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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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“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.

Get it right in-camera, or do it in Photoshop?

An important question that’s asked in photographic circles these days is whether it’s best to make your final image as much as possible in-camera, or whether it should be left to the editing stage in Photoshop (PS).  Some people insist that everything should be done at the taking stage, while others insist that PS is an integral part of the creative process, just like a darkroom was.  Let’s look at an example of a landscape image with motion blur added in PS, or with motion blur created when the picture was taken.

“Unblurred image” by Derek Gale

This is the original image, taken with a walkabout compact camera.  I was attracted by the repeating pattern of the trees in the plantation.  It’s quite interesting, but I felt it needed to be more abstract.

“Motion blur added in Photoshop” by Derek Gale

Here I’ve added some vertical motion blur in PS, and it has made the image much more dreamy and impressionistic.  All the fine detail on the tree trunks has gone, making it easier to concentrate on the pattern and the swirling shapes.

“Motion blur in-camera” by Derek Gale

With this image, of another part of the plantation, the motion blur was a result of a long exposure combined with a vertical panning movement.  The same dreamy effect is present, but there is no sharp, unblurred image to compare it to.

As you can see, it’s hard to tell if the blurring has been done at the time the images were taken or added later.  If it’s added later you have complete control, and you can give more or less blur as required.  It does mean however that you don’t have the thrill of seeing a “just right” image on the back of your camera.

It comes down to personal preference.  Me?  I sit on the fence somewhat, and say create the effect in-camera, but I also take a sharp one for creative editing later.  The best of both worlds!

The merits of a plastic sheet

At a recent “The Creative Eye” photography course that I ran for the Royal Photographic Society  in Bath, we talked about useful photographic accessories.  One suggestion that surprised some delegates was a plastic sheet about 6 feet by 3 feet.  What on earth would you want that for?  Well, it’s really useful for when you need to lie down to get your image, such as macro photography of plants and flowers.

The images below, that I took this morning with my Sigma 50mm macro lens, are a case in point.  There was a heavy dew on the grass and the sheet stopped me from getting wet.

“Tulip almost out” by Derek Gale

A tulip, at the point of opening, composed simply to show off the subtle colours in its petals.

“Grape hyacinth” by Derek Gale

A grape hyacinth, lit by the morning sun, casting a shadow on a low brick wall.

Of course, the sheet can also stop your clothes getting dirty on a dusty surface such as this patio.  The tiny flower (only about 3mm across) was bouncing around in the breeze so I needed to be patient and wait for a lull.  I composed so that the flower was balanced by the colour and size of the lichen on the patio.

As well as protecting me from the damp and the dirt, the sheet I used has other merits.  It’s made of white plastic so it can be used as a reflector to put light into shadow areas.  It’s also quite thin, so it can be used as a diffuser to soften hard sunlight.  Look out for further blog posts where I demonstrate these uses!