As we approach the mid way point in the UK’s second lockdown, my recent photo walks have all been based around a radius of around seven or so miles, making the most of the many footpaths that follow the River Exe, from canal to estuary, or just a quick walk as far as the quayside and back again.
This weekend has been a case of the latter, grey, uninspiring mornings have allowed the luxury of a lie in but I always feel that I have wasted my weekend if I do not walk at least a few miles.
Walking towards the city centre at just after nine, it feels like a Sunday morning as ‘unessential’ shops remain closed, a permanent reminder of 2020’s legacy.
Normally at this time of year, the festive build up begins, the high street would be full of shoppers looking for gifts for family and friends, the cathedral green would be a mini village of chalets offering hand made gifts and such like from local businesses or a selection of foods from around the world, but not this year….
My ambling takes me to the Mill on the Exe pub, or at least its car park, where I will often stand and just watch the water flow past, the sound of rushing water has often been a source of relaxation, today is no exception.
My first images today are a few long exposures to capture the water movement, I must have taken this shot hundreds of times in my twenty years of residing in Exeter, yet I care not, I love to see the river in all its moods throughout the seasons.
As usual for a Saturday morning the canal path is used by many, runners, cyclists and dog walkers, all out for some fresh air, my progress somewhat slower than the others as I slowly mooch along the path looking for my next shots.
I spend a little time watching the world pass, as I enjoy a flask of tea I prepared earlier. Refulled and ready to continue, I make my back to the main high street as I head for home.
I miss the hustle and bustle of a normal Saturday, the groups of teenagers shopping for designer clothes, the buskers in their allotted places are missing, the coffee connoisseurs no longer sit at outdoor tables and catch up with their friends and family, no carrier bag laden consumers moving from shop to shop to spend their hard earned cash.
Today was not my biggest walk ever but am glad I have had my fix of shutter therapy while getting out of the house for a couple hours, I shall look forward to my next fresh brew, while I contemplate on how I may start this latest blog.
I had made the most of a bright and sunny Friday bonus day off to get out for my weekly photo walk, knowing that the rest of the weekend was likely to be unsettled.
Saturday was as forecast, wind and rain for most of the day but it looked as if there may be a break much later in the day, a chance for another night time shoot around Exeter city centre.
On a normal Saturday night at just after 7pm, the streets would be full of people having enjoyed a day out and looking for a place to eat, or those looking to meet with friends in one of the many city city centre pubs or clubs but this is 2020, a year that is far from normal.
With the second national lockdown going into its second week, the city is like a ghost town, more like a Monday night in January instead of a Saturday just a few weeks from the festive countdown.
For all the adversity this year has brought, a spirit of ‘the show must go on’ prevails, as the Christmas lights have been turned on, almost as an act of defiance in the face of covid, normally I would be the first to say that it is too early, this year I welcome the cheer that they offer.
The eerie silence is disturbed only briefly by the sounds of buses going about their business, virtually empty chariots going to places where nobody waits.
While taxis lie still at their ranks, it is the takeaway delivery driver that is king of the road, knights on two wheels, delivering Saturday night treats to the many, one of my favourite images of tonight’s outing being one such rider awaiting his next delivery.
I seek out a few compositions for some light trails, but there is little traffic around of course but do manage one or two, so decide to turn my attention to some black and white shots around the city.
The black and white shots are pretty much straight out of camera Jpeg’s from the Ricoh GR3, the high contrast preset is a favourite of mine.
Returning home to the inevitable brew, I see that I have walked around 5 miles tonight, not bad considering I just intended an hour or so, that ended up as a 3 hour mooch.
I have found that seeing a place in the dark offers so many different ways of seeing the familiar, the speed of a car passing a zebra crossing, the shadows and light of a car park staircase are not things I would consider during the day.
With the longer hours of darkness here for the duration, I will look to embrace the chances they offer but I will still look forward to those longer, lighter days at the end of March.
Sunday morning, the only morning when I tend not to set an alarm, yet still I wake at around 4am, my futile attempts at a lie in are appeased by the thought of my first cuppa, while I lazily thumb through the weekend papers or read one of the three books I currently have on the go.
A quick look out of the window and of course it is still dark, the rain covered road and pavements reflecting the lights of the few cars that pass by at this early hour.
Regardless of the weather, I have planned to spend an hour or three by the sea, a little shutter therapy is a welcome Sunday pastime, so make sure my camera bag is ready and batteries charged.
The earlier rain has cleared, but the overcast skies still show some intent, a strong breeze offers plenty of wave movement with the high tide just about to turn.
Dawlish Warren offers so many photo opportunities on days like this, naturally I look to try a couple of long exposures to capture the drama in both clouds and sea.
Setting aside my tripod, I then decide to make my first attempt at the concept known as ICM photography. ICM or intentional camera movement is where the camera is deliberately moved during exposure time, so an exposure of a second or more is recommended to get the desired effect, the effect essentially being the polar opposite of the sharpness and definition photographers strive for, a blurred ‘arty’ looking image, that implies an image rather than defining it.
I have an ND filter attached to my camera lens, at F5.6 I have an exposure time of just over a second, so begin my experiments in earnest, the first 5 attempts are not brilliant as I try different speeds with the camera movements. On my 6th attempt, I have something that looks interesting if nothing else but it is a concept I will have more attempts at in the future.
Putting the filters away, my aim is just to stroll to the far end of the Warren and take the footpath around the nature reserve side of the beach, a long slow trudge through the soft sand that is the pathway.
Naturally there are several other people with the same idea of spending some time at the beach, a chance to to do some ‘street’ photography by the sea.
Over the coming days I will go through the days shoot, the shots posted here are my favourites from the day.
In the last eighteen months, I have occasionally set myself small challenges while out on my photo walks, I find that setting a theme or challenge helps me become more creative in my shot making when shooting for my own pleasure.
I am becoming more accustomed to my more compact camera setup, I have been taking full advantage of the G9’s twin card slots, shooting Raw only on one card, JPEG on the other, just to see how the different in camera picture styles are rendered.
One particular style I am using more often than not, is the LmonochromeD setting, which produces some good quality Black and white images, that require little or no post processing.
My G9 is coupled with my Ricoh GR3, which also has some very good monochrome simulations, my favourite being the high contrast black and white. The ricoh also has the added advantage of shooting 1:1 aspect ratio in RAW, shooting ‘squares’ is something I like to do on a regular basis.
Last week’s photo outing to Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton saw plenty of changeable weather, bright and sunny one minute, then some rather nice moody clouds scuttling along in the wind, perfect for some black and white shots.
More and more these days, I am enjoying spending less time editing, which in theory, means I could spend more time out with the camera …..