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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

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

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Get down low for those spring flowers

It’s snowdrop time here in the UK.  They are very beautiful when you see them in swathes in a woodland, but the individual flowers are lovely too.  They are however, very good at hiding just how lovely they are.

Most people only really look at the flowers like this, in a clump.  Even getting down to their level, whilst it does improve the image, doesn’t show the detail inside the flower because the petals cover everything up.

You can, as I have blogged about before, lie on the ground so you are able look up into flowers (use a plastic sheet so you don’t get muddy), but here I was lucky enough to find some snowdrops growing on a steep roadside bank.  I’ve used a relatively simple compact camera, set on Macro focusing, to get a “worm’s eye view”up into the flower head.  The patterns are great, and there’s a surprising amount of colour.  The wide-angle view makes them look a little bit as if they are aliens plotting to takeover the world.

Today in the UK we have “Storm Doris” coming in, so it’s getting very windy.  That’s not great for flower photography outdoors, so I brought one of our snowdrops inside.  To make life harder for myself I decided to use my OnePlus One phone’s camera and get as close as I could.  I added a some light with an LED torch.  I had to use the self-timer to be able to frame, focus, hold the camera, hold the torch and release the shutter.  I like how the green pattern matches the shape of the white petals.

The moral?  Get down low to get all the beauty.

How do you keep the creativity going?

Recently a friend of mine asked if I ever had “Photographer’s Block”.  I told her it was always a possibility, but that I kept my creative juices flowing by setting myself little challenges.  Often when I do this I allow myself the use of only one lens.  This time it was my Nikon-fit Sigma 50mm macro prime lens on a Nikon to micro 4/3rds adapter.  It’s a combination that slows me down, as the lens is manual focus when on the adapter, and that’s a good thing.

Here I’ve focused on the reflection of some battery-powered LED Xmas lights on a small polished sculpture of a bird.  It has lovely curves and they have distorted the lights into a very appealing shape.  I shot at f2.8 to keep the background well out of focus, and to give round bokeh circles.  It makes for an interesting abstract.

There are words on very many of the thing we use everyday, but most of the time we don’t see them.  This was on the polished baseplate of an iron, and identified the “POWER ZONE” where lots of steam came out.  I’ve used the lack of depth of field to make the image ambiguous as to scale and context.

We sold a car this week, and when the buyer inspected it he noticed that the plastic “chrome plating” round the edge of one of the front indicator focusing lenses had partly peeled off.  We hadn’t noticed it, and it was very odd.  The lens was about 4cm diameter and the longest peeled off strand was about 3 cm long.  I used the shallowest depth of field I could to show just one part of the subject in focus.  The rest is all softness and bokeh.  It no longer looks man-made, but appears more like an organic structure.

So, a productive mini-challenge.  Why not try one yourself?

The magic in a frosty morning

Here in the UK it’s winter. Often our winter weather is just cold and damp, but sometimes we get proper wintry weather with frost and snow.  After a frosty night, and with a clear sky, the sun acting on the frost can give wonderful effects.  Sometimes things happen over a very short period of time, especially as the frost is melting.

Although I now use the Olympus OM-D system, I still have a Sigma EX Nikon-fit macro lens. Fitted to an adapter it’s a great combination for frosty mornings.  These ice crystals on top of the garden fence were only about 5-6 mm high.  The lens hood was hitting the fence as I tried to focus – manual focus of course.  It’s quite extraordinary how thin the lower sections of some of the crystals are. Why don’t they break?

My wife has a new company car which has black metallic paint.  The sun was shining on just a small section of the frost on the boot, and there were lots of little water droplets catching the light.  I defocused the lens and took several images of the wonderful bokeh circles.  The one caught my eye when I was editing them.  The circles look like people in a crowd,.  Some look as if they are paying rapt attention and others are turned away.  The purple fringing adds just a bit of colour to an image that would otherwise be black and white.

This final image is another in a series that I have taken of our weeping silver birch tree.  The frost on it melts into myriad water droplets that catch the sun.  Here I have focused on some early-stage catkins and tried to render the water droplets in the background as bokeh circles.  Well that was the theory!  The lens was on f4 rather than its maximum aperture of f2.8, so the bokeh circles have started to show the shape of the lens aperture blades.  They are not quite circles.  It’s a good lesson in how important it is to keep the lens wide open, unless you want jaggy bokeh of course.

Frosty mornings?  Bring them on!

It’s a bit of an abstract idea.

I recently joined a new group on Facebook called “Abstract Landscape Photography”.  It is fascinating to see the sort of work other photographers put up, and also how they interpret the definition of “Abstract Landscape”. Someone, for example, has some images of the inside of a working hospital.  They’re very interesting, and do make a good Contemporary Photography set.  They might, just, fit the definition because they are details of the urban landscape.

The images I have put up are much more “outdoors landscape”, but I too have a soft spot for photography of the small details that together make up the broader landscape.

A couple of years ago I was on a walk in the Cotswolds after prolonged heavy rain.  The rivers were all very full indeed, and the fields in the river valleys were flooded.  It was a clear frosty day and I was struck by the reflected trees in a flooded field.  The light breeze rippled the water surface.  A quick flip in Photoshop so it was upside down, and the image was sorted.

Cold mornings with dew on the grass can be delightful.  Here I have used a long focal length lens to separate the grass from the background.  I chose the widest lens aperture I had, focused on a few blades and let the rest go out of focus.  The out-of-focus dew droplets have caused “bokeh” highlight circles which are very attractive.  You can see that there are fields in the background, which give the grass context.

There’s no water in this image.  There was water here at some stage in the past, but this Dorset mud is now dry so it has cracked.  It’s an image that’s fractal.  As you go closer in there’s another network of smaller cracks, and so on.  I’ve chosen to exclude anything that gives an idea of scale, which adds to the abstraction from reality.

I’m hoping to learn from the images other people put up, as I hope they might learn  something from my work.  They do seem to “Like” it.

Happy Christmas!

Just a quick blog post to wish my readers “Happy Christmas” and I hope you all have a “Phabulously Photographic New Year!”

Here are some Christmas tree lights in Bristol photographed, as they say on Masterchef, two ways.

This first image is a reflection of the Christmas tree lights in a vertical water feature.  The moving water has broken up the reflection into bands of colour.  I had to use the telephoto end of my camera’s zoom lens to get just the part of the reflection I wanted.

Here I’ve moved close to the tree then moved the camera during the exposure to produce bands of colour a different way.

Both images were taken on a relatively simple travel zoom compact camera.

Roll on 2017, and the photography challenges it will bring!