My twenty or so years working in the catering industry meant that the summer holiday months of July and August were ‘out of bounds’ but September and October were times that I could look forward to a few days away.
I have become so used to this arrangement that even now, I still like to take a few days in late October and early November, where popular destinations are a little less busy and the pace a little less frenetic.
My last visit to the coastal town of Ilfracombe was over three years ago, it was time to catch up with friends once more and enjoy a couple of days exploring a favourite location.
My arrival on Wednesday afternoon was welcomed by strong winds and persistent rain, perhaps the beginning of the payback for such a good summer but in any case, I had promised to reprise my catering skills, in the form of a slowly cooked lamb stew as a token of appreciation for some very comfortable accommodation for the next two nights.
Thursday morning was a little brighter, so just after seven thirty I headed out for some fresh air and hopefully a good few photos.
A typical November morning with a blustery wind found me watching the sheer power of the waves as they pounded the rocks below my viewpoint, the roar of water as it crashes against rock never fails to remind me to respect nature in this kind of mood.
Rain clouds and blue sky fought for dominance as I meandered my way up the hill just above the town, where a brief squall presented me with a great view of the town partially bathed in sunlight and the start of a rainbow to boot.
There would be no doubt that I would take photos of Damien Hirst’s legacy ‘Verity’ but just a few footsteps away from my hilltop view is a more understated monument, dedicated to the memory of a 14 year old Russian girl who tragically fell from the cliffs in foggy conditions, she had come to study English in the town.
‘Ekaterine’ is a very poignant reminder of the fragility of life, as I took a photo of this memorial, I was blessed with some golden sunlight, as I paid my own quiet respect to a life taken far too soon.
Descending the hill to follow the sea wall footpath, my route takes me to the harbour and another visit to a little gem of cafe I found on my last visit here, for a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast.
Again, I was spoiled with some striking scenery, St. Nicholas chapel standing atop lantern hill since the 14th century was aglow in the sunlight as the clouds parted once more to allow the sunlight freedom of the sky.
After my breakfast and two cups of tea, my meander took me to the breakwater and harbour beaches, retracing my footsteps of previous visits where I was happy to oblige with the typical seaside photography imagery.
My three hour amble seemed like just an hour, it never ceases to amaze me just how quickly time flies when I am in my photography walk mode, I hope to return to Ilfracombe again in the not too distant future, but for now, thank you for the (new) memories.
A Saturday morning in early November, rain tapping gently against the windows as it falls from a featureless blanket of grey, the ideal recipe to catch up on writing blogs from my recent outings, instead I decide to head out for a few more shots around the city.
Just after ten AM and the city is already quite busy, the organised types are embarking upon some early Christmas shopping, tell tale rolls of wrapping paper peering above carrier bags like festively adorned periscopes.
Coffee shops are doing a brisk trade, havens from the persistent rainfall, a welcome warming indulgence in the form of hot teas and coffees, perhaps even a slice of cake to complete the decadence.
Other signs of the impending festive season are evident, Christmas lights in place for the annual switch on, the Christmas market stalls in the cathedral grounds, empty but ready to go.
For the record, today’s images were taken with my Leica X1 and my Panasonic GF1 with a 20mm (40mm equivalent) lens, the latter of which I have rarely used since its acquisition earlier in the year.
October has always been one of my favourite months for photography, the colours of Autumn are always something I look forward to, a kind of photographic pilgrimage if you like.
This year has been particularly rich in its annual harvest, maybe because I am now in the habit of carrying a compact camera at all times, I am able to take more photos instead of waiting for the weekend, coupled with the unseasonably mild weather conditions, it has been ‘the perfect storm’.
My love of this time of year is always tinged with that bittersweet thought that winter is not far away, bringing with it, longer hours of darkness like an unwelcome guest at a wedding or birthday bash but for as long as I can, I will continue to enjoy this all too brief festival of colour that nature provides.
Since I have decided to carry a small digicam in my workday rucksack, I leave for work a few minutes earlier just to allow for any potential stoppages to take photos, even at silly O’ clock in the morning.
With a healthy student population attending the University, Exeter has several purpose built student blocks throughout the city, one in particular is opposite the bus station where I await my transport to work.
The light in the canteen of the building along with the stencils on the glass made for an image that was too good to pass up, it may or may not work, in monochrome it most certainly did.
In all honesty, I was not expecting the shot to have come out so well with such a small camera, but the little Canon S95 has delivered one of my favourite low light images ever.
Since delving into the world of almost forgotten camera gear, I am pleasantly surprised at how much fun I am having using small sensor compact cameras, so much so that my Canon S95 has found a spot on a regular basis in my take to work rucksack.
Knowing I have a camera with me at all times on my travels, means that I have developed a habit of walking a more circuitous route back home from work, in the hope of taking a few shots on an almost daily basis,keeping the photographic eye and mind in good shape for my lengthier weekend outings.
My preference for early morning sunrises have become my comfort zone, to the extent that I rarely seem to shoot later in the day but it is time to shed that skin and develop new habits, however short these more spontaneous photo outings are.
I managed about twenty or so shots on my way back home today, I have picked six that show the everyday things that catch my eye.
