The early bird

A 4am alarm call and just for a few seconds, a reluctance to get out of bed but after a few days of rain and wind, the forecast today is good for the chance of a sun rise.

Walking to the train station after a hurried first cuppa of the day, it is noticeable that darkness is slowly extending its territory once more, a sure sign that autumn is not that far away.

My arrival time at Teignmouth is just over 10 minutes before the sunrise, so without delay, set up the tripod and camera, ready for sun’s appearance over the horizon.
With a part of the sky already showing some warm fiery hues, there is still a thick layer of cloud that may yet spoil the show but with a strong wind, there will also be the chance of some long exposure cloud movement.

The sun makes the briefest of appearances before being masked by more cloud but the subtle light gives the pier a lovely ambient glow, while I take the first shots of the morning.

I have always found this time of the day something special, the feeling of having a place pretty much to yourself, feeling privileged to watch the day awaken is worth the early start.

Before I know it, 2 hours have been spent watching the changing light and taking a selection of photos, my next mission is to find a place for breakfast and a more leisurely cuppa than the morning’s first one, before embarking on a walk along the sea wall to Dawlish.

I find a cafe that has opened early and order the house special full English, the manager explains there may be a wait as she has still yet to fully set up, but with a mug of tea already served, I am happy to sit and watch the town awaken, I am in no hurry.
I sit happily browsing through the images I have taken so far.

It has been a while since I last walked the stretch between Teignmouth and Dawlish, the sea wall takes me as far as a railway tunnel, where it takes me under the railway and onto a steep path leading out of Teignmouth.

The majority of my chosen route has taken me along the main road, so not many photos taken here, but the view looking down into Dawlish on a path leading into the town is stunning, as it is bathed in a little morning sunshine.

Sitting on the sea wall near to Dawlish station, I check the train times, the earliest one is just 10 minutes away, so decide to take this one back home, saving Dawlish for another day.

One focal length – the story so far

When I decided at the end of 2018 that I intended to shoot with a single focal length in 2019 for my personal photography, I was initially unsure if I could keep to my self made rules, given that I still have other camera gear I use for the occasional paid work, being left behind.

Eight months into the project, far from becoming jaded with the idea, I am enjoying the concept more and more, as I feel I have learned so much in a short space of time, in terms of the way I shoot now, compared to last year.

I would spend an hour or so, the night before a photo outing, performing the usual ritual of battery charging and lens cleaning, then packing, unpacking and repacking the lenses I thought I may want for the outing, then packing an extra one ‘just in case’.
The battery charging remains but packing just a single camera makes the perpetual lens decision redundant.

I have become more selective in the shots I take, more concentrated in picking the best composition instead of simply shooting for the sake of it, I take probably a third less shots than I did but end up with a lot more keepers.

Using a small form factor camera allows better access to shots I may not have considered in the past, potential subjects are not intimidated by a camera that does not have a huge lens on the front and I am more confident to ask for shots than I have ever been, the affirmatives have outweighed the rejections and often the subsequent engagement has made for a more natural final shot.

Ultimately, this project has made me want to go out and take photos, admittedly, this is not hard, as I am very fortunate to live in close proximity to both coast and moorland but even on the dullest days, it is possible to find inspiration if you take your camera with you.

The photos above, are a random selection of a recent steam event, the others a selection of favourite shots from the last eight months.

The two tor tour

During the course of the working week, I like to spend spend a little time making tentative arrangements for a camera walk for the following weekend but this week the pages on the notepad were still empty by the time Friday evening came.

Saturday morning dawned bright, with blue skies and a gentle breeze, it felt like a Dartmoor day, with the promise of sunshine for most of the day, the holiday crowds would be more likely to head for the beaches.

After a pit stop at a favourite cafe for a cooked breakfast and an intake of caffeine, Dartmoor is indeed the destination, initially to the Merrievale area, to seek out one of the many stone crosses on the moor but as we head to the car park, the well of ideas, so drought ridden during the week, is now a mains burst as 3 or four possible walks come to mind.

