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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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    Looking forward to hearing from you! In the meantime read my blog posts below. They're full of useful info...

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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.


“Sending out an SOS”

No, it’s not an emergency, nor is there (as The Police sang), a “Message in a bottle”.  This message is to give you advance warning that “Swindon Open Studios (SOS)” is coming, and that I am part of it!

So what is Swindon Open Studios?  Well, it’s a chance for you to visit artists in their studios, view their work, and to talk* to them about their art.  If you visit me we can chat about my abstract and semi-abstract Fine Art photography (or photography in general, or classic cars/geocaching/anything).  If that’s not enough for you there could also be some acrylic paintings.

“H20 abstractions 1” by Derek Gale

It’s on for two weekends in September; 7th/8th and 14th/15th.  I’m open from 11am to 5pm and I’d love to see you, so do pop the dates into your diary.

PS    As a blatant bribe to attract visitors there could well be home-made cakes…

PPS   * it’s not compulsory to talk to me if you don’t want to!

Cold War Jets on a warm day…

I recently went along to an open day at the Cold War Jets museum in Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, UK.  The museum has a collection of non-flying ex-military jets that were in service from the 50’s to the present day, and during the open day they run as many as possible up the runway.  The standing start “fast taxiing” is the most impressive bit.

I wanted to get some close up shots of the action so took my 70-200 f 2.8 Sigma lens and its dedicated APO 2x teleconverter.  On my crop sensor DSLR that gave me a maximum effective focal length of 600mm.  The weather was good, with plenty of light around, meaning I was able to use short shutter speeds to  reduce camera shake, so I left my tripod/monopod in the car.  There were hundreds of other aircraft enthusiasts there, and it was a telephoto lens fest!

“Nimrod MR2” by Derek Gale

I was lucky with where I had chosen to stand for the first part of the taxi runs.  It was directly opposite where the aircraft turned round, so I could shoot them head on.  This Nimrod MR2 (XV226) really showed that form follows function.  It looked really mean with its modified fuselage and all the sensors.  Quite a difference from the elegant Comet airliner it was derived from.  The tonal treatment and vignette added in post-processing enhance the mean look.

The aircraft below couldn’t look mean if it tried!

“Photo reconnaissance Spitfire” by Derek Gale

During the day there was a flypast by PM631, one of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Spitfires.  The BBMF has a number of Spitfires and this is one of my favourites – it was built just to take pictures, and had no guns.  It’s a PRXIX photo reconnaissance Spitfire painted in “cerulean blue”.  That’s a colour that matches the colour of the sky, so it’s good camouflage for high-flying aircraft.  Spitfire purists will notice the five-bladed propeller, which indicates that it has a Griffon engine rather than the classic Merlin engine.  I’ve used a Photoshop action to make the image look like an old photo that’s been in the wars a bit.  It adds to the nostalgic theme.

And then there was the Lightning…

“Lightning F6 in Heat Haze” by Derek Gale

The English Electric Lightning was one of the highlights of the day.  This RAF interceptor aircraft was one of the fastest aircraft ever made, and I recall seeing one at the Farnborough Airshow when I was very young.  It took off, went vertically up into the sky, and there was a loud bang as it went supersonic in the climb!  This Lightning F6 (XS904) was one of the last in RAF service, and has the big belly fuel tank to give it a bit more endurance.  As the title of this post says it was a warm day and there was a lot of heat haze in the distance.  I waited till the Lightning had turned round after its run, and got this image of it coming back through the haze, and making quite a bit of heat haze itself.  It’s the sort of image that you can only get with a long telephoto lens.

The day was noisy, and smelly from burnt jet fuel.  I’m really looking forward to more of the same at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford in July!

If you go down to the woods today…

… if you are lucky you will find English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).  These plants are a feature of UK woods at this time of year, and they are a spectacular sight – and smell.  I’m lucky enough to have access to a friend’s private bluebell wood, and went along yesterday with a heavy camera bag and a heavy tripod.

In order to capture the swathes of flowers across the woodland, I tried out a technique that I’ve previously used for macro images; focus stacking.

“Focus stacked bluebells” by Derek Gale

With a 200mm lens, the depth of field was quite small, so I took a series of three images, and changed the focus point between images.  I opened the images as layers in Photoshop, aligned them, and then stacked them.  It’s sort of worked, giving more depth of field across the bluebells, but if you look closely you can see areas between the in-focus areas where the flowers are still out of focus.  I’ll go back and try it again with many more focus points.

One feature of this wood is an area where there are lots of orchids, so my macro lens came in useful.

“Early purple orchid” by Derek Gale

They are early purple orchids (orchis mascula), and they show huge variation in flower size, colour, and pattern.  This one was quite light in tone, but others were very dark or almost pale pink.  Each individual flower is quite small and has no nectar, and they attract pollinating insects by looking a bit like other flowers that do have nectar – sneaky!

As well as the masses of bluebell flowers, the individual plants are beautiful in their own right.

“Single bluebell plant” by Derek Gale

This plant, against a moss-covered rotting log, looked almost as if it was in a tropical jungle.  It shows the classic English bluebell drooping stem, with flowers on one side of the stem.  There’s another bluebell, the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), that’s hybridising with the English bluebell, and is viewed as an invasive species threatening the English bluebell.

So get out and enjoy an English bluebell wood while you still can.