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

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A string of pearls…

The autumn/winter weather is really upon us now.  On Sunday I had the “pleasure” of driving through a very heavy snowfall indeed on my way to the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, where I was tutoring a creative photography course.  The course was great fun, and well worth the effort of getting there.

The bad weather does bring benefits though.  There was a cold misty morning recently, and the cobwebs were shining with dew/mist.  I realised it was time to try to capture their beauty.  A normal lens wouldn’t have got close enough so I fitted my Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX  macro lens.  For a great cobweb shot you need to control the light, and as there wasn’t much light around I chose to use a remotely-triggered Nikon SB800 speedlight as my main light source.

“Pearly cobweb 1” by Derek Gale

There was a nice cobweb on our garden table and chairs.  I lit it so that part of the table got some light as well as the cobweb which brought out a bit of colour.  There’s an interesting bit of “cobweb wobble” on the lower right hand side.  I assume that a droplet had just fallen off and it had caused the web to bounce.  It’s quite hard to see some of the web’s threads, so it looks as if the droplets are floating in space.

“Pearly cobweb 2” by Derek Gale

I wanted a more coherent web so I moved to my car.  There’s usually a web between my car door and door mirror. With the SB800 on the ground the web was backlit, and the car door was mostly dark.  I used the door mirror as a shield to stop light from the flash flaring into the lens.  It’s an image that could be from the Large Hadron Collider, or the track of moons round a mystery planet.

“Pearly cobweb 3” by Derek Gale

I really liked how these droplets looked against the dark background, so I moved closer to get a simpler composition.  Here there are far fewer droplets, but you can see ever smaller droplets between the larger ones.  It’s a sort of fractal.

Water droplets on a cobweb are a bit of a photographic cliché, but there’s a reason for that; they are beautiful!  So, before you brush that door mirror cobweb away get out your camera.

Keep on taking the tablets: Part 6.

I recently got, from someone on Freegle, an old Pentax S1 film camera.  With the camera came a box containing various old enlarger lenses, but there was also a 10cm diameter simple glass lens.  It’s flat on one side and convex on the other.  Having played with it a bit I realised it would make a great “accessory lens” for the camera on my Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I found that if I set the Tab’s camera to Macro and held the lens in front of the Tab’s own lens, I could focus really close.

Here’s one of my first tries.  These two fuschia flowers were part of a hanging basket and looked great in the morning sun.  There was, however, a quite strong wind which was blowing them about and making it hard to focus and frame.  I decided to take advantage of the sunshine, but inside rather than outside in the wind.

“Galaxy orchid” by Derek Gale

We have a beautiful Phalaenopsis orchid, so I put it in the sun and part closed the curtains so only the orchid was lit.  This made the background nice and dark.  I turned the orchid round to give good cross lighting texture and a strong shadow, and framed nice and close to capture the detail of the flower.  The highlight on one part of the flower is a bit burnt out, but that’s always an issue with small sensors.

I reckon that for a free lens it’s a good buy, so why not check out Freegle yourself?  Who knows what you might find!

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.