From the car park, the route is uphill all the way, over a stile and up the hill leading to Little Mis Tor, it is the various rock formations on the way up that are of interest in photographic terms. Large and small rock formations jutting out at various angles, giving some superb foreground interest in the view surrounding area.

Little Mis Tor can be seen in the photo above (just) the apparently small mound at the centre of the image, Great Mis Tor, the larger of the two is to the left.

Making steady progress to the tors, the views are just breathtaking, there are several very convenient rocks to sit on, to admire the scenery.

Dartmoor has this way of rewarding the walker for their efforts, today, mine was the majestic sight of the Dartmoor ponies congregating for their equine meeting at Little Mis Tor.

Finding a place to sit and admire the view, I take a well earned drink, while the horses get used to my presence, seemingly unperturbed, they carry on grazing as though I am not there, time for a few shots.

The tor on its own is photogenic enough but to have the native ponies to seemingly pose for me is priceless, as is one the foals, curious enough to come and make his acquaintance before having a sniff round my camera bag.

Twenty minutes and a heap of horse related photos later, I meander to great Mis Tor, where the summit has already be claimed by a couple of hikers, with pleasantries exchanged, we go our separate ways.


The descent back to the car park is much easier, a well used track leads to the main road but the views are simply not as good as those of the earlier climb, regardless of this, I think I have a new second favourite place on Dartmoor.

A summer migration

The winds of change have been a prevailing force for me so far in 2019, most of them have been self induced, such as a desire to eat more healthily and take more exercise, other changes have been made for me, in terms of my employment and now my choice in photo editing software.

For a good six to seven years, I have invested a good amount of time in learning lightroom and photoshop, I was comfortable using the software and saw no reason for changing, it did what I wanted and suited my needs very well.

Then came the whole subscription idea, where the selling pitch is that you will always have regular updated camera raw conversion software but the price for this is £10 per month forever!
No thanks Adobe, you are good, but not that good, perhaps you have become a little complacent, even a little greedy in having had the lions share of the market for so many years.
It’s not me, it’s you, I was happy to upgrade every two to three years for the agreeable discount you gave to already licenced users.

While I did decide to take a 12 month usage plan last October with Adobe, I made a conscious effort to seek out the alternatives, making good use of trial periods of about five other packages, two of which I liked enough to purchase, alien exposure 4 and capture one Fuji edition.

Capture one has been a big learning curve but the company provide superb webinars and online tutorials, with a number of different packages to suit most needs.
There is a perpetual subscription model, there are other packages with extra built in styles or presets in adobe parlance.

The fuji edition (there is also a Sony only edition) was bought with a 50% discount offer, since taking the plunge, I have started to develop a few custom styles that suit the photos I like to take.

I have developed a simple workflow in Capture one that seems so much more efficient than LR’s, the use of non destructive layering is so useful once you get used to how it works.

The above photos are from a trip today in Torquay, ‘The English Riviera’

Classic cars & steam

With the summer calendar of events now in full swing, an opportunity for me to visit a local classic car and steam rally in the grounds of Powderham Castle was too good to miss.
Arriving slightly before the 10am opening, there were already a few early birds waiting to purchase tickets and and the now mandatory wrist band.

The exhibition area is huge but well organised, a large ring roped off in preparation for the various vehicle displays throughout the day.
With so many exhibits to look at, it will be a slow and deliberate approach to the day, patience is key in attempting composition without too many inadvertent photo bombs as onlookers come into shot.

Where possible, I like to chat with the vehicle owners, their enthusiasm is evident as they talk with a smile on their face and no small amount of passion about the history of their vehicle and the work they have done.
It is from these conversations that the spontaneous photos can be inspired by, the proud owner of a Bugatti, seeing my interest in his various props inside the car, took out a bottle of vintage Bugatti labelled champagne for me to photograph.

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The owner of my favourite car of the day, a vintage Volvo rally car took so much joy in telling me he still uses his car for rally events, the most used tool in the back of the car is a crowbar to pull out any dents from any collisions with walls or trees!
The car did not gleam as so many, it showed battle scars aplenty and character in spades!

