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

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How do you keep the creativity going?

Recently a friend of mine asked if I ever had “Photographer’s Block”.  I told her it was always a possibility, but that I kept my creative juices flowing by setting myself little challenges.  Often when I do this I allow myself the use of only one lens.  This time it was my Nikon-fit Sigma 50mm macro prime lens on a Nikon to micro 4/3rds adapter.  It’s a combination that slows me down, as the lens is manual focus when on the adapter, and that’s a good thing.

Here I’ve focused on the reflection of some battery-powered LED Xmas lights on a small polished sculpture of a bird.  It has lovely curves and they have distorted the lights into a very appealing shape.  I shot at f2.8 to keep the background well out of focus, and to give round bokeh circles.  It makes for an interesting abstract.

There are words on very many of the thing we use everyday, but most of the time we don’t see them.  This was on the polished baseplate of an iron, and identified the “POWER ZONE” where lots of steam came out.  I’ve used the lack of depth of field to make the image ambiguous as to scale and context.

We sold a car this week, and when the buyer inspected it he noticed that the plastic “chrome plating” round the edge of one of the front indicator focusing lenses had partly peeled off.  We hadn’t noticed it, and it was very odd.  The lens was about 4cm diameter and the longest peeled off strand was about 3 cm long.  I used the shallowest depth of field I could to show just one part of the subject in focus.  The rest is all softness and bokeh.  It no longer looks man-made, but appears more like an organic structure.

So, a productive mini-challenge.  Why not try one yourself?

The magic in a frosty morning

Here in the UK it’s winter. Often our winter weather is just cold and damp, but sometimes we get proper wintry weather with frost and snow.  After a frosty night, and with a clear sky, the sun acting on the frost can give wonderful effects.  Sometimes things happen over a very short period of time, especially as the frost is melting.

Although I now use the Olympus OM-D system, I still have a Sigma EX Nikon-fit macro lens. Fitted to an adapter it’s a great combination for frosty mornings.  These ice crystals on top of the garden fence were only about 5-6 mm high.  The lens hood was hitting the fence as I tried to focus – manual focus of course.  It’s quite extraordinary how thin the lower sections of some of the crystals are. Why don’t they break?

My wife has a new company car which has black metallic paint.  The sun was shining on just a small section of the frost on the boot, and there were lots of little water droplets catching the light.  I defocused the lens and took several images of the wonderful bokeh circles.  The one caught my eye when I was editing them.  The circles look like people in a crowd,.  Some look as if they are paying rapt attention and others are turned away.  The purple fringing adds just a bit of colour to an image that would otherwise be black and white.

This final image is another in a series that I have taken of our weeping silver birch tree.  The frost on it melts into myriad water droplets that catch the sun.  Here I have focused on some early-stage catkins and tried to render the water droplets in the background as bokeh circles.  Well that was the theory!  The lens was on f4 rather than its maximum aperture of f2.8, so the bokeh circles have started to show the shape of the lens aperture blades.  They are not quite circles.  It’s a good lesson in how important it is to keep the lens wide open, unless you want jaggy bokeh of course.

Frosty mornings?  Bring them on!

It’s a bit of an abstract idea.

I recently joined a new group on Facebook called “Abstract Landscape Photography”.  It is fascinating to see the sort of work other photographers put up, and also how they interpret the definition of “Abstract Landscape”. Someone, for example, has some images of the inside of a working hospital.  They’re very interesting, and do make a good Contemporary Photography set.  They might, just, fit the definition because they are details of the urban landscape.

The images I have put up are much more “outdoors landscape”, but I too have a soft spot for photography of the small details that together make up the broader landscape.

A couple of years ago I was on a walk in the Cotswolds after prolonged heavy rain.  The rivers were all very full indeed, and the fields in the river valleys were flooded.  It was a clear frosty day and I was struck by the reflected trees in a flooded field.  The light breeze rippled the water surface.  A quick flip in Photoshop so it was upside down, and the image was sorted.

Cold mornings with dew on the grass can be delightful.  Here I have used a long focal length lens to separate the grass from the background.  I chose the widest lens aperture I had, focused on a few blades and let the rest go out of focus.  The out-of-focus dew droplets have caused “bokeh” highlight circles which are very attractive.  You can see that there are fields in the background, which give the grass context.

There’s no water in this image.  There was water here at some stage in the past, but this Dorset mud is now dry so it has cracked.  It’s an image that’s fractal.  As you go closer in there’s another network of smaller cracks, and so on.  I’ve chosen to exclude anything that gives an idea of scale, which adds to the abstraction from reality.

I’m hoping to learn from the images other people put up, as I hope they might learn  something from my work.  They do seem to “Like” it.

Happy Christmas!

Just a quick blog post to wish my readers “Happy Christmas” and I hope you all have a “Phabulously Photographic New Year!”

Here are some Christmas tree lights in Bristol photographed, as they say on Masterchef, two ways.

This first image is a reflection of the Christmas tree lights in a vertical water feature.  The moving water has broken up the reflection into bands of colour.  I had to use the telephoto end of my camera’s zoom lens to get just the part of the reflection I wanted.

Here I’ve moved close to the tree then moved the camera during the exposure to produce bands of colour a different way.

Both images were taken on a relatively simple travel zoom compact camera.

Roll on 2017, and the photography challenges it will bring!

It’s a blade of light.

I’ve been trying out a new light-painting tool.  It’s my home-made version of a commercially available tool.  I’ve had some custom-cut Perspex shapes made, and bought a very powerful LED torch.  The torch has three Cree T6 LED’s, and is somewhat north of 1000 Lumens brightness.

At present my Perspex shapes are held in place on the front of the torch with Duct tape, but I’m working on a more elegant solution.  I stood in a dark room, and waved the torch around using the “Live Composite” mode on my OM-D E-M10.


I’ve got four shapes, and this image was taken using the simple rectangle.  You get light diffused through the main body of the Perspex shape and a brighter light at the edges.  The Perspex came with a blue protection film, and I decided to leave it on for this swirly image.


Here I stood further away and made a more complicated shape in the air, still using the rectangle shape.  The purple colour is an artefact of the HDR treatment I’ve used in post-processing.


In the previous two images the torch was on full power.  I discovered that when it’s turned down to a lower power it flashes.  You can’t see the flashing when the torch isn’t moving, but it’s clearly visible when it’s moved.  It gives this interesting sectioned look, which I am going to explore a bit more in future.  This image used a triangular Perspex shape with a small piece of red film over the tip.  I’ve heard that some people use sweet wrappers!

I’ve decided to call my Perspex light painting tools “DEE-lights”, because I think they will be de-lightful to work with.

I’ll keep you posted.