50 days of 50mm #5

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.

50 days at 50mm – #1

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



Memories of 2021 and what next?

As 2021 makes its way out of the door to make room for 2022, the first blog of the new year is an easy one, a bit like an established band making a ‘greatest hits’ album, it will be a brief review of my last year in photography and my aspirations for the year ahead.

Picking a selection of my favourite photographs was not easy, yet most of them have come from the final quarter of this year, where I have thoroughly enjoyed capturing the essence of autumn in local woodlands and of course on my beloved Dartmoor.

In terms of gear, I have given up on the notion of feeling the need to buy the most up to date equipment, my current gear consists of a Canon 5d mkII and Canon 7d mk1, with both of these photographic veterans, I am enjoying my days out as much as ever.

In terms of projects for the year ahead, the ‘older camera’ project continues but I have ideas for something different for 2022.

It was a no brainer for me to purchase a ‘nifty fifty’ in the form of Canon’s 50mm F1.8, the more I use this lens, the more I am enjoying it, so I will be starting the ‘Fifty days of fifty mm’ in the coming days, fifty outings using just this one lens, of course the blog will help document the progress of this project.

Are you starting a new photo project this year? if so, I would be happy to follow your progress as it unfolds, knowing that others are interested in such creative ideas are one one of the drivers that sees it through to completion, encouragement is contagious!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people who have followed and commented on my blog over the last year, your kind words and encouragement are very much appreciated and help sow the seeds of creativity in both word and picture format.

Just one lens

One of the ways that I try to remain creative with my photography, is to set myself personal challenges while I am on a photo walk, it could be that I shoot only in the square format, using the in camera 1:1 aspect ratio option, perhaps when I am in town running a few errands, I may set myself a time limit to find a few images but most frequently, I like to shoot with just one focal length.

After using the Fuji X100 series for a good few years, I am more than familiar with the 35mm focal length, so much so, that I would now not see this as a challenge, especially since a long term project from a couple of years back, was to use just this one camera for a whole year.

A more recent project to use older cameras is still very much in progress, the realization that I do not need the latest and fastest may have come a little late along my journey but I am enjoying taking this latest path with my photography, in the form of a Canon 5d Mark II.

It was as I was packing this old beast into my bag for a Saturday foray on Dartmoor, I made the decision to take just one lens, the classic ‘nifty fifty’, Canon’s 50mm F1.8

The last time that I shot this particular focal length in anger for any length of time, was when I had purchased my first film camera back in the 1980’s, a second hand Zenit camera, most likely armed with a Helios 58mm lens.

My destination is Fernworthy reservoir on Dartmoor, near the village of Chagford, a chance to capture the remains of the autumnal colours and a rather pleasant walk skirting the edge of the reservoir and surrounding woodland.

A damp start to the day sees mist and drizzle set for most of the morning but as I see this as an opportunity to capture the area at its moody and melancholy best.

The autumn colours are all but a faded memory, yet the rust browns and dark green of the local fir trees offer a muted colour palette that adds more atmosphere to the scene.

Occasional glimpses of diluted sun find their way through the murk, only for this curtain of grey to close the gap and bring a little more drizzle.

The morning’s walk may be damp but my mood is quite the opposite as I enjoy looking for my next image, it has taken little time to become accustomed to my chosen 50mm, so much so that I wonder why I have not done this more often.

The walk around the reservoir is just about 5 miles, by which time I am ready for my flask of tea and a welcome hot pasty from a convenient mobile café that had set up for the days business in the car park.

With the pasty devoured and tea drunk, it’s time to head home, good timing as the drizzle is now more constant rain, now to look forward to viewing this latest days foray.







The ‘older’ camera project

Since my very first foray into digital photography, I have bought, sold and repurchased too many cameras, caught up in the trap of feeling that the newest and latest gear will be ‘the camera’ I need to take this passion/obsession to the next level.

I have enjoyed every moment of this not inexpensive journey, but in the last year or so, I have become less interested in the latest offerings from the usual protagonists, not because I do not want them, more because I do not NEED them.

Where this sudden seed of sensibility has come from, I am unsure, I am blaming it on recently reaching my mid fifties and beginning to grow up!

Joking aside, with all that today’s camera technology offers, I have no use for video capability, I do not need 50 plus megapixels files, as I so rarely print anything, I am not a sports photographer requiring blazingly fast autofocus and huge, 500mm plus lenses, nor do I need WIFI to instantly transfer photos to a mobile phone or tablet, as I enjoy the process of looking through my day’s shoot on a bigger screen and editing in my own time.

