss panoramas as part of the “Viewpoint” section of my “The Creative Eye” course.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek. 

www.galephotography.co.uk

TwincMay 14, 2010 - 9:18 am

Nice post. I’m just getting into photography and this has some useful tips. Thanks.

Derek GaleMay 17, 2010 - 9:24 am

Thanks Twinc! Glad you are finding my blog useful.

Mobile fun.

I’ve been asked to do a talk, to a local photographic club, about creative photography using digital compact cameras.  Whilst I was preparing the talk, I realised something.  It was that lots of people have a digital compact camera, but call it something else; a mobile phone.  To be sure of covering all possible questions in my talk, I thought I’d try some  creative photography with my own mobile phone camera. 

It was then that I discovered something wonderful …

… it’s that the camera takes a quite a while to read the image from the whole sensor. 

So why is that so wonderful?  Well, it means that if you move the phone camera during the exposure you get an interesting “shape” to the image.  It’s because by the time the last bit of the sensor is read, the camera is looking at something different to what it was looking at when it started reading the sensor.

"Oilseed rape field" by Gale Photography

In this image of oilseed rape flowers, I moved the camera in a quarter circle as I pressed the shutter.  The very curved horizon makes it look as if I’ve used a fisheye lens!  It’s pretty hard to predict exactly what you’ll end up, but it’s easy to experiment, and take another image if the first one needs improvement.

"The wavy notice" by Gale Photography

Here, I’ve used an S-shaped movement, which has given a lovely wave to the fence.  It took a few tries before the writing was sharp enough.  I think it’s a really cool effect.

"Distorted window" by Gale Photography

In this image, of an English country cottage window, the wide-angle lens on the mobile phone camera has given an exaggerated perspective which the creative use of camera movement has emphasised.

“Insect eye abstract” by Gale Photography

In this final image I’ve not used camera movement.  I’ve used a small plastic optical toy (an insect eye kaleidoscope) to make an abstract image.  The phone camera’s lens is very small and fitted nicely inside.  You can’t do this with a digital SLR as the lenses are too big.  Part of the image is of the inside of the toy, and part is through the insect eye lens.  It’s a blank DVD in its case, but it looks completely unrecognisable.

So, be creative with your phone camera and have some photographic fun!

If this has inspired you to want to know more about creative photography, then why not come to one of my courses? 

There’s lots of info on my website at www.galephotography.co.uk

Cheers,
 
Derek
 
 
AnneMay 7, 2010 - 5:31 pm

I like the window! Must try this technique with my own mobile. It looks like fun.

An eccentric photographer.

I think that eccentric photography is a good thing! 

There are various meanings of the word “eccentric”, but let’s use the one that, according to Wikipedia, means “out of the centre”. 

It’s really easy to put the main subject of your images in the exact centre, as most of the time it’s how we see things.  When we look at a person or thing, we place them (especially their eyes) in the centre of our field of vision.   With portrait photography that’s not always the best way to get an interesting composition.

"The orange cup" by Gale Photography

In this natural light portrait, the strong lighting on the orange cup catches the eye, and the dark space above his head reinforces the fact that he’s small.  If the cup was central it would not be as strong an image.  The strongly directional light has given a lovely rim lighting to his head and body. 

"Abby off centre" by Gale Photography

In this image, shot in my portrait studio near Swindon, I’ve put the person well off to the right.  As we “read” images from left to right, our eyes reach the main subject last.  She is, in fact, acting like a “bookend”, which keeps our interest, because it stops our eyes from leaving the frame.  Her face is the lightest part of the image, and isn’t white because of the warm toning.

"Off centre boy" by Gale Photography

In this studio portrait, the boy’s eyes are the darkest part of the image, and the rest of the image is made of very pale tones.  Having his eyes so near the top of the frame, and on an angle, gives an interesting perspective.  His intense expression adds to that perspective.

"The red hat" by Gale Photography

Finally, this location fashion portrait was taken with off-camera flash, and bright sunlight shining through a hole in a wall.  The red hat is the strongest colour present and really holds the composition together.  The brightest point is very close to the top of the frame, but that doesn’t matter.

