A few days away exploring Gloucester and the Cotswold’s gave an opportunity to explore a site that I have had bookmarked for a number of years but thought I would never see for myself.
Anyone that has read my blog for long enough, will know my love of canals, boats and pretty much anything with a nautical theme, so after listening to a radio broadcast about the ‘Purton hulks’, my interest was piqued.
Purton is situated on the southern bank of the River Severn, about half a mile from the port of Sharpness.
A river bank collapse in 1909 lead to concerns that the canal may be breached, so a collection of old steel barges, Severn trows and concrete barges were deliberately run aground to reinforce the banks. These hulks were then deliberately holed, so as the sediment from the river may weight them down further into position.
The beaching of this varied collection of boats continued up until 1965, where the remains are still visible.
The weathering of the remains are perfect for my appetite of weathered wood and rust, the autumn sunshine and cloudy conditions adding a little more drama to the scene.
Perhaps some time in the future, I could return to explore a little more this fascinating piece of maritime history.
It’s a Sunday morning and an invitation to get out on to Dartmoor once again will rarely be turned down, today is no exception as I go through my pre outing routine of checking batteries are charged and most importantly, I have a thermos of tea to look forward to after the morning’s walk.
It’s a lovely September morning, that autumnal freshness is making itself more prominent, there are also signs of low cloud in the distance, as usual, my eyes are peeled for any impromptu shots on the way.
With this potential for mist in the landscape, the thought is to head to Foggintor, scene of quarry workings and former quarry workers buildings, long since abandoned.
The blue skies of Exeter, less than an hour earlier are replaced by more moody skies, my second shot of the day is barely yards from the car park, a wonderful interplay of light upon the landscape, one of the many reasons for my frequent visits here.
As I think about the images I have just captured, I look forward to whatever else I may be fortunate to see as the next 3 or four miles begin in earnest.
My next shot, taken a few steps to the left of the one above, will be the last of the sunlight I will see on the moor today, a huge front of ominous grey approached from the distance, there may well be a few monochrome images today.
The footpath passes Yellowmeade farm, the bovine community is out and about, of course I take a shot and a name immediately comes to mind for the image, ‘The Yellowmeade farm beef mountain’.
I come to realise This will become something of a theme today, the name of the image is decided before the click of the shutter, I come to realise that I actually do this on a regular basis…. here another one named before the shot was taken on the return leg of the walk.
It is a good half way around the walk that the grey seems to want a permanent residency over the landscape, a chance for me to experiment with black and white images in camera or for later editing.
The ruins that remain of this part of Dartmoor look stark against the barren moorland, I do my best to capture the atmosphere which is helped by approaching mist.
My favourite trees, alone in most cases, stand defiant as ever against the elements, while horses look to find what little shelter they may offer.
I will finish this blog entry with the last picks of todays’s outing, all in monochrome, these really capture the essence of the moor in it’s raw beauty.
After a short two day week, I have three days off plus the weekend to enjoy some well earned time off.
What better way to enjoy the time, than to head out to Dartmoor for a little shutter therapy, a trip to Hound Tor, famously said to have inspired Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor folklore has it that the tors were hounds turned to stone by a vengeful witch, while fact has Hound Tor recorded in the Domesday book as ‘Hundatora’.
It is a pleasant September morning, with a noticeably cool breeze, with sporadic sunshine peering from increasingly thickening clouds. I am barely out of the car park before the first shot of the day is in the bag, looking back towards the car park and the view beyond, a low layer of cloud hangs over the landscape.
Climbing higher towards the Tors, there are already a few climbers being shown the ropes (pun intended) with much encouragement from their instructors below, I watch for a while, take a couple of snaps and continue onwards.
The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, I take several shots in close proximity, each added to my treasure trove of Dartmoor memories.
No trip to the moor is complete without at least a couple of moody monochrome shots, there will be no exception to that rule today, as Dartmoor does what it does best in having a complete change of mind about the weather, from bright skies and some gorgeous light to grey skies and a poor attempt at rain in the matter of a few moments but for all that, in all her moods Dartmoor will always be beautiful.
I have only covered three miles today but it was always going to be more of a mooch and an explore rather than a full on hike, as usual, there are reasons to be back again as there are so many paths and trails to follow.
For all my trips here to the moor, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface, what better excuse for continued exploration of this truly wonderful landscape.
For last week’s three day weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend two of them out and about with the camera, with Dartmoor on Friday and a local trip to Exmouth on Sunday.
My expeditions to Dartmoor may be a more recent bookmark in my photography timeline but my love of the coast and seaside towns is etched into my DNA, growing up as I did in a small seaside town in South Devon.
Of course, in my formative years, I did not have a camera but my innate curiosity always drew me to the well weathered maritime paraphernalia of the fishing quays and the treasure trove of flotsam that would wash up on the beaches after a storm, the very things that I look to capture with my camera.
