It has been a grey and moody December and January to say the least, but these conditions are favourable for any photo walk on Dartmoor, the bleak,sultry days are fitting in this harsh yet beautiful landscape.
This recent snapshot is taken at Combestone Tor, one of Dartmoor’s more accessible and subsequently popular destinations but on arrival today, there are just a couple of other cars in the car park.
With a strong wind the cloud above scuttles along at a fair pace, mostly fifty shades of greyscale with just an occasional glimpse of escaping light penetrating the gloom.
The muted colours of winter browns add contrast to the cold grey of these granite sentinels, the solitary tree amidst its rocky haven, testament to the desire of nature to adapt and survive against the elements.
This for me, is Dartmoor at its very best, in its beauty and brutality, just one of the many reasons that keep me going back for more.
After yesterday’s washout, I am determined this Sunday morning to get on with day three of my 50mm challenge, so after devouring a rather tasty bacon and egg sandwich and finishing my second mug of tea, I will head towards the riverside to see how much the water levels have risen after the deluge.
It is just after eight thirty, as I make my way through the city centre, the streets are Sunday morning quiet, with just the council sweeping teams making their rounds and the first buses waiting at empty stops for their first passengers of the day.
My first image of the day is of Miller’s crossing bridge, a black and white image to emphasize the fast torrent of water flowing by, the incredible roar of water even drowns out the noise of passing traffic on the nearby road.
I walk over the bridge and stop to take a few more photos and stand for a few minutes to watch this mesmerizing maelstrom as it carries several large tree branches like matchsticks in its watery grasp.
The normal footpath following the river is all but submerged, cyclists and walkers alike will have to follow the higher footpath for now, which becomes busier by the minute as others look to get out for some fresh air.
It has become a habit for me to pick out my favourite shot of the day, today’s image is a monochrome of gull’s perching on Cricklepit bridge, moody skies above add some drama to the scene.
It has not been the longest of walks today, but it is another couple of hours testing my creativity with a 50mm lens, I just hope that my next outing offers brighter skies and perhaps even a little sunshine.
As the second weekend of the new year approaches, I tentatively make plans for my second outing of 50mm, the prospects are not looking good as each of my weather apps show yet more rain for most of the weekend.
I do however, have an ace up my sleeve, a bonus Friday off, where the weekend rain is due later in the morning, so I head into town to run a few errands but will make some time to get a few shots around the city before the deluge and my date with a necessary booster jab.
My usual habit, would be to head towards the river and quayside but instead I keep myself around the city centre and local parks, seeing what subject matter may present itself on this dull grey morning.
Given that I was not expecting to get out for any photography this weekend, I feel that the shots I have taken are all a bonus, unless of course Sunday offers me a chance to get out for day 3 of fifty mm.
If 2021 saw me rekindle my enjoyment of the 50mm focal length, then 2022 is the year in which I begin a new project featuring just this lens over the next 50 outings.
It’s new year’s day, a trip to Venford reservoir, a place I have visited on many occasions, my camera bag is laden with the now familar 5D mkII with the 50mm 1.8 now seemingly ‘glued’ to the mount, there were other lenses in the bag but decided that new years day would be the perfect time to begin this new project, so took just this setup without the weight of the camera bag.
The car park has just a couple of other cars on my arrival, the world is enjoying a collective lie in after the new year celebrations, I will be a good way around the route before too many other people have arrived looking to blow the festive fug away.
The colours of autumn are nothing more than a distant memory, the crisp ochres and bronze coloured bracken replaced by damp dark browns, the trees once laden in their autumnal finery now baring their skeletal frames to the elements.
One advantage of the 50mm lens is its ability in the low light of the woodland, only occasional glimpses of light find their way through the melancholy grey skies above, so I am keen to take advantage of these brief windows of opportunity.
There are those areas that defy winter’s decree of desaturation, like diamonds in the rough, leaves cling to their branches like limpets to a rock, for these, I like to use the lens wide open, blurring the background for some interesting bokeh effects.
I find it interesting that with the reservoir just yards from my feet, I take only a few shots of this expanse of water, instead, I am enjoying finding the more intimate details of what lies within the footpath, leaves in puddles or hidden mini waterfalls in less accessible areas of the path.
All that remains from this first day of 50mm is to share the images of today’s amble, I am very much looking forward to day #2
As 2021 makes its way out of the door to make room for 2022, the first blog of the new year is an easy one, a bit like an established band making a ‘greatest hits’ album, it will be a brief review of my last year in photography and my aspirations for the year ahead.
