Gale Photography bio picture
  • 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.

    You can keep up to date with me by subscribing to "Writing with Light", my e-mail newsletter, which has special offers, photography tips, and news. Just go to "Contact Me" above and click the “Please subscribe me!” link. I won't pass on your details to anyone else, and it's easy to unsubscribe.

    You can also automatically receive updates when I write new blog posts. Just press the "RSS Feed" button above.

    Looking forward to hearing from you! In the meantime read my blog posts below. They're full of useful info...

    For Gale Photography's Cookies and Privacy policy please click here.

  • Follow @galephoto on Twitter

It’s all done with mirrors!

In essence, photography is all about recording the light reflecting from surfaces.  If nothing was reflected then we wouldn’t be able to record anything of the people we meet, the places we go to, and the things we see. 

In this post I’ll show you how you can get interesting, creative images by using the numerous highly-reflective surfaces in the world around you. 

"Ellis Island reflective floor" by Gale Photography

In this first image, of Ellis Island in New York, I noticed how the shape of the window was reflected in the shiny floor, and that the pattern of the floor tiles mimicked the pattern of the windows.  I was able to use the shiny floor to make the overall photographic composition symmetrical, yet keep the areas of colour off centre. 

"Prague reflections" by Gale Photography

This image, taken in Prague, shows how you can mix the old and the new in one image.  The new office building had partly mirrored windows, so that the older building opposite was nicely reflected in them.  I chose a viewpoint that let me divide up the image into a 3×3 grid, with the sky in the top set of three windows, the roof in the middle set of three, and the front of the building in the bottom set of three.  It’s one way to use the so-called “Rule of Thirds“.  The whole image looks a bit like one of those puzzles that you have to rearrange by sliding the sections around. 

"Lydiard House cabinet" by Gale Photography

One great feature of reflective surfaces is that they can often distort the subject that’s reflected.  Here I’ve used the multiple glass panels of a display cabinet in Lydiard House, Swindon, to make an image that shows a distorted reflection of the window in front of it, and the person passing.  Each panel is set at a slightly different angle, so they each show a slightly different viewpoint, and the old glass is quite wobbly, so the reflection gets broken up. 

Finally, I’ve used a shiny curved surface that was reflecting a common object, to produce an abstract image that’s not really anything to do with the original subjects.  

A Mini reflection by Gale Photography

The shiny curved surface was the highly-polished front wing of a friend’s red Mini (she does look after it very well!), and the common object that was reflected was a fence panel.  

So, you can see that the world is full of surfaces that can help you with your creative photography.  I cover this, and many other things,  in my “The Creative Eye” workshops.  Why not come along to one? 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Family fun!

Had a really fun family (Mum, Dad, 2 children &  their dog) for a studio portrait shoot recently.  The shoot was mostly in our studio in South Oxfordshire, as it was pretty cold outside – although the light outside was soft and flattering.

The children had loads of energy, and their daughter was especially good at jumping. 

"High jump" by Gale Photography

The curved background makes it hard to see where the floor ends and the wall begins, so it makes her look really high off the ground. 

Their son is very keen on badminton, and he had brought along his racquet and a shuttlecock to use as props for some action shots.  Here I’ve thrown the shuttlecock with one hand, whilst firing the camera with the other hand.  

"Badminton action" by Gale Photography

It was pure chance that in this shot the shuttlecock was right in front of his face, and between his eyes.  It has not been put on afterwards in Adobe Photoshop; sometimes you just get lucky! 

We also tried some more serious shots with the racquet. 

"Differential focus" by Gale Photography

Here I’ve set a wide lens aperture to use what’s called “differential focus” in a creative way.  The boy is nice and sharp against the dark background, whilst the racquet strings are well out of focus and give an attractive graduated pattern down the image. 

With this dark background image of the girl, I used simple lighting from one main light, and used her hair and hands to frame her face.  With the image converted to B&W, her expression made for a nice moody shot. 

"B&W moody portrait" by Gale Photography

Finally, when we were back outside, I couldn’t resist taking a portrait of their dog “Tigger”.  She was a real bundle of energy (like her namesake), but I managed to get her still enough to get a few shots. 

"Tigger" by Gale Photography

The dark background (a hedge in shadow) makes it look as if she’s been lit by flash, but it’s a natural light image.  Her alert expression is due to the fact she was being offered a treat to encourage her to sit still. 

As I said, it was a fun shoot (with lots of laughter), and they loved the images. 

If you would like to experience a shoot with Gale Photography for yourself  just get in touch to arrange the date! 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk 

Mary ThomasMarch 25, 2010 - 3:31 pm

Looks like you all had a great time Derek! Love the moody shot of the girl.

I’m just a regular guy: Part 2

I mentioned in a previous post how much fun it was to photograph a family on a regular basis.  Here’s another example… 

A few years ago I photographed a couple of dogs for some clients, then their other dog, then their wedding photography (the clients not the dogs!), and then did a portrait shoot for their son’s first birthday.  Well, he was two years old recently, and we had the pleasure of another portrait shoot with him.  He was great to work with, with a real character developing. 

Child portraits by Gale Photography

"K at two 1" by Gale Photography

 

For the studio images I used a single large softbox off to camera right.  It gave a softly directional light which made for good light and shadow on the child’s face.  I made sure I was at the child’s eye level for most of the images, as it made him more important in the frame. 

"K at two 2" by Gale Photography

 

Here, I’ve got just a little bit below his eye level.  It gives an unusual viewpoint, because we are used to being higher than a child.  He’s turned a bit more towards the softbox, which has given a more even light coverage with fewer shadows. 

