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  • Welcome to Gale Photography

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

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Hot stuff!

Photographing fire and flames can be inspiring.  Fires are like living things.  They grow, change and move, always presenting a new shape to the camera.

Before I properly get into this post I’ll just give you a quick health warning.  Fire is hot (doh!), so if you take pictures of it be careful, both with yourself but also with your camera.  Long exposures of large flames can let a lot of heat into your camera as well as light, and this has the potential to damage the sensor.

"Fire 1" by Derek Gale

The first image is from a wonderful Fire Art evening held in Oxford.  There were all manner of flaming devices but this one produced regular bursts of spectacular flames.  I had to wait a while to get the pattern then shoot as quickly as I could when a burst came.  The swirls and turbulence made for a great shot. It looks a bit like a weather system, or even an eye.

"Fire 2" by Derek Gale

This is a bonfire at a public fireworks display in Faringdon, Oxfordshire.  The heat was intense, and everyone kept stepping backwards as the fire got bigger and hotter.  It was taken with a telephoto lens to isolate just part of the fire.  The bonfire had lots of wooden pallets and it’s these that are burning, but it does look a bit like a burning building.

"Fire 3" by Derek Gale

Here, instead of focusing on the fire, I’ve used it as a background for a candid portrait of a spectator.  The long lens has given a nicely out of focus background and allowed me to crisply capture the bristles of his beard and his eyebrows.

"Fire 4" by Derek Gale

In this image a fire dancer is whirling flaming torches around on the end of ropes.  I used a 2 second exposure to ensure that I captured the full figure-of-eight cycle of the dancer’s movement.  It was handheld, and the camera shake makes the background soft and non-distracting.  It makes for a beautiful almost abstract image.

"Fire 5" by Derek Gale

Finally, another shot from Oxford.  This time I’ve copied and reversed it in Photoshop, to produce a symmetrical image.  With these images it’s a little bit like a “Rorschach Inkblot Test”.  You can see many things: a dancer, flowing fabric, an atom bomb explosion, a red jellyfish, etc.  I see all of those and many others too.

So, photographing fire and flames is fun, and you get to keep warm too!

Follow the bouncing ball…

Imagine the scenario.  You’re walking along a beautiful beach on the Gower Peninsular in Wales and you come across a beach ball that’s blown away in the breeze.  You now have several options: to play an impromptu game of beach football, to pick it up and run away, or to get out your camera and take some pictures of it.  Being a photographer, and always having a camera with you, you plump for the last option.  You use the beachball for a little experiment in composition.

Photography courses by Derek Gale

"Beachball 1" by Derek Gale

Here the ball, lit from the side/back, is dead centre which isn’t always the best place for your main subject.  The image’s centredness (is there such a word?) is softened by the ball’s reflection and shadow, and by the interest offered by the background cliffs and their reflections.  The highlight on the ball is also well off centre.

"Beachball 2" by Derek Gale

Dropping down lower and moving closer makes the ball much bigger in the frame.  The ball is no longer dead centre, though it is centred left to right.  You can still see the cliffs, but the top of the ball breaks the line of their bottom edge.  This makes the ball an even more important compositional element.  It’s now quite hard to tell the size of the ball as the scale clues are missing.

"Beachball 3" by Derek Gale

Moving round to the other side of the ball, it’s seen from a position that’s not as low or as close as the previous image.  Now well off centre, the ball is lit from the side/front so the shadow is in a different direction.  The lower camera position offers more options about the amount of beach to show.  The people walking past in the background give good context and tell more of a story.

"Beachball 4" by Derek Gale

Looking down on to the beach, the ball is placed in the bottom right corner and the horizon’s been excluded. The sky is reflected in the wet sand at the top of the frame so you still get the idea of a lovely sunny day at the seaside.  The wind wobbling the ball has given a bit of motion blur which ties in well with the the diagonal movement of the water.

"Beachball 5" by Derek Gale

This final image is looking out to sea.  Using a wide angle lens has given some distortion to the ball’s roundness.  It’s like it’s stretching to escape and be free to travel the open seas.  Cropping off the bottom of the ball helps with this impression as it ties it to the edge of the frame.  The viewpoint chosen shows the target in the distance that the ball is aiming for; the tip of Worm’s Head, centred left/right, looking like a gun-sight.

It’s fascinating how the story told in the images changes as the viewpoint and composition change.

Just a ball on the beach?


Here comes the sun: Part 2

I have mentioned before just how powerful images can be if you ignore the old advice from Kodak to, “Always have the sun behind you”.  Images where you point the camera towards the sun, or other bright light, are called “contre-jour” from the French for “against the day”.  It’s best to keep the direct light of the sun out of view in this type of image as it can reduce image contrast.   It’s also safer, because looking directly at the sun can be dangerous.

"Statue & pigeon" by Derek Gale

This image of a statue at Greenwich Observatory in London was taken with a Panasonic FZ-50 superzoom compact.  It shows how this technique can reduce shadow detail, and often produces a silhouette.   The cobwebs need cleaning off, and the pigeon on his hat is the final indignity.

