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

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Capturing Autumn colour

It’s Autumn (Fall) here in the UK, and the leaves are turning.  The deciduous trees and shrubs with their beautiful colours will be looking glorious quite soon.  As with all things photographic there’s a way to lift your leaf images, and that is to get the angle of the light right.  Take these three images of the underside of a dogwood leaf taken on a bright sunny day…


Here the light is pretty well dead flat on the leaf.  You can see the ribs, but they aren’t that well defined.  The colour is a bit subdued too.


Moving the leaf so that the light was coming across at an angle gave much more contrast, texture and dimensionality.  The rib structure was made much more visible..


In the third image I turned the leaf so the sunlight shone through it.  The translucency really brings the colour up, and the contrast between the leaf and the background is increased.  The ribs are silhouetted. To me this is the most attractive image.


So look for where the light is coming from, and try and get images where it shines through the leaves. Hurry, they’ll have fallen soon…

A de-composed poppy!

I used this image a few years ago in a post about Remembrance.  It’s a scan from a 35mm slide, and did very well in competitions in the days when I was in a camera club.  I looked at it again recently, and got to wondering why it had done so well.


It’s a very simple composition, (that’s my style), so in an “instant judging” competition it’s easy to understand it.  There’s a nice colour contrast between the deep red of the main flower and the dark blues and greens of the background.  The composition reads well from left to right, with the diagonal from the bottom left leading up towards the flower.  The lines of bokeh circles in the top left quarter also point towards the flower. The nicely curved stem holds the eye into the composition and leads back up to the red flower.  The backlighting on the flower turns into attractive side/rim lighting on the stem, and the stem and flower are the only things in focus.

All of the above are technical issues, but to me it was successful because it’s not really about a flower; it’s about the story the flower might tell.  Its location is not obvious, and yet there clues as to where it might be.  The absence of clarity allowed the judge(s) to build their own story into the image.  Some thought it was about WW1.  Someone thought it was about Nature reclaiming her land from development.  Someone thought it was about holding your head high following imprisonment.  None thought it was just an image of a flower.

The moral?  I suppose it’s to allow judges space in your competition images to apply their own story.

The “dance of personal space”.

On a recent trip to the very wonderful Gower Peninsular in Wales I walked down to the Coastwatch station near Rhosilli.  There is a tidal island called the Worm’s Head near the Coastwatch station and there’s a causeway that opens, and closes, with the tide.  When it’s open it’s possible to cross and visit the Worm, and it’s well worth doing.


The causeway was just about to open and there were quite a few people waiting to go over.  It’s always interesting when lots of people are in the same area as they, mostly, ensure that they don’t intrude into the space around other people.  I call it the “dance of personal space”.  In this image it looks as if they are frozen to the spot and waiting for a signal to start again.


If the people know each other they get much closer to each other than they do with strangers.  Here, in Avignon, this group of Chinese tourists have formed smaller, closer, groups/pairs, but those groups are keeping an appropriate distance from each other.  I was pleased that the all people on the right-hand side of the frame were looking to the left, which keeps the composition tight.


These three women, in Arles, knew each other, (I saw them together later), but at this moment they seemed to be trying to give the impression that they didn’t know each other.  There’s quite a bit space between them, and an avoidance of eye contact. Even though they aren’t looking at each other, there is still a route round the image via the carved animals at the top and the small amount of vertical wall on the right hand side which leads to the seated woman.

Find a comfy seat and get out to watch the dance…

You’ve got to move fast!

I’m running a workshop about “Movement in photography” on 4th Sep at the RPS in Bath.  You can book online here.  If it’s too close to the date to book online you can call them on +44 (0)1225 325733 and book by phone.

One of the things we are going to be covering on the day is the use of small electronic flash units (Speedlights) to stop movement, such as this dropped white cotton glove.


In the image above I used two Nikon flash units turned down to 1/128th power.  The flash duration at that power level is only about 1/40,000th of a second, so it’s easy to stop movement.  Each flash had a coloured gel on it, one red and one green.  In a darkened studio I set the shutter to Time and dropped the glove, triggering the flash with a radio flash trigger button in my hand.  It took a bit of practice to get the timing right…


Here are nine images from a number of drops with the glove at different stages of the fall.  I made a new blank image in Photoshop that was three times the width and height of each image.  I copied each image into the new image, and, using guides to get them aligned, made this array.  A black and white conversion made it less circus-like.  (I know they aren’t all the same way round!)  It’s a sort of homage to the Bechers.

Hope to see you there!