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

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It’s all up in the air: Part 2

I like aircraft and, as it’s now well into the airshow season, I thought I’d share some more aircraft images, some brand new, some from previous adventures.  Aircraft in the air are challenging, yet fun, to photograph because they are fast moving and often a bit far away.  I’ve got some quite long focal length lenses, up to a 600mm equivalent, which makes life a bit easier.

"BBMF" by Derek Gale

This first image was shot only a week ago.  It’s of three aircraft from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight doing a display over the Defence Academy near my photographic studio in Watchfield.  On the left we have a Supermarine Spitfire fighter, in the middle an Avro Lancaster bomber, and on the right a Hawker Hurricane fighter.  What couldn’t be captured in an image is the noise of 6 Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 engines as they flew over.

"BBMF Lancaster" by Derek Gale

The wonderful noise of multiple Merlins happened again last night (15th June) as the Lancaster flew another display over the Defence Academy. This Lancaster (PA474) is one of only 2 airworthy Lancasters in the world.  I was lucky enough to see the other one flying when I was on holiday in Canada last year.  I used a 450mm lens to get this shot, and I’ve left space in the composition for the aircraft to “fly into”.

"Ole Yeller" by Derek Gale

Aircraft look great on the ground too.  A 17mm wide-angle lens let me get this shot of the engine and propeller of “Ole Yeller”, a North American P51D Mustang, at Reno Air Races in Nevada.  I really liked the contrast between the yellow paint and the deep blue sky.  I’ve also used a polarising filter which increased the contrast between the yellow and the blue.

"Staggerwing" by Derek Gale

Here’s the 17mm lens again with some more yellow and blue.  This time it’s a 1944 Beechcraft Model D17S, also known as a “Staggerwing”.  The really wide lens gives you the ability to be really close to a plane and still get it all in.  Using the polarising filter has given some vignetting (darkening of the image’s corners) which I think adds to the composition.

"T28 Fennec" by Derek Gale

This final image takes us back in the air.  It’s a North American T28 Fennec as used by the French Air Force. In USAF service it was known as a Trojan.  The image was taken at Kemble Air Day with a 400mm lens, and again I’ve given it some space in the composition to fly into.  The Fennec was an advanced trainer and ground attack aircraft, and there are hundreds of Trojans and Fennecs flying today in private hands.

So get out to an airshow and get your photography “all up in the air” !

It’s all around you: Part 2

In a previous post I’ve mentioned that great photographic subjects are everywhere.  All you need to do is to look for them.  Actually that’s the tricky part as I find that many people don’t know where/how to look.  Help is at hand however, as looking for images is part of my “Photo Treks” photographic courses.

"Blinding light" by Derek Gale

This image is of sunlight coming through some privacy glass in a bathroom window and shining on to a blue roller blind.  The distortion of the sun has made a pattern that looks a bit like a sound pattern on an oscilloscope.  The abstract shape contrasts well with the regularity of the blind’s fabric.

"Spots" by Derek Gale

This is another example of a random pattern overlaying a regular structure, although the regular structure, of lines going from left to right, is less visible here.  It”s a close up shot of a nicely ripe banana.

"Furry" by Derek Gale

These beautiful patterns are found in the most unlikely places.  I live in a hard water area, and everything that involves water gets limescale on it.  This image, of layers and shades of white and grey, is the inside of my electric kettle.  As with the other 2 images it’s a random pattern overlaying a regular one.  In this case the regular pattern is circular.

"Mobile pansies" by Derek Gale

This final image is seen, imagined, and then made.  I had some hanging baskets with winter-flowering pansies in and they looked very colourful.  A straight shot looked a bit ordinary so I used a long exposure (1/2 second) and some camera movement to make a fabulous swirling abstract.

If you would like to know more about seeing images why not book a place on a Photo Trek?

Studio or outdoors?

There’s a discussion in portrait photography circles about whether it’s better to use a studio, and thus have complete control of the lighting, or better to use the natural light outdoors.  I’ll use some examples from a recent family portrait shoot at my portrait photography studio near Swindon to show why I use both.

I’ve got lots of studio lights to choose from, although most of the time I try and keep my lighting simple.  This makes it easier (and faster) to set up, and gives me greater flexibility as to where I place the person who is being photographed.  That flexibility is more important with kids, who tend to be more energetic than adults.

"2 light portrait" by Derek Gale

This portrait uses 2 lights.  She’s looking towards a large softbox, and the second light is to my left brightening the right side of her face.  She’s got a really good enigmatic expression, and there’s good separation between her and the softly out of focus grey background.

"In the spotlight" by Derek Gale

The same two lights were used for this shot of her brother.  He’s looking out at the camera so there are 2 catch lights in his eyes.  He was doing some excellent dance moves in the studio, so I put in a spot lighting effect when I was editing the images in Photoshop and punched the colour up a bit.

That’s the studio, what about outdoors?

"Top shade 1" by Derek Gale

The weather on the day of the portrait shoot was sunny.  Placing people in direct bright sunlight can give hard shadows, so here I’ve put him in what’s called “top shade”.  He’s out of the direct sun but there’s soft reflected sunlight on his face.  He’s quite a way from the background so it’s rendered quite out of focus.

"Top shade 2"

His sister, under the same beautiful “top shade” lighting, is much closer to the background so there’s still a lot of detail in it.  The texture of the wood acts as an excellent contrast to her pale skin and blond hair.  Her dark top absorbed light and gave some extra modelling to the right side of her face.

"Top shade 3" by Derek Gale

They also brought their dog along to the shoot.  I wonder what he thought of it all?

So, studio or outdoors?  As you can see the studio gives great results, and the great outdoors gives images that complement those from the studio.  Using both gives me the best of both worlds!

A deconstructed air bubble.

I recently had to produce an image to go with others in a set I am submitting for a photographic distinction.  The set of images is mostly very abstract, so I wanted something that had some reality but also had significant abstract elements.

"The paperweight" by Derek Gale

This glass paperweight with a blue and white glass base and a big air bubble in the middle caught my eye.  I’ve used it for photography before but kept the air bubble out of view.  Safety note: It doesn’t normally live on the window sill because it focuses the sun and acts as big burning lens!

I decided to photograph the air bubble with the blue base as the background, so I got out my trusty Sigma EX 50mm macro lens and took a few test shots.  The first thing I noticed was that the bubble acted as a lens and gave a fisheye view of the world around it.  This was both a useful thing and a real pain.  I was lighting the bubble with a remotely fired flash pointed at the ceiling and I kept getting the ceiling light in the bubble!  Clearly I need to be a bit more sophisticated…

I placed the paperweight on a large piece of blue patterned fabric and then hung another bit of fabric, red this time, off to one side.  I found a large clear glass bottle filled with green glass beads and put that at 90 degrees to the red fabric.  I set the flash up to shoot partly through the bottle and partly shoot on to the red fabric.  The camera needed to be pointed down to get the base in shot, and I was at the limit of focusing due to the lens hitting the glass body of the paperweight.

"Air bubble" by Derek Gale

Again I needed to do a few test shots and adjustments, this time to get the exposure and composition just right.  The air bubble captured all of the surrounding materials, and I think it looks a little bit like a spherical face.  This image went well with my other images and was the final piece in my submission jigsaw.

This sort of excercise is a test of photographic imagination and ingenuity.   Why not try something like this yourself?

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!