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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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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.

Pylon the pressure

On a walk with a friend on a lovely sunny day recently we came across a large electricity pylon.  The appearance of pylons divides people, but whether you like them or not it’s worth looking up and seeing if there are any images to be found.

The sun was shining through the glass insulators on the pylon.   I used a couple of stops of negative Exposure Compensation to try and keep the highlight detail in the insulators, and this had the bonus effect of darkening the very blue sky.  It was worth waiting till a small cloud had moved away so it was a plain blue background.

Sidebar: there is a huge amount of interest in glass insulators and folks all over the world collect them.  Who knew?

Looking up pylons from directly underneath is worthwhile to get pattern images.  I’ve posted about this before and it’s fascinating to see the difference the lighting makes.  Here the direct sun means the lighting on the four main supports ranges from flat on, side-lighting and full back lighting.  The square crop and black & white conversion simplifies the image.

As well as going for the bigger picture the details of these structures can also be interesting.  It’s clear that not too much care went into getting a super smooth paint finish on the pylon.  Just one painted cross-support diagonally placed against that sky gives a simple texture image.

Pylons aren’t as ugly or as much blots on the landscape as some might say.  Go and find one, they are pretty easy to spot!

March macro mayhem

A friend recently gave me a bellows attachment.  Bellows allow you to get the lens away from the camera body, and this gives you more magnification.  It was made for an M42 screw-thread mount camera system (think 1950/60’s Pentax or Praktica), so making it work with my Olympus MFT system needed an adapter.

Having done a few trial images I decided to “go big or go home” and stuck on some extension tubes (two lots of two) as well.  Oh, and I also fitted my Olympus 1.4x teleconverter.  The converter is not designed to do this, but it fits if you are careful.  It ended up being quite a long system!

From camera to lens it goes: Oly 1.4x teleconverter, Fotga MFT extension tubes (x2), MFT to M42 adapter, Vivitar bellows unit, M42 extension tubes (x2), 50mm f1.8 Pentacon lens.   I bought the lens from ebay but on arrival it didn’t work properly.  The seller refunded me and said I could keep the lens.  Having watched some videos, I managed to disassemble the lens, unstick the stuck aperture blades, and reassemble it.  It’s now working OK.

The light source is a 64 LED panel and my first subject was a £20 note.

With all this extension and the converter, I reckon I’m getting about 5x life-size on the sensor.  You can see just how much detail there is on the notes, which make it harder to forge.  The Pentacon lens is never going to be a stellar performer, but it’s OK.

Because this arrangement ends up very close to the subject it’s easier to shoot things that are self-illuminated or translucent.  This image is of a section of my HD monitor screen that was showing pure white.  Red plus Blue plus Green in equal amounts gives white, but get close and it stops being white.

I’ve subsequently got a reversing ring, so I will be able to reverse the lens and get even more magnification.  Keep your eyes out for further posts on this.