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

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In a bit of a mood in Somerset

I’ve just been down to Minehead in Somerset for a few days.  The weather wasn’t too wonderful whilst I was there, being rather wet, windy and cloudy, but it was great for moody photography.

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This is an early morning shot of the famous (infamous?) white roof of the Butlin’s holiday complex.  It’s taken from Minehead Harbour with a telephoto lens.  There were some nice dark clouds above it, which I have darkened a bit more to give the right sort of mood.

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I made a trip to Dunster Beach just up the road from Minehead. It’s close to the medieval village of Dunster.  Near Dunster there is a tower, Conygar Tower, on a small hill. I waited for a little break in the dark cloud so that the tower was silhouetted.  A graduated Neutral Density filter darkened the sky at the top.

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There is a cascade running on to Dunster Beach, and because it wasn’t sunny I was able to use a long shutter speed to show the movement of the water.  The water runs down a a series of concrete steps and once again I used a long focal length lens.  It gave some “perspective compression”, making the steps seem closer to each other than they are in practice.  My EM-10’s IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation) allowed me to hand-hold with a long shutter speed, (1/20th of a second), to show the movement of the water, but to avoid camera shake.  The overcast weather meant that the highlights in the water didn’t burn out.

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For this last image I changed to a wide-angle lens, and dropped the camera down low.  The EM-10’s tilting screen helped me get the composition right without me needing to lie on the ground, and the IBIS allowed a hand-held shutter speed of 1/10th of a second.  I was intrigued by the water coming out underneath the top concrete layer.  You can imagine that a few hard winters where ice gets in the cracks will loosen it even more.

The Moral?  If the weather is a bit “mardy”, your images can be moody!

Murmurations in Avalon

According to the 12th century historian Gerald of Wales, “What is now known as Glastonbury was, in ancient times, called the Isle of Avalon. It is virtually an island, for it is completely surrounded by marshlands.”  Some of those Somerset marshlands are known today as The Avalon Marshes, and they are home to thousands of birds.

In winter you can see many, many thousands of starlings, most of which will have migrated from Scandinavia, or even further east.  They come here to roost, and their pre-roost assemblies, called murmurations, are amazing.

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The reeds the starlings roost in are beautiful when backlit by the evening sun.

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The birds form these twisting and ever-changing shapes in the sky prior to roosting.  There’s a passing Easyjet airliner with an orange contrail in this one!

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Sometimes the birds settle in trees, only to suddenly all lift off again with a loud and raucous twittering and a rapid beating of many wings.  The movement blur, (shutter speed 1/100th sec), gives a sense of the action going on.

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The large cloud of birds gets closer and closer to the ground, and finally they settle in the reedbeds for the night.  The loud chattering noise after they have settled is amazing.

It’s a fantastic sight and well worth going to see.

Photography of the starling roost is challenging as they tend to arrive at dusk as the light is fading.  I had to use higher ISO’s than I would usually use, and I am looking out for a wide aperture telephoto lens to give me more reach, and help keep the shutter speed up.

Happy Christmas and a great New Year!!

For me it’s been a fascinating year photographically.  I’ve moved from dSLRs to micro 4/3rds and I now use a mixture of mostly Panasonic and Olympus gear.  The micro 4/3rds system gives me the image quality I need with the benefits of lighter and more compact bodies and lenses.  The Olympus bodies also have various tricks such as “Live Composite”.  Look out for some images from that soon.

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I can still get the “bokeh” images I love.  This image is, of course, Christmas tree lights.  I reckon they look like Venn diagrams.  The little dark dots in some of the circles are fascinating.

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The tree lights also reflected nicely in a brass dimmer switch, to give an abstract image with mysterious shapes and textures.

I hope that your photographic year has been as interesting.  Do let me know.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and a phabulously photographic New Year!!!

Quick, before the light goes! Episode 3.

Last weekend I was in Wolverhampton overnight, and when I woke up the sun was just rising.  I looked out of the window and saw the sun shining on the Merry Hill flats.  I recently bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ70 travel zoom camera, (ZS50 in the USA), so it was a chance to try it out.

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I zoomed the TZ70’s lens to its maximum focal length of 720 mm (equivalent).  The extreme telephoto allowed me to isolate the flats and remove, as much as possible, some other distracting buildings.  I couldn’t do anything about the TV aerial!

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I wanted something with a bit more interest, so I set the camera to 2 stops underexposure and metered off the sunny highlights.  This had the effect of making the image look as if it was shot at night, with lights on inside the building.  I used perspective cropping in Photoshop to get the lines straight.

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I had had to move some net curtains out of the way to get these images, and wondered what would happen if I shot through those curtains.  The result was lots of diffraction, which broke the highlights into spectra.  It’s now a very abstract image.

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A few minutes later the light from the rising sun had pretty well gone and it was just a drab autumn morning.  You need to take advantage of the light while it lasts!

Lens distortion? I love it!

Yesterday, Nov 11th, was my birthday and a friend gave me an optical toy as a present.  It was an insect-eye “kaleidoscope” that had a faceted lens at the front.  The lens produces distorted multiple versions of whatever is in front of it.

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It’s got a quite deep wooden housing as it’s made to suit the human eye, but I wondered what would happen if I tried taking pictures through it.

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The hole you look through is quite small, so a DSLR lens or even a micro 4/3rds lens is too big.  I used a zoom compact which fitted the hole nicely.  I found that the lens need to be zoomed out somewhat to avoid giving a circular image in the centre of the frame, although the circle is an interesting effect.

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Zooming till the image fills the frame produces images that have a little bit of “cubism” in that the different facets show a slightly different view of the subject.  There’s a lot of colour fringing

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The pattern repeat makes the images tend towards the abstract, whilst the colour fringing and edge distortion focus your eye towards the centre of the image.

It’s a fun thing, and we are, after all, supposed to have fun with our photography.  I’m looking forward to trying out more ideas…