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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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Lockdown wanderings: Tracks and Traces.

Almost a year into the Covid crisis, (though it feels like 5 years), and we are in lockdown again here in leafy Oxfordshire.  We are permitted to take exercise outside of our homes once a day, so I go for a walk as often as I can.  These walks are a great chance to look closer at my area than in normal times, and one thing that struck me was the number of traces of things that were important in the past but have now lost that importance.

This sign outside a local farm is a good example.  Someone went to the trouble of making a sign and edging it with metal strip to protect it.  They’ve added a bit of design by chamfering the corners.  Leaving it as right angles would have been easier, so this shows that some care went into the making of the sign.  Clearly that care has gone and the sign is no longer used.  There’s just one small price of white plastic held on with a rusting staple to show it was ever used.

Further down that road there is a railway footbridge over the Great Western main line.  The bridge was erected to replace a level crossing that was closed after the nearby railway station was closed and demolished.  The road just comes to an abrupt stop at some concrete barriers and a fence.  There are still road markings to indicate that “No Overtaking” is permitted.  It’s all a bit moot as traffic can’t go any further.

At the top of the road there is a shop on the corner.  In the old days it would have been supplied by carts and then small vans.  These days deliveries arrive in large trucks that stop in the road to disgorge their cargoes of groceries.  They reverse from the High Street into the smaller road and oft times get it wrong.  The wall of the shop bears witness to multiple contact from vehicles.  You know it happens often, as the damage from one incident has itself been damaged.

On your daily exercise what traces you can find?

 

Have a great Christmas and a better New Year.

It has to be said that this year has been one of the strangest and hardest I’ve lived through, but next week is Christmas, so it’s a chance to relax.  Lockdown did give me the chance to improve my own skills though, and I’m pleased with that.

Over the Christmas period and the soon-to-come New Year you can also try out new photographic ideas, especially if you have some Christmas lights up.

Anyone can photograph the lights in focus, but why not think about how they might look if you deliberately get them out of focus?  It’s called “bokeh”, and you get the best sharp-edged circles if you shoot with your lens aperture wide open.  Use manual focus of course.

As well as photographing the lights directly you could look for their reflections.  Try mirrors, picture frame glass, or in this case a brass light switch.  Things that aren’t completely flat are best as they produce distorted, abstract versions of the lights.

However you celebrate, I hope you stay safe and that you have an equally safe New Year.

PS  I won’t be leading any holidays for HF next year, so will have more time to offer one-to-one training.  What do you want to learn?

They call me mellow yellow*.

Even in these long, greyer winter days the world around us is full of colour – a lot of colour.  Sometimes there is too much colour, and it’s worth simplifying your images by selecting things that have just one major colour.  Here I have chosen yellow.

This abstract image is a macro shot of a failed LED filament light bulb.  I’ve carefully placed the main, in focus, line on the diagonal and let the other lines fend for themselves.  The yellow sleeve over the LED filament is to give the correct colour balance, in this case “warm white”.

Our streets are full of signs ordering us to do things, or ordering us not to do things.  In this case it’s the infamous double yellow lines that mean “No Parking”.   Well, here they have bred and have made some quadruple yellow lines!  The image is definitely related to the macro shot with a strong diagonal composition.

I’m fond of “found images”.  While I was having a new battery fitted to my car at Halfords recently, (which turned into a literal two-man job with lots of huffing and puffing), I noticed these number plate screws on top of a post nearby.  It was serendipity that the yellow one was on the yellow paint, and the black one was on the black paint, and that they were pointing in the right direction to give a flow through the image.

In all of these images there is a hint of  blue, the complementary colour to yellow, so there’s a good balance of colours.

Go and find your colour!

* For those of a certain age this will mean something.

 

A fungi to be with (part 2)

After my last blog post about fungi in Savernake Forest, I went back a week later and had another fungi-spotting wander with a friend.  We were walking back to our cars when my friend spotted this delicate little clump of Mycena fungi amongst the fallen beech leaves.  I immediately got my bin liner out again so I could lie on the ground and get the right viewpoint.  Flip out screens are OK up to a point but sometimes you just have to get down low to give good camera stability.

I used my 64 LED light panel to light it from the front and an LED torch to light it from the right.  There’s quite a bit of added light on the fungi, and setting the exposure for the fungi has made the background quite dark.   The caps are clearly defined against the darker background which is nice, but the image is a little bit too much of a simple record/identification image.

The thing that need sorting to make it a bit more “arty” was balancing the relative brightnesses of the fungi and the background.  The way to do that was to reduce the light on the fungi by moving the LED panel further away.  I’ve also flipped the torch light so it comes from the left instead of the right.  Because there’s now less light on the fungi the background brightness goes up and the lovely wide-aperture bokeh is more visible.  To my mind it’s a more pleasing image.  It’s got more likes on Facebook than any of my other images, so it’s not just pleasing me.

The moral is always to consider the background brightness as well as the subject brightness.

No “fungi to be with” jokes here…

Yesterday I went to the wonderful Savernake Forest in Wiltshire.  It started out as a socially-distanced lockdown autumn colours walk with a friend, but ended up being a fungal foray photography fest!

I was hoping we would see some fungi, so I prepared for it.  I took my Olympus E-MD5 MkIII fitted with the superb Olympus 60mm macro lens.  It’s a lovely light combination with excellent image quality.  The other vital accessories were a black bin liner and a head torch.  The bin liner was to allow me to kneel or lie on the ground and stay reasonably dry, and the head torch was to add a bit of light into darker areas.

We came across a horizontal rotting log with these delightful parasol fungi on it.  Because the trees were so far away it gave a good diffuse background with the colour of the trees showing.  The background colours have a similar warmth to the colour of the fungi. At this point the sun was out, so the light was quite directional resulting in good contouring on the parasols.

This tiny little parasol was on the shady side of a log so I had to use 1000ISO to get a reasonable shutter speed.  There’s a limit to how slow a shutter speed you can hand-hold even with image stabilisation.  Everything around the fungi was green so the creamy-coloured top stood out well.  I was careful to ensure that the moss capsule in the foreground was in focus.  It adds another area of sharpness in an otherwise diffuse image.

The underside of fungi, with the gill structure, can be more interesting than the tops.  I’ve isolate a part of a fungal cap to make a pattern image.

You can find interesting fungi in your garden, so you don’t have to travel to do fungal macro photography.   It’s the perfect time of year for it, so why not pop out and have a look?

NB:  I did not pick any of these fungi to take back to the studio or to eat.  It’s always good to leave things for other people to enjoy.  If, like me, you don’t know for certain what species a fungus is, then it’s very, very unwise indeed to eat it.