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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 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.

“Get out of Gaol free”

You know that in the game Monopoly there is a card that lets you “Get out of jail free”.  This can be helpful.  Recently I got into jail, well gaol actually, but it wasn’t free.  The gaol in Reading, Berkshire, closed in 2013 but has reopened for a couple of months for an art installation by a group called Artangel.  The art is interesting but it’s the gaol’s association with the author Oscar Wilde that’s more interesting.  He was incarcerated there for 2 years.


It’s a classic Victorian prison with metal staircases going between the upper and lower levels.  I tried to capture the atmosphere with a black & white conversion and a vignette.  It was hard to get a shot without another visitor.  The image is not quite symmetrical, with the lights being the main source of asymmetry.


In the Old Chapel, latterly a sports hall, they had an art installation.  It consisted of Oscar Wilde’s original cell door, and a concrete slab exactly the same size as his cell.  The slab made for a useful camera support, as there wasn’t much light around.  The 0.5 second exposure shows the flow of the visitors.  You can see that they arrived slowly from the left, and left faster to the right, right?


The gaol has changed over the years, with different groups being housed there.  In its last incarnation it was a Young Offenders’ Institution, but housed adults, including women, in the past. There are many larger structures and systems that were added since Victorian times, but there is also much evidence of smaller changes.  This image is of a cell interior, and you can see that the three missing things weren’t necessarily contemporary.  The paint underneath has changed as well.


The light in some of the cells was a very odd colour, and it was very hard, even shooting RAW, to correct for it.  I left one this much as it was, as it gives a strange look to the image.  I couldn’t decide if it was an art piece, or a bit of litter.  It was quite hard to tell…

“Get out of jail free”?  No, get along to a gaol if you can, as long as you can leave when you want to!

Capturing Autumn colour

It’s Autumn (Fall) here in the UK, and the leaves are turning.  The deciduous trees and shrubs with their beautiful colours will be looking glorious quite soon.  As with all things photographic there’s a way to lift your leaf images, and that is to get the angle of the light right.  Take these three images of the underside of a dogwood leaf taken on a bright sunny day…


Here the light is pretty well dead flat on the leaf.  You can see the ribs, but they aren’t that well defined.  The colour is a bit subdued too.


Moving the leaf so that the light was coming across at an angle gave much more contrast, texture and dimensionality.  The rib structure was made much more visible..


In the third image I turned the leaf so the sunlight shone through it.  The translucency really brings the colour up, and the contrast between the leaf and the background is increased.  The ribs are silhouetted. To me this is the most attractive image.


So look for where the light is coming from, and try and get images where it shines through the leaves. Hurry, they’ll have fallen soon…

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.