Lockdown photo walks

It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.

With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.

My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.

As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.

The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.

From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.

From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.

My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.

 

Being creative

If this were a normal Easter weekend, I would look forward to a long walk at dawn to capture the sunrise, as I have done over the last few years, however, 2020 is far from a normal year.

With lockdown approaching its third week, I have resisted the temptation to take a camera with me on my daily walk, but have thought of alternative ways of being creative with the camera, while staying at home.

In one of my recent decluttering exercises, I found a few odds and sods that may enable me to make a rudimentary light box for some close up photography, that little seed of an idea was put into practice today, where I fashioned my basic cube from some sturdy packaging, and made good use of the black fabric of an old sports hold all  to make a simple backdrop for inside the box, with other coloured fabrics bought cheaply online.

For the light source, I have used two LED strips that were being thrown away, part of another light box that had broken but the LED’s still worked.

While I was happy with my fabric background, for the dandelion shots, I used the screen of a long since dead tablet, the glass offering a certain amount of reflection.

Above are the results of an hour of finding things from around the house and garden, no doubt there will be more to come.

From the archives

This is the sort of blog I would normally write during those dark winter days, a reminiscence of previous outings, a looking forward to the seasons to come, this however, could be the first of many ‘staying home’ entries during the unwelcome presence of the Covid – 19 virus.

I am using this time to catch up on those jobs that have been left for too long on the bottom rung of the task ladder, to read that book I bought last year and to have another attempt at sorting through terabytes of images taken over the last 5 years.

It was while I going through this process, a trip to Buckfastleigh steam railway, jumped out as being one of my best days out in the last 2 years.
It was not the most inspiring of days in terms of weather, a grey misty day with drizzle hanging in the air, but a trip to a steam railway could offer something out of seemingly nothing, in the back of my mind, I had the thoughts of some ‘film noir’ style images to create some interest.

Steam railways are places I could spend hours exploring, with platforms often furnished with vintage luggage trucks, old suitcases and coloured signs of the products of the time.
Old rolling stock often lies abandoned on sidings, not always accessible to the public but Buckfastleigh has little that is not accessible.

I enjoy the chats I have with the many volunteers that help keep these railways open, their love of keeping the steam heritage alive is evident, one of the reasons for my frequent visits here.

For those that are interested, these were taken with a Lumix G80 m43 camera with 25mm 1.4 lens (50mm in full frame terms)

When time allows, there will be many places to revisit, in the meantime, I had better crack on with the sorting ….

New technology, old methods

As technology in digital cameras becomes ever more advanced, the inquisitive part of me looks forward to reading about the latest features in new cameras, yet my inner luddite  feels that the technological roundabout is going too fast and I want to get off.

Since acquiring my first digital camera, I fully appreciated the way that settings could be changed on the fly, I embraced the way that I could experiment with composition more, as I was no longer restricted to a maximum of 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film, I could also see my image in an instant, rather than having to wait for my last roll  to come from the developers via the post.

Modern cameras all have state of the art video capabilities, they allow us to see how our images will look within the viewfinder, perfect for the fast paced society we live in today, where we want everything yesterday, each new camera boasts faster autofocus but it is too easy to become reliant on the tech and forget the art of photography.

My enjoyment of ‘old school’ photography has perhaps been rekindled by the ability to use manual focus vintage lenses on mirrorless cameras, a reminder of when most SLR cameras only came with a 50mm lens and we were perfectly happy.

It was with this ‘old school’ mindset that I decided to set myself a challenge on yesterday’s outing to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.
Since my X100f has both an electronic and optical viewfinder, I set the camera to OVF only and switched the rear LCD screen option to viewfinder only, relying only upon the camera’s meter reading for exposure ( a bit like the original X100).

For the first few shots, I had to resist the urge to look at the rear screen but soon got into a ‘wait and see it later’ frame of mind, it was then that I began to realise how much more care I was taking in each shot, if I wanted each one to count, I had to be more patient.

Back at the car, while enjoying a hot cup of tea, I took the opportunity to look at the images I had taken, it was almost like opening that package of developed photos for the first time, it was a pleasantly rewarding exercise that I will continue with on future shoots.

Finding the fifty

The first few weeks of 2020 have been reasonably productive ones so far, I have finally commenced the long overdue task of cataloguing my images and have begun the process of looking at downsizing my collection of vintage lenses and other camera gear.

