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    Hello, and welcome to my website! I'm Derek Gale, photography trainer and Fine Art photographer.

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“Oh we do like to be beside the seaside”

I have it on good advice that the weather is about to improve.  Just in time for the school holidays.  Hooray!  That means that we’ll be able to go to the seaside/coast and take in the sunshine.  It also means that we’ll be able to take advantage of the beautiful light you get at the coast, where the sun reflects off the sea.

“3 Cliffs Bay – Gower” by Derek Gale

In this image, of the wonderful 3 Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales, I had to wait till the sun was at the right angle relative to the sea.  At this time of year that means shooting quite early in the morning, because in the middle of the day the sun is almost vertical and you lose the reflections.  The long focal length lens I used compressed the perspective which made the sea and cliffs seem closer together.

“3 Cliffs Bay – Gower” by Derek Gale

Here’s the same place on a different day/time, with a wide angle lens, and with the tide almost fully in.  It has a completely different mood to the first image.  However you shoot it it’s still a great view, and I envied the person who had the beach all to themself.

Get down to the sea and catch the light!

PS  I have some portable studio backgrounds/stands for sale.  Take a look here and here, and get in touch if you are interested.

The “Rule of Thirds”?

There’s a “rule” in photographic composition called the “Rule of Thirds”. Put simply, if you imagine your image with lines on it like a “Noughts and Crosses” grid, the main point of interest should be on one of the intersections of the lines.  It’s just guidance really, so you don’t have to follow it slavishly. Sometimes it’s better to break the rules…

“Rule of Thirds?” by Derek Gale

This British summer at the seaside image is an example of that.  I’ve carefully divided the composition into three section; one very grey sky, one blue patterned hoarding, and one grey wall.  It’s made a sort of  blue sandwich.  The composition just didn’t work with the NO PARKING sign on a Rule of Thirds intersection, so I centered it left/right, which works much better.  Even though it’s high season it has the out of season look that I wanted to convey.

Lesson?  Photographic “Rules” are not real Rules, they’re just advice.

Keep on taking the tablets: Part 5

Here’s another image in my occasional series taken with the camera on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer.

“Galaxy kaleidoscope” by Derek Gale

A friend, knowing my interest in optical toys, gave me a kaleidoscope for Christmas.  It’s a simple cardboard tube with the usual angled mirrors inside and some plastic beads at the end.  It’s remarkably effective.  I noticed that the eye hole was about the same size as the lens on my Tab so I thought, “why not?”.  I set my Tab to macro focusing, and used the self-timer to give me some time to line up the kaleidoscope and the camera lens.  Result?  An attractive abstract image.

I thought a little bit of enhancement would help, so I took the image into Photoshop and made a layer copy to which I applied the Find Edges filter.  This layer was blended with the original untouched layer using Overlay mode, and it gave a bit of extra punch to the image.

Just a child’s toy and a tablet computer, but capable of producing great images.

Take your photographic chances: Warning – spiders!

I have said before that it always pays to carry a camera, or at least be near one.

Recently I came across this ball of baby garden spiders (areaneus diadematus).  They weren’t quite in the garden though, as they were on the drive by the studio.  The tiny spiderlings (nice word), emerge from the egg sac and then stick together until mature enough to go their separate ways.

I quickly got my camera and thought about the the best way to photograph them.  They were quite hard to photograph because they had laid threads all over the area they were in.  One touch on one of the threads and the ball would disperse.  It took about 30 minutes to reassemble.

"Garden Spider ball" by Derek Gale

I used a Sigma EX 50mm macro lens, and 2 flash units.  They were in a bit of a dark area so there wasn’t much light.  The 2 flashes gave enough light to let me use a small lens aperture to give a reasonable depth of field.  There was no chance to use the focus stacking technique from my last post as they were moving around too much.  I did, of course, need to lie on the ground to take the shot.  I wonder what my neighbours thought…

"Garden Spider ball: dispersed" by Derek Gale

Here’s what they looked like after I touched one of the threads; a wriggling mass of cute little spiders.

I said about always carrying a camera, and to take your photographic chances.  They spiders were only there for 2 more days, and now they’ve gone.  If I had waited, or not got rapid access to a camera, I would have missed a great bit of animal behaviour.

Corporate PhotographerJune 11, 2012 - 9:57 am

Amazing spider shots and love the ball image

Stacks of fun!

Close-up (or macro) photography is great fun, but when working very close to your subject it’s often hard to get everything in focus.  You lose what’s called “depth of field”.   You can increase the depth of field by making the lens aperture smaller (stopping down), but that doesn’t always give you enough that’s properly in focus.

"Blue flower: single image at f20" by Derek Gale

Here’s an example of a blue flower taken in the studio.  I used a single electronic flash to light it.  The distance from the front of the flower to the ends of the petals at the back is quite large, so even with the small aperture (f20) that this image was taken at, the petals at the back are not in focus.  I could make the aperture even smaller, but that then needs more flash power, and the image quality can degrade due to diffraction softening.

So how do we get round this?  The solution, for a non-moving subject at least, is to take a series of images where each image is focused on a different part of the subject, and then join them together, throwing away the out of focus bits.  You’re left with a composite image made up of all the in focus bits.  It’s called “focus stacking”.

So what do you need to do this?  The exposure needs to be constant so you need a controllable light source such as an electronic flash, or constant daylight.  It’s best to set your camera on manual exposure.  You also need a tripod to give good camera stability.  That’s needed to make sure the images can be aligned properly.  Finally you need some software to do the hard work for you.  I used Photoshop CS5, but other focus stacking software is available.

"Blue flower: 5 stacked images" by Derek Gale

Here’s the result.  You can see that the rear petals are now nicely in focus, and the focus is all the way through the flower.  There are 5 images, each taken at an aperture of f6.3.  I could have used lots more images with smaller focus differences, but there’s a compromise between sharpness and image processing time.   Lots more images =  lots more processing time.

As the title says, it’s “Stacks of fun”.  Why not give it a go?