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

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Millennium Bug to hit digital camera sensors?

I heard recently that there is a new version of the Millennium Bug on the way, but one that will affect digital camera sensors.  It’s all to do with the ever decreasing pixel size in modern sensors, the new “backside illumination” technology, ever higher ISO sensitivity, and the fact that sensors have now reached what’s called the “defined limit of sensitivity”.  According to Professor Prvi Budala, of the Croatian Advanced Imaging Technology Institute, (based in the University of Split) , the change is initially quite gradual, and reversible.

April Fool!

“Green sensor stripes”

The first phase is that green stripes start appearing on the sensor, and they get stronger as each day passes.  You can, initially at least, remove them by using pixel mapping in such programs as Photoshop, or the pixel mapping function of your camera if it has it – my Olympus OMD EM-10 has this.  This is only a “quick fix” however, and after a while the sensor gets worse.  Note: The red/pink area in the image above is an artefact of the centre-weighted metering system and should be ignored.  I have no idea what the black dot is.

“Black sensor stripes”

As the Bug progresses thick black stripes appear in your images, and they cannot be removed using the above techniques.   According to Professor Pershe Kvitnya from the National University of Technology in Kiev, Ukraine, there are some extreme measures that MAY reduce the effect of the Bug.  One is to photograph only objects that have equivalent white stripes in them, such as white picket fences or stripey deck chairs.  These counteract the dark stripes.

April Fool

“Black sensor”

Eventually the Bug enters its final phase.  You then get images that consist of black stripes on a black background, (or vice versa), and it means that your sensor has failed utterly and you must buy a new camera.  That’s no hardship though, as the new ones will not have this Bug in them, and you will be able to justify the cost by using the “W=X+1″ equation, loved by gear-heads.  Where “X” is the number of cameras you have, and “W” is the number of cameras you want.

The last word must go the Frau Professor Doktor A P R Ilscherz of the Technische Universität München, Germany.  She says, “Es ist alles Unsinn”, and you can’t disagree with that.

Spring has sprung!

Spring has officially sprung here in the UK, so it’s getting warmer and sunnier, even though we had a solar eclipse today.  It’s time to get out your cameras and get some images of the fresh flowers that have opened in the garden.  If you do that on a sunny day you need to make a decision about where the light should be coming from.  The classic way to photograph flowers is with the light coming from the front and hitting the petals quite flatly.

Creative photography training with Derek Gale

“Daisy with light on front”

Take this daisy flower photographed with a short telephoto lens and an extension tube to let me focus closer.  The bright sunlight has illuminated the petals well, and the background is nicely out of focus, but it’s not that exciting.

Creative photography training with Derek Gale

“Daisy backlit”

I wanted something with a bit more life to it, so I picked a daisy (we’ve got loads!) and held it at arm’s length so the sun was coming through the petals.  The background is a hedge in shadow, so it’s come out very dark.  It’s a much more interesting image, almost like it was shot in a studio, with the green sepals having lots of detail.  The white petals are a little bit like a firework exploding.

Creative photography training with Derek Gale

“Yellow flower with light on front”

I’ve used the same principle on the small yellow flower (Lesser Celandine?).  It’s OK with the light straight on, but is very much a record type image.  It’s dramatically improved with the dark background and the light coming through the petals.

Creative photography training with Derek Gale

“Yellow flower backlit”

An interesting effect with all these images is that there is some quite pronounced red fringing on the petals’ edges.  This almost certainly because the lens wasn’t designed to be used with extension tubes, and was past the limits of its optical correction.  I quite like it!

So, decide where you want the light to come from, make it happen, and you’ll get the best images.

Looks a bit fishy to me.

I recently bought a fisheye lens for my Micro 4/3rds cameras.  It’s a manual focus Samyang 7.5mm, which has the equivalent focal length of around 15mm, so it’s pretty wide.  It’s a “full frame” fisheye.  That means it produces a rectangular image, unlike the circular fisheye lenses that don’t fill the frame.  You have to careful with these lenses that your fingers or feet don’t appear in the frame, because it’s got a 180 degree field of view.

"V&A museum cafe"

“V&A Museum cafe”

Lines on the edge of the frame are very curved, but if you find a space that’s suitable you can use that curvature to give dramatic compositions.  Here’s the wonderful tiled cafe in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  The very wide view allows the whole of the room to be included.

"Dippy in the Natural History Museum"

“Dippy in the Natural History Museum”

Here’s a London favourite that’s about to be moved.  It’s the Diplodocus skeleton in the entrance hall of the Natural History Museum.  The hall itself is an amazing space, and the bones coming in from the bottom of the frame add a somewhat surreal look.  I’ve added an HDR treatment to get extra detail in the shadows.

