Tuesday on the moor

An opportunity to go walking on Dartmoor is rarely passed up when it is offered, yesterday morning was no exception, so just after 9am, I am heading to a well photographed part of the moor, Windy Post.

Also known as Beckamoor cross or Windy stone, the stone is thought to have been placed here in the 16th century, however there are other schools of thought that suggest otherwise.
The cross is well known for it’s slight leaning, probably from the Dartmoor ponies that have seen it as a convenient scratching post.

The waterway flowing alongside the cross is the Grimstone and Sortridge leat, a handy watering hole for the ponies and sheep that graze the area.

There seemed to be a lot more Dartmoor ponies in the area today, also a good few foals shadowing mum, one or two curious ones very keen to introduce themselves, some not quite so confident.

While the day was not particularly sunny, it was very humid, I was thankful I had taken a bigger water bottle for today’s amble, as usual I was quite happy just to sit on a rock and take in the scenery, Dartmoor never fails to fill the senses with pleasure.

After taking the usual long exposure shots, it was a joy to watch the equine residents come to the leat to take on water, the moody skies providing the perfect backdrop.

 

 

Of course, I came back with the usual large shipment of photos, the above are my pick of the bunch.

Early starts

 

One of the things I enjoy most about photography this time of year, is the early mornings.
I admit to certain reservations when an alarm is set for around 3:30am at this time of year but that is soon replaced by a feeling of pleasure as I will be one of one of the few fortunate people that will watch the day awaken.

Sunrises have been very few and far between this summer so far but it’s about more than a sunrise for me, it is listening to an avian chorus as they welcome the new day, that feeling of having that space and time all to yourself.

Yesterday morning was an early start, I was meeting a friend who enjoys fly fishing, he asked me some time ago if I would like to go along one morning, a chance I will seldom refuse, so at 4am with his car packed with his fishing gear and my camera bag, we watched the last of the darkness fade as we headed to one of my favourite places on Dartmoor, Fingle bridge.

Fingle Bridge takes its name from Fingle Brook, a minor tributary that flows into the River Teign, while Lucas was on the search for Sea trout and Brown trout, I was looking forward to a gentle stroll along the river bank to take a few shots.

 

I was duty bound to bring a couple of ND filters for some long exposures but the grey skies and shade from the trees along with the built in 3 stop ND filter on the X100F were enough to produce the effect I wanted, 10 second exposures are more than adequate for the fast flowing water here.

Until now, my visits to Fingle Bridge had been saved until mid October, waiting to capture the hues of autumn as nature prepares for the colder months of winter, for this visit, the scene was of lush green leaves and just the sound of the gentle breeze whispering through the foliage and the sound of water flowing over rock, a perfect combination for an early Sunday morning.

As the hours ticked by, it was apparent the day had truly woken, dogs were getting their first walk of the day, my camera bag was subject to much canine curiosity, then aloofness as they discovered it was not full of treats as they had hoped.

I arrived back home just after 11am, I had already been up for over 7 hours, it was time for a well earned cup of tea, a bacon butty and a browse through my mornings efforts.

Bonus outings

Generally my photo trips are arranged a few days beforehand, a plan is then stitched together with places to visit on the way, or on the way back home later in the day.
Occasionally these planned days may get postponed, leaving a feeling of disappointment but the flip side of these days, are the ones where an outing is somehow squeezed into a day unexpectedly.

Yesterday was one such day, even if it was for just a few minutes.
One of the hobbies I have had for some years, is computers, programming to a very basic level and building them from scratch, it was this latter skill that was called upon yesterday, a gaming PC to build from scratch for an old school friend.
I really enjoy the building process, these days, it is seems much easier, the process I like less, is the software installation.

The build went smoothly, the operating system was up and running, I was expecting to spend the next 2-3 hours installing application after application, until my friends wife said she was happy to finish this off.
Not one to argue with this turn of luck, I had some errands to run in town, and decided I would take my camera for a few street shots……

A few street shots with a fifteen minute time limit, another creativity challenge I occasionally set myself from time to time… oh yes, I had also decided to shoot jpeg only and only allow cropping as my post process.

Anyone that uses a Fujifilm camera will know that the Fuji Jpeg engine is legendary for its output, also that with in camera settings, it is possible to produce some lovely contrasty images, a look that I tend to edit in a lot of my images anyway.

 

I took about 20 -25 photos in my allotted time and yes, I am very self disciplined the last shot was taken in the last 10 seconds.
The shots above are my pick of the bunch, the bright conditions made for some good reflections and shadows.

Despite the shortage of the time I had available for this mini shoot, it was just as much fun as the longer planned trips I make.

New tricks

When I was at school, I did reasonably well at the subjects I enjoyed, while playing the class clown in those I found a little less interesting, I respond better to real life examples than text book scenarios.

Trigonometry is the prime example, the text book always asked for the angles of a shadow when a ladder was against a wall, for me, this was the mathematical equivalent of pushing a disliked food item around a plate with a fork, then, computers made an appearance into schools and I quickly became a fan of programming during lunch time computer club and as I became better at the concept of programming, I wanted to do more.
I wanted to write my name in a circle, I found that I needed trig for this and the subject became easy, I had found a real example for maths required, I COULD do this!

It is this flaw in my mindset that prevents me from taking to new ideas straight away, but I get there eventually.

More relevant to my interest in photography, I had never really embraced mobile phone photography, I had a ‘proper’ camera, why would I need to use the mobile phone?
Again my own reluctance is key, I have only had a smartphone in the last couple of years, a phone was for texting and calling, a PC was for emails and my camera was for photography.
Slowly but surely, my inner dinosaur has evolved and I am at the deep end in the modern tech pool, enjoying my new education in social media and mobile apps.

