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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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The world’s your portrait studio.

It’s coming up to one of the biggest family events of the year, Christmas, and at events like Christmas lots of family portraits are taken.  You might even be trying out the new digital camera you got as a present.

You can’t always be in a professional photography studio, but if you treat the whole world as a portrait photography studio, and take advantage of the light, you can get great images.  Here are some shots of a little girl at a family event, a wedding, to show you what I mean.

"Directional light" by Derek Gale

She was waiting quietly on a sofa while the bride was getting ready.  The light from a window was falling across her face giving a softly directional look.  The pale sofa reflected some light back and filled the shadows.

There’s a temptation to always use your camera’s built-in flash when photographing people indoors, and often the camera chooses to turn it on for you.  Direct on-camera flash would have given a very harsh light, and produced an image that was much less successful than this one.  It’s useful to read your camera’s manual and find out how to turn the flash off.

"Diffuse light" by Derek Gale

Outside on a sunny day the light can be very strongly directional, with very bright highlights and very dark shadows.  It’s often better to find a place where there’s lots of light but that’s out of direct sunlight.  This image was taken in a stone arbour with lots of lovely light-coloured stone reflecting the light everywhere.  The light was very diffuse, and out of shot there was a white table that gave a nice catch light in her eyes.

"Rules of Connect 4?" by Derek Gale

As a contrast to the two quiet portraits, here’s one where she was playing with a giant “Connect 4” set.  She wasn’t exactly using it as its makers had intended, she was simply throwing the pieces up in the air and catching them.  The game’s rules didn’t matter; she was having fun.  I waited till she had just thrown a playing piece, and chose a shutter speed that would give a bit of movement blur.  It’s a great informal outdoor portrait.

"Wedding playground" by Derek Gale

This last image brings in the boys too.  Also at a wedding, he was playing on the floor at the reception.  I dropped down quite close to the ground to get a good viewpoint; I had to move fast as he was all over the place!  I used a pop of flash bounced off a wall to balance the natural daylight and fill in the shadows.  It’s given a very natural portrait of a young boy at play, but it could have been taken in a portrait studio.

So, the world is one great big photography studio.  If you would like to learn how to use it to take better family portraits why not come along for some One-to-One training with me?  There’s info on the Photography Training pages.

We shall remember them.

It’s Armistice Day tomorrow.  As well as the day for commemoration of the role that our servicemen and women have played,  it’s always had a certain resonance for me because it’s also my birthday.  This year it’s even more special as the minute’s silence will be at 11am on 11/11/11.

"Poppy and fence" by Derek Gale

The poppy is a potent symbol of rebirth, as well as of war, with its ability to germinate and grow in very disturbed soil, and its blood red colour.  This poppy was growing by a wire fence, and I thought the contrast between the fence’s machine-made regularity and the poppy’s fragility was very powerful.

"Red heat of battle" by Derek Gale

Also very powerful were the seemingly endless rows of gravestones at this French military cemetery near Verdun in France.  The crosses were lined up as the soldiers were lined up going “over the top”.  It was taken on a very frosty day just after New Year, and looked very blue, so I’ve put some glowing red in to the bases of the nearest crosses to symbolise the heat of the battle.

"Normandy veteran" by Derek Gale

As well as remembering those who fought and died, we also need to remember, and thank, those who fought and survived.  This portrait was taken at a Normandy Veterans’ Association reunion visit to the beaches of Normandy.  It’s of an Able Seaman who was a signalman on a landing craft at Gold beach on D-Day.  He won the Distinguished Service Medal for, among other things, pushing mines away from the landing craft with his feet.  He said he was “just doing his job”.  Thanks Dad.

Photography with a bang – but no flash!

It’s almost Bonfire Night here in the UK, and lots of you will be wanting to take pictures of the fireworks.  So how do you get great shots of them?  Well, here are some useful tips for you.

Whatever your camera, try and get upwind of the display area.  Smoke from bonfires and exploding fireworks can reduce contrast both for photography and for just viewing.  You’ll see the display much better if the smoke is blowing away from you.

If you use a camera that has a Fireworks “Scene Mode” setting, then use that.  Your camera manufacturer will have selected the best options for you.  If your camera doesn’t have a Fireworks setting, or if you want more control, one of the most important things to do is to turn off your flash.  Flash is for things that don’t have their own light source, and that can’t be said about fireworks.

"Roman candle 2" by Derek Gale

You don’t need large fireworks to get great images.  This image is of a small Roman candle in a back garden.  I got as close as I could, without being unsafe, and composed for the angle the sparks were coming out at.

The next tip is to use a long exposure.  The spread of light from most fireworks takes quite a time, so a long exposure catches that spread.  I don’t worry about a tripod, as at public displays they can get in the way.  I like the wobbly lines that hand-holding a long exposure gives.

