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

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50 images of snow*

* Well actually it’s not quite fifty, more like three.

It is said that the Inuit have fifty words for snow; Kate Bush certainly does**.  If you live in the UK it won’t have escaped your notice that we had a touch of snow this winter.  We are due some more this weekend.

Snow changes things, a lot.  For a start it makes the world much quieter due to sound being absorbed.  It also makes the world brighter.  It can confuse camera exposure meters making everything grey, so remember to dial in a bit of positive Exposure Compensation to render it properly white.

A light dusting of snow can bring a bit of extra contrast to a landscape, which is often better shown in black and white.  Here is a hill in Shropshire called Ragleth.  The woodland without snow is made much more tonally separate by the snow below and above it.

Light coverings of snow can form abstract patterns when they don’t fully cover the material underneath.  The roof of this village hall in Oxfordshire has turned into an apparently simple, but actually complex, array of alternating dark and light triangles.  The roof vent makes a good pattern break.

Snow can be turned into a plain white background such in as this image of a maple tree branch.  I shot it with a telephoto lens looking downwards onto a snow-covered patio.  I increased the contrast in Photoshop to give the semi-silhouette against a white background.

The lesson is to take advantage of the snow while it’s around.  It’s a great resource but vanishes too soon.

**She made an album called “50 words for snow”.

Supermoon and super moonlight

Here in Oxfordshire in January we had a supermoon.  It’s where the moon is closer to the earth than normal, so it’s very bright.

The supermoon sky was clear so it gave me a chance to set up my Panasonic 100-300mm lens on a tripod and take some lunar portraits.  I used a focal length of about 270mm rather than the full 300mm as it’s a little bit sharper.  The effective focal length was 540mm.  I needed to crop the image somewhat, but it’s more than acceptable.  Full moons aren’t as interesting as 3/4 full moons, as there’s no terminator visible on a full moon. The terminator generally has a more interesting light angle, with crater edges being picked out.

The following evening the sky was still clear, so I tried a long exposure using just moonlight.  My E-M10 has a very useful “Live Time” mode that’s perfect for long exposures.  It allows me to follow the exposure on the rear monitor as it builds up.  I used an exposure of 3 minutes.  It’s amazing how correct the colours look and how sharp the shadows are.  The giveaways that show it’s a long exposure are the star trails in the sky and the lights in the left-hand side of the house.

Supermoons are superfun.  I look forward to the next one.

Chase the weather!

Recently I was out looking for a camera club venue.  I am giving a talk there for the first time soon and wanted to be sure of the route.  They do say that, “time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted.”  Sure beats looking for it in the dark under time pressure!  There was a huge cumulonimbus cloud to the south of me and it was making the sky look pretty impressive.

After finding the club venue I decided to chase the cloud.  On the way to where it was I passed an old hotel that had been mostly demolished.  There was just the central core building left.  The aftermath of the large cloud was in the sky.  I managed to push my wide-angle lens through the fencing around the site and capture the building’s isolation.  Black and white conversion with an HDR treatment on the already contrasty sky gave a suitably Gothic look.

I kept after the cloud and found myself near Uffington’s “White Horse Hill”.  The White Horse is a Bronze Age monument around 3000 years old.  The cloud had passed the hill and was heading east.  Against the blue sky it was most impressive.  Another black and white conversion and a contrast boost gave the effect I wanted.  The little S-shaped cloud in the top right balanced the left-side-biased composition.

Thunderclouds like cumulonimbus carry a lot of water and it has to go somewhere.  On a walk a day or so later I came across a canal lock.  There was a huge amount of water going down the lock’s bypass channel and a “fountain” of water coming under the lock gates.   I had my Lumix TZ-70 with me and set the shutter speed to 1/10th second to show the water movement of the fountain.

No need to wish for cloudless dry weather, rain clouds give you more.

It’s a sign of the times

On my workshops I always suggest to students that they keep their eyes open for things that are out of the ordinary or are a bit of a contradiction.  The signs that people put up can fit into that category, and photographing them is a type of street or documentary photography.

Sometimes a sign appears quite normal at first glance but then it “does your head in ” because of the information it does, or doesn’t, contain.  The mystery here is what happens on the 28th March…

Sometimes a sign tells a story that make you worry.  This sign, seen in Winchester, had clearly been in place quite a while.  Whilst I loved the idea that the mechanism was “at fault”, it was obvious that the building’s maintenance left a lot to be desired.  The sign on the main exit door told so much about the rest of the building.

I think this sign tells its own story.  I particularly like the missing bottom right corner.  The sign has been used so many times that the Bluetac has ripped the corner off.  Austerity?

This sign was important enough to put on a metal sheet.  The sheet was screwed to the wall with care so it was straight and level.  What went wrong, and when did it become just a blank metal plaque?  There is some evidence that something has been Sellotaped on to the plaque.  Sellotape?  Standards have slipped!

Just some signs on the wall or in windows, but they can tell us so much.

Up close and personal: Part 3

Welcome to the first Gale Photography blog post of 2018!

Yesterday I was fine-tuning and timing my new “Macro Photography” talk.  I reckoned it was looking and sounding pretty good, but I felt the ending needed a theme.  Macro photography can be done anywhere, so I set myself a little challenge.  It was to spend no more than 30 minutes taking some macro images.  The rules were that I could not leave the house, and I must use a hand-held LED torch as my light source.

The choice of theme was one of those “lightbulb moments”, so it was only fitting that my first subject was – a lightbulb.  It was one of those lower-energy filament bulbs that has what looks like a car headlight bulb in the middle.  Popping the torch behind the bulb gave interesting back lighting.  It’s got a real steampunk/industrial look to it, and because it’s a semi-silhouette it’s almost monochrome.

We had a good friend over for lunch on Monday and made a dessert called “lemon surprise pudding”.  It’s delicious, and has the juice of 2 lemons and the zest of 4 lemons.  The means that there zested lemons left over.  After a couple of days what’s left of the peel and the pith underneath starts to dry out.  Lighting it at an angle brought out the texture of the pith and the little bits of colour from the remaining peel.  It’s like a lemony moon.

Another industrial look for the final image.  It’s a powerbank for my mobile phone and has a ribbed metal case.  Lighting from the lower right gave strong highlights and shadows.  Composing across a near diagonal gave a very odd optical illusion.  Our brains don’t seem to like diagonal lines and always want to straighten them.  In doing so the edges of the image go completely crooked, even though they are not!  It looks like a trapezoid rather than a straight rectangle.  You can check it’s really straight by putting the edge against a known straight line.

I popped these images, and a few others, into my talk and it now finishes by showing how inclusive macro photography is.  I’m looking forward to giving the talk for the first time in February.