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 policy please click here.

  • Follow @galephoto on Twitter

Up close and personal

Next year I will be offering a camera club talk about “Close-up and Macro photography”.  In the talk I will discuss the joys, and challenges, that this sort of photography brings.  There will be a certain amount of stuff about equipment and techniques, but the “rules” of photography still apply to close-up and macro images.

One of the “rules” is that in a portrait the eyes should be in focus.  In this close-up image of a snail only the eyes are in focus.  I used a my OM-D E-M10 with very cheap CCTV lens fitted with an extension tube to help me focus closer.  It shows that you don’t need to use expensive kit to get interesting images.  Although snails don’t move that fast they do wave their eye stalks about quite quickly, so it was hard to get them both pin sharp. It was fun trying though!

Getting a strong composition line in your images is also a good thing.  Here the diagonal twig leads down to the main subject which is the backlit silver birch leaf.  Some water droplet highlights lend a bit of secondary subject contrast and the bokeh circles give an interesting background.  Taken with a Nikon-fit Sigma macro lens on a Nikon to Micro 4/3rds adapter.

Finally, it’s always worth trying a different viewpoint.  This little yellow flower was only about 1 cm across and was very close to the ground.  I lay down in order to get it at its own level.  I used a Panasonic 100-300mm lens with an extension tube to be able to focus very close.

If your club is interested in my talk do get in touch via the Contact Me page.

It’s a matter of convergence.

On a recent photography holiday I led for HF Holidays, we discussed converging verticals and how to fix them. Converging verticals happen when you are at ground level close to the base of building and use a wide-angle lens to get the whole building in.

This example, of the Musuem of the Gorge in Ironbridge, Shropshire, shows what happens.  I used an 18mm wide-angle lens, stood close to the base of the building, and pointed the camera up.   I was closer to the base of the building than the top, so the base looks bigger and the top looks smaller.  This has the effect of making the sides of the building, which should be vertical, appear to converge at a point outside of the frame.  The building seems to be leaning backwards.

So how do you fix this?  Well, there are various methods:

You can use a longer focal length lens and get further away from your subject.  This means that the distance from you to the base of the building and you to the top of the building are more equal.

You can also try and get higher up, again to equalise the distance between you and the top and bottom of the building.

You could use a special lens called a “shift lens”.  These are very expensive and uncommon, so are not really a practical option for most photographers.

You can correct the perspective distortion in Photoshop.  You do need to leave plenty of space round your subject to allow for the cropping.

In this second image I have moved further away, used a 36mm lens, and got higher up.  The sides of the building are now parallel with the image sides and it looks much more natural.

You could, of course, not worry about such things at all and just use the converging verticals to emphasise the size of the building.  This castle tower in Clun is an example.  The convergence makes it look much bigger than it does in real-life (whatever that is!).

You need hands.

In portrait photography one of the things that needs a bit of thought is how to deal with the subject’s hands.  If you aren’t careful they can look a bit odd and unnatural.  Some people suggest hiding them behind the subject, or asking them to put their hands in their pockets.  I reckon that you can get interesting images by concentrating on just the hands, and ignoring the rest of the person!

This potter at an art exhibition was concentrating very hard on getting the top of the pot perfect, so wasn’t at all bothered about me.  Their hands are a lovely shape, showing control and precision, with each hand supporting the other.

These are the hands of a naval trainee standing at ease.  They were at an event to honour veterans of the WW2 D-Day Normandy campaign.  There’s a very relaxed look to the hands, yet they show discipline.  I’ve dropped the black level down so that the hands are shown against a plain dark background.

A hand in (almost) a classic “karate chop” position.  Karate translates as “empty hand” so it’s a visual pun.  The hand, whilst saying it is empty, is not empty, so it’s a visual paradox as well.  It’s a bit like “This page intentionally left blank”.  Oh the fun you can have with fridge magnets!

Hands a problem in portrait photography?  Not if you get rid of the body…

Just colour and shape.

Sometimes, whilst travelling, you come across something that’s just so colourful it’s crying out to be photographed.   If you do it’s often better to concentrate on just one section, rather than trying to get the whole thing.  By doing this you can produce images that are more abstract, or at least semi-abstract.

Take this doorway in Aviero, Portugal.  It’s a bit of a feature of the town that the buildings are painted in bright colours.  Think of it as being like Tobermory, but with sunshine!  By selecting just a part of the door and its surroundings, I have reduced the image to a simpler composition of shape and colour.  It’s no longer just a record image of a door.

This is a more extreme treatment of some walls in the Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa.   It’s hard to see that they refer to houses.  It’s like a Mondrian painting, and would make quite a challenging jigsaw.

Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus cars, used to say, “simplify and add lightness.”  I say, “simplify and add interest.”

“Swirly Bokeh” on a budget.

These days it is quite simple to fit what are called “legacy lenses” on to micro 4/3rds camera bodies.  There’s a lot of info about this on the Internet, and also a lot of info about the use of “adapted lenses”.  “Legacy lenses” are lenses made in the past for other still photography uses, and that can include antique lenses.

One such antique lens is the Petzval type developed in the 19th century by Joseph Petzval.  The Petzval lens is quite simple and has very interesting “swirly bokeh”.  This means that the out of focus areas in the background look as if they are going round in a circle.  It’s quite unsettling the first time you see it.  It’s hard to find an original Petzval lens, but it’s now being remade in Russia for the Lomography company.  It costs over £500, so it’s a serious investment unless you are going to use it a lot.  I’ve found a much cheaper alternative!

It’s a Chinese lens with a focal length of 35mm and an maximum aperture of f1.7.  It’s made for CCTV cameras, and it’s fitted with a “C-type mount”.  This is where the “adapted lenses” thing comes in, as the lens comes with a C-type to micro 4/3rds adapter.  It’s made by a company called Fujian and I got it from Amazon for a smidge under £24.

You can see from this defocused image what the bokeh looks like.  There is very much of a “swirl”.

It does look a bit odd on my Olympus E-M10.  Even on such a small body the lens still looks tiny.  Some people refer to this sort of lens as a “toy camera lens”, though it is made for a serious photographic use.

It’s not at all sharp anywhere in the frame at f1.7 though it improves somewhat as you stop the lens down.   You do lose the swirly bokeh as you stop down though.  If you put a subject, such as this car aerial with ribbon on it, in a reasonably central place, you can use the background creatively.  The “swirlyness” fits with the curves of the ribbon.

I wanted to see how it handled bokeh highlights, so I found some honeysuckle that was quite a distance from the other plants in the background and shot at f1.7.  Centre sharpness does improve for closer objects, so the foregound plant isn’t actually too soft.  I like it!

I’m going to try it out for portraits, so keep an eye out for another post.  Spend over £500 on a newly-made old Petzval?  I think not!