In this last studio image he’s happily playing with his toy, and the look of concentration on his face is super.  

"K at two 3" by Gale Photography

 

His head and arms make a strong triangular composition.  In this image I’ve chosen to keep some colour, unlike the other images that I’ve converted to black and white.   The low colour saturation makes the image have an attractive mood. 

After the studio portrait session, we went outside for some location portraits.  I wanted to get a shot of him on some steps but he didn’t want to sit there.  I tried a classic bit of “reverse psychology”, and told him that he mustn’t sit on the steps.  It worked perfectly; he immediately sat there! 

"K at two 4" by Gale Photography

 

The expression on his face was perfect.  He thought he’d been mischievous, and I got a great shot. 

All in all it was an excellent portrait session, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s. 

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

Get on down – for the sake of clarity

There are signs of spring here in Southern England.  The snowdrops are almost over, the birds are nesting like mad, and all of those lovely spring flowers are getting ready to pop out.  What with the days getting longer as well, the winter hibernation of many photographers will soon be over too. So how do you get great photographs of the new season’s growth?  Well, here are some photo tips.  

It pays to get yourself down to the level of the plants themselves.  What you are trying to produce with outdoor plant and flower pictures is something that sums up the plant/flower and its environment.  If you stay at normal human height relative to the plant you’ll just get a shot of it from above.  Drop down and you can simplify the image. 

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

"Snowdrops" by Gale Photography

Here the snowdrops were in a raised bed which meant that I didn’t have to drop down so far.  Here I’ve gone for three clumps of snowdrops, rather than isolating a single flower.  Snowdrops look their best as drifts of flowers, with each clump of flowers relying on the others for the best effect, so I’ve tried to record that here. 

If you can’t bend down or lie down on the ground to get a low viewpoint, it can be hard to see the viewing screen on the back of your camera.  The Panasonic Lumix FX-500 compact digital camera that I used for the snowdrops picture, has a rear screen viewing angle option for where you hold the camera above your head.  If you set it to that, and then turn the camera upside down, you can hold it closer to the ground and still see the screen clearly. 

As another example of the simplifying effect of getting down to where the flowers are, here’s a shot of a cowslip (primula). 

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

"Cowslip" by Gale Photography

I’ve been able to make the flower the simple main subject.  You can tell that the plant is growing in a grassy area, yet the background is not distracting whilst still having enough detail to give you an idea of the plant’s environment. 

You can do this with other plant types as well.  Here’s a shot of some catkins on a weeping silver birch tree. 

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

"Silver birch catkins" by Gale Photography

I chose a low viewpoint that was level with the catkins (lovely word!), and made an image that had just two of the catkins and some newly emerged leaves.  The leaves have that fabulous acid green colour that only spring can produce.  By using a long focal length lens, I’ve thrown the background well out of focus.  We cover how to achieve this sort of image on our outdoor photography training – the Gale Photography Photo Treks. 

Finally, one of the classic flowers of Southern England is the snakeshead fritillary.  They love damp areas, and I’m lucky enough to have them growing in my garden, by the pond.  They are one of the few plants in nature to have a regular checkerboard pattern. 

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

"Snakeshead fritillary" by Gale Photography

The ground was pretty wet, so I put a waterproof sheet on the ground and laid on that.  You do need to be careful that you won’t damage any plants when you do this.  The foreground plant was fully out, and the two others; one white, one normal, were still to flower fully.  This gave a good contrast with the flower that was out. 

I hope that you’ll try some of these techniques for yourself this spring, and perhaps I’ll see you on a Photo Trek soon. 

Cheers, 

Derek.

www.galephotography.co.uk

What’s Black and White and Red all over?

Well, the old joke (about a newspaper) is supposed to say “What’s black and white, and read all over?”, but you get the picture.  In this case I’m talking about the background colour in your photographs.  It ought to be simple, and not make much difference, but in creative portrait photography the colour of the background can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of an image.  

Here are some example images where I have used simple studio lighting techniques to light the main subject.  In most of them I’ve then controlled the background colour using another light on the background. 

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Dark background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

In this image the light falling on the background is what’s called “spill” from the main light on the right hand side.  It’s lit the background just enough to stop it being completely black, which would have lost the subject’s dark top, but has kept the mood of the image. 

Putting a large softbox behind the subject makes the background go white, which gives a much brighter feel to the image. 

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography

"White background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

This brighter mood is helped by turning the subject so he is looking straight out at the camera.  The very, very bright background causes a bit of lens flare around the edges of the subject, which lifts the colour up a bit. 

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Red background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

With this studio portrait I’ve used a red filter on the background light.  It contrasts well with the cooler blue tones of her clothing, and keeps the mood of the image up, even though the subject isn’t smiling.   The light was carefully placed to give a gradation of colour density from left to right, and to make the bottom of the background quite dark.  This made the image more interesting than if it was all the same colour density and lightness. 

So that’s the black, the white and the red.  This final image is almost the reverse of the one before, in that the background is blue, and the main subject clothes are red. 

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography

"Blue background portrait" by Gale Photography

 

The blue background has an excellent contrast with the subject’s skin tones, and the pattern of the background helps to add extra elements to the simple composition.  In each case the lights have been carefully arranged to give a brighter centre and darker edges.  This means that the blue background is brightest close to where there is the most light on the main subject. 

So, that’s a black background, a white background, a red background, and an extra bonus of a blue background. 

If these images have inspired you to have your own creative portrait shoot, why not check out our website at www.galephotography.co.uk then give us a call on 01793 783859 to book. 

Cheers, 

Derek.