Gale Photography bio picture
  • 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.

    You can keep up to date with me by subscribing to "Writing with Light", my e-mail newsletter, which has special offers, photography tips, and news. Just go to "Contact Me" above and click the “Please subscribe me!” link. I won't pass on your details to anyone else, and it's easy to unsubscribe.

    You can also automatically receive updates when I write new blog posts. Just press the "RSS Feed" button above.

    Looking forward to hearing from you! In the meantime read my blog posts below. They're full of useful info...

    For Gale Photography's cookies policy please click here.

  • Follow @galephoto on Twitter

I’m a hip photographer.

I’m involved in a photographic project, about which more will follow in time, and was out recently taking some images for it.  I was on a bridge over the M4 and saw this cyclist coming towards me.  I didn’t have time to raise my DSLR to my eye, so I shot from hip level with my arm outstretched.

"Shot from the hip" by Derek Gale

I gave the image a bit of a crop in Photoshop, so the lines of the bridge’s structure came out of the corners, and did a contrasty black and white conversion.  I reckon for a “guessed” composition it’s pretty good; the low viewpoint and slight off-perpendicular angle really help. It wasn’t guessed really, I would say instead that I used my skill and experience to compose the image without needing to look through the viewfinder.  It’s a useful technique, and it’s less obvious that you’re photographing as well, which can help.

If you would like to learn this, and other techniques, why not book some One-to-One training, or buy a One-to-One training gift voucher for Christmas?

A photographic tip – literally!

At the beginning of my “The Creative Eye” photography training course we discuss the creative use of photographic mistakes.  As part of that there’s an exercise where the delegates deliberately take images with common mistakes.  It’s a great ice-breaker, and is an important lesson, as it shows the importance of pre-visualising the image.

Here my mistake was accidental rather than deliberate…

"Hospital streaks" by Derek Gale

I was on Liddington Hill shooting a series of long exposure images of the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, and my camera was on a tripod.  I thought that the exposure had finished, so tipped the tripod head forwards to review the image on the rear screen.  As I tipped it the camera’s shutter then closed, so the exposure hadn’t finished after all.  Where the camera was moving the lights have produced delightful trails.  The streaky effect of the lights, with the sharp base image behind them, is really appealing.  It’s a bit like a TV advert for something (BT Infinity?).

They say we should learn from our mistakes; I have!  I’m going to try this technique again, but this time deliberately…

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.