Remember to put your main subject off-centre, and you will get more interesting images.  Why not join me and become an eccentric photographer!

Off-centre composition is one of the subjects in my “The Creative Eye” photographic training workshop.

See you next time, 

Derek

www.galephotography.co.uk

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Travels with a compact camera.

I have mentioned on this blog before that  it’s all about the photographer, and not about the camera.  It’s still true! 

I’ve been invited by a local photographic club to talk to them about using digital compact cameras, compared to using digital SLRs.  At that talk I’ll mention the benefits, and the challenges, of creative photography with compact cameras. 

On the basis that I should practice what I will preach, on a trip round the Cotswolds yesterday I took my Panasonic Lumix FX-500 digital compact with me instead of my Nikon DSLRs.  Why?  Well, it was a day off, and I didn’t want to carry a large, heavy DSLR and loads of large aperture lenses with me.  OK, so the ultimate image quality on a digital compact with a small sensor isn’t as good as a DSLR, but as I wasn’t planning to produce large prints that didn’t matter.  Also it was a sunny day, and these small sensor cameras work very well when it’s sunny. 

We stopped for lunch on the way to our final destination, and I was able to get a nice abstract image through some distorting glass.  Simple with the close focusing ability of the FX-500. 

"Distorting glass" by Gale Photography

The Cotwolds looked fantastic in the Spring sunshine, and driving across them was a real pleasure.  After a quick divert to Adlestrop, made famous in the poem that starts with, “Yes, I remember Adlestrop…”, we arrived at our destination.  Chastleton House, in Oxfordshire, is one of England’s finest and most original Jacobean houses.

"Chastleton House facade" by Gale Photography

The facade of the house, unaltered since it was built, looked fab  in the spring sunshine.  The only problem was getting an image with no other visitors in it.  You need patience whatever camera you are using. 

Chastleton operates a timed ticket system, so while we were waiting, we took the opportunity to look round the gardens.  The daffodils were mostly over but other spring flowers were looking at their best. 

"Chastleton flowers" by Gale Photography

I dropped the camera down to a low viewpoint with a wide-angle lens (24mm equivalent), so I could concentrate on the foreground flowers, whilst still showing the mass of other flowers.  

"Chastleton fritillaries" by Gale Photography

In this second flower image, I’ve used a wide-angle lens and a low viewpoint looking upwards, to show the flowers against the trees and sky in the background.  Easy to see the image on the compact camera’s rear screen; not so easy with a DSLR unless it has Live View. 

The house is well worth a visit, if only for the Long Gallery with the longest barrel-vaulted ceiling in Britain.  The plasterwork is fabulous.  To get a good shot I used a technique that works really well.  I turned off the flash, set the self timer, put the camera on the floor, pressed the shutter, and stepped back.  Result? A sharp image. 

"Chastleton ceiling" by Gale Photography

On the way back to the car after visiting the house, we saw these spring lambs sunning themselves under the dovecote.  Lambs and the Cotswolds really go together, as the landscape has been shaped by years of sheep farming. 

"Chastleton lambs" by Gale Photography

So, having a digital compact camera on your belt allows you to get great images without lugging a DSLR about.  You just need to work within its limitations. 

Although yesterday was a day off for me, I was still taking pictures.  That’s how it is when you’re passionate about photography.  If you want to develop your passion for photography, come along to one of my training courses and be inspired. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

AnneApril 22, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Great to see this, with some lovely sample images. I especially like the fritillaries. One of my LRPS panel images was taken using a compact camera so I am definitely a fan of the strengths of little cameras. My ‘L’ picture (the horse, if anyone takes a look at my panel on my website) was taken on a business trip, when I had far too much other clobber to carry any significant camera kit.

Derek GaleApril 22, 2010 - 6:16 pm

Hi Anne,

Thanks for your comments. I call digital compacts “science-fiction” cameras. 10 years ago people would have said it was science fiction if you had predicted just what they would be capable of.