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The display of cars, motor bikes, trucks and buses are so varied and interesting, but I will always have a soft spot for the traction engines and steam trucks, the traction engines have a certain majesty as they steam sedately by…. and that smell! The mixture of burning coal, oil and steam pervades through the air.

Seeing youngsters around these engines is so good to see, the family ritual of cleaning and polishing the engines before the main parade in the arena, each family member seems to have a designated part to clean, all seemingly done without the usual teenage angst.

In past years, I have always been very concentrated on taking photos of the exhibits, without really taking in the atmosphere of the rest of the event arena, this year, I found myself wanting to capture more of the wider picture, perhaps in part because up to a  couple of years ago, I did not like taking ‘people’ shots but with a small mirrorless camera, I feel less obtrusive than when I had the mandatory DSLR and its howitzer of a lens!

By the end of my multitude of laps of the display area, I had taken a good number of photos, the selected ones above are a few of my favourites, the rest will revisited later in the year when I need a reminder of another super day out.

A 40’s weekend

After recently changing jobs, I am now a fully subscribed member of the Monday to Friday brigade once more, so with my weekends free, it means being able to attend more of the classic car and steam rallies that I have enjoyed in the past.

Yesterday was the first of these events, the annual forties weekend at Buckfastleigh steam railway.
After a usual pit stop for breakfast and a brew, my arrival was about half an hour before the official opening of the 40’s event in an adjacent field but a good opportunity to make a round of the station as the crew get the trains ready for a busy day.

Through the station speakers, the unmistakable big band sound of Glen Miller is played, and a local Lindy Hop group rehearse their moves for their multiple performances throughout the day.

Today will be a real test of my resolve with my one focal length challenge, I would normally have a wide angle lens in my armoury for an event such as this but today, I will need to wear my creative head and get on with it.
I am expecting to take a lot more photos today, so I have made the decision to shoot JPEG, with the classic chrome film simulation, to help avoid spending too much time at the computer later in the day.
If I get my act together, a couple of minor adjustments, with a crop and the odd straighten will suffice in terms of editing.

The event field is well populated with a good number of Jeeps and transport vehicles, also this year a Russian tank, which has plenty of attention paid to it.

The owners of the various vehicles are very generous with their time, happy to relate what work they have done to restore their vehicles, their enthusiasm is contagious and I am happy to talk at length with them to get the history.

Events like this also provide an opportunity to meet with fellow photographers, where a myriad of cameras are at work, it is always a pleasure to chat and exchange ideas and to discuss how and why we choose the gear we have.

A big thank you, to all those who were kind enough to spare me the time to take a photo, it is these images that help tell the story of the day.

Reservoir walk at Fernworthy

Sunday morning wakes to cloudy skies and a cool summer breeze, a promising start for a reservoir walk on Dartmoor.

Fernworthy is situated just a few miles from the Dartmoor town of Chagford, the reservoir covers 76 acres of land and holds about 380 million gallons of water.
The footpath around the reservoir was today’s route, a mixture of forest, meadow and of course the breathtaking Dartmoor scenery.

Armed with my usual X100F, a tripod and some filters, the conditions were good for some long exposure shots across the reservoir, to accentuate both cloud and water movement.
I have always enjoyed long exposure landscape photography, there is a discipline I enjoy in setting up the shot in a deliberate fashion, working out the exposure required with a 10-stop filter and deciding upon the composition of the shot.

Today, with its overcast skies was a perfect opportunity for some monochrome shots, for these I will shoot a JPEG and RAW image, seeing the scene in black and white through the viewfinder helps to visualise the final shot.

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There is a single tree along this path that I had been wanting to capture with a long exposure and while I did take the image, I will wait for another day when the leaves will remain still for the shot I would like.

With the tripod put back in its case and the various filters packed neatly away, it was time for some of the close up shots I like to take when I am around woods or moor, just one of the benefits of the 35mm focal length is its versatility.

Where the footpath comes away from the waters edge and into meadow, the ground is a carpet of summer flora, pinks, yellows and whites, a cacophony of colour to please the senses.

Once again, Dartmoor delivers with another display of its natural beauty, this is why it will always be my place away from the madding crowd.