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.
Day five of my 50mm project saw me taking photos ‘on my doorstep’, day six could not be more in contrast, in what would be a ten mile hike around the Okehampton side of Dartmoor.
The north of Dartmoor is an area I have barely scratched the surface of, with autumnal trips to Black a tor copse or Meldon reservoir, today I have my own personal guide, a good friend and fellow photographer for whom Dartmoor is essentially his back garden.
(For those that enjoy seeing other photographer’s work, check out @GlavindStrachan on twitter, Paul likes to use and modify old vintage lenses, his work is unique and he captures the essence of Dartmoor beautifully )
Today is my first trip on the recently reopened Exeter to Okehampton railway route,a journey of about 40 minutes with just a single stop at Crediton, passing some lovely scenes of the rolling Devon countryside, where the route allows.
Close to the local army camp, today’s walk is often not accessible due to military training, however this week, no exercises will take place, we are free to roam.
As with most of Dartmoor, the landscape is strewn with granite as if cast from the hand of giants looking for amusement, climbing to the summit of the first steep hill of the day, threading through the rugged grass and rocky landscape.
Despite the greyness of the cloud above, the views are nonetheless breathtaking, this vast landscape can take your breath away at every turn, whatever the weather.
Wandering across the summit, a trio of resident sheep turn casually to peer at the intruder in their midst, as I walk away, they continue with whatever ovine business I had disturbed.
It is at about the half way mark that our patience is rewarded as the first rays of light escape their grey cocoon, casting light and warmth on the landscape, while moody clouds offer a beautiful contrast to the scene.
I have taken over 150 images on today’s hike, the images below are a small selection of those that will follow in subsequent blog entries.
Today will be the fifth day of my 50mm challenge, a rare Tuesday off, as I use the remnants of last year’s holiday up, hopefully I should get a couple more days of photography in this week but today will be an amble around one of the local parks, with a view to using my lens wide open for some still life / abstract shots.
It is another day of grey washed skies, a typical insipid January morning, if today’s shade were to be described on a paint swatch, it would be called ‘extra meh’, however, I am determined to get some images.
On a brighter day, the park would be thriving with students and office workers, taking a break from stuffy offices and lecture rooms, today I am one of just three others enjoying the space that is just a stones throw from the main city centre.
The vibrant flower beds and hedges of summer are but a memory, leaving only a spectrum of winter browns, yet looking closely there is beauty even in decay, skeletal remains of hydrangea, a reminder of the fragility of nature.
Look beyond the decay and there are signs of spring, as optimistic daffodil leaves begin to show and new buds with bright green leaves embark upon the next cycle of life.
There may not have been any epic vistas or sweeping landscapes today, yet I have enjoyed this outing as much as any Dartmoor hike, it is the being around nature that gives me such pleasure.
The fourth day of my fifty days at 50mm takes me around two of my favourite places in the South Hams, Torcross and Dartmouth.
Boasting one of south west Devon’s straightest stretch of roads, Torcross has a rare geographical phenomenon, in that on one side of the road is a shingle beach, the other has a freshwater lagoon or ‘ley’.
Blessed with a rare morning of blue skies and sunshine, the beach already has a good few people enjoying the cool sea air, while others sit at the outdoor tables of the local pub, drinking hot beverages or contemplating an early lunch.
Since beginning my latest photography project, my camera bag is minimalist, a camera body with the faithful fifty attached and a spare battery, on sunny days such as today, I do not bother even taking the bag, a lens cloth and spare battery in my coat pocket and the camera in hand or around my neck. On rare occasions, I may bring a tripod and a selection of filters but I am enjoying today’s self set challenge of minimal gear.
A regular question I have been asked is ‘Do you not find 50mm restricting?’ Restricting no, I find it makes me ask questions of my ability to be creative, to shoot with what I have.
I use the tools available to me in camera and in post processing, a simple work around for the tighter focal length is to take multiple shots of a scene and stitch them together in post to create a panorama, this works especially well for landscape photography.
