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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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Just look around you.

As we move into the darker and colder days of winter it’s easy to fall into bad habits and stop looking for images, or say, “It’s all a bit grey, so I’ll leave my camera at home”!  Remember though, even if you don’t go out much, there are still loads of photographic subjects, some even right at your feet.

I had a big birthday recently, and one gift was a fabulous cheese selection with vintage port and an olive wood cheese board.  The wood looks to have been “spalted”.  That’s where it’s been attacked by fungi and developed fascinating patterns in the grain.  I looked closely at the wood and found areas that resembled desert landscapes.  This one even has a distant mountain.

One other thing that turned up for my birthday was a helium balloon with greetings, circles and stars on it.  The balloon was made from holographic material and I have photographed this sort of thing before.  I popped my clip-on macro lens on to my phone and chose a section that had excellent reflections and refractions from the lens’ built-in ring light.  Someone said it looked like an extra-terrestrial ovum!

I said about images being at your feet.  I was hoovering on a rare sunny day recently and noticed that the cable was producing interesting shadows on the carpet.  I grabbed my phone and shot directly downwards.  It’s a bit like a big infinity symbol.  I converted it to contrasty B&W in Photoshop.

Dull winter days?  Just stay at home and look around you.

Same subject, different views.

On a recent trip to Pembrokeshire one landscape feature really stood out.  It was the Valero oil refinery at Pembroke. It was tempting, in a landscape that has fabulous coastal scenery, to ignore it as a photographic subject, but it’s such a prominent feature it’s worth a closer look.

Looking at it from the Angle peninsular the refinery stood out against a cloudy sky.  It had nice directional lighting from the right hand top side. I isolated it using a 150mm telephoto lens, which has added some perpective compression.  A bit of HDR treatment and a B&W conversion gave a moody look.

From the summit of the highest point in the Preseli Hills, Foel Cwmcerwyn, the refinery was silhouetted against a backlit sea, and there were good highlights coming from structures in the refinery complex.  Once again I used my 150mm lens, but that was to try and make the refinery as big as possible; it was 20 miles away after all.  I’ve darkened the sky down to make it moodier.  Perhaps it shows “the sunset of big oil”?

On the road from Pembroke to Angle there is an incongruously sited Telephone Exchange.  It’s sat in the corner of a field all by itself, but does have a fine view of the refinery.  Here I’ve used a wide angle lens to make the refinery look a bit smaller relative to the small brick building. I liked how the fence posts leading to the Telephone Exchange mimic the chimneys and stacks of the refinery.

Not so much a blot on the landscape, more a photographic highlight of my trip.

Up close and personal (Warning – Spiders!)

We’ve got the builders in, so I need to be around the house all day to answer questions and advise.  This means my photographic radius is somewhat reduced.  It’s like lockdown but much more expensive and noisier!

I could still have a wander round the house and garden with my macro lens.  It’s surprising what turns up if you look closely enough.

This charming creature is a Box Tree Moth caterpillar.  It looks rather like a Large White butterfly caterpillar, but instead of ravaging brassicas it ravages box hedges; it’s an invasive pest.  This one was, for some reason, climbing up one of our lounge windows.  It didn’t like me getting very close to it, so started waving its head around.  That allowed me to get a shallow depth of field portrait of the bit that does all the damage.

Because our garage has been demolished all of my tools and suchlike are currently stored in the cellar, and our cellar has cellar spiders.  I was shocked!  I lit the beast with a handheld LED torch, and there are some nice bokeh circles in the background where the torchlight was bouncing off some slug trails on the wall.  That’s cellars for you.

On the outside wall, right by the back door handle, there was another spider.  The one is a steodata nobilis; the Noble False Widow.  This somewhat unusual viewpoint is the web-making end of the spider rather than the biting end.  These spiders can give you a bit of a nip if you aren’t careful.  The wall was white, which makes for a nice simple background.

The builders will be gone in a couple of weeks, but it’s always worth taking a closer look at where you live.


5000 reasons to take pictures

I recently went to the athletics at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  They had some curious rules about the size of lenses that spectators could take in.  No lenses longer than 12 inches were allowed.  I’m guessing they were concerned about people using long telephoto lenses and taking close up images to sell to agencies.  I use MFT cameras, so get longer telephoto “reach” with my smaller lenses.  I contemplated taking my Olympus 40-150 f2.8 Pro lens with its 1.4x teleconverter, which is less than 12 inches long overall, but was a bit concerned someone would apply the spirit of the rule rather than the wording, so I left it at home.  Instead I took my small Lumix 40-150mm lens, and it was fine despite having a smaller maximum aperture.

The men’s 5000 metres race was a great one for using different techniques.  This classic head-on shot shows how close a race it was, even with the “telephoto compression” that’s happening. I pre-focused on the blue thing just inside the track edge and pressed the shutter just as the runners reached it.  I really like the TV cameraman wondering if he should be pointing his camera towards the race.

I was at the final bend, and had a good clear blue background when I framed for the edge of the track.  I wanted to get the pattern of the runners’ legs against the blue and the lines as they went past.  There’s a good balance of “up” legs and “down” legs.  The great advantage of a longer race like the 5000 metres is that you have quite a few laps in which to have another go.

One of the things I cover in my “Movement in Photography” talk is using camera movement in combination with subject movement.  The camera movement here is panning from left to right as the runners go past.  Using a 1/20th sec shutter speed meant that the movement of the runners, especially their legs, is shown.  There’s a real feel of a race going on.  Panning blurs the background so that distractions, such as advertising text, are minimised.

One race, one simple lens and three different images.

It’s all a matter of further perspective

I recently attended a concert at the fascinating Pershore abbey.  It’s suffered a bit over the centuries, and one side is held up with several flying buttresses.  I had some time to kill before the start of the concert, so wandered around and took a shot of the abbey with my mobile phone.  There is a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on the tower, and by chance I caught one in flight.  The nearby pigeons on the roof look a bit startled!

My mobile phone has quite a wide-angle lens, so the abbey is doing the leaning back thing that you get with wide-angle lenses and low viewpoints.  It’s called “converging verticals”.  This can be corrected in-camera with a special lens called a shift lens, or it can be done in post-processing.  My mobile phone doesn’t have a shift lens…

My phone does have a free image-editing app called Snapseed, and it has a Perspective Control feature.  It allows you to correct the converging verticals so the building looks straight.  It’s now a technical image and not at all pictorial.  This is how it would be in books and websites about church architecture.  It allows you to see all the features in the correct scale and proportions.  I converted it to black & white to simplify it.

That corrected image is a bit dull, so one way to undull it (is undull even a word?) is to exaggerate the perspective.  Again I used Snapseed but this time made the verticals very much more converging.  It now looks a bit like a tall rocket ship pointing at the sky.  I’ve toned it, and added a grungy filter so it’s got that Gothic horror look.  Someone said it was where the vampire undead of Pershore rested during the day!

As I said, it’s all a matter of perspective.  Anyway, the concert was great fun.