"Canopy outline" by Derek Gale

This is a sort of anti-silhouette.  It’s of an aircraft canopy shot at an aircraft museum in California.  Shooting into the light has shown the wonderful pattern of scratches on the Perspex, and there’s a great highlight curve at the top.  The background was in shadow so has rendered very dark.

"Complex tail" by Derek Gale

Another shot from the same museum.  It’s of the tail of an in flight refuelling plane.  Turning it into a silhouette has taken away  the context and it makes it harder to tell what it is, especially as the tail is more complex than a regular aircraft.  Adding a bit of mystery to images is a good thing.

"Garden sculpture" by Derek Gale

This image is a bit mysterious too.  It’s actually of a sculpture in a garden.  I used a simple compact digital camera, and dropped down low to get lots of sky in the composition.  I made sure that the sun was behind one of the axe shapes to reduce flare.  I increased the contrast a bit in Photoshop to make it punchier.

"Brandy Cove, Gower" by Derek Gale

This final image does not have the sun in it, but does have very bright sunlight reflecting off wet sand.  It’s a contre-jour landscape image taken at Brandy Cove on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales.  I really liked the interlocking shapes made by the silhouetted rocks, the pools of water, and the variations of brightness across the glistening sand.

Get out with your cameras on a sunny day and have a great time playing with this technique.

It’s gone all wobbly!

Camera manufacturers spend an awful lot of money ensuring that their lenses are well corrected for any focusing errors, and are contrasty and sharp.  Well, it’s time to get your images all wobbly again!  You can get creative images by shooting through distorting materials such as uneven glass, cheap optical toys, and even hot air.

"Distortion 1" by Derek Gale

This cityscape, taken from a high tower, was shot through a fabulously uneven bit of window glass.  The hexagon makes a great frame for the image, which is very impressionistic, with broken outlines and almost the effect of brush strokes.

"Distortion 2" by Derek Gale

In this image the cityscape is even more distorted.  It’s more an image of the details in the glass than an image of what’s behind the glass.  The bubbles in the glass add a further air of unreality to the image, yet the four vertical sections give a sense of order at the same time.

"Distortion 3" by Derek Gale

Here the distortion has been made by water on plain glass.  It’s actually shot from inside a car in a car wash, with rinsing water running down the windscreen.  I made sure the focus was set on the distant subjects so the nearer water would be nicely diffused.  The right hand wall of the car wash and the left hand side hedge give good lead-in lines to the composition.

"Distortion 4" by Derek Gale

This image is through a cheap child’s optical toy; an plastic insect eye kaleidoscope.  The subject, an orange, is split by the toy’s 16 facets into 16 separate versions.   The sides of the toy are blue, and these give an excellent colour contrast with the orange.

"Distortion 5" by Derek Gale

This final image shows the distortion caused by hot air mixing with cooler air.  The mixture of cool and warm air has varying density which gives varying amounts of light refraction.  The hot air is coming from the funnel of a heritage steam train in Minehead, Somerset, and it’s breaking up the outline of the CAFE sign and wall behind it.  I would have loved to have been there when the sign-writer realised that the accent still need to be added to the E, but there was no space above it.  “I’ll just stick it between the F and the E, no-one will notice”!

It’s great fun looking for this kind of image, so get out there and get wobbling!

John BoyceJanuary 29, 2013 - 9:33 am

I’ll add this to my collection of appalling spelling and grammar on signs and noticeboards! I think this person actually thinks it’s a required apostrophe…

Spring into action.

In the “old days” what happened at a portrait studio is that you were told to sit still and be quiet.  It’s not like that today!  A portrait studio, or a location portrait shoot, is a place for fun and movement.  Given that it’s now Spring, it’s time for some Springing about.

"Jumping in the frame" by Derek Gale

Here’s a studio shot of a boy jumping; he’s clearly having fun.  We were exhibiting at a show in Coleshill, and set up a temporary studio in a converted grain loft.  The picture frame he’s “wearing” was linked to the theme “Put yourself in the frame”.  Kids have got that energy, so why not use it?

"Minster Lovell jump" by Derek Gale

This jumping image was taken during a family portrait shoot on location at Minster Lovell House in Oxfordshire.  The morning light coming through the ruins was fabulous, but I still needed a pop of fill in flash to light his face properly.

"Trampoline jump" by Derek Gale

This jumping image, on a location portrait shoot, used an aid to jumping; a trampoline.   It meant the the kids were really high up so I could use a low angle, which made them look even higher.  Once again I’ve used a pop of flash to ensure their faces were lit well.

"Garden jumping" by Derek Gale

This final jumping image is at our photographic studio and garden in Oxfordshire.  I was down below a terrace wall in the garden which gave me a lower camera angle.  I asked the girls to kick their legs under them.  Combined with the low angle this made them look really high up.

Why not come along for an energetic* photo shoot with us.  Just call 01793 783859 to book.

* You can be relaxed instead if you want, it’s still fun!