Picking a selection of my favourite photographs was not easy, yet most of them have come from the final quarter of this year, where I have thoroughly enjoyed capturing the essence of autumn in local woodlands and of course on my beloved Dartmoor.
In terms of gear, I have given up on the notion of feeling the need to buy the most up to date equipment, my current gear consists of a Canon 5d mkII and Canon 7d mk1, with both of these photographic veterans, I am enjoying my days out as much as ever.
In terms of projects for the year ahead, the ‘older camera’ project continues but I have ideas for something different for 2022.
It was a no brainer for me to purchase a ‘nifty fifty’ in the form of Canon’s 50mm F1.8, the more I use this lens, the more I am enjoying it, so I will be starting the ‘Fifty days of fifty mm’ in the coming days, fifty outings using just this one lens, of course the blog will help document the progress of this project.
Are you starting a new photo project this year? if so, I would be happy to follow your progress as it unfolds, knowing that others are interested in such creative ideas are one one of the drivers that sees it through to completion, encouragement is contagious!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people who have followed and commented on my blog over the last year, your kind words and encouragement are very much appreciated and help sow the seeds of creativity in both word and picture format.
With Christmas day now over, we approach that feeling of limbo leading up to the new year, where our ability to remember what day of the week it is, gets somewhat blunted by the pleasures of over indulgence and that thought of not being back at work for a few more days.
With the weather not being that favourable for any long walks out with the camera, I was keen to walk off some of those festive excesses, as I make my way back home after a few treasured days spent with family.
The constant rain of Christmas and boxing day have abated for a few hours, however the blustery winds remain, perfect for some seaside photography and watching the awesome power of the waves as they batter the sea defences at Hope Cove.
The sky above is a dark battleship grey, full of rain filled intent, the roar of the sea as it pummels the sea wall, is as loud as I have ever heard, it’s time to capture some images.
The wind is far too strong for any tripod work, it is all I can do to keep the camera still on occasions, as the gale force winds are that strong. Crouched low, with my shoulder against a firmly closed kiosk, I adopt a contorted position that allows me to keep steady as I shoot the scene in front of me.
There are screams of cold sea spray surprise from those people who thought they were at a far enough distance from the huge waves that breach the height of the sea wall, the waves reach, increased by the wind.
With my camera in burst mode, it is a case of take the shot, then wipe the lens as the rain and spray look to soak all in its way, each wave just seems to get bigger with every gust.
It is rare that I root myself to one spot on a photography outing but such are the power and beauty of the conditions I have no reason to explore further, hopefully the images below will support that thought.
It is the start of another week and as has become something of a routine, I take another browse through the images of my weekend photo shoot, with the intention of writing the back story of either the whole outing, or taking ideas from a single image for my ‘one frame’ series.
From Saturday’s outing to Fernworthy reservoir, may I present ‘Medusa’s lair’ the title for which I had in an instant, even before I composed this final image.
I had taken a similar shot on a previous outing but the diffused light and the tight crop of a 50mm lens added more impact.
There are a few landscape / woodland photographers that may find this scene a little to busy for their tastes, for me, it is this apparent chaos that makes the eye want to follow every twist and turn of these Medusa like lichen coated branches.
In such an incredibly inspiring place such as Dartmoor, steeped as it is in legend and folklore, it is not hard to let the imagination run free.
One of the ways that I try to remain creative with my photography, is to set myself personal challenges while I am on a photo walk, it could be that I shoot only in the square format, using the in camera 1:1 aspect ratio option, perhaps when I am in town running a few errands, I may set myself a time limit to find a few images but most frequently, I like to shoot with just one focal length.
After using the Fuji X100 series for a good few years, I am more than familiar with the 35mm focal length, so much so, that I would now not see this as a challenge, especially since a long term project from a couple of years back, was to use just this one camera for a whole year.
A more recent project to use older cameras is still very much in progress, the realization that I do not need the latest and fastest may have come a little late along my journey but I am enjoying taking this latest path with my photography, in the form of a Canon 5d Mark II.
It was as I was packing this old beast into my bag for a Saturday foray on Dartmoor, I made the decision to take just one lens, the classic ‘nifty fifty’, Canon’s 50mm F1.8
The last time that I shot this particular focal length in anger for any length of time, was when I had purchased my first film camera back in the 1980’s, a second hand Zenit camera, most likely armed with a Helios 58mm lens.
