If woodland walks in autumn are a bittersweet reminder of the shorter days and longer nights to come, those same walks in spring are a treasure trove of mother nature’s wonders, as new life slowly emerges from winter’s grip, we can look forward to the annual displays of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells to add a splash of colour to the landscape.
A recent trip to steps bridge, just on the edge of Dartmoor was the perfect antidote to what felt like months of constant grey skies, as the sun’s rays made their presence known with a little spring time warmth.
The woodland path was a riot of yellow and green, as daffodils paraded their bright yellow bonnets for all to see, while trees began to show the delicate beauty of their early blossom, or the vibrant green of new foliage.
To spend just a couple of hours amongst nature, listening to the wind as it whispers between the trees and the sweet melody of the avian chorus revives the senses and shakes off that feeling of lethargy that winter can bring, as I sit by the riverside listening to the river rush by, I look forward to the months to come and my next trip to Dartmoor.
Day 18 may prove to be one of my favourite photo walks of the entire 50mm project, simply because of the variety of shots I was able to take today.
An opportunity to mooch around the market town of Totnes for a couple of hours will rarely be refused, especially on a market day, when the town will be busier than normal.
The market square is where my shoot begins, where a myriad of marketeers ply their trade, from bric a brac to fruit and veg, antiques to Panama hats but the busiest stalls appear to be the street food stalls, where the subtle aroma of spices tantalize the taste buds.
As the queue at the Ethiopian food stall dissipates temporarily, I ask for an Impromptu photo of the owner Hanna, as she works, she generously obliges, asking only that I share the photos with her, of course I am more than happy to do so.
I had planned to spend around 15 minutes at the market, I spend the best part of 40 minutes just trying to capture the essence of the scene and the street close to the market.
As I move from here, I head through the main street to the riverside, then take the footpath to the local steam railway station at Totnes, which had I checked their website, I would have known it was yet to open for the new season, never mind, the walk is still a very pleasant one.
If I was slightly disappointed at missing out from the Totnes steam railway, a visit to Buckfastleigh on the way back home, more than makes up for it, this will be the third ‘chapter’ for todays outing.
While Totnes station was yet to open, Buckfastleigh was hosting an event for railway enthusiasts, plenty going on here then! It would appear that most of these enthusiasts are also keen photographers, where the mix of Canon and Nikon is evenly split, with the odd Sony user, they all have one thing in common, the long zoom lens, I feel kind of under dressed here, with just my faithful fifty.
That said, I rarely if ever feel that I have missed a shot using just one focal length, learning to adapt is what helps to keep my love of photography alive.
What better way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning than to wander around the seaside town of Exmouth, taking in the spring sunshine and capturing a few images, at 50mm of course.
Seaside towns such as Exmouth are once more coming to life after the winter months, kiosks, cafes and restaurants offering the day tripper welcome refreshments and temporary havens of warmth in a still quite chilly breeze.
The aroma of fish and chips floats briefly in the air, then I spot the well wrapped white parcels sat upon the laps of a couple who have found a suitable bench on which to enjoy their early lunch, I am sure the sea air helps increase one’s appetite!
At the first opportunity, I stray from the concrete sea front path to the beach, the ebbing tide revealing pristine sand for footprints to be made, while herring gulls patrol the shoreline edge for newly uncovered shellfish and other such piscatorial treats.
Dogs race up and down the beach at full pelt, some fetching a favourite ball, others fetching the favourite ball of a new canine friend they have just met, dogs just know how to have a great time at the seaside.
A couple of intrepid families, intending to make a day of it at the seaside, huddle around windbreak fortifications, sipping from thermos flasks, while the kids armed with buckets and spades are busy making sandcastles or looking for buried treasure.
For me, one of the many attractions of these seaside walks, is that there is always a picture to be taken, a spontaneous moment captured perhaps, or that one abandoned boat with its increasingly weathered textures and muted colours, a particular view perhaps?
More than anything it is becoming an ever increasing appreciation of the places I am fortunate to be so close to, what better reason to get out and share it with others.
It has been a rare weekend, one where I have not felt at all like getting out and about with my camera, after the works lurgy finally cornered me into staying at home to get over that horrible feeling of lethargy that has lasted all week.
Day 16 is belatedly, last Sunday’s trip back home from Salcombe, once again all taken with my current favourite fifty, the Pentacon 50mm 1.8.
The scenic route back to Exeter, will pass through Kingsbridge, Torcross and Dartmouth, a good route in the quieter days of early spring, a little harder in the peak tourist season.
Barely a mile out of Kingbridge and Bowcombe creek and bridge are lit up nicely by the sporadic sunny spells, a photo I have been wanting for some time but inevitably the tide always appears to be fully out.
A quick excursion to Torcross and this time a couple of photos from the ‘Strete gate’ end of the beach, where I watch the waves roll and break in the strong winds, no better entertainment than watching the forces of nature.
After that bracing sea air, I start to feel that it is time for a bite to eat, stopping at Dartmouth for another brief pit stop, a rather tasty chicken and chorizo pasty hits the spot while I watch the world pass by.
A rather disgruntled gull looks on as he watches me devour the last of my pasty, sorry mate, that was too good to share with you!
My non camera weekend has not been entirely wasted, a couple of seeds have been sown for another project later in the year and it has been kind of fun, catching up with some reading and a few challenging cryptic crosswords while listening to the rain and wind outside and while I should not wish my life away, I cannot wait to get out next weekend.
It’s just after 9am on a Friday morning, I am at St. David’s station, waiting for my train to Totnes to arrive, the morning has started bright and crisp, signs at last of spring.
My destination is a couple of days in Salcombe, making the most of what is forecast to be a warmer weekend. With the train a good ten minutes away, I take advantage of the shadows and light on the opposite platform, three souls sat on the same bench, yet worlds apart as they focus on their phones, another passenger to be stands in the sun, waiting for his train to wherever.
After a spot of lunch and welcome brew, I look to make more of this early spring day, a stroll around the seemingly hibernating town, waiting for warmer days and the new holiday season to commence.
As I walk around a favourite route, the local sculptors studio is open, a place I have not visited before, and glad that I decide to do so now, as I admire the craft work of the expert hand, skulls carved with such amazing detail and the most beautiful chessboard I have ever seen.
Jim, the sculptor indulges my request for a photo, the artist at work is a welcome spur of the moment image, something a little different to add to the portfolio.
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.
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.