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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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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!

A Capital compact camera: Panasonic GF1 in London

In my last post I said I was taking my Panasonic GF1 to London when I dropped off the Royal Academy stuff.  My artworks were safely delivered to the RA, so here are some  images from that day.  

Regarding the post title, the GF1 is not a really a “compact camera”, but with the 20mm pancake lens on it’s pretty small, so it’s compact in that sense.  That makes it very pocketable, and inconspicuous to use.  The 20mm lens is the equivalent of a 40mm lens on a 35mm film camera.  Using a fixed focal length lens sounds as if it should be restricting, but it means you look very hard at composition, and adjust your position to get it just right, rather than just changing the focal length if you are using a zoom lens.  It’s actually very liberating.

"Jumping pigeon" by Derek Gale

There are lots of pigeons in London!  There were a few pecking round us at lunchtime whilst we were sat in Victoria Gardens.  I held the camera with one hand, finger ready on the shutter button, and then waved my other hand to make the pigeons react.

"Wings ready" by Derek Gale

I really like how different the two images are given it’s the same bit of ground, and the same bird(s).  In one image there’s a sense of space and freedom, whereas in the other it’s all rather crowded, and there’s a problem with the neighbours.

"Trees: Tate Modern" by Derek Gale

The pigeon images used a short shutter speed to stop the action.  For  this image, of birch trees outside the Tate Modern art gallery, I’ve used a long shutter speed (1/6th of a second) and moved the camera down during the exposure.  The white tree trunks and red/brown bricks combine to give an ethereal image with lovely twirling shapes.

"Tate sunflower seeds" by Derek Gale

Inside Tate Modern was Ai Weiwei’s installation “Sunflower seeds”.  There are over 100 million (!) hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds in the turbine hall.  You can read more about it on Tate Modern’s website. I dropped down nearly to floor level to give a different view, and used a wide aperture to give sharpness on one area of seeds, whilst letting the other seeds go softly out of focus.  Concentrating on the corner of the mass of porcelain seeds gave a good idea of the scale of the work.

"Tate silhouette" by Derek Gale

This final image, looking up towards the exit of the Tate’s turbine hall, was shot hand held with the lens wide open at f1.7.  The fast maximum aperture on the 20mm pancake lens gives you the creative flexibility which makes this sort of image possible.

In a way the day in London was a personal Photo Trek.  I was in an interesting place and looking for photographic opportunities.  If you would like to do that yourself, and get “al fresco” photography training from me at the same time, then why not come along to one of my 2011 Photo Treks?  You can get more information on the Photo Treks page of the website.


Derek Gale