As we approach the last week of February, the long winter nights and dark mornings are gradually making way for lighter and hopefully brighter days and after last weekend’s rain filled days, a little sunshine would be more than welcome.
I am at Starcross, just after six fifteen AM, my intention to walk the few miles along the estuary footpath back to Exeter. It is one of those very cold mornings where the chill nips at the fingertips but as the skies lighten, the blue hour is nearly upon us.
One of my first shots of today is a spur of the moment experiment, hearing a train in the distance, I set my camera up for a long exposure, not just to flatten the water but to hopefully capture the ‘ghosted’ image of the passing train, I will have just one go at this with the light as it is….
I was more than happy with the resulting image, this would be my ‘photo of the day’.
This time of day may be known as the blue hour, with a camera in hand it feels like just a few minutes, as I take a few more images before moving on.
From the beautiful hues of blue hour to pastel skies as the sun greets the new day, the cold morning leaves traces of mist in the distance.
From here, the road follows alongside the railway track, to Powderham, Turf locks and back along the path to Exeter. The railway offers a few images in monochrome, as the sun does its best to burn through a cloak of fog on the estuary.
With a mist on the water, inland, the frost on the bracken and grass offer more photo opportunities, until that is, the fog has a second wind and finds its way amongst the trees ahead.
By the time I reach Turf Locks, the sun appears to be winning the day, brighter skies above and a brisk pace mean my hands are thawing and I can shed the fleece I had on under my coat.
The last few favourites from today’s walk, before heading for the home stretch and a reward of a bacon sandwich and a rather large mug of tea.
Friday and Saturday had been a complete wash out in terms of any plans I had of getting out for my weekend photo walk, can there be any rain left to fall I ask?
Sunday morning and much of the same, as I enjoy my first brew of the day and a bacon butty, the skies are a grey wash of mediocrity, the gentle sound of rain against the windows, is this to be another ‘stay in’ day?
As I finish breakfast, I look out to see that there appears to be a break in the rainfall, without further ado, I decide to get some fresh air, even if it is only for a brief time.
The rain may have stopped but the sky still shows intent, so I set a brisk pace as I head towards my undetermined destination.
It is on these spontaneous forays that I find myself becoming more creative, looking for shots that I have not taken before, which in a city I have lived in for over twenty years, can be a challenge.
A lot of today’s shots will be black and white, to capture the mood of the day, but keep an open mind.
It has been my intention this year, to spend less time editing my photos, attempting to capture the mood with in camera presets or ‘recipes’ I have been creating over the last few weeks.
With today being such a dull day, monochrome and desaturated colour images, with contrasty shadows are the order of the day, with only a little cropping as needed done in post processing.
Despite the short duration and distance of today’s jaunt, I feel that I have salvaged something from this weekend and look forward to my next outing.
Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I did not manage to get out with the camera, my days off were spent unpacking boxes and settling into my new abode, so no opportunity for the usual shutter therapy.
My hopes for a bright and sunny Friday and Saturday are to be dashed by two days of wind and rain.
Ever the opportunist, Thursday evening is at least dry, so decide to head out for an hour or so, just around the city centre for some night time photography.
As I walk past St James station, I realise that I have lived in Exeter for twenty years and never taken a photo here, in daytime the small station is one of the many smaller ones along the Exmouth railway route but the lights reflecting on the platform catch my eye enough to take a photo.
In all honesty, I have no plan in mind for tonight’s impromptu foray, as with the station image, it will be whatever catches my eye, as I make my way into the city centre.
I love the way a city seems to take on another persona at night, the way light reflects onto other buildings, or onto the street, offer chances not seen during daylight hours.
While I do not consider myself to be a ‘crowds’ person, I look forward to times when the city streets will be busy once more, where the hospitality and retail industry can open their doors once more and to see my home city getting back to business as usual.
Most of my exercise walks in lockdown have followed a well trodden path away from the main city centre, strolls along the riverside are a brief respite and a reminder of the normality that we once had before this ever present threat of covid.
As much as I enjoy capturing the beauty of a sunrise or the mist rising from a river on a cold winter morning, these strange times have a story of their own, the following words are observations and images, taken over the last couple of weeks, on my brief incursions into a city in lockdown.
