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    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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Large scale, or scale model?

When I talk to people who want to improve their landscape photography, they often ask me how they should go about choosing the subject.  We are surrounded by so many possible subjects it’s sometimes hard to know where to start.   I suggest they put down their camera and look very carefully at the landscape.  Doing that helps them to discover which part of it is making them feel that it is worthy of being photographed.  Having chosen the “what” there’s also the question of scale.  Take these two examples from a recent trip to the Gower Pensinsular in South Wales:

“Oxwich Bay reflections” by Derek Gale

This is a telephoto shot of a large section of landscape.  I was attracted by the silhouetted headland, and the cloud shadows on the twinkly sea.  There’s a cloud shadow on the left hand side of the frame that mirrors the end part of the headland.  I cropped the image, to put the horizon one third of the way down from the top, and cloned out a distracting small boat.  The result is a well balanced, classic, large scale landscape image.

“Broad Pool reflections” by Derek Gale

Smaller scale landscapes work too.  This is at Broad Pool, one of my favourite Gower places.  My plan was to get some images of reflections in the still water of the pool, but it was a very windy day so the water surface was moving around a lot. Instead of the whole pool I chose a small area with the reflection of a single reed.  The water’s movement has produced an abstract image with a reflected patch of blue sky hinting at better weather.

Each of these images involves reflections on water, but their scales are quite different.  So before you press the shutter decide whether you’re going to “go large” or going to try a bit of “bonsai photography”.

Let it all wave about.

In a recent 1-2-1 training session on better garden photography, we talked about supports to stop plants waving about in the wind.  That movement can lead to unsharp images.  There are a number of ways you can support plants; specialist devices such as Plamps, angled sticks with twisted wire, and forked sticks, but I was wondering about the times when it’s not possible.  If it’s too windy none of these methods will work.

Here’s an example…

“Waving daisies” by Derek Gale

I took this image on a very windy day, and the movement of the flowers was quite extreme.  To show the movement I needed a long shutter speed, but it was quite bright, so I fitted a polarising filter and a 2x neutral-density filter.  Setting the camera on its lowest ISO allowed me to use a shutter speed of about 0.7 seconds at f32 – on a tripod of course.  There’s a lot of movement in the flowers, but enough detail to still to show the individual petals.

“Waving silver birch” by Derek Gale

No amount of supports or sticks would have stopped this weeping silver birch tree moving around, so taking advantage of its movement was a natural thing to do. I used the same filters, and a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds.  The movement of the leaves and branches in the foreground has created an almost abstract impression of the tree.

The moral?  If you can’t stop something happening, make a virtue of out the fact that it happens!

Insert light source here.

OK, so it’s the British Summer, and once more, it is raining – again.  It’s not very tempting to go outside for landscape photography, and there’s a limit to how many times you can photograph the rain on the window.

“Summer’s rain – again” by Derek Gale

I took this image with my Panasonic GF-1 and a Nikon-fit Sigma 50mm macro lens.  I’ve got a Kiwifotos lens adapter.  I set a wide-ish aperture to give a nice fuzzy background.  The white highlight on the largest drop is the sky.

Photographing raindrops is fine, but I asked myself what else I could photograph in this terrible weather?  Then I remembered my flexible fibre-optic light source.  It’s really for a microscope but can be used for getting light to unusual places.  Like inside a tomato…

“Lit from within” by Derek Gale

I made a small hole in the tomato and pushed the end of the fibre-optic source into it.  I put some cling film over the end of the fibre-optic so it didn’t get covered in tomato juice.  It’s definitely worth remembering to use cling film.  I had a bad experience with a marshmallow in the past…

I held the tomato in one hand so the glow from within lit my fingers.  The fibre-optic light source fitted nicely between them so it was invisible. I manually focused the camera (which was on a tripod), and took the shot.

Bad weather?  No worries.  Just get some light, a tomato*, and you’re laughing.

* Other fruit are available.

It’s not just to go over your shoulder

I was at Buscot Park in Oxfordshire recently and saw a fantastic water lily in one of the ponds.  It was a fabulous colour and I reckoned that it would make a great subject for a photograph.  There was a problem however.  The pond had a stone wall around it, and the pond itself was set low down so the water level was about 6 feet away.  It was impossible to get down to the lily without jumping in.  That would not have been popular…

“Lily on a strap” by Derek Gale

I solved it by using my camera strap!  I set my Panasonic GF-1 on the useful “take 3 shots after a 10 second self-timer” setting. To take the image I prefocused on something that was about the right distance away and in the same light, fully pressed the shutter, leant over the wall and lowered the camera down to the water level on the strap*.  After the shutter had fired three times I lifted the camera up again, and checked the images. Sorted!

*If you do this it’s important to wrap the strap round your hand so you don’t drop the camera.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

You can learn many other tips like this in my 1-2-1 training, which can be on any aspect of photography.  Today I have some clients who want to learn more about landscape and garden photography, so it’s very topical.

A few reflections on car photography

At a car show in the streets of Bristol I was struck by the paintwork on a particular car, a De Tomaso Pantera GTS.  The petrolheads among you will know that this was designed by an American, was made in Modena Italy, (just down the road from the Lamborghini factory), and had an American Ford V8 engine.  To add a further layer of internationalism, the company was founded by an Argentinian-Italian.

The paintwork on the car was spectacular.  It was sort of candy-apple metallic red, and was highly reflective.  It was so reflective that trying to get an image of the whole car just recorded a lot of people and buildings.

“De Tomaso reflection” by Derek Gale

I decided to make the reflections work for me instead of against me, and to record a detail of the car rather than all of it.  I chose the engine cover because it was fairly flat, and made sure that the line of the reflected building didn’t cross the line of the air vents.  In fact the corner of one air vent sort of fits into the top corner of the reflected building.  The deep colour of the paint contrasts well with the black and white vents.  I flipped the image upside down in Photoshop to make the perspective look more interesting.

The moral?  Don’t think, “Damn, everything is reflecting”, think “Great, everything is reflecting!”