After the storms and rain of last weekend, I hope to make up for the lack of milage on my weekend camera walks with a trip to Dartmoor for my 14th 50mm outing.
It is a bright and breezy Saturday morning, sure enough my destination is the former tin mining hamlet of Whiteworks, where a few ruins remain to explore and the site of one of my favourite trees of Dartmoor.
Once again, I decide to use my vintage lenses on this trip, my pentacon 50mm 1.8 and my Super Takumar f1.4 lenses, the canon 50mm gets to have a day off today as I am reaching more often for the vintage glass.
Today will be a waiting game for some shots as the sunlight is regularly snatched away by ever thickening clouds, while I wait, I walk around the scene for other potential images, this also serves to keep warm as there is a keen edge to the temperature in this open landscape.
Finding the site of ‘my tree’, I look to find a variety of shots but the light dictates that I will make a similar compostition from my previous visit, I love the defiance of this tree amongst the other desolation.
If it is not the trees that draw my eye, it is the texture of the stone in the remains of boundary walls, some lie hidden amongst the coarse grass, offering that balance of colour and texture I seek out time and time again.
In what feels like the blink of an eye,two hours have flown by, as I have immersed myself in this wonderful landscape, it is only the thought of my flask of hot tea that makes me amble my way back, even then, I am always on the look out for more images.
As the weekend storms offer a little respite for a few hours at least, a walk along the beach at Budleigh Salterton is a welcome chance to get out with the camera for a few hours.
With the rows of beach huts in winter storage, the sea front is empty of the colour and character they add to the typical British seaside .
The wintry skies still have a little post storm moodiness, the occasional flurry of rain disappearing as quickly as they come as I amble my way along the pebbled beach.
Waves pound and churn the shoreline, a mixture of pure white form with the dark brown shingle making for a cold and uninviting sea, yet I have always loved the sound waves as they crash clumsily to shore, followed by that ‘swoosh’ as the smaller pebbles are dragged back into the watery maelstrom.
One or two of the beach side cafes are open, offering welcome havens of hot refreshments and temporary shelter for my fellow walkers, I exchange pleasantries with those who choose to sit outside and watch the world go by, how typically British that we revert to type and discuss the weather!
My favourite part of Budleigh beach is where the local fishermen have their lobster posts and other piscatorial paraphernalia, rich pickings of texture, shape and colour for the photographer’s eye.
My usual Friday outing was rudely interrupted by Storm Eunice gatecrashing her way into what would have been day twelve of my 50mm challenge, the advice to stay put was heeded as the wind brought a maelstrom of destruction across the South west of the UK.
Saturday’s forecast was for a brief respite before the next weather system was set to bring even more of the same, a small window in which to stretch my legs and go in search of some local photo opportunities.
Just after nine thirty AM on a Saturday morning and the city centre is not as busy as it may be, I think the out of town D.I.Y centres may have more custom today, replacement fences and such for the necessary repairs after Eunice’s unwelcome visit.
The first half hour of my walk offers a little sunshine, which is soon enveloped in a blanket of moody grey, and the first rain shower of many throughout today.
Of the few shots I take, the last few will almost certainly be perfect candidates for my monochrome collection, with the light fading, for a couple of frames I manage a second and a half exposure to blur the movement of the few shoppers that have ventured out, unwitting protagonists in my abstract scene of the high street, the rest capture another Saturday morning in my home city.
While most of my current blog posts are centering around my 50mm for fifty days project, I will continue to pick out the odd single frame and give a little of the back story behind the shot.
I think it is fair to say that I have undergone a metaphorical ‘reset’ in my photographic journey in the last few months, in as much as that I have made a conscious decision to carry less gear on my photo shoots, partly due to my ongoing project but mainly that I prefer to carry a lighter camera bag.
My desire to keep up with the latest and best tech has been replaced by the pleasure of rediscovering what I already have, namely a handful of 50mm vintage lenses that add a little variety to the native Canon 50mm.
Do not get me wrong, the canon lens is a cracking lens but these vintage lenses have brought out my inner luddite, there is something I like about changing the lens aperture via the lens, rather than a camera dial, and manual focus with a physical limit, not the fly by wire focusing of the modern lens.
I have found myself looking for simple, minimalist compositions, textures or colours, or simply looking more closely at the detail and beauty in something as simple as a leaf or flower.
