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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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“Spring has sprung, the grass has riz.”

…as the old saying goes.  Its not just the grass that’s growing well here in the south of England.  The spring flowers have started flowering too.  Having looked at and admired them the question arises of how best to photograph them.  If you want to get close-up to a flower you can stand at a distance and use a telephoto lens to simulate closeness, or you can really get close with a macro lens.   They each have a different look, as the relationship between the subject and the background changes.

This lovely primula flower was growing in the lawn so I mowed round it.  I got a plastic sheet and lay on the ground to get the best angle.  The plastic sheet was to keep me dry!  I used my 100-300mm lens set at around 180mm.  That’s the equivalent of a 360mm lens on full-frame.  The very diffuse background, a dark hedge, has appeared to come a bit closer due to perspective compression, but it’s nicely controlled.

These tulips were taken with a 50mm macro lens, giving an equivalent focal length of 100mm.  I had to get a lot closer to the tulips, and even at the same aperture as the telephoto zoom lens the background is less diffuse.  This is due to the greater depth of field of the shorter focal length lens.  There’s still enough focus separation to isolate the nearer flower though.

There were reports in the media this week that the spring flowers might be over more quickly than usual.  It’s best to get out and appreciate them while you can.  Oh, and take some pictures too!

Another exercise in Movement

On my “Movement in Photography” workshops, and in my camera club talks, I discuss the use of camera movement and subject movement, but sometimes an image that involves neither cries out to be taken!

These are battery-powered LED Xmas lights taken with a wide-aperture lens (f1.4) and defocused to give nice big “bokeh” circles.  There’s lots of colour mixing going on in the overlapping areas.  It’s like a very complicated set of Venn diagrams.

The LED lights appear to be illuminated all the time, but if you move the camera another story emerges.  Swinging the camera from one side to the other whilst the shutter was open gave a series of dotted lines. This shows that the LEDs are flashing on and off.  I assume it’s a power saving thing.

More LEDs here, but this time in the form of gloves with LEDs in the fingers.  With the camera firmly on a tripod I made the shape of a person by moving the gloves whilst the shutter was open.  It’s not too easy to do!

So that’s a static subject, a moving camera and a moving subject.  You can learn more about these techniques, and lots more, if you book for my photography holiday in October with HF Holidays.  It’s in the fantastic Shropshire Hills.  You can find out more here.

50 images of snow*

* Well actually it’s not quite fifty, more like three.

It is said that the Inuit have fifty words for snow; Kate Bush certainly does**.  If you live in the UK it won’t have escaped your notice that we had a touch of snow this winter.  We are due some more this weekend.

Snow changes things, a lot.  For a start it makes the world much quieter due to sound being absorbed.  It also makes the world brighter.  It can confuse camera exposure meters making everything grey, so remember to dial in a bit of positive Exposure Compensation to render it properly white.

A light dusting of snow can bring a bit of extra contrast to a landscape, which is often better shown in black and white.  Here is a hill in Shropshire called Ragleth.  The woodland without snow is made much more tonally separate by the snow below and above it.

Light coverings of snow can form abstract patterns when they don’t fully cover the material underneath.  The roof of this village hall in Oxfordshire has turned into an apparently simple, but actually complex, array of alternating dark and light triangles.  The roof vent makes a good pattern break.

Snow can be turned into a plain white background such in as this image of a maple tree branch.  I shot it with a telephoto lens looking downwards onto a snow-covered patio.  I increased the contrast in Photoshop to give the semi-silhouette against a white background.

The lesson is to take advantage of the snow while it’s around.  It’s a great resource but vanishes too soon.

**She made an album called “50 words for snow”.

Supermoon and super moonlight

Here in Oxfordshire in January we had a supermoon.  It’s where the moon is closer to the earth than normal, so it’s very bright.

The supermoon sky was clear so it gave me a chance to set up my Panasonic 100-300mm lens on a tripod and take some lunar portraits.  I used a focal length of about 270mm rather than the full 300mm as it’s a little bit sharper.  The effective focal length was 540mm.  I needed to crop the image somewhat, but it’s more than acceptable.  Full moons aren’t as interesting as 3/4 full moons, as there’s no terminator visible on a full moon. The terminator generally has a more interesting light angle, with crater edges being picked out.

The following evening the sky was still clear, so I tried a long exposure using just moonlight.  My E-M10 has a very useful “Live Time” mode that’s perfect for long exposures.  It allows me to follow the exposure on the rear monitor as it builds up.  I used an exposure of 3 minutes.  It’s amazing how correct the colours look and how sharp the shadows are.  The giveaways that show it’s a long exposure are the star trails in the sky and the lights in the left-hand side of the house.

Supermoons are superfun.  I look forward to the next one.

Chase the weather!

Recently I was out looking for a camera club venue.  I am giving a talk there for the first time soon and wanted to be sure of the route.  They do say that, “time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”  Sure beats looking for it in the dark under time pressure!  There was a huge cumulonimbus cloud to the south of me and it was making the sky look pretty impressive.

After finding the club venue I decided to chase the cloud.  On the way to where it was I passed an old hotel that had been mostly demolished.  There was just the central core building left.  The aftermath of the large cloud was in the sky.  I managed to push my wide-angle lens through the fencing around the site and capture the building’s isolation.  Black and white conversion with an HDR treatment on the already contrasty sky gave a suitably Gothic look.

I kept after the cloud and found myself near Uffington’s “White Horse Hill”.  The White Horse is a Bronze Age monument around 3000 years old.  The cloud had passed the hill and was heading east.  Against the blue sky it was most impressive.  Another black and white conversion and a contrast boost gave the effect I wanted.  The little S-shaped cloud in the top right balanced the left-side-biased composition.

Thunderclouds like cumulonimbus carry a lot of water and it has to go somewhere.  On a walk a day or so later I came across a canal lock.  There was a huge amount of water going down the lock’s bypass channel and a “fountain” of water coming under the lock gates.   I had my Lumix TZ-70 with me and set the shutter speed to 1/10th second to show the water movement of the fountain.

No need to wish for cloudless dry weather, rain clouds give you more.