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

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Selfie expression

There was a TV programme on this week about the selfie craze.  It’s something that has come from almost nowhere, to be the thing that you just have to do when you are out and about.  It’s then got to be posted on social media.  Some argue that it feeds a need for the new generation to be seen to be having a great time, rather than just having a great time.

There are places to take selfies springing up, so you can take the same image as everyone else.  It’s a curious way to assert your individuality.  This one was by was of a parody, and was at Banksy’s Dismaland alternative art show in Weston Super Mare a few years ago.  There were still lots of folks using it though.

This one was used as advertising for the sheepsmilk Roquefort cheese, and was near the fabulous Millau Viaduct in France.  The hat reads “Death to Cows”.  My eye was caught by the abandoned apple juice bottle on a seat nearby.

This was also in France, at one of the sites being used for the “Rencontres des Arles” photography exhibition.  There was a series of them, and it wasn’t clear if they was being used in an ironic way, or if they just wanted folks to have a bit of fun.  The juxtaposition of the hard hat sign on an adjacent building site was to good to miss.

Perhaps it is an extension of those cutouts of people in bathing costumes that were at the seaside for you to stick your head through for other people to photograph?  It’s someone else’s idea of where to take a photo though, and that makes me a bit uncomfortable.  Perhaps I should lighten up!

A cathedral but no cathedra.

I recently I gave my “Movement in Photography” talk to Salisbury Camera Club.  I had a chance to wander round the cathedral before my talk.  It was a lovely clear evening, so I took the chance to test my phone camera for night photography.

This was a while after sunset, in the so-called “Blue Hour”.  It’s hand-held with no tripod, but still sharp.  I think the camera takes a number of frames and chooses the sharpest one.  I’ve used Perspective Crop in Photoshop to get the verticals nice and vertical.  There’s a nice colour contrast between the warm gold of the floodlights and the cool blue of the sky.

Inside there’s a new art installation with ladders of light.  I rested my phone on the edge of the font to get a perfect reflection.  The font is like an infinity pool, so it looks as if the cathedral’s flooded.

A cathedral is the seat of a bishop, and their throne is called a cathedra.  Us regular folk have to sit on regular chairs.  In Salisbury Cathedral there are stacks of metal-framed chairs in the side aisles.  The stacks do make interesting patterns.  Here I have gone for a symmetrical composition, but the the change in light on the tubes brings in variation.  It’s like the spine of an animal.

The cathedral in Salisbury is well worth a visit, and it’s now been declared safe after the Novichok incident.

“His art is in the right place”

I recently went to the Jeff Koons sculpture exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.  It was a bit of a coup to get such a prominent artist to give a show there.  Koons is famous for being very kitsch, and also famous for very high prices, and I wasn’t sure if I would like the art on show or not.  The critics seem divided about the quality and relevance of his work.

Photography was permitted, so it was out with my trusty mobile phone.  One of the exhibits is a large steel ballerina that is lacquered with transparent colour.  I loved the reflections and distortions in the highly polished surface.  There’s a bit of Dali in the “melting” reflection of the painting on the wall.  I was chastised by the attendant for getting too close*.  I apologised and moved away.

I was also chastised by another attendant for getting too close* to this Spalding-branded basketball floating in a state of equilibrium.  The ball is filled with distilled water and hovers in a salt water/fresh water gradient.  It was loaned by its American owner.  I’m guessing that it had to be sent empty and refilled in Oxford, so what arrived was a tank, a stand and the ball.  Seems like not much for £17 million dollars!

The works were lit with quite directional spotlights, and I found the interplay of shadows a bit more interesting than some of the works.  This is the shadow cast by a “balloon rabbit” made of steel.  The white line is the one you must not cross.  The floorboards made for a  strong diagonal.

After the Jeff Koons show I met my wife and we went for a meal.  The restaurant had the most extraordinary wallpaper in the loos, and the way it wrapped round corners gave a strange perspective to the faces.  It distorted reality in a similar way to the Jeff Koons show.  Accidental art?

* I have heard it said that, “It is easier to gain forgiveness than permission.”

“steady your device”

I recently updated my phone to Pie, the latest version of Android.  It also updated my phone camera software, and the settings were all in different places!  It took a while to find one of my favourites which is the “Silky Water” light painting mode.  It’s designed to be used with the camera held still, but I love the effects you get when the camera is moved about during the exposure.  It’s called Intentional Camera Movement (ICM).

This week, whilst waiting for a friend at the Watermill Theatre near Newbury, I went for a walk.  The River Lambourn flows past the Watermill, and a short distance away it is bridged by the infamous A34 trunk road.  The bridge is very functional indeed, with large girders spanning the river.  Whilst it’s quite an oppressive thing to stand underneath, the structure is a great base to use with ICM.

The image you get depends very much on the place you start and how you move the camera.  They are unique images, in that it’s almost impossible to exactly reproduce the movement.  Here I concentrated on the girders and twisted the camera round so the effective viewpoint changed.  I’ve inverted it in post-processing so the river is now at the top as a band of mist.

Moving the camera only in one plane has allowed the bridge structure to be the main focus.  Once more I have inverted the image in post-processing so the lines in the composition work better. The ICM technique takes away detail leaving just the main elements.

I’m now trying a technique where I move the camera for part of the exposure and keep it still for part of the exposure.  In this image I kept it still in at least three places and then moved it so there was a central line splitting  the image in half.  It’s now an array of lines and angles, and looks a bit like an open book.

When I took these images the camera kept saying “steady your device”.  I think not!

Life’s a bit up and down at the moment

When we are out and about photographing the temptation is to keep our eyes looking at, well, eye level.  It does stop us bumping into people, but it means we miss so much. I reckon that if you visit a town and ask passing pedestrians what the best thing is about the tops of their local buildings very few will be able to describe any of them.  There are many interesting subjects to be found if you look up or down.  

Take this second-floor window for example.  There is a giant red plastic key leaning casually against one of the panes.  It raises questions such as; “Why is it there?”, “Where is the factory that makes giant keys” and “If that’s the key what on earth is the lock like?”   The key does make for good colour contrast against the blue-grey of the reflected sky.

Looking down can bring real surprises.  I was in Headington, Oxford recently and noticed these two avocados in the gutter.  One does get a better class of litter in Oxford!  They were in pristine condition, so I wondered how they had got there, and why they had been left.  I took the image on my Huawei mobile phone and added an HDR effect using Snapseed.

We do our best to cover our city streets with concrete, but nature has a way of getting back into the apparently uninviting spaces.  These small dandelion (?) plants have managed to find somewhere to live in a services cover.  Perhaps they misunderstood the word earth?

The moral?  Hunt high and low, then you might see something that makes you go, “A-Ha!”.