I have come to the realization that I do not require five camera bags, three 35mm 2.8 lenses, four 50mm lenses from f1.4 to f2.8 respectively, as well as a 55mm and 58mm lenses, as well as three tripods and other related accessories.

It is one of the fifties that forms today’s musing, specifically the Super Takumar 50mm 1.4, a lens I had picked up in a charity shop for a good price, a lens that had become firm favourite with the bright 1.4 aperture, a lens that in all honesty I thought I had carelessly lost.

It was while I was going through one of my lesser used camera bags in this morning’s sort-athon that the elusive lens made its appearance.
If you have ever picked up an LP or CD that you have not heard for ages, it is like hearing it for the first time again, finding this favourite lens was just that same feeling, of course, I had to go out and use it didn’t I?


At wide open, this lens offers some pleasing bokeh, stopped down, it has adequate sharpness across the frame and at 50mm is a versatile focal length.

It was fun just to use this one focal length today, if I had a choice of only two focal ranges to shoot, I would go with 35mm and 50mm all day long.

Am I over G.A.S ?

By mid December last year, I was two weeks away from completing my one camera project, shooting with my Fuji X100F exclusively for my personal photography.
I was looking forward to rediscovering my vintage lens collection and a newly acquired 16mm F2 Fuji lens to use on my XE-2.

My 100F was given a well earned break during January, but just recently, I am finding once more that it is the sole camera I am choosing to take on my days out.
I really like the 16mm wide angle lens, I also like the ‘character’ of my Helios and pentacon vintage lenses, but I think the key word here is ‘like’, because with the  100F, I WANT to take photos.

My camera bag too, has become more basic, where I may have carried a couple of filters and a small tripod, I am beginning to care less about long exposure photography, after all, how many smokey water shots does one need,besides which, carrying extra gear ‘just in case’ is losing its appeal.

All the above appear to be pointing to the fact that my G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) is finally on the ebb, the final nail in the coffin, just this week, with the announcement of the shiny, new X100V, a camera called by one ambassador for the fuji brand as ‘refined’.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would love to buy the new model, but a modicum of sense has crept into my thought process and simply asked, ‘Do I NEED it’, the answer is quite simply, no.
Fujifilm got a lot right with the ‘F’, enough to make this once serial camera changer happy to continue shooting with what I have.

 

 

 

50 shades of meh

Finally the last days of January are approaching, it feels like 233rd day of the month, two hundred and thirty of them having consisted of a combination of grey skies, rain and constant meteorological melancholy (or …..meh).

It is these constant grey days that make me crave for a ‘proper’ winter, crisp bright days when we wake to lawns iced with frost, and the serene stillness of a classic winter’s morning, where we wear more layers than a Mille-feuille as we set forth into the great outdoors.

I have attempted over the last few weeks to use the weather to my advantage and begin the process of cataloguing and sorting through many of my photos, my migration from lightroom to Capture one has given me the incentive to at least be a little more efficient in that regard, I have also began to build or replicate a number presets or styles with the new software to make my workflow a little easier when I want a certain look to an image.

This however, does not replace the enjoyment of being outdoors actually taking photos, so even on the dreariest of days, I will get into town to get my photographic ‘fix’.
Days such as these are when I decide to keep a monochrome theme, setting the camera so that the viewfinder is also monochrome, that way, I can see the way the image is exposed and alter as needed.

I always remember as a child, the Giles’ cartoon books, he had this way depicting wet days in his drawings with such drama and contrast, this is how I like to process my images when I do street photography, to try and pick out the mood and atmosphere.


The lack of any character in the sky makes me look for tighter compositions. close ups of the mundane that can end up looking more interesting because of the different angle, reflections from windows or using shutter speeds just fast enough to give the perception of movement.

With less people on the high street at this time of year, it keeps the mind active in looking for opportunities, pictures I may not have considered on brighter, more sunny days.

Above, is a selection of images taken from a trip into Exeter city centre, taken from a few of my favorite vantage points around the high street and vicinity.

Good intentions

It had started well enough, I had decided today was the day that I was going to purge some old photos to make room for more recent stuff, something I have been meaning to do for longer than I care to think.
With four external hard drives of photos to wade through, I was in for the long haul.

