It’s just after 04:15 as I head out this Saturday morning to capture another seaside sunrise, this time at Dawlish Warren.
As I make my way to the railway station, the dawn chorus has begun already, a male blackbird stands proudly atop a concrete pillar, preaching his avian chorus to anyone who listens, I do, his melodic overture is a pleasure to hear as a new day begins.
My walk to the station is rarely interrupted but for the occasional takeaway car making their last calls to hungry party goers, or taxi cabs ferrying the night club weary back home for a welcome slumber.
In just a few weeks, even the five AM train will not be early enough for those summer seaside sunrises but that is a concern for then, not now.
The train glides out of Exeter St. David’s station on time, I will be at my destination in twenty minutes and with darkness already lifting, I can see a little colour beginning to form in the sky above.
Mine is just the third stop of the train’s journey to Paignton, Dawlish Warren station is just a stone’s throw from here, the local arcades, cafe’s and fairground rides lie dormant for now, in just a few hours, it will be a thriving mini town, as day trippers and tourists from the local camp sites look to entertain family members, young and old.
The beauty of the new day has begun already, bright orange and dark blue skies are all I need to get the camera out for the first shot of the day, a simple composition of nearby benches in silhouette.
It is a fabulous start but I am keen to find a few more shots before the sun begins its rapid ascent, with the tide making its way in, I look to find some reflections in the calm water as a contrast to the rippled patterns in the exposed sand and a couple images from the path above the beach, using the picket fence as foreground interest.
Once the sun appears above the horizon, these beautiful shades will be lost all too soon, all the more reason to just sit and enjoy the rest of this brief show with a well earned cuppa from my generously sized thermos flask.
With mission sunrise achieved, I will make my way along the footpath to Starcross and Cockwood, joining the estuary trail as far as Topsham, where I will catch a ferry and enjoy a well deserved refreshment.
The next set of images are just a handful of those I took along one of my favourite hikes, a good ten miles allowing for my numerous ‘off piste’ ambles along the way in the search for more photos.
After Saturday morning’s sunny start to the Mayday bank holiday, Sunday reverted to the more traditional British bank holiday fare of grey skies and intermittent rain.
Unperturbed, a hastily planned trip to the East Devon coast was to be my destination for today’s outing, more precisely, Budleigh Salterton.
After the recent Easter holidays, the tourist season has begun, the beach huts that line various locations along the beach are now out of winter storage, most are still padlocked shut but the odd one or two are cosy wooden havens from which to watch the waves, for those that have brought a bite to eat and hot drinks.
This Mayday bank holiday is probably the least busy of the spring bank holidays, closely sandwiched as it is, between Easter and Whitsun, there is no half term holiday to extend the week.
There is rain in the air, as I embark on another seaside foray, the sky above just a few shades of grey with little character, perfect for those monochrome edits I like.
For today’s outing, I am using the native Canon lens (50mm F1.8), a lens I am coming to know inside out, one of the side benefits of using a particular lens for a length of time, many of today’s images will be shot between f1.8 & F2 and rarely above F5.6, just because that slight softness will suit today’s conditions.
My meander from one end of the beach to the other will take just over an hour, as I thread my way between the small fishing boats along the shore, snapping the array of lobster and crab pots that await their next use.
It may not have been the brightest day but any seaside exploration is a more than pleasant way to enjoy a Sunday.
Today’s blog will be day 21 in terms of my 50mm project and a milestone for the blog as a whole, as this is my 200th entry!
Before I begin my thoughts on yesterdays hike, I would like to thank everyone who takes the time to read my musings and follow my amblings around the Devon landscape, your kind comments and support is very much appreciated.
At last the clocks have gone forward, one of the first signs that we can begin to look forward to longer and warmer days but this morning at just after 4am, winter is beginning to outstay its welcome with temperatures just above zero.
Today’s hike will start with a 6am train to Starcross, then walking the ten or so miles back along the estuary trail back to Exeter, with the hope of a sunrise along the way at around 7am.
As the train pulls away from the station, the darkness begins to fade, and promising patches of light begin to show through the clouds, my optimism levels are raised from perhaps to probable in the search for some early sun.
Arriving at Starcross just ten minutes later, there is still another forty or so minutes before sunrise but there are signs already of some colour in the skies above.
The station platform at Starcross overlooks the estuary, I remain here for a few minutes after the train has departed, this is a perfect place for my first shot of the day.
My patience is rewarded after barely 15 minutes, the fiery hues in the sky, reflect on the water, this is why I love early mornings, the pleasure of watching a new day dawn.
The cold is now biting at my hands, it’s time to begin the walk back, can the day get any better?
It would appear that it can, as the morning breaks into one of those days of beautiful early spring light, where the suns rays paint the landscape with a golden hue, what more could I ask for?
I finally join the estuary trail, a footpath that has the estuary to my right and rolling fields and the railway to my left, the only traffic here are the occasional train and pleasure boats.
I appear to be the only walker on the upper path today, I do however chat with a local angler who has just caught a decent sized flounder which he puts back, as he is looking for some early bass, he is happy for me to take a couple of photos, which I will send to him later in the day.
I have done my best to describe in words the mood of this beautiful spring day, only the images will give a true reflection, so enough already from me…….
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.
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.
While most of my current blog posts are centering around my 50mm for fifty days project, I will continue to pick out the odd single frame and give a little of the back story behind the shot.
I think it is fair to say that I have undergone a metaphorical ‘reset’ in my photographic journey in the last few months, in as much as that I have made a conscious decision to carry less gear on my photo shoots, partly due to my ongoing project but mainly that I prefer to carry a lighter camera bag.
My desire to keep up with the latest and best tech has been replaced by the pleasure of rediscovering what I already have, namely a handful of 50mm vintage lenses that add a little variety to the native Canon 50mm.
Do not get me wrong, the canon lens is a cracking lens but these vintage lenses have brought out my inner luddite, there is something I like about changing the lens aperture via the lens, rather than a camera dial, and manual focus with a physical limit, not the fly by wire focusing of the modern lens.
I have found myself looking for simple, minimalist compositions, textures or colours, or simply looking more closely at the detail and beauty in something as simple as a leaf or flower.
One such example is my featured image, the single shell becoming slowly embedded into the sand, the faint patterns made by the waves as they gently caressed the shore.
The shell scene on its own worked to a degree but to my mind needed a little something else. Nature provided that something else, in the form of a wave that I patiently awaited to reach the top of the frame.
It took about six or seven attempts to get a shot I liked but what struck me more, was just how engrossed I had become in capturing this one composition and how much I had enjoyed the process.
In keeping with the simplicity of the composition, the edit was just as straightforward, nothing more than a frame and a square crop was used.
For anyone interested in the lens I used, a Pentacon 50mm 1.8, which seems to be my ‘go to’ lens of the moment, however, I do have a Zeiss ‘Jenna’ 50mm 2.8 waiting in the wings for it’s day out.
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.
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.