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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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This is turning into a natural history website!

Lockdown has given me lots of extra time to examine my Oxfordshire* garden and its wildlife, more specifically the life that feeds or lives/dies, on my eryngiums.

* Yes, I know I have a Wiltshire postal address, but that’s a quirk of Royal Mail’s systems.

I’ve also had a chance to try out my Olympus’s “Pro Capture” mode for getting just the right shot of a moving subject.  It makes flying insect photography less hard – but it’s still not easy!

I tried slower objects first.  Their wings move slower, so in theory you can stop the movement with a fast shutter speed.  The problem is that they fly in random  directions, so you need a small aperture to have some chance of getting them in focus.  With this comma butterfly I caught it just taking off, when it hadn’t moved far from the plane of focus.

I failed to successfully photograph flying bumblebees many times, but eventually my patience paid off.  As I photographed the white-tailed bumblebee flying in from the right, the other bee popped out from behind the flower to balance the composition.  Both these images were taken with the Olympus 40-150 Pro lens.  It’s really a very good lens, though big and heavy for a M43 lens.

On one flower there was a bee that wasn’t flying.  There is usually a good reason for that, and in this case it was the attentions of a Candy Stripe spider.  It had been lurking under the spiky leaves of the eryngium, and when the bee triggered a web strand it pounced.  I had to lie on the ground under the flower with my Olympus 60mm macro lens as close to the spider as possible.  It got another bee today.

It’s worth taking a closer look at the plants in your garden, or a nearby park, to see what’s living, or dying, on them.

 

Heading towards unlockdown

In the UK we are still in lockdown, though we are now heading towards July 4th.  On that day we can do some things that we haven’t done for ages, such as stay overnight at someone’s house, or go to the pub.  We still have to observe “social distancing”, though the rules are getting very confusing and blurred.  What hasn’t changed is the need to get exercise, so lockdown walks are the order of the day.  I call them “Photo Safaris”, as it makes them seem more exciting, and gives them another purpose.

On one of my walk routes there is an old water tanker that has lots of lovely paint on it.  It’s worth a little stop to capture its loveliness.  There are multiple layers of different colours, paint runs, cracked texture and rust.  Using my 14-45mm lens I was able to frame just the bit I wanted.

On a recent walk round our local wind farm the sky had lots of lovely fluffy clouds in it.  Some had dark bases and looked a little threatening, so I thought that a B&W/HDR treatment might work. I composed for just three of the five turbines, and edited the image in Snapseed on my phone.  It’s looking rather “Independence Day”, which I think suits it.

A bit further down the path there were a couple of beautiful pyramidal orchids.  I fitted my 60mm Olympus macro lens and got down nice and low to get the right viewpoint.  Photographers should always be prepared to lie on the ground! The close focusing lens has allowed me to throw the background out of focus enough to make the flowers stand out.

I look forward to another lockdown Photo Safari soon.

By way of contrast, it’s black and white.

Sometimes an image works in black and white.  When we say that, most of the time we are really talking about an image with many shades of grey rather than just black and white.  This post is about images with just those two tones.  I’ve used Photoshop with all these images to take away the colour, reduce the range of tones, and give a huge jump in contrast.

I was testing out my new lens with Olympus’ “Pro Capture” mode on the camera.  It’s a nifty pre-shot system that starts taking images as soon as you half-press the shutter button, and finalises when you fully press the shutter button.  It’s great for getting the perfect moment.  Here the jackdaw’s primary feathers have the same sort of pattern as the central part of the TV aerial.

 

This macro image is an iris sawfly larva on an iris leaf.  I lit the background with an LED light and then exposed so the larva was in silhouette.  You can see the damage it has done to the leaf.  The contrasty treatment has simplified the image.

This dead fly was on a window sill in rainy North Wales. It looks like it is supplicating itself before a monarch.  I used macro focusing mode on  my compact camera.  The grey sky background was turned to white in Photoshop as before, and it left a few shades of grey in the wings.  I thought that too much was lost if they went black.  This sort of image make you realise just how hairy a fly is.

Only black and white; who needs shades of grey?

Fancy a remote talk for your club?

I’m doing my first remote talk to a camera club soon.  I’m using GoToMeeting for that one, but I’m happy to work with other conference systems, such as Zoom.

I charge my usual fee, but there’s no travel costs, so your club could be anywhere in the country, or even further afield.

Current talks:

“Movement in Photography” – covering Camera Movement, Subject Movement, or both together.

Close-up and Macro photography” – an introduction to equipment and techniques for this fascinating area .

Drop me an email (info@galephotography) or go to my Contact page and send a message.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

No lockdown for wildlife.

So here we are still in lockdown. It is admittedly a bit looser than a few weeks ago, but there are still many restrictions.  Lockdown does give me plenty of time to watch, and photograph, the wildlife in the garden.  We have a good-sized garden pond and it has lots of critters in it; newts, frogs, damselflies, dragonflies, snails, etc.  Sometimes they decide that they want to leave the pond, and that’s the case with the dragonflies.

The first thing that they do when they come out of the pond is that the larva crawls up a pond plant, in this case an iris.  The adult dragonfly then emerges from the larval case and leaves the empty case behind.  It’s called an exuvia.  This case is from a broad-bodied chaser, libellula depressa.  I took the leaf into the studio and photographed the exuvia with my macro lens.  The lighting is just an LED light on a flexible “stick”.  You can see the hole that the adult emerged from.

This is an adult female on some dogwood.  You can tell because the top of the abdomen is yellow/gold in the female and blue in the male.  It was sat still enough to get a nice crisp image with my 300mm lens (600mm equivalent).  They are quite obliging, in that they rest for a reasonably long time.  When they take off they just suddenly go.  There’s very little warning they are about to fly.

This is the male captured a few days later.  The top of his abdomen is blue.  One benefit of using a long focal length lens is the ability to throw the background out of focus.  The diffuse green isolates him nicely, but still shows it’s outside.

My next dragonfly project is to photograph them on the wing.  Olympus “Pro Capture” should help, but on a warm day they move very fast, which will be a challenge.