That was the intention anyway, as I began to look at the first few folders, the memories of days out with friends and family were there in front of me, the digital equivalent of my parents old box of photos that came out just a few times a year, normally coinciding with the visit of great Aunt Mabel.

My earlier determination long since evaporated, instead of deleting unwanted images, here I sat uploading a few previously unedited images, adding more to my hard drive instead of the planned purge.

Laughing in the face of my own inefficiency, I was quite enjoying a trip through my photographic journey of the last few years.
My backup photos remain in the unsorted manner in which I began four hours ago but when I get my new hard drive later next week, it will be properly catalogued….. maybe.

A few images from the archives:

 

First sunrise of the year

Already nearly two weeks into the new year but today is my first opportunity to capture the first sunrise of 2020 and being January, I can set an alarm for a more sociable hour than those 3am alarm calls of the early summer.
The alarm is not not required, the sound of wind whistling around the windows and the last of the heavy rain are playing their final encores, or so I hope.

I am well ahead of time this morning, so I relish the last of two hot buttered crumpets and a second cup of strong tea, finish packing my camera bag and prepare a flask of tea to take with me.

It will take me just under an hour to reach a place for my first glimpse of the sunrise, as I head out into what still appears to be midnight!
Slowly but surely, the last of the heavy clouds begin to disperse and the sky begins to brighten, as I approach the footpath by the River Exe, the remaining clouds show the fiery tinged edges of the morning sun.


As I make my way along the path, there is an abundance of photo opportunities, light and shadow,colours and contrast feed my creative appetite with ideas.

With a chance of showers forecast, I watch the build up of cloud cautiously but the weather gods appear to be in a better mood of late and what little rain there is passes behind me.

The trees, bereft of foliage give some lovely shadows against the painted sky, I also see opportunities for some black and white images here.

The next part of my walk takes me back towards the quayside at Exeter, as I progress, it is clear that others intend to make the most of this sunny Sunday, sleek sculling boats from the local rowing clubs pass by with effortless grace, while in places, fishermen are casting their first baits of the day in their search for piscatorial pleasure.

With a good six miles under my belt, I reach the quayside at Exeter, where I meet a couple of friends for a new year catch up, the review of today’s images will be something to look forward to later this afternoon.

New life in old lenses

It was about eighteen months after purchasing my first mirrorless camera roughly six years ago, I read an article about the possibility of using lenses from SLR cameras with an adaptor, I was intrigued to say the least, another chapter in my photography journey was to begin.

Typically of anyone into photography, my collection of old glass grew quite quickly, a range of 50mm lenses from 1.4 to 2.8 some other wider primes and a couple of zoom lenses, all bought at reasonable prices online, or the odd charity shop.

Many of my original purchases have since been sold again or passed on to friends, the few that remain are favourites that are about to experience a new lease of life in 2020


Today’s choice was a Prakticar 80-200mm F4.0 – 5.6 lens, not the fastest lens ever but the early part of the day was offering bright sunshine, ideal for capturing any squirrels or bird life that I might see on today’s quick outing.

After a patient wait, I see my first subject matter, my lack of practice with a zoom lens shows in my first few shots, blurry and not in focus, also trying to remember lenses as old as this one are inherently softer at the upper reach of the zoom.

After adding a few more nuts to the already healthy squirrel picnic, one seems happy enough with my presence to carry on eating his fill.


From here, the River Exe is just a five minute walk, the ever present gulls line the railings by the river bank, I get as close as I dare to try a few more shots.


Just a few minutes after the gull shots, the heavens decide to open and I take shelter under one of the bridges spanning the river, it would appear that I could be here for a while, the rain is getting heavier but I am dry here, so I look for more photo opportunities, what can I get with my zoom?

From my shelter, I spot the water teeming from the bridge, might look good in black and white?
A single leaf from a bush at the far extreme of my shelter…snap

I watch the pigeons and gulls at the edge of the pathway, unfazed by the teeming rain they continue their day.

I am not expecting today’s images to have the sharpness of my Fuji glass, yet they have a character of their own that I really like, especially in the monochrome images.
It is so easy to become distracted with the need for sharpness, sometimes it is the imperfections that make us look in a different way.

Perfect or not, I have had another enjoyable few hours out, doing what I enjoy most.