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

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No lockdown for wildlife.

So here we are still in lockdown. It is admittedly a bit looser than a few weeks ago, but there are still many restrictions.  Lockdown does give me plenty of time to watch, and photograph, the wildlife in the garden.  We have a good-sized garden pond and it has lots of critters in it; newts, frogs, damselflies, dragonflies, snails, etc.  Sometimes they decide that they want to leave the pond, and that’s the case with the dragonflies.

The first thing that they do when they come out of the pond is that the larva crawls up a pond plant, in this case an iris.  The adult dragonfly then emerges from the larval case and leaves the empty case behind.  It’s called an exuvia.  This case is from a broad-bodied chaser, libellula depressa.  I took the leaf into the studio and photographed the exuvia with my macro lens.  The lighting is just an LED light on a flexible “stick”.  You can see the hole that the adult emerged from.

This is an adult female on some dogwood.  You can tell because the top of the abdomen is yellow/gold in the female and blue in the male.  It was sat still enough to get a nice crisp image with my 300mm lens (600mm equivalent).  They are quite obliging, in that they rest for a reasonably long time.  When they take off they just suddenly go.  There’s very little warning they are about to fly.

This is the male captured a few days later.  The top of his abdomen is blue.  One benefit of using a long focal length lens is the ability to throw the background out of focus.  The diffuse green isolates him nicely, but still shows it’s outside.

My next dragonfly project is to photograph them on the wing.  Olympus “Pro Capture” should help, but on a warm day they move very fast, which will be a challenge.

What do do in lockdown

So here we are still in lockdown.  While the rules do allow us to drive to a place for exercise, photography might not be considered as exercise.  Given that, it’s probably better to stay in the house and garden if you are concentrating on photography.

We have been blessed with some gorgeous sunny days recently, with plain blue skies.  The plain sky makes it easier to take simpler images.  I popped my macro lens on to my E-M5 MkIII and went looking for subjects in the garden.  There are quite a few dandelions, so I picked one and held it up with the sun behind it.  I was careful to ensure I did not look into the sun when I did this!  I dialed in some underexposure, and the sphere of seeds looked fab.

A feather was my next subject for the same technique.  I had to use a very small aperture to get the right exposure, which does soften the image a bit.  There are some lovely diffraction patterns coming from the aligned feather parts.

One morning the sun was shining off the rear screen of a car parked in the drive and it was making great shadows on the ceiling inside the house.  I lay on the floor and used my mobile to get a shot.  I converted it to B&W in Snapseed, upped the contrast, and did a bit of Perspective cropping to get it composed better; lines from the corners and that sort of stuff. There are some interesting shapes and textures.

It might be a physical lockdown, but you don’t have to lock your photographic imagination down.

This too will pass.

I went for some exercise recently.  The lockdown rules in the UK allow the use of a vehicle to drive a “reasonable distance” to where a person will exercise.  I drove a few miles to the Ridgeway.  The car park I arrived at was empty, so I considered it reasonable to park there and walk.  It was a glorious day, and eventually I arrived at a place called “Wayland’s Smithy”.  It’s a Neolithic long barrow (burial chamber), and is 5500 years old.  That’s older than the Great Pyramid at Giza.

It’s a fabulously atmospheric place, and is made more atmospheric by the ring of beech trees planted by the Victorians in the 19th century.  I pushed the focus differential as much as I could on my mobile, and then added some more blur in Snapseed.  B&W conversion was an obvious thing to in order to add more mystery.

The entrance to the barrow is guarded by four large standing stones. There is a smaller one to step over to reach the burial chambers.  The barrow itself is much longer than the part with the chambers that is accessible today.  On one of the stones someone had chalked “STAY HOME” and “COVID19”.  There are no houses nearby, so they had come a long way to tell others not to do what they had done themselves.  They had, of course, also defaced an ancient monument, which is a criminal act.

I used a multi-shot panorama technique to get the whole of the front of the barrow in one image.

Using selective focus I concentrated on just one of the standing stones.  I was trying to contrast light and shade, and texture and pattern.  The line of trees in the background delineates The Ridgeway, and ancient drovers’ track, and perhaps the oldest track in the UK.

These stones have seen many changes over the thousands of years they have been used as architectural features.  Humans have passed, visited, lived and died, but the stones remain.  Covid19 will also pass.

Stay safe.

Street is neat (again)

There are as many stories at our feet as there are at eye level or higher.  It’s definitely worth looking down at your feet for images.  If you are afraid of the journey I’ll take you there gradually…

This image shows that one department, the pavement painting one, has not communicated well with the sign installing one.  Ignoring the oddly proportioned bicycle, the sign/painting combo might tend to confuse obedient walkers and cyclists.  Do you walk on the left or the right?  It’s just up the road from where the infamous “etc…” sign was.  Cropping off all except the “message” parts of the image makes it look as if it’s spot colour/B&W.

Sometimes the story isn’t clear.  Why is there only part of the frying pan spatula instead of the whole thing?  When did it break, and why?  How did it come to be in the road?  Whatever the answers are to these questions it does make for an interesting juxtaposition of the interior domestic with the exterior urban.

The yellow lines and manholes/inspection covers in Watchet, Somerset, make an abstract composition of lines, triangles and rectangles.  The larger cover has a story to tell.  At some point in the past it must have been lifted and put back the wrong way round.  When it was repainted, clearly a while ago, the painter just painted a new yellow line to join the one on the road.  It was obviously outside their job description to lift the cover so it was the right way round before repainting the yellow line.

The moral is to look down.  There’s a world of photography at your feet.

Macro lens + mobile means you can stay at home!

The cameras on mobile phones continue to get more and more accomplished, with AI and computational photography coming to the fore.  My Huawei Mate 10 Pro has both those features but I also have a nice low tech device that helps me make images.  It’s a clip-on macro lens made by Bauhn.  I got it as a Special Buy from Aldi for just £4.99.  I think it’s available on eBay for £6.99.  It comes with an LED ring light which adds flexibility.

As you can see it’s a sort of clothes peg arrangement that simply fits over the phone camera lens.  My phone does twine on at me about covering one of the lenses (it has two), but I just ignore it.  The light has three levels of brightness, and the lens quality is actually pretty good considering the price.

The phone camera lens has a fixed aperture of f1.8 which means that there is no control over the depth of field; you just have to work with it.  This toothbrush was lit by daylight and the ring light added some shadow fill.

Morning sunlight shining through condensation on the window made for an interesting abstract image.  The out of focus shrubs in the garden in the background gave some colour contrast.

For this last image I almost went outside!  There’s a hopper on the wall by the front door that has usually got a flowering fuchsia in it.  At this time of the year it’s just sitting there doing nothing, but there was some moss in the hopper.  I stood on the door threshold so I was technically still in the house.  I selected just one capsule to be sharp, with the rest of the moss giving a soft diffuse green background.  It’s a good contrast to the rusty metal hopper.

Have clip-on macro lens will travel, though you don’t even have to travel!