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

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So, I married an axe murderer!

If you look at photography forums (fora?) and blogs you’ll see a lot about capturing as much detail as possible in an image.  Well I reckon that you can get great images without very much detail in at all, by taking silhouettes.  Expose for the background (most often a bright sky) and the foreground detail will disappear leaving contrast and mystery…

"The boy & the aerial" by Derek Gale

“The boy & the aerial” by Derek Gale

This urban image shows a boy in a man-made landscape.  There are no curves in his environment, and, to me, his body position implies a sense of enclosure.   The buildings are taking over the countryside.  There’s just little bit, by his right hand, that looks natural, and his fingers are almost, but not quite, touching it.

"Ying and yang portrait" by Derek Gale

“Ying and yang portrait” by Derek Gale

In the studio you can expose against a bright light, in this case a large softbox directly behind the subject, to produce the same silhouette effect.  You can tell it’s a woman’s face, not smiling, but there’s no other expression information.  It’s an exercise in black, white and curves.

"So, I married an axe murderer!" by Derek Gale

“So, I married an axe murderer!” by Derek Gale

Just to be clear, she’s not a real bride!!  It’s from a bridal model shoot where one of the locations was a wood yard.  She picked up the axe and the idea for the image came from that.  Some might argue that the shape of the left side of the axe head resembles the curve of a woman’s waist, but that might be reading too much into it.

Remember: less can be more.

PS  The title of this post comes from the title of a film!

A reservoir, but no dogs.

I recently went to Farmoor reservoir in Oxfordshire.  I was surprised to see that despite all the rain we have had the water level in the reservoir was quite low.  It was due, apparently, to the very high sediment levels in the flood water, which means that it can’t be used.  To paraphrase the famous winter railway announcement about snow, it was clearly the “wrong kind of water”.

It was the right sort of light though!!

"Farmoor Curves" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor Curves” by Derek Gale

The low angle of the sun picked out the texture of the corrugated concrete on the sides of the reservoir.  Using a vertical composition helped accentuate the curves, and the gentle breeze gave the water a good texture too.

"Farmoor lines" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor lines” by Derek Gale

Looking at the water and concrete from another direction gave shapes and colour that worked well as a simple horizontal composition.  There’s a nice gradation of colour from the yellowy-beige (ish) of the concrete, to the blues and dark magenta in the water.  The cracks/gaps in the concrete under the water stop it from being too simple.

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“No soap here?” by Derek Gale

This simple composition works due to the strong colours.  The top of the orange lifebuoy holder contrasts really well against the intense blue of a winter sky.  I cropped it so the orange shape starts in the lower corners. I’m not sure of the function of the square full-stop after the word though.

"Farmoor rays" by Derek Gale

“Farmoor rays” by Derek Gale

The low angle of the sun and the reflections off the water meant there was lots of light about.  It gave me a chance to play with a small aperture and see what sort of diffraction rays I could get.  In this image, taken with a Panasonic 14mm lens on my G3, the shape of the light star in the sky is interesting as it’s not very symmetrical.  The original image was a bit soft due to an effect called “diffraction softening”, that happens at small lens apertures, but came back well with a bit of sharpening in Photoshop.

Reservoirs?  Water, light, reflections, movement.  What more does a photographer want?

Water, water, everywhere (again!)

You may, if you live in the UK, have noticed that it’s been raining quite a bit this winter.  Heavy rain and strong winds aren’t very attractive to be out photographing in; you, and your camera, can get very wet!  Not good if your camera isn’t weather sealed.  So what can you do?

"Sun screen?" by Derek Gale

“Sun screen?” by Derek Gale

Well, if you’ve gone out for a photographic trip you can wait in your car for a break in the weather.  You don’t even need to leave your car to get interesting images.  Here I focused on the wire elements in my heated front windscreen.  There’s a nice contrast between the heating wires and the other, natural, elements visible; the sun and raindrops.  Of course, when the shower has passed the light can be wonderful.