The city streets are bereft of bargain hungry shoppers, a melancholy silence hangs above the city, where even the faintest sound will drift between empty alleyways.
Shop window displays remain unchanged, last season’s merchandise that nobody can buy, only essential shop doors can welcome the customer for now.
An optimistic gull perched upon a street light waits for morsels that rarely appear, once easy pickings have become a drought, so he files to another spot, where he is quickly dispersed by a rival already close by.
Lone souls find a place in the winter sun to drink a welcome hot tea or coffee while others patiently wait for their buses to take them home.
I think we have become a little more sociable these days, while we have spent a lot of time at home, the company of a stranger is a welcome yet brief chance to make each others day a little more pleasant.
I was asked recently if I found it more difficult to enjoy street photography with so few people around, to a degree maybe but I look to find other subject matter within the streets to photograph. rainwater on a bench perhaps, colours and textures lit by the sun as they cast patterns, shadows of people against a wall offering an abstract take.
For as long as the current lockdown remains in place, I will continue to make my observations but I am looking forward to the days when my images are of a city free from the necessary constraints, where we can meet once more with friends and revisit those places we have missed.
I had no plans to start a photographic project during the first part of this year, with an impending house move and the current lockdown restrictions, my time would need to focus on more important matters.
As I write this first blog for February, I am surrounded by boxes, those I have packed, sitting with a pile of empties, awaiting the last minute items to be packed.
With most of my camera gear carefully packed away until next weekend’s move, I have returned to a one camera, one lens set up once more, this time with the Fujifilm X00V.
I had traded my 100f last year, then noticed I had begun seeking out more lenses to fit the replacement camera, something I had tried to avoid but I love trying new stuff! (who doesn’t?)
I had spent some time after work last week packing the first few boxes, with a plan in the back of my mind, that should there be any good weather on one of my days off, I could spend a few hours away from box city and have a little shutter therapy.
Friday morning looked to be a good opportunity, according to the late evening forecast on Thursday, with a suggested less than 5% chance of rainfall.
As I left the house at just after seven fifteen AM, the less than 5% rain was falling quite fast, yet ever the optimist, I was certain there was a break in the clouds somewhere.
At just after 8am, the day begins to brighten, a still morning with still waters, reflecting boats and buildings onto the water,
Today’s walk is somewhat abridged, knowing that I still have boxes to pack, I have made 3 miles before making the decision to make my way back home.
It remains to be seen how long it will take to unpack everything once I have moved, in all honesty, I am enjoying the one camera set up a lot, so will probably continue the inadvertent project for the foreseeable future.
It seems like the five hundredth day of January, as I wake this Friday morning. just after 6am.
As with many others, I am longing to have the shackles of lockdown loosened as I contemplate which part of my home town I shall walk today, I would like to take an early train and catch the sunrise on one of the local beaches but respect the importance for only necessary travel on public transport and decide upon a circular walk following the River Exe once more.
It is another one of those still winter morning’s where the cold soon shakes any latent sleepiness from you, while hidden patches of ice on the pavements also help keep you alert.
A cold mist floats above some parts of the River, in my head the deep purple ‘smoke on the water’ intro plays in a loop as I look for my first shots of the day.
There are still traces of night lingering in the skies above as my first shots are taken, I love the moodiness of this time of day, the longer shutter speed turning the river to an almost smooth mirror, the star like light emanating from the street lights on the opposite pathway.
With the city behind me, I join the footpath to the Riverside valley trail, where the powerful gushing of the fast flowing weir is replaced by the first strains of the dawn chorus, a sound I will never tire of.
If the sound of birdsong was not enough, my reward is twofold, as I see the cloud begin disperse, their edges painted with the glow of the morning sun, how different from last Friday’s insipid, uninspiring blanket of grey.
This morning is offering photo opportunities at every turn, the river reflections and golden skies, the grass either side of the footpath dusted with a light frost, it is a day to treasure.
The highlight of today’s shoot, my picture of the day was an opportunist shot, taken opposite the Double Locks pub, where on the landing stage a young lady stands, taking photos of the local swans, who with their natural grace and elegance are as photogenic as ever.
With the sun adding a golden glow to the scene, I have my favourite shot of the day.
From a safe distance we exchange greetings and I explain that the shot was too good to miss and would she like a copy of the image.
