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

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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.

LED photo fun!

Light trail photography is fun, and I was thinking of getting a Pixelstick to help push my boundaries in this area.  For an occasional user, it’s what’s called a “considered purchase”, so I wondered if I could get a simpler device to try some ideas out with.  After quite a bit of searching on sites such as Amazon I came across an LED fibre-optic toy.  It’s a very cheap device, but has colour-changing LEDs and fibre-optic strands.

When I first picked it up I realised it was a cool object for macro photography, so it was out with my Sigma macro lens to see what I could do.  Being long thin objects the fibres can be used to give lead-in lines to the composition,


The LEDs and fibre bundles are arranged in a line, so one colour can be used as a different background to the foreground colour.  Here an out-of-focus green fibre bundle acts as a foil to the sharply rendered blue lit fibre strands.Derek-Gale-subject-movement-Feb-2016-blog

As I said at the start I bought the toy to do light trail photography.  It has various modes, and with this indoor image the LEDs were set to flash on and off to give blocks of light.  You can see the multiple lines from the fibres quite clearly.


Outdoors you can move faster, and with the LEDs on the toy set to continuous mode the light trails have no gaps.  The individual fibres can’t be seen and you get a smooth rainbow effect.  I banged the tripod to make the lit windows in the background have some wobble too.

It’s going to be a fun thing to work with.  My next exercise will be to light the building in the background with coloured flash gels as well as having light trails.

I’ll keep you posted!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!