I do not need the above but there are those that clearly DO need or want the latest and fastest, often trading their ‘out of date’ gear as a way of softening the financial blow the new system will bring.

So I see myself as something of a camera ‘womble’, making use of old tech that the future proofing folks leave behind, where I am able to acquire the cameras I coveted a decade ago but the price was out of my budget.

Enter the used Canon 5D mk 2 DSLR that has recently made its way into my camera bag, yes, its bulky, it ‘only’ has a dozen or so focus points but it is built like a tank and will serve me well for some time to come.

The lenses for these older cameras too are more affordable, good glass will always be good glass in much the same way that a good camera from a decade ago will still be a good camera.

So this weekend has been my first outing with my ‘rescue’ camera, the old dog has found a new forever home and I have a new project to get my teeth into.


The above photos were all taken with either the Canon 50mm F1.8 STM II or Canon 28-105mm lenses, needless to say that I am looking forward to my next days off….

Woodland wanders

Summer arrived this weekend, its suitcase packed with blue skies and temperatures in the mid to late twenties centigrade, the first prolonged period of decent weather for some time.

Not wishing to sound ungrateful but I will not be one of the many seeking sand, sea and surf, instead I will seek the shade of a woodland walk, while continuing with my series of vintage lens shoots.

Today’s lens of choice is a Helios 44-2 58mm lens, bought some years ago on an online auction site, these lenses are known for their swirly bokeh wide open at F2, with a decent sharpness throughout the focal range.

Helios 44-2 ‘Zebra’ lens

My introduction to the Helios lens was with my first film camera in the 1980’s, a Zenit TTL, at that time,it would be true to say that I did not appreciate what I had, equally, my relationship with photography had barely begun.

Today’s destination is Dane’s wood, owned by the National trust just a couple miles from the Killerton estate near the village of Broadclyst.

Normally, my woodland walks tend to be in the mid to late autumn months, capturing the changing colours of nature, today will be finding areas of interesting light, flora and fauna, looking for more abstract shots of the woodland.

It is a slow amble through the woods, enjoying the cool shade of the trees,while listening to the birdsong above as I look for my next subjects, of which there is plenty.
More and more, I am enjoying the more deliberate process of manual focusing, for sure, auto focus has its many advantages but for me it is not critical in capturing the ‘moment’ in an instant as it would be a journalist, sports or wedding photographer.

A two hour mooch around the woods seems like just a few minutes, it never ceases to amaze me how fast the time passes by on my camera walks.
Emerging from the woodland path to the car park, it appears that the world and his brother are looking for a parking space, it looks like a good few others have no wish to go the beach either.


Vintage nifty fifties

After moving house earlier this year, I had left a few boxes unopened and put to the back of various cupboards until just recently.
Among one of the boxes was my collection of vintage lenses, which have since found a new lease of life on my mirrorless camera.

A recent trip to Dartmouth saw me using a Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm 2.8 lens, a lens with very pleasing colours and image quality.
With a few errands to run in town last Saturday, I chose to take my Super Takumar 50mm 1.4 and 55mm 1.8 lenses for a little street photography.

One of the pleasures of street photography is not knowing what will unfold as you shoot, today’s best moment for me, was capturing a hen party as they were about to embark upon the day’s revelry.

The vintage lens project may have been a little late off the ground but will become a regular part of my photography this year, I still have a 30mm and 28mm lenses to spend time with, in the coming weeks, watch this space.

The pick of the days images are posted below, I would welcome comments, questions and feedback from anyone, especially if you were thinking of experimenting with older lenses.

The vintage lens shoot

My last blog was about how I had rekindled an interest in using vintage SLR camera lenses on a modern mirrorless camera body, and how the more deliberate process of manual focus and controlling an aperture ring on a lens made me feel much more a part of the photographic process.

Up to now, I had used my vintage lenses for more creative compositions, the wide open aperture of my Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 allows for some lovely bokeh for close ups of flora and such but it occurred to me that I had never used one of my older lenses for an entire shoot.

As I am always keen to give myself new photography orientated projects, I decided that for my next outing, I would not pack my usual 20-60mm lens, instead picking out a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens 50mm F2.8.

With a trip to the picturesque town of Dartmouth on the cards, I was looking forward to the first of these one lens only forays.