The young lady’s name is Ama, she explains that under normal circumstances she would have been in Mexico, celebrating a friend’s birthday with them but instead, here she was in the middle of an English winter, making the most of the allowed exercise. Ama loves the picture, she says it will be a memento of lockdown she will treasure, I promise to send the image later in the day via email.
With a good few landscape images under my belt, I seek out the more abstract images I find so much enjoyment from, close ups of plants bathed in the glow of the morning light, ice crystals atop a fence post, bramble leaves seemingly candied with frost.
The smaller details are as much fun to photograph as the grand vistas, finding beauty in the every day has taught me not just to look but how to see the apparently mundane in a different light.
As I make my way back home, ideas for this blog begin to germinate, that initial thought of despair so early this morning of it feeling like the five hundredth day of January as the opened curtains revealed nothing but darkness has been replaced by ‘ the five hundredth day of January was a great day to be alive! ‘
After the expected recent lockdown measures, any thoughts of trips to the seaside or Dartmoor are out of the question for now, so my new January musings will follow familiar waking routes around the River and other local haunts.
I had considered starting another long term photography project this year that is on hold for now but still have one or two ideas for some themed photo shoots around my home city that can still be achieved during the lockdown period.
As usual, I had been checking the weather forecast for this weekend, hoping for a couple of dry days to get out for my permitted daily exercise, Saturday was looking good until Friday night, when the promise of sunshine was to be cancelled due to overcast skies.
Unperturbed, at just after seven thirty, I head out into the cold of the day to hopefully get a few shots. As I walk through the city centre, I grasp the chance of a couple of quick photos, before heading towards the riverside.
From here, a steady walk to the River, where slowly but surely the night gives way to daylight, albeit overcast, uninspiring skies.
While Saturday was grey and drab, Sunday started with some early mist and perhaps a little sunshine to come a little later, so with a new optimism I set forth once more.
I was not to be disappointed today, as a combination of the mist and the morning sunrise competing for attention were to offer some lovely images, so glad I made the decision to get out again instead of the lazy Sunday option I had considered.
The best bit of winter walks is getting home to the self promised hot cup of tea and bacon roll, while looking at the mornings efforts, then embracing that idea of a lazy Sunday.
I did not bother to see the new year in this year, quite frankly, like many, I was glad to see the back of 2020, so let it slip out quietly while I dozed.
New years morning was like a proper winters day, a hoar frost had given a white dusting to all it touched, everywhere was Christmas card perfect, the air still.
A bowl of hot porridge and the usual two cups of tea would set me up for my morning walk, setting out at just before seven forty five, I would have a good couple of hours before too many others would stir.
With the conditions as they were, it was not hard to decide upon a route along the riverside, chances for reflections and maybe a few close ups of the frost but more importantly, glad of the opportunity to be out.
My walk towards St. David’s station was brisk, where I intend to join the riverside is just the other side of the station, yet it was the station that gave me my favourite shot of the day, the rails and platform coated in the frost, giving an incongruous beauty amongst the functionality of the station.
It is rare that we have winter days such as this in the south of the UK, so I was keen to capture as much of the mood as I could, all too soon the normal service of grey clouds and rain will resume.
To the few others I meet, Happy new year exchanges are made, talk then turns quickly to the cold start, how very British!
For the short distance I walked, I found a treasure of photo opportunities, trying to capture the mood of a winter’s day in both colour and monochrome.
While the legacy of 2020 will continue for some time, travel to places further afield remain on hold, but who needs to travel far with this on their doorstep?
It is the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, many of us will be having to entertain thoughts of heading into towns or cities for some Christmas shopping, fortunately I am not one of the many, instead I shall be heading out for a morning hike, with the hopes of catching the sun as it rises along the way.
Setting off at just after seven fifteen AM, darkness still hangs around like an unwanted guest, I have about 45 minutes before the sun begins its morning ascent into northern hemisphere skies.
A little rain is still in the air but today is forecast as mainly sunny until later in the day, one of the reasons I have chosen today for my outing. I have about a mile and half before reaching the well trodden riverside path that follows the River Exe to the Exe estuary, it is when I reach this path that I spot some orange hues in the sky as the morning awakens.