My destination is Fernworthy reservoir on Dartmoor, near the village of Chagford, a chance to capture the remains of the autumnal colours and a rather pleasant walk skirting the edge of the reservoir and surrounding woodland.
A damp start to the day sees mist and drizzle set for most of the morning but as I see this as an opportunity to capture the area at its moody and melancholy best.
The autumn colours are all but a faded memory, yet the rust browns and dark green of the local fir trees offer a muted colour palette that adds more atmosphere to the scene.
Occasional glimpses of diluted sun find their way through the murk, only for this curtain of grey to close the gap and bring a little more drizzle.
The morning’s walk may be damp but my mood is quite the opposite as I enjoy looking for my next image, it has taken little time to become accustomed to my chosen 50mm, so much so that I wonder why I have not done this more often.
The walk around the reservoir is just about 5 miles, by which time I am ready for my flask of tea and a welcome hot pasty from a convenient mobile café that had set up for the days business in the car park.
With the pasty devoured and tea drunk, it’s time to head home, good timing as the drizzle is now more constant rain, now to look forward to viewing this latest days foray.
As mid December approaches, the countdown to the yuletide festivities is in full swing, Christmas markets, shopping for gifts and winter wonderlands will occupy the minds and time of many over the next couple more weekends, while I endeavor to make my purchases during the quieter part of the week after work, leaving my weekends free to continue my regular amblings on the moor, or by the sea.
At just after nine AM, I am heading away from Teignmouth railway station and heading for the beach, where remnants of the darker hours linger in the sky above, moody clouds with just a hint of the morning sun’s attempts to paint a little colour on the horizon.
It is a given that I will take a few shots of the pier, a few from either side of the structure as I capture the moodiness of the moment, for once, I do not even consider the normally mandatory long exposure shot, as I see other opportunities a little further away.
A lone fishing boat works a little out to sea, chaperoned by the opportunist herring gull population, looking for a free breakfast, a rare decision to bring a zoom lens, enables me to get a little closer than my normal 35mm focal length.
The changing skies add a little more mood to the scene, affording me several varied looking images.
One of my favourite shots of today is a father and his young daughter walking along the water’s edge, hand in hand, as they explore the shoreline for sea shells and other coastal treasures.
My own love of our coastline began at a similar age, exploring the shoreline at low tide while my dad would be working on his boat, I may have ‘helped’ for a while before the greater need to look for crabs under the carpets of sea weed took hold, or to find the biggest intact whelk shell amongst the shingle.
It was perhaps these sea shore foraging’s that unknowingly taught me the art of ‘seeing’ that would become such an essential part of my photography as I look to find that more unusual shot from the norm.
As I make my way back to the station, ideas for this blog are already forming in my mind, as I wait for my train, I type a few notes on my phone, a reminder of my thoughts at the moment I took a shot, or perhaps an observation I would like to share.
Often, a title eludes me, today it is easy, coastal contentment is what I felt as I meandered my way along the beach today… and so another blog is born.
It is fair to say that I look forward to my weekend outings with my camera, the process begins around the middle of my working week, looking for my next destination, according to whatever the weather may bring.
Without a shadow of doubt, the best part of photography is being out in the great outdoors, camera in hand, capturing whatever the landscape has to offer and even if do not take as many images as I had hoped, I have still had a good walk.
There are a good few photographers I have watched on various social media outlets, who say that they prefer to wait a few days, weeks or even months before even looking at that day’s shoot but I look forward to seeing my day’s endeavors on the computer monitor at the earliest opportunity.
With a fresh cup of tea made, I browse through the images, and flag the images I am keen to edit, these being the favourite of the day, the ones that I am keenest to share online.
On a Sunday, I will often go through the images a second time, flagging and posting once more, while sub consciously picking out images for the next stage of my process, which is this blog.
By mid week, I browse through my images once more, these are what I term as the ‘also ran’ images, yet they can sometimes be the hidden gems.
It was this mid week browse that made me look more closely at four images I had taken around the local Xmas market and High street, edited in monochrome for that documentary feel.
More often than not, I will ask for photos, I enjoy the interaction, yet I also like to take those candid shots of an every day scene around my home town.
I will post the four images below for your perusal, and finish this blog entry here, as I have a few ideas for this weekends outing!