With the nifty fifty produces sharp images stopped down, I like separation of subject and background at the wider apertures, my obsession with clinical sharpness of lenses has lessened over the last couple of years, softness in an image often adds to the story of a photograph.
The pigeon image was my ‘shot of the day’ in Dartmouth, as I sat on a bench along the embankment eating a well earned pasty, the optimistic pigeon became braver and edged closer in hope of a dropped pastry crumb or two, he was virtually stood on my boots when I took this shot, camera in one hand and pasty in the other.
With my appetite sated, I had around 40 minutes before the allotted parking time was up, time enough to capture some good light before the grey clouds rolled in for their late shift.
After yesterday’s washout, I am determined this Sunday morning to get on with day three of my 50mm challenge, so after devouring a rather tasty bacon and egg sandwich and finishing my second mug of tea, I will head towards the riverside to see how much the water levels have risen after the deluge.
It is just after eight thirty, as I make my way through the city centre, the streets are Sunday morning quiet, with just the council sweeping teams making their rounds and the first buses waiting at empty stops for their first passengers of the day.
My first image of the day is of Miller’s crossing bridge, a black and white image to emphasize the fast torrent of water flowing by, the incredible roar of water even drowns out the noise of passing traffic on the nearby road.
I walk over the bridge and stop to take a few more photos and stand for a few minutes to watch this mesmerizing maelstrom as it carries several large tree branches like matchsticks in its watery grasp.
The normal footpath following the river is all but submerged, cyclists and walkers alike will have to follow the higher footpath for now, which becomes busier by the minute as others look to get out for some fresh air.
It has become a habit for me to pick out my favourite shot of the day, today’s image is a monochrome of gull’s perching on Cricklepit bridge, moody skies above add some drama to the scene.
It has not been the longest of walks today, but it is another couple of hours testing my creativity with a 50mm lens, I just hope that my next outing offers brighter skies and perhaps even a little sunshine.
As the second weekend of the new year approaches, I tentatively make plans for my second outing of 50mm, the prospects are not looking good as each of my weather apps show yet more rain for most of the weekend.
I do however, have an ace up my sleeve, a bonus Friday off, where the weekend rain is due later in the morning, so I head into town to run a few errands but will make some time to get a few shots around the city before the deluge and my date with a necessary booster jab.
My usual habit, would be to head towards the river and quayside but instead I keep myself around the city centre and local parks, seeing what subject matter may present itself on this dull grey morning.
Given that I was not expecting to get out for any photography this weekend, I feel that the shots I have taken are all a bonus, unless of course Sunday offers me a chance to get out for day 3 of fifty mm.
If 2021 saw me rekindle my enjoyment of the 50mm focal length, then 2022 is the year in which I begin a new project featuring just this lens over the next 50 outings.
It’s new year’s day, a trip to Venford reservoir, a place I have visited on many occasions, my camera bag is laden with the now familar 5D mkII with the 50mm 1.8 now seemingly ‘glued’ to the mount, there were other lenses in the bag but decided that new years day would be the perfect time to begin this new project, so took just this setup without the weight of the camera bag.
The car park has just a couple of other cars on my arrival, the world is enjoying a collective lie in after the new year celebrations, I will be a good way around the route before too many other people have arrived looking to blow the festive fug away.
The colours of autumn are nothing more than a distant memory, the crisp ochres and bronze coloured bracken replaced by damp dark browns, the trees once laden in their autumnal finery now baring their skeletal frames to the elements.
One advantage of the 50mm lens is its ability in the low light of the woodland, only occasional glimpses of light find their way through the melancholy grey skies above, so I am keen to take advantage of these brief windows of opportunity.
There are those areas that defy winter’s decree of desaturation, like diamonds in the rough, leaves cling to their branches like limpets to a rock, for these, I like to use the lens wide open, blurring the background for some interesting bokeh effects.
I find it interesting that with the reservoir just yards from my feet, I take only a few shots of this expanse of water, instead, I am enjoying finding the more intimate details of what lies within the footpath, leaves in puddles or hidden mini waterfalls in less accessible areas of the path.
All that remains from this first day of 50mm is to share the images of today’s amble, I am very much looking forward to day #2