As I left Exeter, the morning sky was just a miserable mass of grey, in contrast, Dartmouth was bathed in a warm late June sun, with plenty of holiday makers determined to make the most of the day.

One of the things I enjoy most about photography are the spontaneous conversations that may be had with fellow photo hobbyists, I had a lovely chat with one gentleman who recognised the lens and said he had used one in the late sixties and early seventies on his Praktika film camera.
He was curious about using older lenses on modern cameras, he went away with the idea of rediscovering his older lenses that had not been used for some years, he was even more pleased when I told him that his current Sony camera was perfect for his needs, he just needed the adaptor. (His wife was even more pleased when she knew the adaptor would not cost that much!)

I was aware of how much more deliberate I was in picking my shots today, I was spending more time looking for something a little different, part of this, could be my familiarity with Dartmouth, I spent a very happy 5 or six years in and around the area, while I was working as a chef in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, it will always remain a haven of happy memories.

With just a 2 hour parking limit, there was no time to walk as far as Dartmouth Castle, that can be another trip for another day, back at the car a brief look at the images on my camera screen looked pleasing, this lens renders colours in a way I like, perhaps a little over saturated but not overly so.

On seeing my efforts on my computer screen, I was more than happy with the images from this lens, my only regret being that I had not used it that much before, there were a few shots where I had missed focus but the sharpness of this little gem even wide open was surprising.

There is no doubt that I have become used to the clinical sharpness of modern day lenses, so today’s outing has given me a eureka moment, realising that not everyone who sees an image cares about the sharpness,or what camera was used, more that for them it evokes a memory, or it reminds them of somewhere similar that they have visited, regardless, for someone else to take pleasure in a photo means that my job is done!




As I browse my vintage lens collection, I have another 3 50mm lenses to choose from, I am already looking forward to the next outing.

Old lenses, modern camera

As digital photography technology advances ever forward, camera companies are cramming more and more megapixels on to sensors, adding ever more features to make the photographic process more instantaneous.
Modern camera lenses are now clinically sharp, even the humble ‘kit lens’ offered with a new camera is no longer the cheap and cheerful offering it once was.

With a long time passion for photography, I have embraced all the above with vigour but I feel that sometimes I am forgetting one of the reasons that I got into photography in the first instance, the whole process of manual focusing a lens, learning how to read the light and expose correctly (more often incorrectly in my early days).
For all my mistakes, they were all part of the learning curve, just one of the many steps in my photographic journey.

Every now and again, I retrace these steps to an extent, by attaching an old manual lens to my mirrorless camera, I went through a stage of finding some cheap lenses through online auction sites, a few of which have become firm favourites and will not be parted with, others were not so good and found their way into charity shops.

Today was one of those days where I took out my Helios 44-2 58mm lens and an industar 50mm 3.5 – 4.5, both od Russian origin, both mass produced so incredibly plentiful and cheap.

The Helios wide open at F2 produces a swirly bokeh, ideal for shots in woodland where the background can be isolated from the subject, the Industar has a more muted colour palette which I like for street photography.

While a manual focusing lens may not be ideal for street photography, there is pleasure to be had in finding a spot and pre focusing, waiting for someone to walk into frame, with a small city such as Exeter, it is just a matter of time before someone obliges.

Maybe I need to spend more time with these legacy lenses, I felt more immersed in the process, rather than just being in charge of pressing a button!

Film simulations with the ‘V’

Without doubt, Fuji’s X100 series of cameras have long held an appeal for me, the small form factor and image quality are now synonymous with most of Fuji’s crop sensor cameras but it is the film simulations and superb Jpeg engine that draw so many photographers of all levels into the Fuji fold.

I have mentioned in earlier blogs about my own reluctance to make the most of the Jpeg files with earlier models, the mantra of ‘RAW is best’ stuck in my mindset, that is until I really started to experiment, and appreciate just how good the images could be.

Every now and then, I make the decision to shoot just JPEG’s for an outing, today’s trip into town was one of those days, I just felt that I did not want to spend too long in front of the PC screen, I had already edited a load images from two previous outings from this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the editing process almost as much as the outing but occasionally, its good to let the camera do the work.




Only very basic edits were done to these images, a little added contrast, highlights and shadow adjustment and cropping / straightening where needed.

Outings such as this are a reminder of how much fun photography can be, it is all too easy to feel that even as amateurs we need to take a ton of gear with us and obsess over making every pixel count, instead of just getting out there and simply enjoying the moments we capture.