With autumn stepping into Summer’s vacant shoes, I reluctantly bid a fond farewell to those long, light evenings, but welcome the opportunity to capture the colours and moods of one of my favourite seasons of the year.
With woodland and riverside walks high on the agenda, hopes will be high to capture that colourful carpet of fallen leaves before they fade to winter mulch, golden leaves on lichen cloaked rocks teasing us with a show of colour before the barren winter months to come.
It is also at this time of year that I try to embrace the inevitable darker evenings, by honing my favourite photographic genre, low light and night time photography.
Emerging from summer photography mode into the discipline of low light work, my skills area little ring rusty, it is time to re-hone the skills with a couple hours night shooting around Exeter.
With me, I have my Olympus EM5 MKII with a recent new addition, the 17mm F1.2 Pro lens, with the EM5’s image stabilization and the wide aperture, I want to see how this combo performs with hand held shots.
As usual, the Ricoh GR3 tags along, small enough to fit in a pocket, it is a great little camera to stand on some of the street furniture, that act as a substitute tripod.
No night time foray is complete without the obligatory traffic trail shots, I do my duty with the ricoh perched on top of a metal pavement bollard, a passing bus giving a nice abstract look to the scene.
The olympus with the 17mm perform admirably too, my first shoot with this lens, so experimenting aplenty here.
I have deliberately chosen a less busy Thursday night for tonight’s foray, tomorrow will see more looking to start the weekend, I am happy in an emptier city.
With a little of the ring rust shaken off, I have a couple of ideas for some night time photography projects in the coming months, after all, I may as well take full advantage of the longer hours of darkness.
Thursday morning, the fourth morning of a well earned week off and the most promising in terms of a possible sunrise, after a damp and miserable start to my holiday.
Today also happens to be my 54th birthday, so I have set aside the whole day to indulge in my two favourite pastimes, walking and photography.
Sunrise is around 7:30 am, so I arrange to leave Exeter Central station an hour or so earlier, the twenty minute journey gives plenty of time to find my sunrise location and to scout other potential areas of interest.
Having set up close to the sea shore, I opt for a place near one of the many groynes along the beach, a typical sunrise shot with a silhouette of groynes and beacon against the rising sun, that is when the plan changes.
Two shots into today’s outing and the lighting behind me casts a golden glow on the path above the beach, the picket fence and grass, either side,the sand covered footpath is a shot to good to miss.
It was to become one of those rare days that wherever I turned, the beautiful October light presented so many photo opportunities, I was in my element!
Happy with the shots I had captured, it felt like I had put a single coin into a fruit machine and won the jackpot on the first roll, yet I still had the rest of the day ahead and a small matter of 12 miles to walk back home…..
….But first, a pit stop at a local bakery, where a hot cup of tea and a breakfast baguette went down rather well, the perfect fuel for an October morning hike.
Signs of autumn are all around, the local amusement park closed until half term, its attractions hidden under tarpaulins, the transition of greens to golds, oranges and reds of leaves along the way, the coolness of the early morning, lingering for a few minutes a day more.
The walk along the estuary trail to the Exeter canal has some of the most wonderful scenery, it is a walk I will always enjoy, whatever the season,my camera will be kept busy today, with the wealth of opportunities.
From Dawlish Warren and Starcross, through the small village of Cockwood, the path takes me through Powderham, where my route goes from B Road to footpath, alongside the estuary, where it passes another favourite haunt, Turf locks. The Turf locks pub is sadly closed, the views, fortunately are still very much open.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this route cannot offer any more in the way of stunning views, yet as the path meanders from estuary trail to canal trail, there is still much to see, changing with the seasons.
With a good nine miles under my belt, the opportunity for a welcome refreshment at the double locks pub is far to good to pass up, from the outside, the pub commands picture postcard views, even the interior is worth a photo, as I like the way the light and shadows play through the large windows.
