December sunshine

I must be one of a small minority of people that enjoy waking up on a Monday morning, for me it is my ‘Sunday’, a day that has become my ‘out with the camera day’.
This Monday is no Exception, a planned trip to see family in my home town of Salcombe, then a trip to a couple of my favourite seaside haunts, Hope Cove and Bantham.

Hope Cove is one of those charming seaside villages, tucked away in a beautiful area of the South Hams, a haven for summer visitors with its prime location along the South west coast.

Today is one of the first cold and crisp days of December, such a pleasant change from the weeks of rain and grey overcast skies of the last few weeks, there is little wind to speak of, a perfect day for walking.

The views from the beach across to bigbury bay are superb, the sea rolls gently along the shoreline, almost a whisper as it goes back and forth along the fine sand.

I have spent countless hours here in Hope Cove, it was always a place I headed for when I had my first ten speed racing bike as a young teenager, my first taste of having my own transport and a sense of independence.

I would cycle here on a Sunday afternoon, on arrival, I would buy an ice cream and a cold drink from a small shop that is now an art gallery, and enjoy both while sitting on the sea wall before heading off for another few miles along the quieter back roads.

Bantham is a little further along the coast, a popular destination for surfers, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Burgh island, famously known as a popular holiday destination for Agatha Christie.

Bantham is notorious for its fast currents and riptides, many a daytripper has been caught out here, one of the reasons lifeguards are employed throughout the summer season.

At low tide, evidence of the tidal maelstrom can be seen in the sand, these were emphasized more today by the sunshine and shadow, great textures for the photographic eye to admire.

There is just something about a stroll along a beach on days like today, it invigorates the soul and and makes the senses come alive.

With the temperature dropping and the light slowly fading, it will take just over an hour to travel the fifty or so miles back to Exeter, where the post outing cuppa will be enjoyed while going through today’s images.

Plan B or even C

About half way through my working week, I look at the weather forecast for the coming days, especially Sundays and Mondays, my days off.
The last few weeks have been nothing more than grey murk or rain, so seeing the possibility of some welcome sunshine, I had planned to take a hike to some local woods, to capture what may be left of the autumn colourscape and a serene walk enjoying nature.

My usual Sunday routine after getting home from my nightshift just after 6am, is a couple hours nap, then up and at it, but a busy week and barely 3 hours sleep the day before saw me sleep through my wake up call and beyond but was still keen to get out with the camera.

As I enjoy a light brunch, I look through my notebook of photographic ideas, and the notion of a themed shoot of patterns and textures seems my likely course of action, a walk into the city will provide more than enough subject matter.

Guess who forgot that it was the not only the first Sunday in December but also payday weekend?
The High street was heaving, yet there was a real buzz around the city, the local buskers were out in force, the Christmas market was in full swing, it really was looking a lot like Christmas!

Up until a few months ago, I would have wanted to get out of the crowds at the first opportunity but today I embraced the atmosphere and started to look for opportunities.
I am not the most prolific of portrait photographers but today was different, I wanted to capture the smiles on the faces of those watching a brilliant dance group that were entertaining in a local shopping centre.

I have never enjoyed street photography as much as I did today, chatting with the onlookers and the few other photographers that were there, it was a very rewarding few hours.

I may have missed my date with the woods today but plan C has given me some very happy moments to remember.

Another Monday meander

Monday morning, I am up at an early hour after having a rather lazy Sunday, I have good intentions to get out and about for the day.

The day is set to be cold and bright, so set about looking at train and bus timetables.
Just twenty minutes later my train tickets paid for online, my destination is Plymouth, a chance for some street photography and another excuse to walk around the historic Barbican area of the city.

I am travelling with minimal gear today, just the 100F and a couple of batteries, no tripods, no filters, Plymouth always offers plenty of photographic opportunities.

Arriving at the train station, the sun casts some interesting shadows around the platform, the day is under way.

It takes about an hour from Exeter to Plymouth, passing through Newton Abbot and Totnes, it is a very pleasant journey passing through the countryside until reaching my destination.

As usual, I head towards Plymouth Hoe, with the intention of paying a visit to Smeatons tower, the predecessor to the Eddystone lighthouse, which was painstakingly dismantled from its location on the Eddystone rocks and reassembled on land in 1884.
My ideas of taking some high up shots of the Hoe from the tower are scuppered by the site of huge fences and scaffolding surrounding the tower,winter maintenance is under way it would appear.

From here, I walk just a short distance to one of the many small kiosks offering snacks and hot beverages, a cup of tea sat in the sunshine will do me nicely for a few minutes thank you.

