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

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A de-composed poppy!

I used this image a few years ago in a post about Remembrance.  It’s a scan from a 35mm slide, and did very well in competitions in the days when I was in a camera club.  I looked at it again recently, and got to wondering why it had done so well.


It’s a very simple composition, (that’s my style), so in an “instant judging” competition it’s easy to understand it.  There’s a nice colour contrast between the deep red of the main flower and the dark blues and greens of the background.  The composition reads well from left to right, with the diagonal from the bottom left leading up towards the flower.  The lines of bokeh circles in the top left quarter also point towards the flower. The nicely curved stem holds the eye into the composition and leads back up to the red flower.  The backlighting on the flower turns into attractive side/rim lighting on the stem, and the stem and flower are the only things in focus.

All of the above are technical issues, but to me it was successful because it’s not really about a flower; it’s about the story the flower might tell.  Its location is not obvious, and yet there clues as to where it might be.  The absence of clarity allowed the judge(s) to build their own story into the image.  Some thought it was about WW1.  Someone thought it was about Nature reclaiming her land from development.  Someone thought it was about holding your head high following imprisonment.  None thought it was just an image of a flower.

The moral?  I suppose it’s to allow judges space in your competition images to apply their own story.

The “dance of personal space”.

On a recent trip to the very wonderful Gower Peninsular in Wales I walked down to the Coastwatch station near Rhosilli.  There is a tidal island called the Worm’s Head near the Coastwatch station and there’s a causeway that opens, and closes, with the tide.  When it’s open it’s possible to cross and visit the Worm, and it’s well worth doing.


The causeway was just about to open and there were quite a few people waiting to go over.  It’s always interesting when lots of people are in the same area as they, mostly, ensure that they don’t intrude into the space around other people.  I call it the “dance of personal space”.  In this image it looks as if they are frozen to the spot and waiting for a signal to start again.


If the people know each other they get much closer to each other than they do with strangers.  Here, in Avignon, this group of Chinese tourists have formed smaller, closer, groups/pairs, but those groups are keeping an appropriate distance from each other.  I was pleased that the all people on the right-hand side of the frame were looking to the left, which keeps the composition tight.


These three women, in Arles, knew each other, (I saw them together later), but at this moment they seemed to be trying to give the impression that they didn’t know each other.  There’s quite a bit space between them, and an avoidance of eye contact. Even though they aren’t looking at each other, there is still a route round the image via the carved animals at the top and the small amount of vertical wall on the right hand side which leads to the seated woman.

Find a comfy seat and get out to watch the dance…

You’ve got to move fast!

I’m running a workshop about “Movement in photography” on 4th Sep at the RPS in Bath.  You can book online here.  If it’s too close to the date to book online you can call them on +44 (0)1225 325733 and book by phone.

One of the things we are going to be covering on the day is the use of small electronic flash units (Speedlights) to stop movement, such as this dropped white cotton glove.


In the image above I used two Nikon flash units turned down to 1/128th power.  The flash duration at that power level is only about 1/40,000th of a second, so it’s easy to stop movement.  Each flash had a coloured gel on it, one red and one green.  In a darkened studio I set the shutter to Time and dropped the glove, triggering the flash with a radio flash trigger button in my hand.  It took a bit of practice to get the timing right…


Here are nine images from a number of drops with the glove at different stages of the fall.  I made a new blank image in Photoshop that was three times the width and height of each image.  I copied each image into the new image, and, using guides to get them aligned, made this array.  A black and white conversion made it less circus-like.  (I know they aren’t all the same way round!)  It’s a sort of homage to the Bechers.

Hope to see you there!

A post about post-processing.

In my last blog post I showed some images where I had allowed the camera to do some image processing for me by using an Art Filter.  Here I’ve done the processing after capturing the image.


Here’s the uncropped basic image.  It’s of a rock, lightly resting on some other rocks, on “The Roaches” in Staffordshire.  I liked the delicacy of the contact between the rocks, and wondered about the process by which the top rock got where it is.  The weather was quite overcast, with a grey sky.  The sky was, however, quite bright compared to the foreground rocks.


The first stage of editing, in Lightroom, was to crop from the top of the image so that the amount of sky was smaller.  I’ve also cropped it in from the left-hand side a bit.  The proportions of the image now fit the proportions of the resting rock better.


In this first edited version I’ve added a graduated filter to the top of the image and reduced the exposure in that area.  It’s brought out the details in the clouds.  Next I’ve applied a Black & White conversion (Lightroom B&W Look 1).  I’ve then reduced the Blacks by about 25% to make the rocks more of a silhouette.  The final image has a bit more drama than the original.


In this second edited version I’ve applied a High Dynamic Range Lightroom (HDR) preset.  It’s darkened the sky and revealed the rock texture.  As before I’ve applied a graduated filter to darken the sky a bit more, and then another graduated filter on the rocks to reduce their colour saturation.  It’s got a completely different look to the other image.

Finally, I’ve imported the images into Photoshop to add the copyright watermark, resized them and sharpened them.

Some people never post-process their images.  I think they are missing out.