With the summer holidays now a fading memory, the local beaches will be a little quieter until half term, I have never been a ‘crowds’ person so I am happy to wait my turn to visit on my camera days out.
I have decided to travel light, it’s the x100v and the Ricoh Gr3 that have their place in my bag, however, it is the ‘V’ that will get most use today, as I have been experimenting with more ‘home brew’ recipes using the various film simulations built into Fuji cameras.
I have really enjoyed experimenting with these simulations, by doing so, I have learned the attributes of each and have started getting some pleasing JPEG’s out of camera, using Astia for my woodland walks with a warmer white balance to add vibrancy, while Classic chrome with a more muted colour setting is ideal for those moody days on the moor.
While I shoot today, I will be fine tuning a recipe based on the classic neg simulation that so many Fuji shooters love, another more muted based on the videocentric Eterna.
As the day seems to alternate between sunshine and overcast conditions, it will be a good test of how both act in different light, with an aim to using as many of the Jpeg images as possible for my final image.
Over the last few months I have been shooting this way more and more, simply because I love the colours that come from the Fuji camera and I am spending less time trying to replicate them via a computer screen and a plethora of sliders.
For the record, each of the gallery shots were from the Jpeg, with nothing more than a crop or a tweak in exposure settings.
For the first time in a few months, I have managed to have a sneaky Friday off, a chance to enjoy a quieter day on Dartmoor, now that the summer holidays are over.
Today’s outing will include a pleasant stroll around Venford reservoir, a quick trip to Coombestone Tor and another visit to a favourite of mine, the Powdermills ruins.
I will write more about Venford in another blog, today is more about my enjoyment of exploring the rocky outcrops of Coombestone Tor and fascinating landscape of the Powdermills.
Coombestone Tor is very popular, given the ease of access to its location, the car park being a stone’s throw away from the main attraction, which on an overcast day such as today, looks as dramatic as ever.
The bracken surrounding these outcrops are taking on an autumnal tinge, greens and rusty browns add contrast to the cold grey monoliths. The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, just a small reminder of how lucky I am to have this barely an hour from my home town.
From here, the destination is Princetown, home of Dartmoor prison and a handy village store where a welcome bite to eat is enjoyed, before the third part of today’s outing.
Powdermills ruins are the remnants of a gunpowder manufacturing facility, the explosives being used for the quarrying of the granite on Dartmoor, with several of the well separated buildings still standing, apart from their roofs, they serve as a poignant reminder of the areas industrial past within this unforgiving landscape.
I have visited this location on much brighter days but for me, the overcast conditions add a little more drama to this desolate moorland, a place that I will continue to visit time and time again.
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.
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.
My first time in Wales was back in 2005, at that time, I had just dipped my toe in the waters of the digital photography world, my camera of choice was a Konica Minolta Dynax 5d, if I remember correctly it boasted an 6mp sensor, which in fairness was more than adequate for my needs and knowledge of photography at that time.
It had always been on my wish list to return, finally doing so in the last week of June.
With holidays having been a distant hope for too long, I was determined to make the most of the time I had there, getting a few early morning walks under my belt, while appreciating the time away.
The mornings started cool, ideal for walking, perfect for shots of low cloud around the mountains, there were also some pretty dramatic skies as the sun did its best to break through the clouds.
Just two miles away, Bala Lake was a certain destination for my bucket list, I made it on my final day, arriving at LLangower just after 7am, I had an entire lake to myself!
No words can amply describe the breathtaking beauty of Wales, but a pick of my favourite images may just give an idea of why I will be keen to return.
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.
As life tiptoes cautiously back to a semblance of normality, today is a day I have been looking forward to for a long time, a visit to one of Devon’s steam railways at Buckfastleigh.
For as long as I have carried a camera, this has been a favourite destination and after an eighteen month absence, it is fair to say I am looking forward to it!
This small station always extends a warm welcome to its visitors, it is like being welcomed back into a long lost family, regardless of whether this is your first or umpteenth visit.
Regardless of how many times I have been to any steam railway station, the sight and sound of the steam locomotive arriving at the station never fails to bring out the excitement of the child within, grown adults with cameras around necks, almost running to get a good spot to take a picture.
The platform of course is the main stage but I take as much pleasure in exploring the sidings and workshop areas, watching the army of restoration experts and engineers bringing new life into forgotten heritage.
I am mainly using my Fuji X100V for this trip today, I have been experimenting with some film simulations recipes I am keen to try, two work really well while two more need a little tweaking but this for me is the joy of photography, more so that I am able to try in camera, rather than at a computer screen later.
With the second of my post lockdown trips ticked off the list, all that remains for me to do is post my pick of yesterday’s outing.
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.