Seaside ambles

My first seaside walk since early March saw me going back to my home town of Salcombe last weekend, my main agenda was to visit my dad for father’s day, the second to enjoy a low tide walk along the shore of a favourite haunt from my childhood.

With the tide at its lowest ebb, there is an opportunity to walk along the best part of the beach, taking in views of the town of Salcombe from a different perspective, it is here that many of my favourite views can be seen.

From an early age, I have enjoyed these walks along the shore, especially after winter storms, where all sorts of maritime debris would be washed up along the shore, all treasures to a youngsters mind.

To this day, I unashamedly love peering into rock pools, and still like to look under seaweed for any small crabs that may be lurking beneath, evoking memories of looking for peeler crabs for fishing bait in spring and early summer.

It is true to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, my absence was just 3 months, yet I felt a new appreciation for something that can be so easily taken for granted.

The second part of today’s jaunt, was a revisit to Slapton sands, another of my favourite beaches, with it’s lagoon or ‘ley’ to one side and the open sea on the other, the two are sandwiched by probably the longest length of straight road in Devon, a road that over the years has been washed away more than once by savage winter storms.

As popular as ever, the beach was busy, but not crowded to the extent of those recently depicted in the mainstream media, the visitors here were observing social distancing and there was a happy buzz as complete strangers were making new friends while waiting for their takeaway food or drinks from the pub and cafes, attempting some semblance of normality in these odd times.

It was here I have taken my favourite shot of the year so far, a gentleman with his two dogs, sat on the sea wall, he kindly agreed for me to take his photo, which if I am being honest, was not expecting.

I do not consider myself as a portrait photographer but I love the candid nature of this shot, even though it was posed.



As usual, a rather enjoyable trip to the seaside, as usual, time passes too quickly but looking forward to my next trip here already.

A city wakes

Just over half way into 2020, yet it seems this year has already outstayed its welcome, a year to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Cities have been reduced to ghost towns, devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of the lifestyle we take so much for granted.

I am not a ‘crowds’ person but even for me, this extended and enforced silence has been an uncomfortable one, only the passing buses and open supermarkets offering a semblance of normality during these strange days.

After this week’s opening of non essential shops, small seeds of optimism have been sown, there is a feeling of cautious hope, as the city I call home slowly wakes from an unwelcome slumber.

Of course, ‘normal’ will not happen for some time to come, as bright yellow 2m signs on the pavements remind us,to keep our distance, as well as attempts to make either side of the street one way for pedestrians which have thus far failed miserably as the public go about their business.

During lockdown, I had felt disinclined to document the silent streets, a feeling that taking a camera around seemed somehow indulgent but today I wanted to capture the first Saturday after the easing of lockdown measures, to capture the essence of the shackles being lifted from months of constraint.

While the streets were not overly busy, there was a buzz, as shop doors were once again open to welcome us in.
Taxi ranks were full for the first time in weeks and I even had a complete stranger stand in front of my camera, wanting his picture taken, which I was of course happy to do.

No trip to town is complete without a walk to the quay and riverside, how pleasant again to see a number of businesses open once more to satisfy the need for a drink and snack to eat while enjoying views of the Exe.

Today was not the sunniest of days as we begin a slow and careful transition but frankly, I do not think any one of us cared, it was good to be out.

No excuses

I was watching a youtube photography channel earlier this week, the location was an area of outstanding beauty, the sun was out, yet the first words after the intro were ‘ The sky is too blue!’

I too have been out on Dartmoor on a beautiful sunny day, happily taking in the vast openness but wishing for cloud, yet on those grey rainy days, I wish for sun, essentially photographers are never happy!

In the eternal search for perfect light, we will always find something that isn’t quite right but the last couple of days have provided skies full of character with an ever changing light that gave plenty of opportunity for image making, today there would be no excuses.

While travel on public transport for photography trips is still out of the question, I am taking full advantage of the opportunity for unlimited exercise by taking walks around Exeter’s picturesque quayside and river walks, pictures I have taken a few hundred times before but with a renewed appreciation of what is on my doorstep.




For the record, all images were taken with a recently adopted Canon 5d Mark 1 with canon 20-35mm lens, there is something about using older camera gear I really like.

Fuji Jpegs

I have been using Fuji cameras on and off for the last seven or eight years, I say on and off because I have had a tendency to chop and change gear, not because I think I will become a better photographer, more because I have simply enjoyed trying different cameras.

I have come full circle in the last couple of years, there is just something about these cameras that has drawn me back to the Fuji family, a combination of the physical the dials, a range of superb lenses and excellent image quality are of course a factor but for me, they are cameras that you want to pick up on days out.

Using my X100f for a whole year for a recent project, changed my photographic ethos, I was a long time member of the ‘shoot raw only’ club, until I began to experiment with the well regarded ‘film’ simulations, I will now happily shoot Jpeg only for my personal photography, especially as I feel less inclined to sit at a computer for hours clicking on sliders.

Yesterday was one of those JPEG days, knowing that I do not have a Raw image to fall back on, keeps me focussed on getting the exposure right first time, a discipline that I had become complacent with, given how forgiving Raw files can be.

A selection from yesterday, with minor cropping and straightening in capture 1, with a vignette added to the daisy image.


Out of the mist and into the woods

As the days are getting warmer, the chances of capturing those misty late spring mornings were fading, at least until later in the year or so I thought, however I was to be pleasantly surprised on today’s morning foray.

Fuelled with a good breakfast and the usual two cups of tea, I set out just after six thirty am, to what felt like one of the warmest mornings so far.