"Wet road on the Plain" by Derek Gale

“Wet road on the Plain” by Derek Gale

This wet road on Salisbury Plain is a case in point.  The shower has left the road covered in very reflective water, and there’s a lovely curve of shiny wet road (to Imber village)  in the distance.  I put lots of foreground in the composition because the textures and lines on the broken tarmac are wonderful.  The rain does make the rivers and streams run full too…

"Stanford waterfall" by Derek Gale

“Stanford waterfall” by Derek Gale

Without lots of rain this stream would be just a trickle.  I wanted a fixed point of reference to give contrast to the flowing water, and the rock and branch/twig fitted the bill nicely.  I used a simple travel zoom compact camera, set on Shutter Priority.  A shutter speed of about 1/15th of a second gave enough blur without losing too much texture.  I had no tripod so I wedged the camera into a bridge support to reduce camera shake.

Lots of rain a problem?  Yes, of course, but remember to take your camera with you as well as an umbrella!

It’s as wide as it is long.

Recently I was down in Weston-super-Mare for lunch.  I say “lunch” but it was actually a sandwich on the almost empty promenade at about 3.15pm.  That’s a bit late for lunch these days when it gets dark so early.  Still, the sky was fabulous as the sun was setting behind Brean Down.  I had a travel zoom compact with me, (always carry a camera), so took a few images.  There’s always a composition decision to take with landscapes like these.  It’s whether to take them as wide angle images or to use a longer (telephoto) lens to capture details.

"Weston sunset: wide" by Derek Gale

“Weston sunset: wide” by Derek Gale

Here’s the wide-angle shot.  The beach sand was too dry and dark to add any foreground interest so I found a large salt-water pool to reflect the sun and sky in.  The breeze was rippling the pool’s water so that the reflection was broken up into an abstract pattern.  I placed the “gull on a post” off-centre on the right to balance the position of the sun.

"Weston sunset: long" by Derek Gale

“Weston sunset: long” by Derek Gale

The gull was facing towards the sun, and it caught my eye.  I moved so it was in line with the sun, placed the sun behind the post to reduce flare, and zoomed to about 300mm equivalent.  The gull’s nicely caught against a line of dark cloud, and there are some attractive shapes and reflections in the sky and water.  It’s no longer an image that shows Weston.  It’s more of a generic seaside sunset.

Wide or long?  Actually it’s best to take both!

Town and Gown – and a camera!

I recently visited the fascinating city of Oxford.  Normally when I’m there I’m rushing around with lots of stuff to do, but this time I was not in a hurry, so I was able to take my time and treat it as a sort of Photographic Trek.  There’s lots of photographic opportunities in Oxford; the buildings, the people, the contrasts, etc.

Creative imaging by Derek Gale

One contrast is between practicality and protecting the architectural heritage.  There’s need to keep the entrances to the colleges clear of the many bicycles in the city.  Bikes are great but they can get in the way when parked (though not as much as cars!).  I liked the threat of the sign and the way the bike had been left there anyway.  Those rebellious students!  I used Perspective Crop in Photoshop to get the railings’ lines parallel.

Creative imaging by Derek Gale

There had been some sort of graduation ceremony that day, so there were quite few students around in academic dress.  I took advantage of the more interesting viewpoint into Radcliffe Square afforded by the gardens of Exeter College.  It looks as if this photographer had missed her subject!  There’s a nice range of road textures and angles, and the waste bin reminds us that it’s not all ivory towers; the rubbish needs to be collected too.

Creative imaging by Derek Gale

It had rained overnight, and just up the road, in the grounds of the church of St Mary the Virgin, there was a very small puddle.  With a bit of serious crouching and bending I was able to get the dome of the Radcliffe Camera, (the camera of the title), reflected in the puddle.  I used a Sigma 60mm f2.8 lens on my Lumix G3, and set the aperture to f2.8.  This gave a small depth of field to make the puddle edges all fuzzy.

Creative imaging by Derek Gale

It wouldn’t be Oxford without some quirkiness.  I wanted to visit the Pitt-Rivers museum, and to get to it you go through the Natural History museum.  That museum is having its fabulous glass roof reglazed so it’s closed, though you can still visit the Pitt-Rivers musuem.  All the N-H museum exhibits have been moved or covered up.  One thing that caught my eye was a bird in a glass case that had plastic wrap on it for protection.  The shape of the bird was still quite clear but the translucent plastic made it somewhat mysterious.  The B&W conversion and Contrast lift in Photoshop added a bit more mystery.

Oxford?  It’s a great photographic location!