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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.

    For beautiful Fine Art images that showcase my personal vision take a look at the Fine Art Photography pages.

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SOS is coming up!

I’m now in the middle of setting up my 1-man show which is part of Swindon Open Studios (SOS).  SOS is Swindon’s own Visual Arts Festival, and if you’ve spotted that I’m actually in leafy South Oxfordshire rather than Swindon, SOS is for artists living or working within 15 miles of Swindon, so that’s OK.  Setting up is always an exciting time, and the images are looking great.  Well I would say that wouldn’t I!

“Smoking samurai?” by Derek Gale

I’ve blogged about SOS before, but to remind you, it’s on over two weekends in September; 7th/8th and 14th/15th from 11am to 5pm.  As well as my photography, there are some acrylic paintings.  All works are for sale, (you can choose from limited edition prints on aluminum laminate or metallic paper*, or open edition prints in card mounts), but you are welcome to just browse and chat about photography.

* such as the “Smoking Samurai?” image above.

My show is at my studios at 7 Eagle Lane, Watchfield, SN6 8TF, but please park in Watchfield High Street as there’s only limited parking in Eagle Lane.

Hope to see you there, and don’t forget to visit the other SOS venues!

Photographs with a certain flare.

According to Wikipedia, “lens flare” is, “the light scattered in lens systems through generally unwanted image formation mechanisms, such as internal reflection and scattering from material inhomogeneities in the lens.”  This definition implies that it’s unwanted all the time, and that’s not true in photography.  Flare can be used to add drama, to introduce a balancing compositional element, and to help tell a story.

“Stonehenge flare” by Derek Gale

In this image, of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK, I have shot directly towards the sun.  The lens flare introduces colour (in the form of blue circles), produces sun rays on the right-hand side, and gives a contrast change across the frame.  It helps with the narrative of the image, as Stonehenge is believed to be a sort of solar observatory/calendar.  It  needs the sun to fulfill its purpose.

“Kite and flare” by Derek Gale

Likewise this image, at a kite festival, uses flare to add to the composition.  Without the sun heating up the earth’s atmosphere there would be no wind, so a kite needs the sun.  Obviously the sun’s disc is completely overexposed, but there are attractive diffraction rays around it, and colour patterns produced by the massive amount of light being bounced around inside the lens.  There’s a darker highlight in the top of the frame which helps to produce a nice diagonal line from the bottom right to the top left.

So flare can add flair to your images.

Caveat: As with any activity that involves looking towards the sun, please remember that direct sunlight can damage your eyes.  Only look at the sun indirectly – such as on your camera’s rear screen.   I used a compact camera for these images, but if you use a DSLR that doesn’t have live view be extra careful.

A real tattoo – but no ink!

I recently attended the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford in the UK.  It’s one of the largest military airshows in the world, and even though the US military planes weren’t there this year, the flying display was great to watch.  It was also great to photograph, and the visitors, from all over the world, had brought lots of lenses with them!

“Fairford lens fest” by Derek Gale

I was in the FRIAT enclosure, at display centre, and it seemed like every telephoto lens that had ever been made was there.  I added to the lens mix by taking a Sigma EX 70-200 f 2.8 lens with a dedicated APO 2x tele-converter.  That gave me the equivalent of a 600mm lens on my crop sensor DSLR; more than long enough.

“A400M take off” by Derek Gale

One highlight of the show was the new Airbus Military A400M.  The aircraft on display was one of the 5 pre-production aircraft, known as “Grizzly 5”.  In service the A400M will be called “Atlas”.  For this shot of the take-off I needed a short shutter speed to reduce camera shake.  It’s at 1/2500 sec, and that has stopped the movement of the large scimitar-bladed propellors.

“Vulcan in heat haze” by Derek Gale

Another highlight was XH558, the only flying Avro Vulcan in the world.  I tried to get a slightly unusual shot by waiting till it was flying away and photographing it from almost directly behind.  It’s making its own heat haze from its four Olympus engines, which makes the fuselage “fuzzy”, but the wingtips are sharp.  You can see the large control surface movements need to manoeuvre the aircraft.

“The Falcons break” by Derek Gale

Being at display centre meant that some aircraft approached from directly in front and then broke formation.  It made for fun keeping the focus right but this shot, of the Royal Jordanian Falcons’ Extra 300-Ls, shows how good timing, and a good location, can produce a more unusual image than a simple fly past.  And no, they didn’t hit each other!

Was it worth being a FRIAT member?  Absolutely!

Is it it real or is it imaginary?

Most of you will have heard about fractals.  These are real or mathematical systems that exhibit a phenomenon called “self-similarity”.  That means that they have a detailed pattern that repeats itself.  The most extreme systems, such as the Mandelbrot Set, have such a degree of pattern repeating that it’s almost impossible to determine at what scale you are observing the system.

Here’s an example of a computer-generated fractal that produces a structure very similar to the leaf of a fern.  You can see that each leaf is the same as the larger structure, and so on down to the parts of the leaves. To generate it I used free software called ChaosPro.

“Fractal Fern” by Derek Gale

You can see that it is remarkably similar to a fern.  I looked in the garden for, not a fern, but another plant that had some degree of self-similarity. I found one very quickly, so I took a nice simple shot with my Sigma 50mm macro lens.  It was, of course, a bit more complicated than that as it was windy, so I had to wait for a quiet moment.  It was also quite sunny so I needed a flower in the shade to keep the contrast down.  That still, shady flower needed to have the right background which was far enough away to render out of focus.

“Fractal flower” by Derek Gale

The plant I found was a crocosmia with a not-fully-open flower .  You can see that the overall shape is much the same as the fractal fern, and that the buds repeat as they get smaller.  You could define the shape of this flower with a mathematical equation and produce it on the computer, although one thing that you won’t get on a computer generated fractal is a cobweb!

Isn’t it great when maths and nature work together?!

Same person, different look #2

It’s fascinating just how simple it is to get a different “look” in your portrait photography just by changing the lighting and adding a prop or two.  Take a look at these images from a recent location shoot.

“Corner bounced flash” by Derek Gale

In this first image I used a single off-camera flash that was pointed up into a corner of the room.  The flash head was set on its maximum spread so the  largest area of the corner got lit.  The light has bounced back into my model’s face in a fairly soft directional way; much better than pointing the flash directly at her.  I shot at a wide aperture to give a real “zing” to her eyes, with other areas going out of focus, and have enhanced that in post-processing.

“Natural light #1” by Derek Gale

No flash here, it’s just soft natural light from a window to the left of the image frame.  The fascinator with a veil covered one of her eyes, and composing for that eye only added a sense of mystery.  Once again I used a wide lens aperture which gave a very shallow depth of  field, and converting the image to black and white made it easier to concentrate on the single eye.

“Natural light #2” by Derek Gale

In this final image, I used a mixture of natural light and flash with, once more, a wide lens aperture to control the areas of sharp focus.  The sequinned mask covering her eyes has dissolved into a mass of little out-of-focus highlights making the sharper lips stand out clearly even though they have much less colour.  The split diagonal composition is simple and effective.

Same person, different look, simple lighting.

If you would like to improve your portrait photography, why not book a 1-2-1 or 1-2-2 bespoke session with me?  Take a look at the Portraits page for more info.