It was watching a photography video that I was introduced to Hipstamatic, an IPhone app that produces vintage photo effects with a use of simulated lenses and ‘films’, I bought the app and a few add ons, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this could be, something different from my usual idea that all photos have to be pin sharp to be worthy of publishing.

With a number of different editing apps installed on my tablet, I am embracing the mobility this gives me, I do not always want to sit at a desktop editing images, the fact that any photo I take on my phone will be ready for editing in an instant is so handy. this dog, has learned some new tricks.

 

A trip to Fishtown

Brixham is one of those towns that I visit for photo outings on a regular basis, it is just one of those places that maintains a sense of community and always offers a warm welcome to its visitors.

Known as Briseham in the Domesday book, Brixham was also the landing place of William of Orange during the glorious revolution in 1688, some of the street names still bear the names of its Dutch history.

Famous for the design of the Brixham trawler, the design was adopted by boat builders throughout the UK, this boat design helped form the fishing fleets of Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft.

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To the left, the modern Brixham trawler, on the right, one of those lovingly restored.

Brixham was featured in a fascinating documentary called Fishtown, on the Discovery channel a few years ago, an insight into the workings of a busy fishing town and its residents.

Typical of any seaside town, the shops around the quay side are dotted with the usual cafes, bars and eateries but more notably, the number of small shacks, selling the fresh fish and shellfish, cockles, prawns and crabmeat from the fish market just around the corner.

From the photography perspective, it is just such a picturesque town, the brightly coloured houses on the hill, the fishing paraphernalia and those beautifully restored iconic fishing trawlers of yesteryear will keep me coming back for more.

Six months of 35mm

I do not normally set myself any new years resolutions, I know that by the end of January, the promise to eat no more sweets and biscuits will have been broken but I did think I could achieve something relevant to photography.

My GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) had taken a hold, it was time reduce the amount of gear and challenge my photographic ability and not my bank account.

By the first week in January, I had made the first of many social media posts declaring my intentions, there, it was out, I was committed, I was to spend the next 12 months shooting only 35mm.

The camera I had chosen is the Fujifilm X100F, a rangefinder style camera that has style in abundance and can be carried around all day with no issues.
With a much lighter camera bag and no worries about which lenses to pack for any given shoot, as long as I have a couple of spare batteries charged I am good to go at an instant.

I have discussed in previous blogs how I feel that I am at my creative best with prime focal lengths but since embarking upon this challenge, I have become more open minded with my photography ethos, I will explain.

Until this year, I had always shot RAW images exclusively, it’s the law, everyone says you have to….
Hands up, I will admit to being one of those who would sneer at the thought of anyone shooting JPEG’s, even with my previous Fuji cameras (xpro-1 xe-1), I had never thought to even try.
I may be late to the JPEG party but at least I have now arrived, with the many film simulations offered within the camera’s custom settings, I am happy to experiment with various set ups, a part of my previous fuji cameras I had missed out on through my own stubbornness.

I liked the analogy given by Fuji ambassador Kevin Mullins, wedding and documentary photographer, when he says ‘do you not trust your camera to produce good images?’

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I still shoot RAW for paid assignments but for my personal use, I am having fun trying new recipes, some have been good, others consigned to digital dustbin.
I find myself using the aspect ratio settings more as well for the Jpegs, deciding to shoot 1:1 images for an entire shoot can be fun.

The biggest and most enjoyable part of the project, is that I am using a camera long enough to get to know its quirks and foibles.
Many of my fellow 100F users have such things as a touch screen or tilting screen on their wish list, I have one, please can we remove the drive option from the D-pad and allow it to become a custom button or menu item, I am frequently going from single shot to other shooting modes because of where my thumb rests on the camera, other than that, I simply love using this little beaut of a camera.

In much the same way that I was inspired to do this challenge, a few of my fellow photographers have expressed an interest in doing  a self imposed project themselves, it is good to think we can share ideas in our own development and  creativity.

I am always eager to read about other peoples challenges, I am already thinking about what I will do next year.

Different views

I am often asked what I enjoy most about photography, a simple enough question but with a little consideration there are actually several things that feed my desire to keep going out with the camera.

Going to a new destination is always an enjoyable experience, I spend a few hours looking online, to see what the attractions of that particular destination may be, writing down a few of the ones I would like to photograph myself, saving the ones I did not get as an excuse to visit again another day.
Of course, I will play the tourist and get a couple of the usual photos but I also like to have my own take on a popular photo, a different view.

Going to a place regularly is seen for me, as an opportunity to explore beyond the usual images, a composition that seemed mundane one one day can be seen as photo worthy on another, mindset and weather often the key.

Another facet of photography I find valuable, are the ‘non camera’ days, where I read about or watch videos on the people that have helped to inspire me, keeping my own creativity alive, which leads me to probably my most enjoyable part of my photo forays… experimenting.

Experimenting is perhaps using a vintage lens found in a charity shop, using a 50mm lens wide open for an entire trip, getting to know my camera inside out.
Some of my favourite images are the more obscure shots, perhaps a section of barbed wire framed with the said 50mm lens, a single flower head backlit with the early sun.

Finding that different view, the more unique angle probably stems from my enjoyment of using prime lenses, I have always had a 35mm and 50mm lens in my armoury, zooms are great but make me lazy, using my feet to find a shot helps to find that ideal angle.

The fact that I have been using a fixed lens (35mm ) camera as a project this year is also nurturing my enthusiasm, some say they would find this restricting, I have found it liberating, no feeling of thinking I should change lenses, just get out and find what I can.

The above images are a few of my personal favourites over the last 18 months , many taken with a vintage nifty fifty but most taken during my one camera project this year.