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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

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

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Happy Christmas from Derek @ Gale Photography!

It’s almost Christmas, your Christmas tree is in place, and you want to take a picture of it, to show how pretty it looks.  So how do you do that?  Well, the first thing is to make sure your flash doesn’t fire.  The tree has its own lights so you don’t need to add any more light to it.  The light isn’t usually very strong, so you may end up with a long shutter speed, and need to use a camera support.

"The Christmas tree"

“The Christmas tree”

For this Christmas tree image I put the camera on a coffee table; no need for a cumbersome tripod!  I wanted the lights to render as stars, so I used a small lens aperture of f16.  The shutter speed was about 6 seconds, but the table made sure the image was pin sharp.  I wanted the tree to be the only light source, so I turned off all the room lights.

"Ice rink in Birmingham"

“Ice rink in Birmingham”

Of course, sometimes you want to use blur creatively, as with this image of an ice-skater on a temporary Christmas ice-rink.  It was taken from inside the International Conference Centre in Birmingham, UK, and the blur comes from using a shutter speed of 1/3rd of a second.  I waited until a woman in a red dress skated past.  She acts as strong main subject and the blur gives the impression of movement and action.

Have a great Christmas and a Phabulously Photographic 2105!

Quick, before the light goes!

This time of year, it’s now winter here in the UK, the light at any given time of day is quite different the light at the same time in the middle of the year.  The sun is at a much lower angle in the sky, and your subjects can get lit in very interesting ways.  Another thing that can happen is frost.  It’s fascinating whilst still frozen, and differently interesting when it thaws.

"Grassy Bokeh"

“Grassy Bokeh”

For this image, of thawed frost on grass, I used a wide-aperture Nikon-fit Sigma 70-200 lens on an Olympus micro 4/3rds camera and got down to ground level.  The low camera position allowed me to capture the low morning sun shining through the water droplets.  The very limited depth of field has rendered the out focus areas as circles.

"Frosty landscape?"

“Frosty landscape?”

This image looks like a frosty landscape with a road going across it, but appearances can be deceptive. It is frost, but the main subject is the roof of my car!  The line across at about 1/3rd of the way down is actually the gap between my car’s bootlid and the roof. The sun at the top centre is shining between a hedge and my studio.  I used a wide-angle lens (28mm equivalent) to exaggerate the perspective and a small lens aperture to give the starburst.  The light was like that for less than 5 minutes.

"The fig in the window"

“The fig in the window”

Finally a “fig in the window”.   The low winter sun was reflecting off a window of our neighbour’s house and on to our kitchen window.  It only happens a few times in the year.  We have a terracotta colour roller blind in the window, and a variegated fig plant.  The light was silhouetting the plant too much, so I’ve had to lift the exposure on the leaves in Photoshop.

So be quick, before the light goes!

Just a drop please…

At a recent keynote presentation I gave on creative photography, one aspect that I touched on was the use of distorting objects, or materials, in front of the lens.  This blog is about that, in a way…

These images were all taken with a mobile phone camera.  I put a tiny water droplet on the lens of the camera and found it acted as a macro lens, albeit one with quite a small area of sharp focus.  If you try this make sure it’s a small droplet or it will fall off when you hold the camera vertical.  It focused very close indeed, and had quite a wide field of view.

"Droplet lens - tablet screen droplets"

“Droplet lens – tablet screen droplets”

This first image is of water droplets, (of course!), on the screen of my tablet.  I was running an app that let me change the screen colour.  I tried various colours and found that white worked best.  There are some nice spectra round the droplets and the screen construction is quite clear.

"Droplet lens - LED lamp"

“Droplet lens – LED lamp”

Here’s an LED from a bicycle lamp.  Lots of lovely shapes in this image of one of the lamp’s lenses.

"Droplet lens - perfume bottle"

“Droplet lens – perfume bottle”

Finally, this is of the top of a perfume bottle.  The bottle has got some coloured foil lining it and angles/facets that give spectra.

Just a mobile phone and a drop of water, but fascinating images.

There’s no fire(works) without fire!

Here in the UK we have just celebrated Bonfire Night.  It’s when we have fun with fire and with fireworks.  The fireworks we ordinary folks can buy these days are quite tame, so it’s best to go to an organised display.  Their fireworks are much bigger and much nosier!  Bigger fireworks are better for photography too.

"Air burst 1"

“Air burst 1″

I set my camera to a shutter speed of about 0.6 seconds, to give good movement, and an aperture of f6.3 to give a reasonable of depth field.  There’s no need for flash of course, as fireworks have their own light source.  I wasn’t sure where the fireworks would be in the sky, so I pre-focused on a light about as far away as I thought they would be, and then set my camera to manual focus.

"Air burst 2"

“Air burst 2″

The white trails fill the sky, and here I was lucky with the colour of the starburst.  The red contrasts well with the white.

"Green bonfire flames"

“Green bonfire flames”

It’s important not to neglect the bonfire.  We don’t often get a chance to see such big fires, and they seem to take on a life of their own.  This fire developed some interesting greeny-yellow flames which I isolated with a 300mm (equivalent) zoom lens.  In a previous life, as an analytical chemist, I did “flame tests” to determine the elements present.  I recall that an apple-green colour was caused by barium, and that yellow-green was caused by manganese or molybdenum.  No chance to check here!

There will be more fireworks at New Year, so remember to take your camera.

Black & white or colour?

Last night I gave a talk about improving your photography, and one question that came out of the session was, “What’s the process you go through when deciding to convert an image to black and white?”  My answer was, “It depends on the subject, and the mood and story I’m trying to communicate”.

Take this example, of a pool at the end of the Jubilee Creek gold mine walk in Knysna Forest, South Africa. It was taken with a wide-angle lens, 28 mm equivalent, on a Panasonic Lumix G3.

"The pool, Knysna Forest - colour"

“The pool, Knysna Forest – colour”

I wanted to make something of the mass of plants surrounding the pool.  It was a very wet day, so raindrops were falling into the water, breaking up the reflections in the pool.  There was no sun, so there were not many really bright highlights, and  the overall contrast was quite low.  In colour it was a pleasant enough image, but didn’t convey how it looked to me, and how I felt.  I was rather wet, a bit cold, and not feeling too bright; I went down with food poisoning a couple of hours later!

"The pool, Knysna Forest - B&W"

“The pool, Knysna Forest – B&W”

Converting to B&W in Lightroom gave a much better feeling to the image, taking away the complicating green tones, but the mood still wasn’t there.  I applied a medium vignette to darken the corners, and darkened the highlight near the centre of the frame at the bottom.  The dark corners give more emphasis to the pool and waterfall in the centre.  I lightened the waterfall a little to give it a bit more importance.  The image now carries much more atmosphere, and a bit of mystery.

As I said at the beginning, whether to convert an image to black and white depends on the story you are trying to tell.  Telling the story doesn’t stop when you’ve pressed the shutter button.