Heading towards the River, a drop in temperature was noticeable and there in the distance a blanket of mist lit by the glow of the dawn sun.

I had already decided on a different route this morning, taking a footpath I have only walked a few times over the years.
To get there, I walk past St. David’s train station to the Exe valley road, but only after a little diversion, taking in the old railway shed and some long time dormant freight cars on the railway sidings.

It appears that the mist is not about to give way to the sun’s warmth just yet, so my next stop is to Cowley bridge, another little diversion from my planned route, hoping for a few nice reflections with the waters being so serene.

Cowley bridge

The next part of the walk is along a normally busy main road, the main reason that I decide only rarely to do this walk but this morning is okay, as I walk the mile or so to the footpath entrance.

Just a few minutes walk from the buzz of the main road, I have walked into a place of near silence, a skylark soars above, its distinctive trill, a sure sign that summer days are nearly upon us.

The mist gives the scene an ethereal beauty, it is a time to sit and stare at the wonder of nature, as I find a convenient rock to park myself and take a few sips of water while enjoying the moment.

At some point, I will explore these footpaths further but I am hoping to get some photos of the mist in some woodland, another half mile or so away.

As I reach Stoke woods, the sun is finding its way through the many glades, narrow strips of light dappling the woodland floor.
The smell of wild garlic overpowers the initial sweet smell of pine, and that refreshing coolness of walking in woodland invigorates the senses.



I arrived too late for the misty woodland shots, they will come another day, as it is I have covered around six miles so far today, with another 3 miles to walk home and the enjoyment of seeing my mornings efforts.

A bit more milage

Unlimited exercise, the two sweetest words I have heard in a long time, two words that those of us that love the outdoors will be relishing.

Recently, these late spring mornings have dawned with beautiful blue skies and a freshness in the air that invigorates the senses, so with a licence to walk, I was keen to get a few miles under my belt.

One of my favourite local walks, is one that takes a path along the River Exe and on to the town of Topsham, via a footpath that runs alongside the estuary, with high tide a couple of hours away, I will have chance to walk the path before it is cut off by the tide, the alternative route being close to a main road and the incessant roar of traffic.

It is one of those very tranquil mornings, not even a breeze disturbs the water, so what little reflections there are at low tide are perfect mirror images.
Since it has been over three months since my last walk along this route , it feels as if I am seeing it all for the first time again, constant reminders of how picturesque the area I am privileged to call home is.


Keen to retrace the path I have walked before high tide, I save my other favourite places in Topsham for another day, as it is, today’s walk is just over 11 miles, a good start to my day.

Close to home

Walking has always been something I have enjoyed, from an early age growing up by the sea, I took great pleasure in discovering the miles of coast path around the picturesque south hams.
It has only been in the last 10 years that a camera has become a part of my continued exploration of old and new places, what better way to record the changing of the seasons in those favourite haunts?

More recently, I have endeavoured to travel further afield, with day trips to Bristol, a 3 day break in London, other venues were due to follow this year but for the Covid spanner being thrown into the works.

The moving of the goal posts has been the same for all of us, it is how we respond to new challenges that can make us more creative, or perhaps in my case, to appreciate all the more the opportunities that are on our doorstep.

For the last couple of mornings, I have taken an early walk around the River Exe, watching the day unfold but this morning I was keen to see what I could find closer to home.

With the morning spent doing the few jobs I had set out to do, it was unusual for me to set out after lunch but with ideas in mind, it was a favourite 50mm vintage lens that was put onto the camera, the pentacon 50mm 1.8, which offers a close focusing ability.

There is something about the rendering of colours from vintage lenses that I really like for this type of close up image, as well as the fact that manual focusing gives you the feeling of taking the shot, not just point and click.

While I only took a fraction of the photos that I would on a ‘normal’ photo walk, I was happy with the majority of them, just going to prove we should not ignore, or take for granted the beauty than can be found close to home.

 

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 ….

Another Dartmoor day

It has been a few weeks since I last visited Dartmoor, yet it feels like months, but today I shall atone for my absence with a visit to a favourite haunt on the moor,Wistmans wood.

For the unfamiliar, Wistmans wood is one of the highest ancient oakwoods in the UK, designated as a site of special scientific interest in 1964, it’s mixture of lichen covered granite boulders and oak trees have been the source of inspiration for writers and artists for generations.

It is thought that the name derives from an old dialect word ‘wisht’ meaning eerie or uncanny, pixie led or haunted.

The weather gods have been kind today, the rain is off duty, it is so good to see clear blue skies and to feel the warmth of the early spring sunshine, as I begin the two miles along the well trodden path towards the woods.

One of the enduring images of Dartmoor are the miles of dry stone walls, standing as a testament to the stone mason’s craftsmanship, my route today is no exception, I stand as I so often do and admire a skill that only a few will ever master.

The sound of traffic from the nearest road is soon lost in the vast openness of the land, overhead a skylark hovers above, its song a pleasure to hear, in my mind, I am hearing Vaughan William’s lark ascending, my favourite classical piece

As I approach the ancient oaks, the skylark’s song is replaced by the familiar tunes of chaffinches as they flit between the branches.

At first sight, the trees would appear to have played some macabre version of twister, as lichen clad branches twist and turn in all directions, it is not hard to see why this woodland has so much folklore attached to it.

I take a few moments just to sit on one of the many boulders under the trees, just listening to the sounds of nature, a welcome interlude these worrying times of late.
I have taken far fewer pictures today than normal, I have simply enjoyed my return to the moor and will always take away more memories than photographs.

Focusing on 50

I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.

Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.

Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.

I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.

Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.

Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.

I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….