It is well into the afternoon before I reach Exeter, it has been a long time since I had a whole day set aside for my own indulgence, it is a day I have enjoyed immensely, a day that will end with a well earned fish and chip supper before looking through the days efforts.
Saturday morning and I have a date with Dartmoor once again, doing my best to make up for my enforced lockdown absences.
Today’s destination is one of my favourites, Whiteworks, a disused tin mining area not far from Princetown.
Tin mining in the area dates as far back as 1790, mining here was at its most prolific here as the demand for tin for the industrial revolution increased, the ore was sent from here to the Calenick smelting house in Truro, as at this time, Devon had no smelting houses.
By 1880, the mining was ceased, only to be revived briefly again in the early 20th century as the value of ore increased but by 1914 mining was discontinued, the land then used for livestock farming and pony breeding.
It is the remnants of this history that brings me back here time and again, the fallen remains of the stone cottages, the fenced off areas showing where the mining shafts once were.
This place has character in spades, where buildings once were, trees now stand, what is left of the cottages brickwork is covered in a verdant cloak of lichen, adding more texture for the photographer’s eye.
Some of my favourite trees of Dartmoor are located here, one in particular torn asunder at its root, it’s branches a tangle of twigs, defiantly reaching for the skies, yet so near to the ground, today this beauty is emphasized by the moody skies blown along by an early autumn breeze.
I am here for pleasure but it is not hard to imagine the brutal nature of the work that once existed in this chapter of Dartmoor’s history.
This rugged beauty of Dartmoor will continue to draw me in like a magnet, it is always a pleasure to spend time here, exploring whatever it wishes to give.
In this strangest of years, my trips to Dartmoor have been few and far between, after the enforced absence of lockdown , I feel that I am reacquainting myself with an old friend once again.
In the last three or four years, I have made regular visits, yet still, I have barely scratched the surface of all that Dartmoor has to offer. Yesterday’s outing was to a place I had been to just once before, Bonehill rocks, not far from the well known Haytor and Hound Tor.
Arriving just after 10:30 am after a hearty breakfast, the car parks are already beginning to fill with holiday makers looking to make the most of the long bank holiday weekend. The skies are a clear blue, the sun is bright but a strong breeze keeps the temperature ideal for walking.
Bonehill rocks are a random array of tors and granite outcrops of varying shapes and sizes, a favourite destination for climbers of all abilities, a good few of which have made the trip here today.
I love that the moor has so much to offer for so many, rock climbing, walking and cycling to name just a few, for me of course, it is to hopefully capture the moor in all its moods through my lens, indelible memories to look back upon on those days when I cannot visit.
As usual, I was spoiled for choice with photo opportunities, the heather and gorse creating a vibrant display either side of footpaths, the weathered nature of the rocks and tors, light and shadow emphasizing the cracks and fissures within the stone.
As usual, I took a good number of photos on yesterday’s amble, all the above are my pick of the bunch.
It’s another early Saturday morning, I am on my way to greet the morning sunrise at Teignmouth, a little further down the coast from last weeks jaunt.
Once again, I have come armed with the GRIII, this little powerhouse of a camera is such a joy to use, the image quality is just superb from its fixed 28mm equivalent lens.
The GRIII is a favourite amongst street photographers, its compact size and silent shutter are perfect for the genre, however, it it is pretty darned good at landscapes as well!
Another recent addition to my photographic arsenal since getting the GRIII is the Nisi filter kit, a specially developed mini filter kit for the GR, consisting of the following :
Adaptor Ricoh GR3
3 Stop Medium GND (0.9)
3 Stop Soft GND (0.9)
ND8 (0.9) 3 Stop
ND64 (1.8) 6 Stop
With my filter kit and mini tripod, I am able to travel with minimal weight, while being able to shoot long exposure scenes when I require, a set up I am enjoying more and more.
I have been asked if I miss not having a viewfinder, in honesty, it takes a little getting used to but it is the perfect way to compose long exposure compositions.
