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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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“Please replace rope if removed”

Recently I went for a walk by the River Thames near Buscot Weir.  There was no sign of David Walliams swimming past on his way to London though.  It was one of those days when the weather was a bit on and off, so the sun was out part of the time and hiding behind clouds part of the time.  It made choosing the right White Balance and Exposure settings harder, but that’s what makes photography such fun.

"Reed silhouette" by Derek Gale

I took advantage of a bright but cloudy sky to capture a silhouette of a reed on the riverbank.  I exposed for the sky so all detail in the reed disappeared.  There was very little wind, so it wasn’t moving around very much which let me get a crisp outline.

"Sign" by Derek Gale

I liked this hand-written sign on a fence post.  It had clearly been written over previous similar wording which had faded due to weather and time.  The “if removed” bit was new however, but seemed a bit superfluous.  The texture of the wood was great, and was enhanced by the angle of the sunlight.  I like finding these sort of signs and trying to understand the stories behind them.

"Water movement" by Derek Gale

At Buscot Weir there is a sluice where water runs into the Weir Pool.   This pool is quite unusual on the Thames and is a popular place for “wild swimming”.  The water going over the sluice takes on some really good shapes.  I concentrated on part of the water in the shade so the contrast between light and dark wasn’t too large, and used a long(ish) exposure of 1/16th of a second to show the water’s movement.  I needed to wedge the camera firmly on a bridge post to avoid camera shake.

"Rushing abstract" by Derek Gale

I then took some images using camera movement rather than subject movement.  These are rushes growing in the middle of the river.  Standing on a bridge I moved the camera up and down rapidly using a long(ish) shutter speed, this time of around 1/30th of a second.  The water has gone milky looking, and the rushes have formed a lovely abstract pattern of green and white.

So, a lovely walk at Buscot Weir.  It’s a great place for photographic training, which is why I run Photo Treks here.  Why not sign up to “Writing with Light”, the Gale Photography newsletter, to be kept up to date with Photo Trek dates?

Tripping the light fantastic: Part 3.

I’ve posted before about how changing the lighting type and angle can make a big difference in portrait photography.  Here are some examples of the effect of different light sources; studio lights and daylight, and how they can be balanced to give an intriguing look.

"Diffuse studio lighting" by Derek Gale

This first image was shot with quite diffuse studio flash.  The light was bouncing off lots of white surfaces and this gave a gradual brightness change from one side of her face to the other.  There’s a nice single catchlight in her eyes, and the softness of the look contrasts well with the geometric lines and texture of the wall behind her.

"Daylight" by Derek Gale

This next image was shot with just natural light coming in through the studio window.  There’s a much greater change of brightness across her face, with the shadow side being much darker.  I asked her to turn her head so that her right eye was still catching the light well, and to give a small light area on her right cheek.  Her face contrasts very nicely with the black background.

"Balanced flash/daylight" by Derek Gale

This third image uses studio flash and daylight.  I set the exposure so that the background, lit by daylight, would be underexposed, and so that her face, lit by studio flash, would be properly exposed.  The balance of brightness between her face and the darker background creates a different mood.

Same person, 3 different looks, just by simple lighting changes.

My, how different it looks!

When taking photographs your choice of viewpoint and lens makes a huge difference.  Many of you will have digital compact cameras with large zoom ranges, and it’s worth taking a single subject and looking at how it changes as you change the lens focal length (zoom), and also how it changes as you change your viewpoint.  Doing that will help you take better images when you are on your travels.

Below is a series of images where I have changed the lens focal length and changed my viewpoint.  They are of some lobelia plants which are about 2 feet tall.

"Lobelia 18 mm" by Derek Gale

In this first image I used a very wide angle lens, 18 mm, and dropped down to ground level.  Because of the effect of perspective the plants look very tall indeed, and the background includes lots of sky.  The image shows the plant in its surroundings.

"Lobelia 63 mm" by Derek Gale

Moving the viewpoint up a bit and changing to a lens that has a field of view narrower than the human eye, about 63 mm, gives more isolation to the lobelias.  The sky has gone so the background is now just the hedge and the plants in between are less distinct.  The image is more like a plant portrait.  This focal length is good for people portrait photography too.

"Lobelia 300 mm" by Derek Gale

This image has been taken with a 300 mm lens.  It’s the equivalent of the telephoto zoom on some superzoom compact cameras.  The background hedge is now very out of focus, and the lobelia plants look as if they have been cut out.

The images above were taken from a constant direction so the lighting is constant relative to the camera.  It was falling from behind me.  I moved round to see how it would change with backlighting.

"Lobelia 300 mm" by Derek Gale

Still taken with the 300 mm lens and a little bit closer to the lobelia, the image now looks very different.  The background is now very soft.  The backlighting has really lifted the image.

Having taken the shot of the lobelias, I moved my camera a little and took this image of another type of plant.  The backlighting on the flower looked great, and I used a closer plant to give an out of focus area which softened the contrast on the other flower heads.

So, you can see that zooming your lens and changing your viewpoint changes the image a lot.  Get out and have a practice.


A quick mystery…

A simple post this week.

It’s a photographic mystery for you to solve.  There aren’t any prizes, other than that feeling of quiet satisfaction that you will have if you get it right, but I will post/Tweet your name if you want.

It’s another example of how interesting images can be seen anywhere and everywhere.

"Yes, I know what that is!" by Derek Gale

“Anywhere and everywhere”?  There’s a bit of a hint in the post Categories I’ve used…

Good luck!


Capturing their character

In my family portrait photography I’m always trying to capture the character of the people I’m photographing.  With a human subject it’s easy to get good communication, which helps to produce great images, but with animals it’s a bit harder.  I’ve had a look at some of my animal portraits to see if that character is there too.

"Resting lion" by Derek Gale

This resting lion, in a zoo, really has the Aslan look about him.  Aslan is the lion in the C. S. Lewis series of books about Narnia.   There’s a sense of quiet power in his face.  There was a wire fence between me and him, so I used a long lens and wide aperture to throw it out of focus.

"Perky pony" by Derek Gale

This pony, peering over a fence, had a different sort of character; no quiet power here.  The perked up ears and half smile make her (look at those eyelashes!) look a bit cheeky, and definitely interested in any sort of food you might have.  I used a long lens again to ensure that the background was nice and fuzzy.

"Cross little owl" by Derek Gale

With some animals we put our own spin on what their characters are like simply because of how they look.  This little owl is  a prime example.  To me they always look really cross!  It was in quite a dark pen so I used a pop of flash to fill in and give good catch lights in the eyes.

"You lookin' at me?" by Derek Gale

This Egyptian Vulture, seen in Tunisia, looks a bit foppish with its fluffy white feathers, but its face has the expression of Travis Bickle in the film “Taxi Driver”.  His most famous phrase was, “You lookin’ at me?”.  It’s a sort of “don’t mess with me” face.

"New born lamb" by Derek Gale

Finally, the Jacob’s Sheep ewe, seen with her new lamb,  looks both protective and very pleased with herself.  The other ewe in the background is like a neighbour who wants to know what’s going on but can’t quite see.  The lamb, who has no experience of life yet, just looks cute.

So is there real character there in these animal portraits, or is the character something that we apply to the animals ourselves based on the character of humans we’ve met?  I think the answer  is “Yes” to both questions.