Sun and shadow will be a theme in today’s proceedings, a day where opportunities present themselves willingly, a day where I will happily just meander to seek them out.

My time here in Plymouth is soon over but my day will continue back in Exeter, where the annual Christmas market is now under way.
The early part of the week will be a good opportunity to have a more relaxed wander around without the weekend crowds while I take a few more photos.

It’s beginning to look a lot like ….

With Halloween and Guy Fawkes night only just behind us, mid November sees the seemingly ever earlier build up to the festive season.
My home city of Exeter is no exception, the festive lights were put up before the end of October for last week’s official switch on.

While I feel hesitant to celebrate the festive season too early, I do look forward to the annual Christmas market, held in the grounds of Exeter’s magnificent cathedral.

As a self confessed and unashamed foodie, I love the atmosphere and aroma’s that come from the myriad of food stalls and of course, as a photography addict  I like to take my camera when I visit.

I like to arrive just as dusk approaches, the coloured lighting of the market stalls add a lot of character to potential images.

Armed with just my trusty 100f, I make a lap of the market to scout possibilities, usually lingering around the various food stalls, offering such culinary delights as Thai curries, chillies, wraps, burritos and bratwurst to name just a few.

The delicate spicy aromas of the curry shack hit my senses first, then the sweet smell of cinnamon from the mulled wine stall, then of course the strains of Christmas playlist can be heard over the PA system.

A few of the stall holders are more than happy to pose for photos, the simple act of asking for photos has been something I have done for the first time on a regular basis this year, in the past, I may have attempted more candid shots but been very self conscious, now I feel that I have earned a shot by asking, often offering to post on their social media accounts in return.

The market will remain until a week before Christmas, plenty of time for me to sample even more delights.

Dodging the rain

It’s a Monday morning, the familiar sound of rain beating against the window wakes me just after six, I keep the darkness of the early hour shut behind the curtains while I check my e-mails and the weather forecast while I relish a bacon sandwich.

Once again, the forecast is for heavy showers but today’s trip to Burrator reservoir to capture the autumn colours will go ahead as planned, this is a trip I always enjoy, something of an annual pilgrimage.

Burrator Reservoir stands on the edge of Dartmoor, not far from Yelverton, it was completed in 1898 and expanded in 1929 and as with the other Dartmoor reservoirs, has a walkable route around the perimeter, today’s walk is just 3.5 miles.

 

On arrival, a recent rain shower has just passed, leaving that lovely ‘between showers’ light to reflect upon the water and bathe the trees in its ambient glow, my first shots are in the bag, time to see what the morning will bring.

The short walk along the road to the main footpath is under an avenue of trees, either side, the road is coated in golden leaf litter, a lovely contrast to the dark surface of the tarmac road.

The reflection of the blue skies on the water add another splash of colour to the trees near the waters edge, I take another few shots while watching the impending rain clouds as they threaten another heavy downpour.

In amongst my shelter of trees, the skies have not so much opened, more torn asunder, as hailstones fall, and a wind that has come from nowhere denudes a few more branches of their leaves.

In amongst my arboreal shelter, I spot a tree with a cluster of fungi, as the squall finally passes, I grab a shot and walk a little further into the woodland, where the sun once again emerges from behind the now well dispersed clouds.

At the two mile mark, is a favourite spot of mine to take stop for some long exposure shots of the water.
Rocks coated in a lush green cloak of lichen sprinkled with fallen leaves make for an archetypal autumn scene, this type of shot is something of a photographic cliche but I am happy to sit by the water and just enjoy the moment.

After enjoying the moment, or thirty of them to be exact, it’s time to walk the final stretch of this years visit to Burrator and to head back for a spot of lunch and then home.

It is over my post walk meal that I go through my images, looking forward to seeing them on the bigger screen, also  padding out the ideas from a few words I had written for today’s blog.

Back at home, I make a note to hopefully visit again before next autumn, in reality, it probably won’t happen, the ratio of places I want to visit, compared to the time I have to do them all is not mathematically possible, so I guess I will see you again next November Burrator!

Shooting with the ‘F’

100f

I have had my ‘F’ for 12 months now, I have used it exclusively this year as my main camera for my personal photography, so I thought I would write something of a user experience review, with my take on this little gem.

On my photographic journey, I have come to realise that I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, a lot of my images were shot with either 35mm or 50mm lenses, even before I bought my first X100s a few years back, it is the ‘S’ that originated my dalliance with Fujifilm cameras.

My own story is like so many others, the ‘F’ was bought as a secondary camera, to take out on the days when I did not want to carry a bag with a heavy camera body and lenses, then slowly but surely, it was the ‘F’ that was being taken out exclusively.