My walk takes me into Dawlish, where I decide to grab a cup of tea and a bite to eat, with the day already warming up and the local beaches filling with holiday makers, I decide to catch the next train back to Exeter, I have got what I came for, so I am happy to move on.
Just half an hour later, I am back in Exeter, Saturday shoppers are out in force, a chance for some post lockdown street photography.
Again, the GR excels, the compact nature of the camera does not concern those I pass, using the 2m snap focus to full effect.
As I have become more accustomed to the GRIII, I have slowly customised it more to my liking, it is possible to save various custom settings into 3 user settings accessible on the mode dial, one of which I have saved as ‘street’ settings, the second, I have a 1:1 square aspect ratio, shooting Jpegs, I really like the built in mono and the positive film preset , the third I have yet to decide upon.
While my current set up is working well for me, I would be interested to see other people’s favourite set ups, to see how others like to shoot on days out.
Saturday morning just before 4am, I am awake before my alarm, not a work day today though, I am hoping for the kind of skies that have tantalised me all week on my early morning walks to work.
It’s too early to think about breakfast but enjoy my first brew of the day, and head to St. David’s station to catch the 5am train to Starcross. The station is pretty much deserted at this time of day, a railway ghost town, it appears I am the only customer as the rail staff prepare the trains for the for the first departures.
My journey will take only 15 minutes, I watch with interest as the skies are already showing some promise of colour, as the early clouds part like curtains to make way for the dawn.
Stepping off the train and onto the platform, I stop to enjoy views of the high tide, the water lies still, with reflections beginning to form as the day breaks, then the colours of dawn begin to paint the sky with hues of yellow and orange, this is what I had hoped for, I am glad I made the effort to get out of bed!
The silhouette of the railway bridge and platform fences make a lovely contrast against the coloured sky, time to find some more shots before the light show ends.
The peace and tranquility of the sunrise never ceases to be a source of joy, watching a new day unfold is a pleasure on its own, capturing them on camera is a privilege.
From Starcross, I head towards Turf Locks, where the path leaves the estuary side and follows the Exeter canal, a walk I have done many times in my twenty years of living in the area, a walk that I will never tire of.
All these images were taken using my recently acquired Ricoh GR III, a lightweight single focal length camera (28mm) The Nisi filter kit specially designed for the Ricoh was used for the long exposure shots.
As my working week progresses, I start to sow little seeds of ideas for weekend outings with the camera, regularly checking to see what hand the weather gods may deal for my days off. By Wednesday evening, I had arranged another visit to Salcombe, an overnight stay on Friday and Saturday, with an amble back to Exeter on the Sunday.
My hopes for an early sunrise on the Saturday morning were to be scuppered by heavy rain and winds, which were forecast for most of the day, with a slim chance of a two hour clear spell later in the day.
By mid day, I had drunk copious amounts of tea, made a mushroom soup for lunch and completed Saturday’s cryptic crossword, a personal best time of 37 minutes, I guess rainy days have their uses.
It was after lunch that the skies began to brighten, discarding its grey cloak revealing patches of blue sky, perhaps I would get some photos today after all. As I made my way into the town’s high street, it seems that everyone had the same idea, enjoy the spell of sunshine for as long as it lasts.
It is these unexpected photo walks that throw up unexpected photo opportunities, the earlier rains had not all drained from the road, creating some interesting reflections, perfect for a low angle perspective.
Sunday morning woke up to brighter skies but still a keen wind, I would be heading back to Exeter later today but only after another walk around a favourite footpath with superb views of the estuary and countryside.
On the edge of the footpath, poppies and daisies gave a vibrant display of colour, a distinct and welcome contrast to the previous morning, poppies like bright red flags waving in the wind.
The estuary was already thriving with those wanting a day on the water, this normally quiet path popular with other Sunday walkers.
After the disappointment of Saturday morning’s washout, the enjoyment taken from that small window of opportunity more than made up for it later in the day, even Sunday’s destination was a spur of the moment decision…. who needs plans anyway?