One such example is my featured image, the single shell becoming slowly embedded into the sand, the faint patterns made by the waves as they gently caressed the shore.
The shell scene on its own worked to a degree but to my mind needed a little something else. Nature provided that something else, in the form of a wave that I patiently awaited to reach the top of the frame.
It took about six or seven attempts to get a shot I liked but what struck me more, was just how engrossed I had become in capturing this one composition and how much I had enjoyed the process.
In keeping with the simplicity of the composition, the edit was just as straightforward, nothing more than a frame and a square crop was used.
For anyone interested in the lens I used, a Pentacon 50mm 1.8, which seems to be my ‘go to’ lens of the moment, however, I do have a Zeiss ‘Jenna’ 50mm 2.8 waiting in the wings for it’s day out.
February is a strange month, a month with Jekyll and Hyde mood swings, one day we have bitterly cold winds, another day of rain, then suddenly placated. the weather gods bless us with a bright sunny day with no wind and even a little warmth in the sun.
Day eleven is one such day, perfect for a stroll along one of my local beaches, Dawlish Warren. Once again, I have chosen to use my vintage Pentacon 50mm, for no better reason than the enjoyment I get using it.
I would normally bring a tripod and a few filters on a seaside shoot, for a few long exposure shots of the waves but today I have a minimalist mindset, I have found that doing so every now and again teaches me to look for other ideas instead of the standard seaside images.
So, with just the camera,lens and a spare battery, I go in search of new images from a familiar venue.
Just after 10:30 am on a Friday morning and the beach has just a handful of people making the most of an almost spring like day, one of my first shots is taken at a wide aperture of F2, I want to use the edge softness to my advantage, creating a more subtle look to the scene.
My initial idea for editing this image was to give it a saturated ‘postcard’ look but I found the over saturation of colour did not appeal, instead I chose to mute the colours slightly, giving a more ‘filmic’ vibe.
In recent shoots I have taken advantage of the ability to take multiple shots of a scene and stitch them together in post edit, my ‘no gimmicks’ theme for the day makes me look more closely at the shoreline, where I find some interesting patterns in the sand for some close up shots, perfect for the 1:1 aspect ratio images I have come to enjoy creating.
The beautiful light adds a shadow in certain areas, the grains of sand given a lovely warm hue, I love the simplicity of this kind of shot.
If the small details are appealing, so too are the textures of the well weathered wooden fences and groynes that are as much a part of the seaside landscape as wind turbines and electricity pylons are the countryside.
Photography has taught me that there is beauty in everything, this is just one of the many reasons I look forward to every weekend outing.
Day ten of my 50mm project and I decide to reach once more for my vintage Pentacon 50mm lens for a morning stroll around Exeter.
This is a lens that I had purchased a few years back while dipping my toe into the waters of vintage lenses and their usage with mirrorless cameras, just one of the many and varied chapters along my photographic journey.
At the time, I liked the lens for its close focusing ability but my obsession with wanting clinically sharp images, meant it was cast aside for much of the time, left to its fate in my box of ‘stuff I may use later’.
My decision late last year to withdraw from the desire to keep up with newest cameras on the market has been late in coming but I am really enjoying using a twelve year old DSLR that was out of my budget at a time when it was one of Canon’s flagship models.
What has changed with regard to the pentacon lens? Perhaps the challenge of shooting 50mm has given me the reason I needed to get to know this lens a little more, to embrace the flaws and use them to my advantage.
An image I took of a gravestone in a local churchyard, I shot at wide open for one shot and stopped down to F4 for another , it was the wide open image I preferred, the softness around the edges leading the eye to the subject perhaps ?
I do find myself using the Petacon lens for close up shots a lot more than I would the native Canon 50mm 1.8, the ability to get closer to the subject is one reason, the other is that I am rediscovering the joy of manual focus, taking more time to look around the frame, being more involved in the process of photography than simply clicking the shutter when the autofocus system says I can.
With the ground dusted in a coating of frost, my eye was drawn to the contrast of the white and green, simple natural beauty at my feet, likewise, greenery behind the centre shot above, adding a perfect backdrop to the subject, while the catkin just looked better with its monochrome edit.
If I am depicting this lens as a one trick pony, I will dispel that notion with my last few images of the day, my walk home takes me through the city centre, where I try its hand at street photography and a couple of landscapes, shot at F2, I was more than happy with the results, okay, so they are not competition winning images but I think they tell a story, record a moment in time that can never be recaptured, most importantly, I enjoyed my two hours, capturing the world through a vintage lens.
