To the lighthouse

One of the things I most enjoy about visiting a new town, or  location for photography, is to find the popular destinations and to take my images, hopefully from a more original angle but how many of us visit places that are close to home?

I had lived in Exeter for ten years before I made my first of now many visits to the city’s iconic cathedral, my previous visits had been with school trips, the local museum is just one other popular venue, that being on my doorstep, is so easy to overlook.

I am trying to redress this imbalance, slowly but surely, in recent years I have had National trust memberships to access some of the many properties in the South west, as well as making full use of our local steam railway stations and other local attractions.

I have been very fortunate to have lived near the coast for many years, walking the coast path at all times of year is such a pleasant way to indulge the joys of the great outdoors.

Just this week, after a visit to my home town of Salcombe, the journey back to Exeter, would include a visit to Dartmouth and Start point and its lighthouse.

This stretch of coastline has claimed many a ship over the years but it was not until 1836 that the lighthouse, designed by James Walker was built to warn passing ships of the treacherous coastline.

The lighthouse, as so many these days, is fully automated but this does not make them a closed shop to visitors, opening up to the public during summer months, adds welcome funding to the Trinity house coffers.

I normally visit Start Point in the winter months, a perfect alibi for not having made a visit here before but today, with the doors open and a tour about to start, I clocked up another local venue on my tick list.

With another 10 or 11 people in the tour group, photographic opportunities were few, but I was also keen to hear the history of the lighthouse from the well informed guide.
Until this week, I never knew that each lighthouse had a unique light signal, each one of a designated duration.

The early keepers had a long and busy day, maintenance being the biggest part of their roles in keeping the light in working order, there were also regular weather reports to write, and signalling of passing ships with weather and any other information they required.

 

A handful of photos of the footpath down to the lighthouse, the views around the bay and a couple of interior shots of the lighthouse.

The tour lasted for about 45 minutes, time and money well spent, I have come away with a renewed determination to visit more of the attractions that lie on my doorstep.

My journey into street photography

Up until about three years ago, I would never have considered doing street photography, my innate dislike of large crowds in confined spaces was one of the contributing factors, any weekend errands I needed to do, were done at around opening time, to facilitate a quick escape back home.

My first fujifilm 100 series changed that, a used X100s was coming with me wherever I went, the  dynamic had changed, I was about to embrace a whole new genre.

I’m not saying that I embraced street photography overnight but I was beginning to see the possibilities open up for the days I could not get to the moor or coast.

It was a steep learning curve, I was very conscious of the fact that I was dipping my toes into unknown territory, my style at first was very much point and hope, I had not yet realised the importance of the exposure triangle but we all need to start somewhere.

It began to click on one particularly wet day, I thought it may be good to try and get some water reflections on the pavements, I was stood under a shop awning waiting for a shot of a person in a brightly coloured raincoat, or somebody carrying an unusual umbrella, I was learning to bide my time.

How times have changed, these days, I think nothing of asking people for a photo, if I find them interesting, involving the potential subject makes for a much more natural shot but I do get a buzz from the candid shots that hopefully  tell a story.

 

Most of my street photography is done in my home town of Exeter, in a matter of a few minutes, I can be in town and back home again after just a couple hours but I like to venture further whenever I can.

I had such an opportunity just this week, a trip to the bustling market town of Totnes, well known for its ‘alternative’ lifestyle, it is a great place to capture the essence of street photography.
My time here would be brief, so instead of my usual walk by the riverside, I headed straight for the town centre, where with a combination of the summer visitors and the local market, I was bound to get something.

My first point of call would be ‘Narnia’, a store selling retro merchandise that has a bright yellow facade and a feast of treasures on display, a chance for some window shoppers here.
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The local  market was also in full swing, a myriad of colours, and an array of smells wafting on the breeze from the food vendors.

Totnes is one of those towns with hidden alleys and side roads, slowly but surely, I am finding new ones, in the pursuit of new subject matter.

 

 

In just over an hour, I got some shots I was very happy with, for me, ‘street’ is not necessarily about photographing people, it is about trying to tell a story of the places I visit, attempting to convey the atmosphere I felt as I walk with camera always at the ready.

Another early start

My alarm was set for 4am but at three thirty I am already awake, keen to get another sunrise along the coast.
I am happy to drink the first brew of the day but food is beyond me at this time of day, I will treat myself later when I arrive back into town.

With my camera gear already packed, I slip quietly out into the early darkness, to catch the first train to Starcross.
My train departs at just after 5:15am, I will reach my destination a good half an hour before sunrise at 06:15, time to find a spot to await the awakening of the day.

On my arrival, the  first signs of dawn are already there, a beautiful red hue paints the scene with its warmth, I think I have picked a good day.

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The tide is well out,  I look for different locations along the shoreline, for possible shots, being careful to avoid the random areas of soft estuary mud.

As the light brightens, the silhouettes of geese, gathered by the waters edge are visible, their presence had been noted moments earlier, their cackling the only noise above the otherwise tranquil start to the day.

I have been here just about 20 minutes but already the palette in the sky is changing, a few shots already in the bank, it is such a pleasure to watch the morning unfold.

Initially, I was hoping to catch the sunrise on a rising tide but the light reflections on the shore and mud flats give added texture to the images, I am spoiled for choice with the rapidly changing scene.

With a glow of bright orange in the distance, the red and orange make way for the yellow and gold carnival to begin, how glad I am that I decided to choose this morning for my shoot!

An hour has flown by, my intention is to hike back to Exeter for breakfast, a nine mile walk, so it is time to pack away the tripod, but will leave the camera close to hand for any shots along the way.

I finish the last of the flask of tea I had brought and make my way home, slowly of course, this morning’s sunlight has a warm ambience as it caresses the landscape, one of my best morning shoots in a long time

Above, a handful of shots I took  as I hiked back to Exeter, to a well earned breakfast and a meeting up of friends.

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.