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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.

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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!

Improve your travel photography: Portugal

You will have noticed from last week’s blog that I recently went to Portugal.  When travelling you are, unless you have loads of time, stuck with the lighting you have.  That lighting may be hard and unflattering, so how do you improve your travel photography?  Well the “rules” of better photography are the same wherever you are.

"Looking down on the world" by Derek Gale

Changing your viewpoint is a way to get more interesting images. Here I’ve climbed the “Monument to the Discoveries” at Belem near Lisbon to get a different view looking down.  You can see the wonderful compass rose and world map laid out in tiles.  The map is centered in Lisbon.  The Monument was built in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, who helped Portugal become one of the world’s most powerful countries.

"The wealth of Porto" by Derek Gale

You can use simple things to tell a bigger story.  One of Portugal’s most famous exports is Port, the fortified wine made in the Douro valley.  The town of Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto, is full of Port wine lodges where the wine is cellared for a number of years until it’s ready to be sold.  Many Port lodges offer tours and tastings to help you get a better idea of how it’s made and the different styles.  You can also buy their port if you would like…    This glass has a sample of tawny port at a tasting in Calem’s lodge.  I framed it carefully against the bright window so the glass was nicely outlined.

"Porto at night" by Derek Gale

Porto was a very busy place, but quietened down a bit in the evening.  The light during the day was a bit flat so I waited till it was dark to give a more interesting image.  This shot shows the Ponte Dom Luis bridge, the Porto riverfront, and Port transport boats on the River Douro.  It was a 2-second exposure which could not be hand held without blur.  I put the camera on a flat surface by the riverbank and used the self timer to fire the shutter.  It gave a good sharp image.

"Os Almendres" by Derek Gale

The “Cromeleque dos Almendres” is an arrangement of 92 stones from neolithic times set in cork oak country near Evora.  It wasn’t possible to get all of it in one image so I concentrated on a small number of stones and turned it into a pattern picture.  The strong sunlight gave a lot of contrast, and it cried out to be converted into contrasty black and white to show the textures best.  The stones in the background stand out well against the darker trees.  I also darkened the blue channel in Photoshop to make the sky moodier.

"Bom Jesus do Monte" by Derek Gale

This is another pattern picture, but much more regular.  It’s of the famous staircase at Bom Jesus do Monte, near Braga.  This follows the rule to “wait a bit until things are right before you take the picture”.  There was a person walking down, and I had to take the shot when he was behind a pillar.  The interlocking stairways make for a strong symmetrical composition.  It has to be said that I didn’t walk up, I took the enchanting water-powered funicular railway up and walked down.

So, just follow the “rules” and your travel images will be better.


Steet life in Portugal.

I’m just back from a couple of weeks touring round Portugal.  We had an excellent time but it was very strange to get back to the UK last weekend (1st October) and find the weather was the same as it was in Portugal: 29C!

I had decided to travel light in a photographic sense, so took my Samsung WB650 superzoom travel compact and my Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm lens.  Both were small, and very useful for street photography.  Many of the places we went to had a lot of tourists, so someone with a camera was not too conspicuous (most of the  time), but more of that later…

"Watching the students" by Derek Gale

The University year had just started in Portugal so there were a lot of students taking part in new academic year activities.  This portrait was taken, with the GF1, in a square in the city of Coimbra, where there was a traditional students’ band performing.  The band was being videoed and there was quite a crowd watching.  I spotted this man standing alone in the entrance to a pensao.  It’s not clear from his expression whether he approved of what was going on or not.

"Triangle of caps" by Derek Gale

These three men were walking together in Lamego near the Douro Valley.  I was fascinated by their “uniform” of dark clothes and  cap; it was over 30C at the time.  They were taking an interest in everything and spent a while looking at two workmen digging a hole in the road.  They were walking together but weren’t always close together.  I waited till they made a good shape, with their bodies linked by their shadows.  I like the way their arms are in almost the same position but their legs are very different.

"High Noon" by Derek Gale

This image, of a train guard and a cleaner reflected in the train window, was shot in Pocinho.  It’s literally at the end the line from Porto along the very scenic Douro river valley.  The town had a Wild West feel about it, with a couple of cafes, an abandoned narrow-gauge railway, and a very bleached out look to the landscape.  I’ve reduced the saturation to match.  The guard wore various tools of his trade on his belt, and here he was standing a bit like a cowboy.  They were having a vigorous discussion about some aspect of the train’s cleanliness.

"Just one little push..." by Derek Gale

Here is the Douro river this time in Porto.  You can see a Port wine transport boat on the river, now in use carrying tourists, and the Port wine lodges in the background.  There were a lot of tourists around, and clearly that can attract crime.  These two Tourism Patrol officers were studying something over the edge quite intently, and the mischievous thought went through my mind that one little push could get both of them into the river.  I decided against it.

"Secrets" by Derek Gale

I mentioned that there was a lot of student activity in Portugal.  Part of that seemed to involve the senior students humiliating the new students.  In Evora and Coimbra what we saw looked good-natured. In Porto there seemed to be more of an edge.  The new students were wearing yellow T-shirts and scarves and the older ones their black academic dress, including large black cloaks.

There was a very large group of students by the side of the river in the very busy town of Vila Nova de Gaia opposite Porto.  Some senior students were doing something to a younger student behind a barrier of dark cloaks.  I took this image with the GF1 and a moment later the girl on the left had run up and was screaming at me, and I mean screaming.  I assume she wanted me to not take any pictures. She was too late of course… Surely if you are doing something that you don’t want people to take pictures of you shouldn’t do it in a very public place in broad daylight?

It’s all part of the fun of street photography!

5 minutes of sunlight.

Now that autumn is fast approaching (or is here already!) the angle of the sunlight coming into the house has changed quite a lot.  It’s now much more glancing, and glancing light gives better shadows and texture.  I noticed, while popping out to the studio, that the light across our oak dining room table was delightful, so I played the shadows game.

"3 fircones" by Derek Gale

The first image is the shadows of three fir cones.  They’ve got lovely irregular shapes and nice sharp outlines.  The angle of the light has picked up the texture of the wood, and the shadow of the window frame gives a good dark edge to the image.

"Candlestick shadow" by Derek Gale

Next is the shadow of a candlestick.  I placed it so that it was less of a dominant compositional element than the cones were.  Now, the shadow of the window frame is a major component instead of just the frame for the edges.  Converting to black and white made it more of a pattern image.

"Light and wood" by Derek Gale

This image cried out to be in colour.  It’s the diffraction pattern made by the sunlight shining through a glass paper weight.   I’ve warmed it up a bit in Photoshop so that the reds of the wooden table sing out.  It’s now an abstract of wood grain and swirls of light.

"Green glass" by Derek Gale

For this last image I allowed the sunlight to shine through a bottle fill of green glass pebbles and marbles.  In one of the pebbles there’s a tiny image of the window, and you can see flashes of colour, especially red, from the marbles.  The bright sunlight really brought the glass to life.

And then, almost as soon as it had arrived, the wonderful light had gone.  Clouds had ended my 5 minutes of fun.

Moral: always take your photographic chances.