It has been four long months since I last visited Dartmoor, a trip to Wistmans wood in March, just a few days before lockdown restrictions were put in place. Realising that such measures were likely, I made sure to savour every step of that March outing, unsure of when I may visit again.
That day was yesterday, to say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement, I could not wait to tread once more amongst the vast openness, to hear the sweet summer sounds of the skylarks soaring above, to gaze in awe at the many tors, stone sentinels of the moorland landscape.
The rain from earlier in the morning had abated but the skies still wore remnants of mist and grey cloud, giving the moor a sombre moodiness, for all I cared it could have been torrential rain, I was just happy to be back on familiar ground.
Dartmoor will always present photo opportunities, the most obvious being the landscape as described earlier, yet I find pleasure in finding the smaller treasures, water droplets on grass, a fallen foxglove petal, or fungi thriving in the humid air, to name just a few.
It has taken a long time but I have finally decided to minimize my gear choices on days out, carrying a bag of lenses and other gear has become less appealing, shooting with what I have, has become more fun.
On today’s trip to Dawlish, I took my trusty 100f and a recently acquired Ricoh GRIII, a fixed 18mm (28 mm equivalent in full frame terms) camera that boasts amazing image quality in a small form factor.
The lack of built in viewfinder takes a little getting used to but this little beast is a joy to use.
I mentioned that I also took my 100f today, but I barely used it, for two reasons. One reason being that I was keen to get used to the controls of the Ricoh, the second being that I had forgotten to replace the memory card I had used for my first few test shots with it yesterday evening. The GRIII has 2gb of internal memory storage, around 40-50 images in RAW format, I know this because I used its full allocation, then had to pilfer the card from my 100f! Looking through the menu, I was able to copy the internal memory images to the now installed SD card, my schoolboy error had been rectified.
Getting to Dawlish Warren just after 10am, the beach was already filling with those that wanted a day by the sea, I was happy to stay for just a couple hours to get some much wanted sea air and to get more accustomed to the GR.
It will take a while to customise the controls of the GR to my liking and the GR gives plenty of scope for doing so but if this first batch of images is anything to go by, then the GR will be my ideal minimal gear set up
My first seaside walk since early March saw me going back to my home town of Salcombe last weekend, my main agenda was to visit my dad for father’s day, the second to enjoy a low tide walk along the shore of a favourite haunt from my childhood.
With the tide at its lowest ebb, there is an opportunity to walk along the best part of the beach, taking in views of the town of Salcombe from a different perspective, it is here that many of my favourite views can be seen.
From an early age, I have enjoyed these walks along the shore, especially after winter storms, where all sorts of maritime debris would be washed up along the shore, all treasures to a youngsters mind.
To this day, I unashamedly love peering into rock pools, and still like to look under seaweed for any small crabs that may be lurking beneath, evoking memories of looking for peeler crabs for fishing bait in spring and early summer.
It is true to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, my absence was just 3 months, yet I felt a new appreciation for something that can be so easily taken for granted.
The second part of today’s jaunt, was a revisit to Slapton sands, another of my favourite beaches, with it’s lagoon or ‘ley’ to one side and the open sea on the other, the two are sandwiched by probably the longest length of straight road in Devon, a road that over the years has been washed away more than once by savage winter storms.
As popular as ever, the beach was busy, but not crowded to the extent of those recently depicted in the mainstream media, the visitors here were observing social distancing and there was a happy buzz as complete strangers were making new friends while waiting for their takeaway food or drinks from the pub and cafes, attempting some semblance of normality in these odd times.
It was here I have taken my favourite shot of the year so far, a gentleman with his two dogs, sat on the sea wall, he kindly agreed for me to take his photo, which if I am being honest, was not expecting.
As usual, a rather enjoyable trip to the seaside, as usual, time passes too quickly but looking forward to my next trip here already.