This is a camera that you can trust to take some stellar images, the 35mm full frame equivalent focal length is so versatile, it is a camera that is a joy to use in so many ways.

Fujifilm are renowned for their colour science technology, I really like the colour rendering it produces, its out of cameras JPEGS are superb, if you prefer not to shoot RAW and post process, I will often shoot JPEG only and upload to a mobile device and post to social media, not something I thought I would ever do in the past.

As well as its portability, the ‘F’ is silent when shooting, a real asset for street photography, it’s leaf shutter offers nothing more than a whisper, so much smoother than the shutter slap of larger cameras that tell the world you have just taken a photo!

Like its older siblings, the ‘F’ has a built in 3 stop ND filter, ideal for shooting wide open on bright days, I have assigned this to the front custom button of my camera, for ease of use.

One of the the features of the X100 series that has always appealed, are the physical shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the top plate, this is so much better than diving into menu systems in my opinion.

I am not keen on the integrated shutter speed, ISO dial, it is a little too fiddly for me, but the option to programme ISO control to the front command dial is available, this is what I use.

It is possible also, to assign custom control to the 3 of the four way control dials on the rear of the camera, which brings me to the one thing that I hope Fuji will change in the future.

The top ‘drive’ button is assigned to control the use of film or exposure bracketing and other custom shooting styles, I find this rather too easy to press inadvertently and find I am in panorama or video mode when I want to take a shot, as I use these features so little, if at all, perhaps this could go back to being a dedicated button on the other side of the camera as it used to be?

Of all the cameras I have bought and changed over the last few years, this one will be staying until it ceases to be, until it has shuffled off its mortal shutter, such is the enjoyment I get from using it….

 

Exploring Bristol

I had set myself a couple of photography goals this year, one being my ongoing one camera one lens project, the other was to travel further afield to photograph and explore towns and cities I had not really explored fully, if at all.

I had started well enough in March, my 2 day trip to London was very enjoyable, since then, a combination of various things (along with the constant allure of Dartmoor) had sidelined more regular outings further afield until yesterday.

Having booked my bus ticket a few days before, Monday morning sees me heading to catch an early bus to Bristol, I happen to choose the morning with the first autumn frosts of 2019, as I venture out just before 6am towards the bus stop.

The journey will take a couple of hours and as the day breaks, I admire the amazing hues of orange in the sky, just a shame I could not ask the driver to stop for a few minutes to take some photos!

At eight fifteen, the bus arrives at the coach station, I have until late afternoon to explore the city before my return journey home.
I have a few ideas of where I want to go today but over a welcome breakfast, I finalise and abridge an unrealistic itinerary.

Bristol is well known for its urban artwork, I am barely two minutes into today’s foray when I see a perfect opportunity for some street images….

As usual for me with any place I am unfamiliar with, I spend a couple of hours just looking for potential ideas, then revisit later in the day, one such possibility is St. Nicholas market, where the stall holders are just starting to set up for the day, I will definitely come back here when it is busier!

My walk takes me towards the quayside, I came here a few years ago but had little time to photograph as much as I wanted, I will rectify that this morning.
Tall cranes, stand like sentinels along the dockside, my favourite being the old steam crane at the far end, all relics of Bristol’s maritime heritage.

I considered going to the SS Great Britain museum, after chatting to one of the custodians, a minimum of 2 hours is needed to barely scratch the surface of their exhibits, I will come here on another day, when I have more time, a perfect excuse for another trip, if I ever needed one.

By mid morning, according to my mobile app, I have covered 6 miles or so, time for another tea break, and a chance to write a few ideas for today’s blog, while they are still fresh in my mind.
My immediate thought is in the contrast of yesterday’s trip to the woods, a place of tranquillity, compared to the hustle and bustle of  today, yet both very enjoyable.

I head back towards the market that I had spotted earlier, the aroma of herbs and spices float in the air, tantalising taste buds.
I have timed this just right, a real hive of activity as the last of the lunchtime crowds walk away with bao buns or rice bowls, curries and burrito’s.

Two of the traders are happy to let me take photos when I ask, I prefer this approach in markets, as they will often take time to pose a ‘working’ shot, as they tell me about their business.

I cover around seven or eight miles today, yet I feel that I have barely scratched the surface, there appears to be photo opportunities wherever I turn.

Time has slipped away all too quickly,  I have an hour before my bus departs, just time to go and find an area of graffiti I had spotted earlier.

The next time I come to Bristol, it will be for a couple of days, I would like to photograph the city at night time, as well as go to the places I could not cover today, in the meantime, I will enjoy looking back at the memories I have made today.