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

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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



KenJune 10, 2010 - 4:12 pm

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

Use the right angle.

It’s a lovely summer’s day here at Gale Photography HQ, and looking through the office window at the plants outside, I couldn’t help noticing just how much difference the angle of the light makes to their appearance.  

If we just look at one leaf to see what I mean.. 

"Kolomikta leaf 1" by Gale Photography

 This Kolomikta leaf has direct sunlight on it, coming from over my shoulder.  This direct lighting is great for showing what the leaf looks like, and would be good for a plant recognition book.  The leaf does look a bit flat however. 

"Kolomikta leaf 2" by Gale Photography

In this image I’ve turned the leaf so that the light is now glancing across its surface at an angle.  Shadows have appeared, and the leaf looks much more 3-dimensional.  There’s much more of an idea of its structure than the previous image.  

"Kolomikta leaf 3" by Gale Photography

In this image, still of the same leaf, I’ve shot through the leaf with the sun directly behind it.  There’s now a lovely luminosity to the leaf, the structure is clear to see, and it’s much more than a simple record of how it looks.  The “contre-jour” lighting has really lifted the image.  We’re now seeing the leaf by transmitted light instead of reflected light. 

If we look at some leaves on a Japanese maple tree, there’s even more of a difference.  For those who want to know such things it’s an acer palmatum dissectum “Red Dragon”. 

"Japanese maple 1" by Gale Photography

Here the leaves all look much the same, with little image contrast, and once again it would be a useful shot for a text book.  Where the leaves cross you just see more of the same colour.  It was easier to take than the next shot, as I had to lie on the ground to get the sun at the right angle. 

"Japanese maple 2" by Gale Photography

The sun shining through the leaves gives a much greater contrast, because where the leaves cross gives areas of darker red.  You can now see why the plant is called “Red Dragon”; the red leaf colour is much more fiery. 

Finally, here’s a studio image creatively using transmitted light, and shadow.  

"Lily flower" by Gale Photography

I set up an Nikon SB-800 remote flash behind the flower; a Peace Lily.  The shadow of the spadix is clearly picked out against the white spathe.  There’s great texture and structure as the light shines through the spathe.  Because the only light source is the flash behind the flower, there’s no light on the background, so it has come out black, giving excellent image contrast. 

So, next time you’re out photographing plants on a sunny day, think about where you want the light to be coming from, and you’ll get better images. 

Looking for the best angle for the light is covered on my Photo Treks.  Why not come along to one? 



[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by twinc, Gale Photography. Gale Photography said: New blog post about the importance of the angle of the light in photography. […]

Calling all Trekkies: Part 2

Last Saturday we had the first Photo Trek of the season down at Buscot Weir, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire.  It’s a great location on the River Thames, and not too far from my photographic studio near Swindon.  

When I’d researched the Buscot Weir Photo Trek I’d planned for all sorts of weather conditions, and I was delighted that the day dawned sunny, bright, and warm. 

"Buscot Weir panorama" by Gale Photography

 The weir pool looked peaceful in the morning light, so I shot a 6-image classic panorama, complete with swan.  I used my Lumix Fx-500 digital compact, and stitched it together in Photoshop PS5.  As with other Photo Treks, I took a selection of cameras; a compact, a superzoom compact, and a DSLR.  Most of the time I ended up using the two compacts, as they both have full manual control, and are great for demonstrating techniques.  

The trek attendees were an excellent group, with a range of photographic experience, and a range of equipment. What they had in common was a willingness to learn how to improve their photography, and they all had some great ideas during the day. 

The Buscot Weir Photo Trek has an emphasis on water.  The Thames splits into 3 parts at Buscot; one part going to the lock, one to a sluice, and one to the weir.  There’s a lot of dramatic moving water, and it makes for great images. 

"Buscot water 1" by Gale Photography

This water shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 superzoom compact.  I chose a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second and an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The long shutter speed has given a nice blur to the water.  We had to find a part of the weir out of direct sunlight, as the brightness was making selection of a long shutter speed difficult. 

"Buscot Weir sluice" by Gale Photography

With this image, of water rushing under one of the sluice gates, I’ve used the bright sunshine to my advantage.  The light was shining deeply into the water from the other side of the sluice, and it’s given a fantastic luminosity and colour.  Shot with the FZ-50. 

"Buscot pebbles 2" by Gale Photography

This image is of some rather more peaceful water.  In a field near the river there’s a cattle trough.  It was full to the brim with nice clean water, and for some reason it had a load of pebbles at the bottom.  The sunlight playing through the water onto the  pebbles made for a stunning semi-abstract image.  An ideal subject for my FX-500. 

Away from the weir we found a field full of grasses, buttercups, and seeded dandelions.   It was hard to do the field justice by trying to photograph it all at once, so we concentrated on details.  It was a perfect place to show the difference that changing your lens focal length can make. 

"Wide-angle grasses" by Gale Photography

"Telephoto grasses" by Gale Photography

The first image used an equivalent focal length of 24mm, and the second an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The first image gives a better idea  of the relationship between the different types of plant. The second has a more abstract feel, due to the out of focus background.  Which do you prefer? 

"Swallow music" by Gale Photography

This final image is of a swallow resting on electric cables at St John’s Lock which is upstream from Buscot.  I loved the simple composition of one bird, the cables, and that wonderful blue sky. 

So, an excellent day.  The weather was great, the people were great, and it was a great learning experience. 

There’s still some places on our other Photo Treks this year, so if you would like some photography tuition, ” al fresco”, why not come along? 

See you soon, 


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. 



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? 



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.