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

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“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.”

Any landscape where there’s a dramatic change, such as the boundary between land and sea, is a rich source of images. You’ve not only got the coast itself, but also the way we humans interact with it.  We’ve turned some areas into a playground with all the trappings of the seaside; piers, candy floss, donkeys and crazy golf.

Clevedon Pier near Bristol is a classic Victorian pier.  It was was built during the 1860s to attract tourists and provide a ferry port for rail passengers to South Wales. The pier is 312 m (1,024 ft) long and consists of eight spans supported by steel rails covered by wooden decking, with a pavilion on the pier head.  The pier opened in 1869 and served as an embarkation point for paddle steamer excursions for almost exactly 100 years.  It’s so tall because the tidal range there is the second highest in the world.

The nearly sunset-light brings out the details, and the main structure makes for an elegant lead-in line to the pier pavilion.  Converting to black and white makes it timeless.

On Saltburn Pier in Yorkshire someone has been “yarn bombing” the railings for years.  This year’s theme is books and literature.  I saw the clever juxtaposition of the two book titles and waited for a couple to walk into the shot.  Will they choose the romance of “Mills and Boon” or go the “50 Shades” route?

I was drawn by the symmetry of these folks’ outfits.  The blue/dark grey tops at the ends bookend the two lighter grey-clad people in the centre.  The use of a long focal length lens has compressed the perspective making the beach and sea more prominent.  I did wonder whether they were planning to visit the beach or whether they were happy just to look at it.

The coast and seaside are always there, and can be very atmospheric out of season.  No need for a bucket and spade, just a camera and your eyes.

The development of an image

I recently led a photography holiday in Whitby for HF Holidays.  I used various cameras for my demonstrations and tuition, but my first choice whilst out and about was my mobile phone.  The large screen made it easy to show the images, and the phone app’s software does some neat things.  The Leica-branded lenses aren’t too shabby either.

It was a windy day and the long grasses in the field adjoining Whitby Abbey were moving around a lot.  I was using the “Silky Water” light painting mode on the camera.  It takes multiple images and adds them together.

I rested the phone on a wall to steady it.  At what I thought was the end of the exposure I picked up the camera and rotated it 90 degrees to see the image.  To my surprise I realised that I hadn’t properly touched the “end exposure” button and it was continuing to expose.  I stopped the exposure and looked at the image. There were two exposures at right angles to each other.  I liked how it looked, and wondered about editing options.

I cropped the image to make the two Abbeys the main part of the composition, and then increased contrast and colour saturation to bring out more detail.  I thought it looked better, but the version of the Abbey I preferred was facing downwards.   I rotated the image 90 degrees and then flipped it horizontally so the image read from left to right.  Much better, but the area of clear blue sky in the top right-hand corner worried me a bit.

I decided that a further crop to remove the top right corner would give the best image.  It also gave only one Abbey, thus simplifying the composition.  The doubly-exposed grasses in the sky give an almost painterly effect.

An accident that gave an interesting effect.  Now I need to try and deliberately repeat what I did accidentally!  Might be tricky, but it should be fun.

I still Leica new phone!

You will recall from my last blog post that I now have a new camera that also makes phone calls.  It has a much more powerful camera app than my previous phone, and I am still getting to grips with it.

Its “Silky Water” light painting mode is very interesting.  It takes a series of images and overlays them.  These wind turbine blades clearly show the effect of the repeated images.  It was taken handheld at dusk so the non-moving parts were a bit shaky.  I’ve added some movement blur in Photoshop to cover my tracks…

No worries about covering up movement blur here as I was moving the phone quite fast.  The colours of the clothes in a wardrobe have blended together very nicely.  The little swirl I gave makes the image different to what can be achieved by adding dead-straight movement blur in post-processing.

On the last night of my recent photography holiday lead in Whitby we were treated to an open-top bus tour at sunset.  It was a great opportunity to look over the high wall surrounding Whitby Abbey.  The sun was setting over Kettleness Point to the north-west and it silhouetted the Abbey nicely.  It felt a bit odd being on the east coast and seeing the sun set that far round.  I shot using HDR mode and edited the image as the tour continued.

I’m sure there are more things to learn about the camera.  Being a mobile phone it doesn’t have an instruction book.  It’ll be fun finding out!