"Roman candle 1" by Derek Gale

This garden Roman candle has a 2 second exposure.  It’s caught the dancing light really well.

The next tip is to set your camera on to Manual Focus, and focus on where the fireworks will be.  Your autofocus system won’t be able to focus on a firework that hasn’t gone off yet, and may not respond fast enough to one that’s just gone off, so you may miss the shot.  Setting the camera to manual focus, and pre-focusing, means your shutter will fire just when you want it to.

"Star shell series" by Derek Gale

I was able to get the right timing on this series of star shells because I had preset the camera to the correct focus.  I saw how far away the fireworks would be, and focused on a nearby streetlight that was about the same distance away.

Next, use Manual Exposure.  Your camera will get very confused by the darkness of the sky and will, if you use an automatic exposure setting, want to turn it into a mid-grey tone.  Manual exposure gives you control over the shutter speed, and aperture.

Having set your camera to manual exposure, use a small lens aperture.  I find something like F11 gives good results.  It also helps, because of the greater depth of field, if you have slightly missed your focusing point.

"Star shell" by Derek Gale

Using a small lens aperture helped all these star shell bursts be nicely in focus.  It also made sure that any ambient light was not recorded, so the background came out properly black.

Finally, use a low ISO.  Having a high ISO setting will reduce your image quality by introducing noise into shadow areas.  There can be lots of shadow areas with firework photography!  If you have AutoISO turned on then turn it off.

Whether you are photographing or just watching, have a safe and enjoyable time on Bonfire Night.

Let the wind blow!

It’s now well into Autumn, and you will have noticed the weather here in England has changed for the worse, with torrential rain, fog, wind, and storm clouds.  Of course photographically it may have actually improved things…

"Cup contact anemometer" by Derek Gale

The wind makes things move, and that’s often a good thing in photography.  The movement blur you can add really does give an extra dimension to your images.  This is an anemometer; used for measuring wind speed.  The high wind has let me show it really doing its job.  No good in a gentle Summer breeze.

"Wave line" by Derek Gale

This image was shot during a balmy Summer’s day on the Gower Peninsular, and the sea was just lapping around without much spectacle.  I had to choose a single wave to give a strong diagonal composition.

"Splash!" by Derek Gale

Compare the previous image with this one of a powerful wave crashing into the rocky shore.  It was taken, again in South Wales, between Christmas and New Year on a very windy day, and shows just how much force the winter storms can give to the sea. No gentle lapping here.

"SSC in the mist" by Derek Gale

Conversely, an absence of wind at this time of the year can lead to mist, or even fog.  Fog can give a mysterious effect, as is shown in this image of the Second Severn Crossing (SSC).  The bridge supports just loomed up as we drove* across, and their outlines were softened by the fog.  * I was the passenger not the driver!

"The Great Barn" by Derek Gale

Autumn is a time for storm clouds as well as wind, rain and fog.  They’re great for making the sky, sometimes empty in the Summer, have more drama.  The cloudy sky in this wide-angle image, of the Great Barn in Little Coxwell, gives some strong lines to the composition and makes it work better than if it was just plain blue.

Bad weather?  No, great photography weather!

Water, water, everywhere… Part 2

Water is wonderful stuff.  We would, after all, not be able to survive without it.  It’s also great stuff for photography.  How it looks in photographs depends on its energy; still water gives reflections, fast moving water a blur, water’s impact with surfaces gives streaks.  You can use these different effects, and its refraction of light, in your photography.

"Pousada pool" by Derek Gale

This image, of a cool pool of water at a Portugese pousada, is a repeating pattern of large sunlight ripples broken up by smaller ones.  It’s then divided by the reflection of the building in the right hand side.

"The house of the birds" by Derek Gale

Here the water is flowing, but quite slowly, into a small fountain pool.  You can see where the surface tension has pulled the water slightly under the lip of the chute, because the water’s energy is not enough to immediately overcome it.  The long exposure (ca. 0.5 sec) has given a lovely mistiness to the pool’s surface.

"Tomar sluice" by Derek Gale

The water in this image is rolling over a sluice.  It’s accelerating so there’s more blur at the bottom of the image compared to the top.  The energy where it impacts the sluice causes a mass of small droplets each of which reflects a lot of light, so the water goes white.

"Bom Jesus fountain" by Derek Gale

Back to a fountain, but this time one with much more energy.  The falling water gives streaks and a mass of turbulence when it hits the rocks and pool at the bottom.  I love the way some water bounces off in a series of droplets giving a “dotted line” effect.  You can see them getting closer together as they slow down at the top of the parabolic path.

"Convento do Christo" by Derek Gale

This final image is of water on another fountain.  Small drops were falling about a metre on to a stone surface and then explosively bouncing off in every direction.  This gave wonderful highlight streaks.  Even with a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second the streaks are quite long, showing just how fast the drops were going.

Water’s great.  Get out there and get wet!