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

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“The subjects in the photos go round and round…”

Are you looking for a subject for your images?  If so, think about round things.  There are plenty of circular subjects in the world and they fit nicely into a square or near-square crop.

This dandelion is a case in point.  I was out walking and had my macro lens on the camera.  I saw the dandelion head and held it up in front of the camera so the sun was behind it.  The sky was cloudy and the smallish aperture I used brought just enough structure into the background.  Shooting at f2.8 would have given a very diffuse background.  The simple circle gives our eyes permission to investigate the complexity of the individual seed heads.

This pumpkin was part of the annual pumpkin competition at Beer in Devon.   Whilst it’s not a full circle we know enough about how pumpkins look to fill in the gaps.  I was careful to include the trophies in the background to give better context.

The Devon trip gave me a chance to photograph a bit of social history.  By the side of the road between Beer and Sidmouth there is a memorial to a Dr Thomas Gilbert-Smith who died at that spot in 1904.  The memorial takes the form of a bench, and has three slate plaques telling the story.  The round one tells another story as well.

Don’t take a circuitous route, or take the long way round, to using circular subjects in your photography.

Where is the light coming from?

Yesterday afternoon, as it was a lovely day, I went for a walk round a local country park.  I took my Panasonic TZ-100 travel-zoom compact camera, as it’s small and light.

The sun was quite low in the sky and it was reflecting well off the large lake at the park.  How that light looked was very dependent on what side of the lake you were.  The first side I came to had the sun almost opposite, which meant backlighting.

The park’s swans were quite photogenic in that light.  This swan was feeding with its head under the water.  I waited until it lifted its head up again, which gave the droplets falling from its beak, the ripple rings and the catch light near the edge of the frame.

As the birds swam around, the ripples they made gave lots of little pinpoints of lights.  It looked as if they were being followed by diamonds.  I was lucky here as the bird’s beak was wet, so had a nice edge light on it.  The low exposure level of both these images gives an almost monochrome look to them.

Moving to the other side of the lake meant that the light was coming from behind me.  No longer were the images monochrome; they had deep colours and saturation.  The absence of significant wind gave high quality reflections.  Here are some reflected reeds with gentle ripples caused by a passing duck!

The broader reflections were good too, with distorted trees and almost perfectly rendered sky.  I’ve inverted the image to make it less obviously a reflection.

Photography is all about the light, and here you can see just how much your images can change when you change the light direction.  It’s an important lesson.

Mobile with my mobile

Having tweaked my right foot a few weeks ago I needed a longish walk to see if it was working OK.

I chose an area between Avebury and Devizes in Wiltshire.  There’s a fabulous walk in fascinating landscape full of the signs of human occupations going back  thousands of years.  I didn’t want to be overburdened with equipment, so I took my  Lumix TZ-100 and my Huawei mobile.  In the end I hardly used the TZ-100.

The weather was great, though a bit hazy for colour photography.  I converted the image into contrasty B&W in Snapseed.  On the middle ground slopes that were eroded by ice Age melt water, the “sheep tracks”, or “terracettes”, catch the light nicely.  The lines in the sky echo the lines on the land.

On Morgan’s Hill there’s an evocative copse of beech trees.  They act as a foil to the landscape seen behind and below them.  The high-contrast B&W conversion helps to separate the foreground from the background.  I’m planning a return trip with my fish-eye lens when the trees have lost their leaves.

Of course, a trip into the woods with my Huawei mobile wouldn’t be the same without using “Silky Water” mode and moving the camera.  Choosing a trunk that was catching the sunlight gave good highlights.  I moved from the tree tops to the ground and the wide-angle lens has given significant “waisting”.

Same lens. Same camera. Different looks.

My foot?  It’s fine thanks.

Abstractions in the human-made landscape

That title sounds a bit pretentious, but the subject is a good one.   In the human-made world there are many structures that, when carefully composed, give us images that are abstract arrangements of colour, shape, texture or “all of the above”.

This diving board and pool is no longer about the reality of what was there.  It’s about the not-quite symmetry of the slabs round the pool, the mixture of textures, and the contrast of the warm tones and the cool tones of the water.

I call this image a “Morning Mondrian”.  There’s a multi-pane window behind the blind, and when the sun shines on that window in the morning it projects a shadow on to the blind.  That shadow gets complicated by the silhouetted support structure in the blind itself.  The asymmetry formed by the angle of the sun gives good contrast with the hard rectangle of the blind’s edges.  These images happen quite often, but every time they are different due to the difference in elevation and position of the sun.

The Great Western main line from London to Cardiff has some pedestrian crossings where, if you are careful to watch out for trains, you can make images that use the perspective of the rails.  At first glance the image has quite a bit of symmetry, but on further inspection you can see it’s not really symmetrical at all.  The trailing cable between the centre rails help break it up even more.  It’s fun counting the triangles…

Three human-made landscapes all simplified and abstracted with a mobile phone camera.

When is a mask not a mask?

As CV-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world, life somehow must go on.  In order to protect ourselves, things that we would have scoffed at in January are now a habit.  Photography can be used to record them for posterity.

Until 2020 my main use for masks was when editing images in Photoshop, but now we must wear a mask when we go shopping.  I’ve found that the best place for my mask is hanging on the indicator stalk of my car.  It makes it easy to remember.  I’ve seen them dangling from rear-view mirrors, which is not such a good idea, as it’s distracting.

CV-19 has brought out lots of signs and some of them have quite inventive spelling.  This sign in a pub, enforcing a one-way system, has a minimalist approach to the spelling of queue.  Perhaps Manuel from Fawlty Towers works there?  I’ve cloned out the pub’s logo to save them from embarrassment.

Of course, once we have been out and about our potentially contaminated masks need to be washed and dried.  I’ve got into the habit of putting my mask straight into the washing machine on my return home.  It’s very useful having the washing machine close to the door.

These small details of life under CV-19 are worth recording.  In the future we can use them to reflect on what it was like in 2020 (and 2021?).

Stay safe.