I would Leica new phone.

I’ve got a new mobile phone.  It makes calls, texts and happily WhatApps, but the camera module and its software are worlds away from my previous mobile.  It has a Leica-branded double camera setup and has, it seems, a 27mm f1.8 Summilux-H lens.  The software is also powerful.  It can do the fancy “fake-bokeh” thing, and the amount of the effect, and the focus point, can be altered after you have taken the image.  Impressive stuff.

The image quality, made up of combined data from a 12Mp colour sensor and a 20 Mp monochrome sensor, is very good.  This sunset from yesterday evening shows the “wind harp” at the entrance to the Watchfield wind farm.  Taken in HDR mode, and with a bit of in-camera post-processing, the sky is fabulous.  I like the contrail going to one of the pipes. as it looks like a washing line.  Ansel Adams called them “sky worms”; he was not a fan.

The camera has some light trail modes.  You will know from previous posts that I am a big fan of light trails.  One is called “silky water” and is set up to render moving water as mist and assumes the camera will be held still.  It’s a bit like Olympus’ “Live Composite” mode.  So what happens if you move the camera instead?  Well, this hydrangea is now an abstract pattern of colour and texture.  I increased the contrast in post-processing.  I think there’s lots to explore with this mode.

It doesn’t focus very close, but I can fit my clip-on macro lens.  The phone does moan about me covering one of the lenses but it still works, as this shot of a perfume bottle shows.  It will focus very close with the clip-on lens fitted, and the ring light that is part of the lens kit helps light the subject.  Lens quality is not bad for a £4.99 Aldi Special Buy.  Keep an eye open for it next time you are there; it may come back into stock.

With the macro lens fitted you can make the phone do bokeh circles.  These are LED lights taken in the studio.  I set the camera to manual focus and made sure the image was very out of focus.  There are all manner of artefacts in the circles, probably caused by dust somewhere in the system, but it makes for an interesting image.

Five years ago mobile phone cameras were simple devices with limited power and not too wonderful quality.  Now they are sophisticated, powerful devices that you can get great images from.  You still need to know about photography and need to explore all the menu options to get the best from them.  It’s fun trying!


Michael SavageSeptember 17, 2018 - 8:03 pm

Dear Derek, I am very impressed with the camera on your phone.
I would very much appreciate if you could tell me the make.
Very best regards Michael Savage

Fabulous Gower with lots of sunshine.

I try and get down to Gower in South Wales at least once a year.  It’s got the lot as far as landscape is concerned.  There are hills, valleys, woods, caves, rivers, and above all beaches and cliffs.  The fabulous thing about Gower is that it’s all in a relatively small area.

One less-visited part of Gower is Whiteford Sands/WhitefordPoint.  It’s up in the north-east of the peninsular and when the tide is out the beach is enormous.  There were only two or three other people there!  At the end of the huge flat beach is the unmistakable form of a lighthouse.  To quote Wikipedia:

“It is an unusual cast-iron lighthouse built in 1865 to a design by John Bowen (1825–1873) of Llanelli, by the Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners to mark the shoals of Whiteford Point, replacing an earlier piled structure of 1854, of which nothing remains. It is the only wave-swept cast-iron tower of this size in Britain.”

After double checking the tide times, (vital, as the tide comes in like a steam train!), I walked out over the mussel beds to take a closer look, and a few photos of course.  I had seen that there were some cormorants perched in various places on the lighthouse.   As I pressed the shutter button they flew off.  It makes the shot much more interesting.

Another favourite Gower location is on the top of the Cefyn Bryn ridge.  It’s a great place to watch the sunset from.  Here some foxgloves and grasses on an ancient stone cairn are silhouetted against the just post-sunset sky.  It’s always worth looking at the details as well as the broader view.

Of course, sometimes the broader view is the thing to go for.  One of the finest bits of coastal scenery in the UK can be found at Three Cliffs Bay on south Gower, shown here at high tide just after sunset.  Gower has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world, so it changes hugely as the tide goes in and out.  The long swoop of Oxwich Bay in the background takes us to a return line along the water.  It’s a 5-shot stiched panorama from a compact camera.

Gower?  Go there!