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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

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

    If you are looking to improve your photographic creativity, skills or knowledge, check out the Photography Training pages.

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Mr Beckford’s Tower

William Beckford (1760-1844) was a man who had amassed a huge fortune from sugar production.  He said, “So, I am growing rich, and mean to build towers.”  He built a very famous one at Fonthill Abbey, which fell down soon after he sold the house (good timing!).  One which remains is “Lansdown Tower” near Bath, which is also known as “Beckford’s Tower”.


It’s a fascinating building, not the least for its wonderful spiral (or helical) staircase leading up to a room, with great views, called the Belvidere.  The walls have a lovely pink hue which gets brighter towards the lantern at the top.  There wasn’t much light in the stairwell, so I put my camera, (a Lumix TZ-70 travel zoom compact), on a stone platform at the base of the staircase to avoid camera movement during the exposure.


Looking down from the top of the staircase you lose most of the pink colour, so I thought it would look better as a black and white image.  It’s now about shape, tone, light and shade.  Because the tops of the stairs are visible it’s a more complicated image than the view looking up.


Back at the bottom I tried for a combination of light, shade, shadow and the pink wall tones.  I selected just a few steps with the light coming from right to left.  There are some very subtle colours, tones and textures there.

It’s a very interesting place to visit, and part of the building is a self-catering flat managed by The Landmark Trust.  You can climb the tower after the day visitors have left and enjoy the view from the Belvidere.

Thanks Mr Beckford.

It’s all done with mirrors…

It’s officially spring here in the UK.  The flowers are just emerging, and looking fabulous.  One of my favourite flowers is the tulip, and our first of the year has just come into flower.  It’s in a shady spot that only gets afternoon sun.  This morning was a lovely sunny one, so I thought I would show how a shaving mirror can change everything…

Blog-tulip-#1I popped my longest zoom lens (Panasonic 45-150mm) on to my E-M10, popped the E-M10 on to a tripod, and focused on the flower.  There’s nothing immediately behind it, so with the lens wide open the background is nicely out of focus.  As the flower is in the shade the light is very soft and diffuse, with some very subtle colour rendition.


I wanted to change the light, so fired my camera’s built-in flash.  It’s filled in the shadow areas a little bit, and has reduced the contrast on the flower.  It’s made the flower a bit brighter so it’s a little bit more separated from the background.  The effect is still quite subtle though.


I wanted a much bigger difference in the lighting, and couldn’t wait till the afternoon sun was on the flower, so I got a shaving mirror.  I went and stood in a sunny spot and reflected the sunlight back on to the flower.  I had to use 1.7 stops of negative exposure compensation as the light was so much brighter.  I also had to use the self-timer as I couldn’t press the shutter and hold the mirror at the same time.  The image is now much more contrasty, with more separation of the foreground flower and the background.

Do you want the light subtle or contrasty?   You have control, just use your shaving mirror.

LED there be light!

I posted recently about an LED toy that I had bought to try some light trail images.  Well, I’ve now got a supply of different toys; a box of 30 in fact.  They are flashing LED finger lights, which flash either red/green or red/blue. Using these toys I’ve made a simple version of the very cool “Pixelstick”.  I used my Olympus EM-10 for these images as it has a really useful “Live Composite” setting which shows the image’s progress on the rear screen.


The device I’ve made involves 12 finger lights on a length of finger-sized plastic tube which can be attached to a cordless electric drill to make it rotate.  Here I’ve done 3 passes at different heights, with or without rotation, at a reasonable distance from the camera.  The house in the background is a friend’s amazing 18th Century hunting lodge which was lit with a flash fitted with a red filter.  Should have turned the house lights off first…


I’ve come closer so the lights are bigger in relation to the house, which is now lit with LED head torches, and again used three passes at 3 levels.  The light patterns are interesting but there’s no connection with the lights and the house in the background.  It’s a bit “hectic” with a lot of trail and not much house.


In this last image I’ve walked across the garden twirling the device and then gone into house. I’ve gone into each room and twirled it around.  There’s now more of a link to the house, and the trails in the garden leads you to the house door.  The trails are now more in proportion with the darker areas.

I’ll be taking these toys to my new “Movement in Photography” workshop at the RPS in Bath.  Should be fun…

Photography workshop feedback

Some feedback from my “Composition and seeing the picture” photography workshop yesterday:

“Thank you very much for yesterday, it was very much enjoyed and appreciated. Comments coming my way include words such as ‘excellent’ and ‘brilliant’ and at least one member was fully enthused to raise her photography to the next level. I hope that we will be able to do other events in the future.”

I enjoyed it too!

If you would like this 1-day workshop for your photography club or photography group just drop me a message.