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

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It’s a moving experience

Many modern compact cameras try and reduce a major cause of low quality images; camera shake.  They do this by increasing the ISO, to give a short shutter speed, and using image stabilisation.  This is OK for most images, but it takes away a technique for creative photography; long shutter speeds.  Using long shutter speeds can give interesting effects, and add an extra dimension to your images, that of passing time, rather than being all about “the decisive moment”.

“Moving legs” by Derek Gale

Here an Irish friend is doing Irish dancing whilst sitting on a bench. Irish dancing involves moving the legs whilst keeping the rest of the body as still as possible.  The blur of her legs during the 1.6 second exposure makes an interesting contrast with the solidity of the wooden bench and her stationary hands.

That image is an example of subject movement during a long exposure, but long exposure can also be combined with camera movement, and use of flash.

“Movement and flash” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve used a 0.6 second exposure, moved the camera during the exposure, and fired the flash.  There’s an exposure from the ambient light which, combined with the camera movement, has given streaky lines and lots of blur.  The exposure from the flash is much shorter and has given a sharp image.  It’s a more complicated composition than the simple, geometric, “dancing” image, with multiple faces and coffee mugs, but that adds to its mystery.  It makes us ask questions, such as, “Why is there a yellow Marigold glove on the TV in the background?”.

So forget about trying to get short shutter speeds, and take your time to show time in a different way.

Walk or zoom?

One subject that often comes up when I am doing talks or training is about zooming.  It’s generally when we’re talking about getting closer to the subject. People say, “Surely if I need to get closer I can just zoom in”.  By “zoom” they normally mean using a telephoto lens, or local focal length, to make the subject appear larger without actually getting closer to it.

Zooming is fine, but you need to know how it affects your images.  Take a look at these three images taken at different zoom positions.  In each image the subject is the same height in the frame, but the look is different.

“Focal length 1” by Derek Gale

This first image is taken with the zoom at its widest.  On this camera it’s the equivalent of a 24 mm lens.  I was quite close to the subject, and there is some distortion of the perspective.  The closest parts of the subject are are too large compared to the furthest parts.  The wide angle lens means that the background is quite sharp.

“Focal length 2” by Derek Gale

With this second image I’ve moved further away and zoomed to give a lens focal length equivalent of about 75mm.  This is great for portraits as it slightly flattens the facial features, which is often quite flattering.  The background is less intrusive and more out of focus.

“Focal length 3” by Derek Gale

In this final image moved even further away and zoomed to my maximum focal length.  It’s now the equivalent of a 400m telephoto lens.  You can see that the image has really flattened out, and the background, which seems a lot closer, is now well out of focus.

So, get closer or zoom?  The choice is yours, but always remember how it changes things.

PS  Should I use digital zoom to get even closer?  Three words; No, no, no!

Gale’s Galanthus

Welford Park, near Newbury in Berkshire, is a country house with a real speciality this time of the year; snowdrops.   The galanthus bit of this post’s title is the Latin name for snowdrops.  It comes from the Greek for “milk flower”.  For a few weeks in February and early March the gardens are open, so visitors can admire the magnificent displays of flowers.  How could I resist going along?

“Welford Park snowdrops #1” by Derek Gale

One of the main attractions is in the beech wood, as the ground is literally carpeted with snowdrops.   I used a long focal length lens to compress the perspective and show the masses of plants to their best advantage.  Like a brick wall is made from individual bricks, this carpet of snowdrops is made up of thousands upon thousands of individual plants.

“Welford Park snowdrops #2” by Derek Gale

Those individual plants are worth photographing in their own right.  I dropped down low and used a wide aperture on my Lumix GF3, to give sharp focus on just one clump of plants in the foreground.  The background plants are going out of focus, and it actually looks a bit as if the foreground plants are in front of a mirror.

I was still wondering how I could show the “snowdrop carpet” better.

“Welford Park snowdrops #3” by Derek Gale

I decided to try “creative camera shake”.  This technique uses a long shutter speed and lots of camera movement.  Here I used a 1/15th of a second and moved the camera downwards as I pressed the shutter.  It’s a technique that often needs a bit of trial and error to get the shutter firing in the right place.  When it works, it gives a dreamy, impressionistic effect.

The 2013 snowdrop season is now over, and the gardens are closed, so make a note in your 2014 diaries to go and see the Welford Park snowdrops!

Is my hand really a person?

I’ve got a bunch of stock images in the photo library Alamy.  These days photo libraries such as Alamy are very picky about people in images.  If there is a person, or more than one person, then you need a document called a “model release” in which the person grants you, the photographer, rights to use the images for most reasonable purposes. This includes use in advertising even if the person doesn’t approve of the product or service on offer.   Without a model release, images with a person in can only be used for editorial purposes, and can only be sold as what’s called “rights managed”.  This may reduce options for income from the image.

So what is a “person”?

“Really a person?” by Derek Gale

Well, this is.

Your image doesn’t have to contain a whole person.  If the image contains just a part of a person that could be recognised by that person, it needs a model release.  It can even be a shadow.  In this case it’s easy to get a model release, as it’s my hand holding the hygrometer.  It was a bit hard to whirl the hygrometer with one hand whilst holding my dSLR steady with the other hand.  As for pressing the shutter…

So if you are thinking of using photo libraries, and your images have people, get those releases in place.

Cache and carry?

When I’m not taking pictures* I like geocaching.  For those who don’t know what that is, you can think of it as a high-tech outdoor treasure hunt played with hand-held GPS units (or smartphones).  Someone hides a container at a specified location, you get the co-ordinates from the geocaching website, and then you use your GPS, and skill, to find the cache.  Determining a cache location can sometimes be very complicated, with codes to crack and clues to answer, and actually getting to the cache can be even harder.  There are lots to find; over 1.5 million worldwide, and over 75,000 in the UK.

I’ve been thinking about a photographic project involving geocaching, and came up with the idea of taking shots of cache locations, cache contents and the “view from the cache”.  Geocache locations are meant to be kept secret from non-cachers (known as muggles), so there’s no real clues in the following images as to where the caches are.

“Geocache location” by Derek Gale

Cache locations vary from very rural areas to the middle of cities.  There’s even one on the International Space Station in orbit round the earth!  Very many are in the countryside, which means you can practice your landscape photography.  I came across this sculptural dead tree which has a cache at its base.  The threatening clouds added to the air of secrets and mystery, as does the conversion to B&W.

“Geocache contents” by Derek Gale

The contents of caches vary a lot.  The least a cache will contain is a log book so you can date your visit and sign your name (all good geocachers carry a pencil).  What else is there depends on the size of the cache.  Some are quite large boxes, others are as small as a finger joint.  If you’re lucky the cache may have a “travel bug” or a geocoin.  These are items that make their way from cache to cache, and each has a unique identifying code.  I’ve blurred out this one’s code.

“View from the geocache” by Derek Gale

Finally, there’s the “view from the cache”.  Caches aren’t buried and sometimes they are sat in plain sight.  It’s fascinating, having just found a cache, watching other people walk past not knowing it’s there.  This cache, now sadly gone, had a wonderful view of the Marlborough Downs.  I was struck by the cloud formations in the distance, and how they balanced where the very bright sun was in the frame.

It’s a project I’m still working on, so I’ll keep you informed.

* Clearly I take pictures even when I’m not taking pictures!