I reach one of my favourite spots along the footpath, close to the Double Locks pub, the sun breaks through the cloud in all its golden glory, what a start to the day.
After the light show, I decide to capture a long exposure shot of the river as it looks back towards Exeter, the serene stillness broken only by the melody of the avian chorus.
Another five minutes and the stillness of the river is broken by the first of many early morning rowers, their sleek boats cutting through the water like a knife through butter, as they glide so elegantly by.
From here, the path takes me to Countess wear, one of Exeter’s main arteries out of the city, where I will cross the already busy main road to join the path on the other side, another 3 miles will take me to Turf Locks, another of my favourite photographic venues.
I am not alone on my walk, the river bank has seen overnight fishermen hoping for their catch of a lifetime, the predator anglers seeking pike in one place, while down river the carp anglers have set up their temporary base, sandwiching a solitary Tench angler making his first cast of the morning.
While the conversation with them all is about their piscatorial prowess, the one thing we all have in common, is the joy of watching the morning sunrise, where we are all agreed that the early mornings are the best part of the day.
A little way along the footpath, it splits into two, a narrower path following the river is ideal for walkers, the wider path below takes the cyclists, as I join the narrow river path, I can take in the views at my leisure.
Making my way to Turf locks, the clouds above start to thicken hiding the sun for a few moments before it appears once more casting that wonderful winter light upon the landscape.
With the light changing rapidly, I try to keep up with the moody skies, grey and threatening one moment, then back to sunny landscapes as the sun escapes from its cloudy cloak.
Reaching Turf locks, the skies begin to darken and in the distance the clouds shed their cargo of rain, tide in or out, this part of my walk is just so photogenic.
I take a couple of in camera monochrome shots to capture the drama of the changing light, the exposed mud flats add more to the mood.
Having decided that I would catch a bus home, I take a road I have not walked before, looking at possible new routes and footpaths along the way.
I walk about another mile and a half before hearing the traffic pass on the main road ahead, as I reach the junction a convenient bus stop is just on the other side of the road, I have approximately 15 minutes to finish my flask of tea before the next bus arrives.
The ride home gives me a chance to look through my mornings photos, I am pleased that I made the effort to get out when I did, as Sunday’s weather is looking pretty hopeless.
It’s the last Friday in November and I have a bonus day off from work, so decide to set my usual 4am work alarm to an hour later, with the intention of spending a few hours out with the camera.
No need for the alarm, I have become so accustomed to the early starts but the dark mornings never look that inviting.
As usual, I have my camera bag ready, leaving no excuses not to go anywhere, my intention is to head to the coast,so I will catch a train that departs just after seven fifteen. I leave the house an hour before this, perhaps I can take advantage of the quiet streets of Exeter and take some low light shots.
The streets are empty but for the road sweepers and the few early commuters, I take full advantage of shop lights illuminating the streets and seize a quick opportunity to take a photo of a locked up bicycle lit by a mechanical road sweeper making its rounds, immediately thinking this would make a good black and white shot.
The previous evening’s weather forecast had overcast skies for most of Friday, as I wait for my train, patches of blue hour coloured sky are visible through the cloud, maybe I could even see a glimpse of sun.
Arriving at Teignmouth, there is a noticeable chill in the wind, the mornings have that feel of winter about them but no matter, the light of morning is looking rather good, time to get to the beach.
The strong winds are offering some good wave action, exposure times of less than ten seconds will be enough for me to capture the movement of the water, it promises to be a good morning,
With just a glimpse of sun peering from behind its cloudy curtain, the colours are a reminder of why I like to get out whenever possible to watch the day unfold.
With a dozen or so shots in the bag, it’s time to treat myself to a hot cup of tea and a breakfast baguette, luckily for me, a local cafe open for takeaway service is just a short walk away. Fed and watered, I am ready to walk the short distance along the sea wall to Dawlish.
With schools and work now under a semblance of normality, there are few other souls around today, one of the reasons I enjoy getting out on a weekday.
As the morning progresses, the clouds begin to thicken and turn a dull grey, I feel fortunate to have captured the earlier light but see the changing light as a chance for some monochrome shots.
It has been a good mixture of a morning, a few miles walked and a good selection of shots , I decide to catch the next train from Dawlish and head for home, where I look forward to checking out my mornings efforts.