Day nine of my 50mm project and a trip to Dartmoor is planned, in my camera bag is my trusty canon 50mm f1.8 and a Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens, the latter being a lens I have had for some time but have rarely used beyond looking for those close up shots with that lovely out of focus bokeh that old manual lenses are known for.
Not all vintage lenses work perfectly with my 5d mk II, some lenses can touch the mirror when focused to infinity, hence the addition of the native canon lens.
Today’s first stop is to Hexworthy, St. Raphael’s church, well known for its proliferation of snowdrops at this time of year and a few images of the inside of this charming little church in the middle of nowhere.
The takumar does well on the detailed shots, is it my imagination, or do the black and white images render better with vintage lenses?
While today is a bright winter’s day, the strong wind is bitingly cold, I am thankful I brought my flask of tea to enjoy between destinations.
The next stop is less than half a mile away, Huccaby bridge, a popular summer haunt for picnic’s and paddling in the river, today’s visitors are dog walkers and hikers, keen to keep moving to keep warm!
The third and final visit, is just another couple of miles away, Sherberton farm, where the light is at its best as I capture the local bovine and equine population at lunch, the vintage lens does me proud on a couple of these shots as the animals enjoy lunch.
This is one of my favourite walks, following the track to Swincombe bridge and up the ruins of Swincombe ford cottage, popularly known as John Bishop’s house.
This John Bishop was a tin miner, not the comedian of the same name, probably working at the local Gobbet mine, records indicate that he occupied this house from 1840, until his death in 1892.
A few pictures show the ruins bathed in sunlight, I waited patiently between rain showers, watching the clouds pass by until the sun peered through, a wait of about ten minutes that seemed so much longer in the bitter winds.
These remnants of Dartmoor’s industrial history will long remain a source of fascination, as will my desire to explore further, this beautiful landscape.
It is the eighth day of my 50mm challenge, where I will head out for another camera walk to Beesands, a seaside village along the heart of the South Devon coast.
I have decided today to use an alternative 50mm lens, a Pentacon 50mm F1.8 vintage lens that used to be equipped with Praktika film cameras back in the day.
The Pentacon lens is far from the sharpest lens in my arsenal, yet it has a certain character that I find pleasing, rendering colours in to a pleasing vibrancy without being over saturated. One other aspect of this lens that appeals, is a close focusing distance of about 3.5cm, ideal for those close up shots I enjoy taking.
Arriving at Beesands around mid morning, the village is but a ghost of its summer self, holiday houses empty but plenty of choice for car parking.
Walking along the sea front, sturdy sea defences protect the village from the powers of nature that are a constant threat to so many coastal towns and villages, the sea wall with a bank of large rocks to its front, helping to reduce the damage of winter storms.
A waft of frying bacon permeates the air, too good to miss, the scent takes me to a small premises serving an assortment of tempting snacks and hot beverages, perfect for these January days.
After a rather tasty sausage bap, the photography continues, as I watch for those brief patches of light escaping through the moody grey skies.
I have always enjoyed walks along desolate beaches in winter, the emptiness has a beauty of its own, with plenty of space to find a place to just sit and enjoy the scenery while listening to the crash of waves against the pebbled beach.
I have enjoyed using the Pentacon lens for today’s shoot, having to manual focus each image is a pleasure, not a chore, I have already decided that my next shoot will be with another of my vintage 50’s, my Super Takumar F1.4….
Day seven of my 50mm challenge, the last day of last weeks four day break, where I am in my home town of Salcombe for a couple of days.
It is a beautiful January morning with clear blue skies and a noticeable drop in temperature, a ‘proper’ winter day with a dusting of frost sparkling like glitter in the early morning sun. If the frost is a welcome change from the constant grey skies of late, the low cloud cloaking the estuary is all I need to get out with the camera for an hour or two.
A combination of icy pavements and the steep hills of Salcombe slow my pace a little, with my photography mindset switched on, I hope to get as many images as I can before the mist disappears completely.
On every visit to my once home town of Salcombe, I note the incremental changes since my last time here, not always for the better but the memories I have of growing up in this small seaside town will never be tainted and days such as today will always remind me of why I will keep coming back.