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

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First (Street) among equals?

Last weekend I was up in Manchester for a social event.  I stayed in the First Street district, which is all shiny new office and entertainment buildings.  There’s a lot of glass, and a lot of rectangles.  I popped out one morning with my Lumix TZ-100 compact camera to try and capture the feel of the area.

Some of the architecture is a bit disturbing, such as this, the INNSIDE hotel.  It’s a bit odd standing underneath a large lump of a building that has no visible means of support.  I was careful to ensure I got a nicely symmetrical image.  It’s a shame the glass balcony didn’t quite line up!

Some concessions to aesthetics have been made with the frontages of some buildings.   These large blue glass panels contrasted well with the smaller panels on the other part of the building.  I zoomed in to simplify and abstract the image.  I’ve used Perspective Crop in Photoshop to get it all square to the image frame.

Later that morning I went to the Christmas market in the square outside the Town Hall.  From there I could see the sunlight shining through the roof “blade” of the 554 ft Beetham Tower skyscraper.  Exposing for that light, and letting the less lit areas go very dark, gave a composition of white, blue and black.  I was very impressed with how well the lens/sensor coped with the extreme lighting conditions, showing little flare.

It would be interesting to see how the area looks in softer light.  That’s for next time I think.

Things are looking up, and down.

A few days ago I was out for a walk in the glorious countryside near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Avebury in Wiltshire.  There are various Bronze Age barrows/burial mounds in the area, (some as old as the Pyramids!), that are almost ignored due to the amazing Avebury stone circle and Silbury Hill nearby.  Quite a few of them have clumps of beech trees on them, and they are atmospheric places to visit, especially on a cold and windy late autumn day.

I was carrying my Lumix TZ-100 compact camera, but I didn’t use it once.  My main photographic tool these days when out walking is my Huawei Mate 10 Pro mobile phone.  It’s so flexible, and the quality is fine for website stuff like this blog.  It’s got a relatively wide-angle lens, so it captures quite a lot of information.  Here I have looked up, always a good idea, and recorded the fabulous filigree patterns the autumn trees made.  Two trees still had leaves which broke the pattern.  I’ve cropped it so there is a tree trunk coming from each corner.  I like corners!

As well as looking up, looking down can be rewarding.  At the centre of this barrow there was a pair of stones, one of which had been broken.  it looked for all the world like an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, but I suspect it was put there by some new-agey folks, or perhaps people who wanted a table for their sandwiches!  The arrangement of the rocks mimicked/mirrored the pattern of the trees a few yards away.  You can see another beech covered barrow in the distance.

It wouldn’t be a walk near trees without using the Hauwei’s wonderful “Silky Water” mode and moving the camera during the exposure.  I chose a pair of tree trunks to be in the centre and moved the camera up during the exposure.  To me it really captures the atmosphere of the barrow beech clump; are there dryads?

It was a moving experience

Last week I led my final 2019 photography holiday for HF Holidays.  It was up in the Lake District at their Monk Coniston house near Coniston Water.  (It’s a curious anomaly that only one body of water in the Lake District is called something Lake, or Lake something – Google it).  The holiday was all about capturing movement; that’s camera movement or subject movement (or both!).  Our first exercise was all about moving the camera.

It’s handy that the Monk Coniston house is in the middle of an arboretum.  Trees are a great subject for moving the camera.  With so many to choose from it was worth seeking out a group of four trees with a good arrangement.  Setting my Olympus E-M10 camera to my default 1/5th second shutter speed gave just the right amount of movement blur.  The sky highlights give a great contrast to the green of the foliage.

One thing I talk about when I am doing tuition on camera movement, is the fact that information at right angles to the direction of movement gets spread out and becomes far less prominent.  This metal fence is a perfect example of that.  I panned from right to left to accentuate the horizontal structure of the fence.  The vertical support posts, and even a small tree, have pretty well disappeared, leaving the horizontal bars hovering unsupported.

Moving water, which the Lake District is well provided with, is a great subject for moving subject photography.  Skelwith Force, a waterfall near Ambleside, has a big drop, and the shape as the water rolls over the lip of the falls is very attractive.  I popped my Huawei Mate 10 Pro mobile phone on a tripod and set it to “Silky Water” mode.  I tried various shutter speeds and found that not much changed once it was past 8 seconds.  The dark and wet rocks make a great contrast to the lightness of the water, and the autumn leaves give a seasonal context.  Having a phone that does long exposure work without needing a 10-stop ND filter is a useful teaching aid.

Looking forward to next year’s holidays.

Our eyes don’t see in rectangles

I don’t know about you, but my eyes don’t see things framed by rectangles.  Cameras, on the other hand, do see in rectangles and we have to take that into account when we take a photograph.  Having forced the view of the world into the rectangle defined by our camera sensor, you can use the edges and corners as strong compositional elements.

This rather wonderful building in the Hauser and Wirth garden near Bruton, Somerset, had a large square aperture.  By taking it at an angle I have turned it into a trapezium.  One of the corners of the trapezium is in the corner of the frame, and the other corners of the the trapezium are on the frame’s edges.  It’s divided the image into triangles and polygons.  The black and white treatment makes it simpler.

The story of this path is a simple one; it runs from bottom left to top right.  The little bit of the curve in the top right makes the shape more interesting.  This needs to be in colour, as the difference in colour between the fields and the path line is important.

In this image I have use three frame corners as line origins.  It wasn’t quite like this in “real life”, (whatever that is!), so I used Perspective Crop in Photoshop to make it fit into the corners.  It’s a blend of the polygons in the first image and the curves in the second image.

Those camera sensor rectangles are forced upon us, so use them to make your images better!

Pattern pictures or Patton pictures?

I recently went to a dinner to raise money for Normandy veterans.  As well as the veterans there were some World War 2 re-enactors.  One in particular stood out as he was the absolute spit of controversial WW2 General George S Patton.  The level of detail he had gone to to replicate Patton’s equipment was extraordinary.  I made it a project to capture how he looked without getting his whole body in.  My mobile phone made it easier.

Here’s Patton’s three-star general helmet and “swagger” stick/riding stick.  The stick is a nod to his pre-war days in the cavalry.  It was hard to avoid getting me in the helmet reflections.

He was famous for wearing a Colt single action army pattern revolver with initialled ivory grips in a holster on his right hip.  He sometimes wore a 357 Magnum on the other hip.  The quality of the costume was amazing.  If you look hard at the shiny little button on the holster you can see me in a dinner suit!

Also as a reference to his cavalry days were his brown leather riding boots.  They went well with the wood of the floor.  The passing leg was a happy accident.

The sequence of images runs from top to toe, and you can assemble them into a sort of whole body shot (if you use your imagination), so it’s a portrait without the person’s face.