"Stage set model box"

“Stage set model box”

This lens isn’t just for large objects or spaces.  It will focus quite close, so here’s an image of an unusual object; a “model box”.  It’s a scale model of a stage set design.  Theatres use them to help understand how the set design will work in practice.  It’s not much bigger than a shoe box, so I focussed the lens as close at it would go.  The front of the stage is actually straight, but it doesn’t matter too much that it’s come out curved.

I’m still getting to grips with how the lens performs, but I’m looking forward to going fishing again very soon.

Travel by tube…

Many photographers are interested in macro photography, but are put off by the cost of macro lenses.  For example, the Panasonic Leica macro lens for my micro 4/3rds camera costs well over £500.  Getting really close to your subject opens up a whole new world of image possibilities, so how can you do it without breaking the bank?  The answer could be a set of cheap extension tubes.  I’ve recently bought some to test out my theory.  They are made in China and branded as Photga.  The set is two tubes of differing size that can be used alone or stacked together, and they have electrical connections which means you get autofocus.  They move the lens further away from the camera, and thus allow it to focus much closer than normal.

"Ice on car window"

“Ice on car window”

This is an ice crystal on my car side window one frosty morning.  I’ve framed it so a brick wall was reflected in the glass.  This gave the warm red tone to the image background which contrasted well with the cool blue of the ice.  There’s a nice line of sharpness across the frame.

"Petzl head torch lenses"

“Petzl head torch lenses”

The tubes allow you to get very close indeed!  I fitted the longer tube to my 14mm lens and it almost hit the subject before it was in focus.  This brought problems as the lens/camera obscured the light reaching the subject.  The solution was to photograph something with its own light source: in the case an LED head torch beam diffuser.  Looks a bit like the honey cells in a beehive.

"The Kered watch"

“The Kered watch”

The French have a saying, “The mad man sees his name everywhere”.  In this case it’s not my surname, but my first name backwards.  That’s why I bought it.  It’s a vintage/old KERED watch, that was made in France in the 50’s or 60’s.  I used my, very useful, LED head torch as a light source to camera left.  It’s given good shadows on the numbers and hands.

So do the tubes work as a macro lens replacement?  Yes and no.  They do let you get very close, but unlike a true macro lens, once you have fitted them you lose the ability to focus on infinity.  However at around £23 for a set they are great value, so are well worth buying.

Quick, before the light goes! Episode 2.

I mentioned in previous posts about how you need to take your photographic chances, and how you need to take advantage of the winter light before it goes.  Sunday was a beautiful winter’s day, with low angle sun glancing across the landscape.  Perfect for a walk in the countryside, and for photography of course.  I chose Ashdown Woods in Oxfordshire, next to the National Trust’s 17th-Century Ashdown House, now tenanted by The Who’s Pete Townshend.

"Smoky Ashdown House"

“Smoky Ashdown House”

I had just come out of the woods on to the broad ride, with the house in the distance, when somebody lit a bonfire.  The smoke from the bonfire drifted across the side of the house and partly obscured it, giving a fabulous atmosphere.  Two walkers were silhouetted against the backlit smoke, so I quickly got my camera out.  As I was quite a long way from the house I fitted my Panasonic 45-150 lens and took 3 or 4 shots.  Even with the lens set at its maximum focal length, (300mm equivalent), the house and walkers were quite small in the frame, so I walked closer.  By the time I had got close enough the smoke, and the walkers, had gone…

"HDR Ashdown House"

“HDR Ashdown House”

Being closer to the house I took the chance to take a more architectural image using an HDR technique.  There’s still nice light angling across the lawn, and giving a bright edge to the right side of the building, but the mood is very different.  Just a few minutes can change everything.

"Sun through trees, Ashdown House"

“Sun through trees, Ashdown House”

Turning away from the house I looked through the trees on the lawn.  The lack of leaves made attractive patterns at the top of the frame, and the sunlight gave strong shadows and texture in the foreground.  I composed the image so the conical plants in the background were near the brightest part of the frame and not quite in the centre. Their more geometrical shapes gave good contrast to the more random shapes of the trees and branches.

I converted all these images into black and white in Lightroom.  Contrasty scenes are often helped by being in B&W.  The smoky house image has been cropped to give a “3 sides dark, top light” composition.  The trees image has a darkening gradient at the top to guide your eyes to the lighter areas.

Carry your camera, and take your photographic chances!