October, one of my favourite months for photography, with the autumnal carnival of colour preparing it’s annual show. It is not just the foliage that attracts me to local woodlands at this time of year, there is also the hunt for the varied species of fungi to be be found around fallen trees and among the decaying leaves on the woodlands floor.
Each autumn I keep meaning to educate myself to become more familiar with the names of the various fungi, but today I step into the woodland just as uneducated as the previous year, apart from the knowledge of the elusive fly agaric, that red and white fairy tale toadstool, to me, the holy grail of the fungi kingdom.
Without doubt, my walk here today was one of the most productive in terms of finding my subject matter, the recent rain and mild conditions, a perfect storm for these often strange but beautiful gems of the woodland, perhaps next year will be the year I finally identify each and every one.
For a good few years I had hoped that I would eventually get my hands on a Leica camera, the Rolls Royce of the photography world with legendary German precision engineering, the price for which has remained firmly out of my reach in terms of a new purchase but the second hand market offers a more realistic entry into the red dot ownership.
With a recent purchase of the Leica / panasonic badged Dlux-6, I was not expecting to purchase another camera any time soon but a search on a well known auction site turned up trumps with a 13 year old Leica X1!
I convinced myself to purchase on the basis that it fits well into my ongoing ‘older’ camera project and that the fixed 24mm lens equates to my favourite 35mm focal length in full frame terms.
Reviews suggested it was slow to auto focus and the LCD screen was lacking resolution but 13 years ago it was the technology of the day and I was happy to take a chance in giving this little beauty a new forever home.
Just as a child at Christmas, I was eager to get out with my new toy, so I packed the camera into my rucksack to hopefully grab a few shots on the way home from work over the last couple of days, just to get a feel for the controls before a ‘proper’ shoot or two a the weekend.
In the past, the lack of a built in viewfinder may have been a deal breaker but I have become more accustomed to using a rear screen with the LX5 and Canon G11, I am even starting to think that I am seeing more opportunities by shooting this way but it is not to everyone’s taste.
With less than an hour’s shooting time so far, I am still very much on a learning curve with the X1 but I am more than pleased with the initial results.
I had not intended to purchase any more older cameras for a while but sometimes a bargain is too good to pass up, in my case, the chance to dip my toe into Leica waters, the Panasonic / Leica collaboration, D-Lux 6.
There is some debate in photographic circles about this being a ‘true’ Leica, arguments aside, for me, it is an affordable way of getting my foot in the door. Yes, I would love a ‘Q’ or ‘Q2’ but I wonder if the price would force me to over protect the camera and not use it as it should be used.
To all intents and purposes it is a Lumix LX7 minus the grip and a slight difference in the internal software, costing a few hundreds pounds more in its day than the ‘7’.
I had made a decision just a few days before to sell my LX10/15 on, it simply was not getting the use it deserved, so I was potentially in the market for something else.
The purchase was made and the new kid on the block was waiting for me on my return from a few days away near Cheltenham, I could not wait to try out my latest recruit.
The controls are not much different from my LX5, just exposure compensation being controlled from the rear dial rather than the D-pad and the addition of the dedicated ND filter button and aperture controlled from the lens barrel, a feature I really like.
I have had a couple of outings already, one around Dartmoor where I took just a few shots in between rain showers and a longer amble around my home town of Exeter earlier today.
I think the colours are slightly more muted than the LX5 but the lens sharpness is as good if not better, the camera is just a joy to use, true Leica or not.
It has been a busy few days, my move is complete and a semblance of order is taking shape in my new abode, thankfully the final box is unpacked and consigned to the queue awaiting a journey to the recycling centre.
With my belongings pretty much in place, there will be a little fine tuning as I become more settled but with my photography gear now out of its brief cardboard incarceration, it is time to head out for my weekly jaunt along the riverside and into town.
It has become a familiar habit to reach for my G11 and LX5 cameras of late, it appears that my enjoyment of retro compacts is not about to fade any time soon, such is the enjoyment I am getting from using them.
Today’s jaunt would be brief, believe it or not, I am packing my bags again, or at least one, in preparation for a few days away, a welcome break from a busy summer at work and the tribulations of moving.
The hardest decision I will have to make here, is whether the bigger gear gets packed or if I prefer to travel light, suggestions are welcome!
We all need an escape from the treadmill of our daily routine,that personal haven that offers a little peace from the damands of a hurried and frantic world.
My escape is Dartmoor, three hundred and sixty five square miles of vast open landscape of which I have barely scratched the surface of.
Home to ancient oak woodlands, towering granite monoliths and custodian of countless tales of folklore and fable.
Quarrymen, farmers and miners have toiled in this unforgiving landscape, their legacy the scattered remains of farmsteads and buidings for the inquisitve to explore.
I love Dartmoor in all it’s moods, serene summer days where skylarks swoop and soar, the landscape painted with the purple and yellows of heather and gorse, even those frequent wet winter days of mist and greywashed skies have a beauty of their own.
To me, Dartmoor is a source of constant inspiration for my photography and word craft alike, as well as an enormous sense of well being and gratitude that I live so close.