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

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LED there be light!

I posted recently about an LED toy that I had bought to try some light trail images.  Well, I’ve now got a supply of different toys; a box of 30 in fact.  They are flashing LED finger lights, which flash either red/green or red/blue. Using these toys I’ve made a simple version of the very cool “Pixelstick”.  I used my Olympus EM-10 for these images as it has a really useful “Live Composite” setting which shows the image’s progress on the rear screen.


The device I’ve made involves 12 finger lights on a length of finger-sized plastic tube which can be attached to a cordless electric drill to make it rotate.  Here I’ve done 3 passes at different heights, with or without rotation, at a reasonable distance from the camera.  The house in the background is a friend’s amazing 18th Century hunting lodge which was lit with a flash fitted with a red filter.  Should have turned the house lights off first…


I’ve come closer so the lights are bigger in relation to the house, which is now lit with LED head torches, and again used three passes at 3 levels.  The light patterns are interesting but there’s no connection with the lights and the house in the background.  It’s a bit “hectic” with a lot of trail and not much house.


In this last image I’ve walked across the garden twirling the device and then gone into house. I’ve gone into each room and twirled it around.  There’s now more of a link to the house, and the trails in the garden leads you to the house door.  The trails are now more in proportion with the darker areas.

I’ll be taking these toys to my new “Movement in Photography” workshop at the RPS in Bath.  Should be fun…

Photography workshop feedback

Some feedback from my “Composition and seeing the picture” photography workshop yesterday:

“Thank you very much for yesterday, it was very much enjoyed and appreciated. Comments coming my way include words such as ‘excellent’ and ‘brilliant’ and at least one member was fully enthused to raise her photography to the next level. I hope that we will be able to do other events in the future.”

I enjoyed it too!

If you would like this 1-day workshop for your photography club or photography group just drop me a message.

LED photo fun!

Light trail photography is fun, and I was thinking of getting a Pixelstick to help push my boundaries in this area.  For an occasional user, it’s what’s called a “considered purchase”, so I wondered if I could get a simpler device to try some ideas out with.  After quite a bit of searching on sites such as Amazon I came across an LED fibre-optic toy.  It’s a very cheap device, but has colour-changing LEDs and fibre-optic strands.

When I first picked it up I realised it was a cool object for macro photography, so it was out with my Sigma macro lens to see what I could do.  Being long thin objects the fibres can be used to give lead-in lines to the composition,


The LEDs and fibre bundles are arranged in a line, so one colour can be used as a different background to the foreground colour.  Here an out-of-focus green fibre bundle acts as a foil to the sharply rendered blue lit fibre strands.Derek-Gale-subject-movement-Feb-2016-blog

As I said at the start I bought the toy to do light trail photography.  It has various modes, and with this indoor image the LEDs were set to flash on and off to give blocks of light.  You can see the multiple lines from the fibres quite clearly.


Outdoors you can move faster, and with the LEDs on the toy set to continuous mode the light trails have no gaps.  The individual fibres can’t be seen and you get a smooth rainbow effect.  I banged the tripod to make the lit windows in the background have some wobble too.

It’s going to be a fun thing to work with.  My next exercise will be to light the building in the background with coloured flash gels as well as having light trails.

I’ll keep you posted!

In a bit of a mood in Somerset

I’ve just been down to Minehead in Somerset for a few days.  The weather wasn’t too wonderful whilst I was there, being rather wet, windy and cloudy, but it was great for moody photography.


This is an early morning shot of the famous (infamous?) white roof of the Butlin’s holiday complex.  It’s taken from Minehead Harbour with a telephoto lens.  There were some nice dark clouds above it, which I have darkened a bit more to give the right sort of mood.


I made a trip to Dunster Beach just up the road from Minehead. It’s close to the medieval village of Dunster.  Near Dunster there is a tower, Conygar Tower, on a small hill. I waited for a little break in the dark cloud so that the tower was silhouetted.  A graduated Neutral Density filter darkened the sky at the top.


There is a cascade running on to Dunster Beach, and because it wasn’t sunny I was able to use a long shutter speed to show the movement of the water.  The water runs down a a series of concrete steps and once again I used a long focal length lens.  It gave some “perspective compression”, making the steps seem closer to each other than they are in practice.  My EM-10’s IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation) allowed me to hand-hold with a long shutter speed, (1/20th of a second), to show the movement of the water, but to avoid camera shake.  The overcast weather meant that the highlights in the water didn’t burn out.


For this last image I changed to a wide-angle lens, and dropped the camera down low.  The EM-10’s tilting screen helped me get the composition right without me needing to lie on the ground, and the IBIS allowed a hand-held shutter speed of 1/10th of a second.  I was intrigued by the water coming out underneath the top concrete layer.  You can imagine that a few hard winters where ice gets in the cracks will loosen it even more.

The Moral?  If the weather is a bit “mardy”, your images can be moody!

Murmurations in Avalon

According to the 12th century historian Gerald of Wales, “What is now known as Glastonbury was, in ancient times, called the Isle of Avalon. It is virtually an island, for it is completely surrounded by marshlands.”  Some of those Somerset marshlands are known today as The Avalon Marshes, and they are home to thousands of birds.

In winter you can see many, many thousands of starlings, most of which will have migrated from Scandinavia, or even further east.  They come here to roost, and their pre-roost assemblies, called murmurations, are amazing.


The reeds the starlings roost in are beautiful when backlit by the evening sun.


The birds form these twisting and ever-changing shapes in the sky prior to roosting.  There’s a passing Easyjet airliner with an orange contrail in this one!


Sometimes the birds settle in trees, only to suddenly all lift off again with a loud and raucous twittering and a rapid beating of many wings.  The movement blur, (shutter speed 1/100th sec), gives a sense of the action going on.


The large cloud of birds gets closer and closer to the ground, and finally they settle in the reedbeds for the night.  The loud chattering noise after they have settled is amazing.

It’s a fantastic sight and well worth going to see.

Photography of the starling roost is challenging as they tend to arrive at dusk as the light is fading.  I had to use higher ISO’s than I would usually use, and I am looking out for a wide aperture telephoto lens to give me more reach, and help keep the shutter speed up.