In search of bluebells

A photographers repertoire will always have a number of ‘stock’ images within its pages.
Coloured beach huts along the sea shore, long exposure river and sea images,  autumns wonderful palette of colours and bluebells in spring.

One of the most popular venues in spring for the latter, is Hemsworthy barn, just a mile or two away from Dartmoor’s Haytor, so this was yesterday’s destination but not before a cuppa and breakfast at a local farm shop cafe on the way!

After the promise of warm weather that Easter gave us, this bank holiday weekend starts off with a cold wind and temperatures in single figures, but the sun gives a very good light, not too harsh.

With the car parked up nearby, the walk to the destination takes about 25 minutes, a slow amble as always taking in the scenery along the way.

I love the texture and character of the many dry stone walls on Dartmoor, admiring the craftsmanship of their construction, this accentuated by the brightly contrasting gorse, Dartmoor never fails to please in its splendour.

As I get ever closer to the barn, the hoped for blanket of blue is not there, yes, there are a few sporadic patches but it appears my visit  is a little premature but there is still plenty to find to photograph.

My approach to the perimeter of the barn is welcomed by the sound of a cuckoo, the first I have heard this year, just another reason why Dartmoor is so popular.

The absence of bluebells is made up for with some lovely light through the trees, dappled patterns painted on rocks, which also have a verdant coat of moss and lichen, that topped with the rust red corrugated roof of the barn, perfect!

I may not have ticked another box on my photographic bucket list, but the enjoyment of being on the moor again is always enough.
I will just have to visit again…..

Easter Sunday sunrise

Easter Sunday, my alarm was set for 4am but at 3:45, I am already awake.
Too early to think about breakfast, I down a glass of fruit juice before heading out into the darkness to catch a sunrise.

My destination is 6 miles away, sunrise is just after six am, my earlier departure gives me a jump start.
The first mile or so, before I reach the riverside footpath is along one of the main arterial routes into the city, normally very busy but the third day of the Easter weekend helps keep more normal people in their beds at this hour.

Reaching the riverside path, darkness still clings to the skies but my way is lit by the full moon, for a while I progress in silence, the birds have not yet begun the first strains of their dawn chorus.
Two thirds of my way in, the silence is now broken, where later in the day the roar of traffic near the carriageway will be heard, the avian chorus has tuned up and the full concerto can be heard from all around.

In the number of years I have enjoyed photography, I have always considered that a sunrise is earned, the sacrifice of a couple hours sleep by getting out at silly O’ clock is not for everyone but the peace and solitude appeals to my inner hermit.

I reach turf locks, my destination, pastel shades in the sky is repainted into tinges of fiery reds of oranges, just a few minutes later and the sun’s glowing red disc appears from below the horizon.
Watching the birth of a new day has always been a pleasure, the ever changing palette of colours captivates and enthrall in equal measure.

After twenty minutes, the sun gets high enough to erase it’s earlier painting, my cue to take a slow amble back towards a well deserved cuppa and something to eat, I decide to head back via the quayside route.

The river banks are now being occupied by local anglers, making their first cast into the river, their array of baits a piscatorial picnic for their prey.
Anglers, just like photographers are so reliant on good weather, for them, this morning’s cloudless skies are not good for their odds of catching today.

My route along the riverside is met with runners, cyclists and dog walkers, their charges wet from rescuing a favourite ball or stick from certain drowning!

Nine AM and I have reached home after 12 and a half miles I have a cup of tea freshly brewed steaming away on my desk, while I look at the morning’s efforts on the PC monitor.
It is morning’s such as today that I fully appreciate how fortunate I am to live where I do

 

 

Finding the spark

Good Friday and I have a day off, I wake to perfect conditions for a photo walk but feel that my creativity has drained away, going through my usual local repertoire, I cross them off in my mind, feeling that I have captured them all so many times, it feels like I have been invited to a party but have nothing to wear….

I tell myself that anyone who enjoys creating, will at some point feel uninspired, the photographic equivalent of writers block.
For the first time in I don’t know when, I consider going out without a camera, but know that I would be annoyed if I missed an unexpected opportunity.

As the clock turns past nine, I take the very British approach by making another cuppa, after which I am resolved to at least get out of my chair and at least go somewhere.
I head towards the River, a favourite haunt on days like today, where a Good Friday run is under way, so take the opportunity of some action shots, YES!! I am off the mark, I will not blank today.

 

Often on my solo forays, I set myself a theme but today the well of ideas has seeped away overnight, yet I still manage to take a few shots here and there and am glad at least I have got myself out.


Is this where the creative spark was reignited?
Instead of carrying on the footpath to the very photogenic Double Locks Pub, I take a path that takes me away from the river and onto a local trading estate, where among the many car dealerships and builders merchants lies an Aladdin’s cave of vintage treasure.

In the past, there has been the rusting chassis of a vintage model A ford, this has since been sold or hidden beyond sight, then the Jackpot, the sight of an old vintage Chevvy pick up, and seek permission from the store owners to take photos, by doing so, I have often found they may offer to show other things not open to the public.

 

The yard is a photographic wish list, Patina, rust, weathered wood, faded colours and curios.
Hoping to capture further gems, I enter the store and ask to take photos of the interior, where the only stipulation is that I post a few on their social media page, not a problem for me!
After nearly an hour, I have found my mojo again, the camera is working overtime, the staff offering to move any items if I wish.

 

From such a negative start to the day, I look through the mornings work with a certain amount of pleasure, knowing that just a few hours before, I doubted I would make a single image.

 

Out with the X100

Some 8 years after its initial release, I have become a member of the X100 owners club.

My first foray into the X100 series, was a second-hand 100S, the second iteration, improving on many of the issues that plagued the original, I used my 100S until it failed me and was beyond repair physically and financially.

The 100S remains one of the best cameras I have ever used, just because I enjoyed using it, much as I do my 100F
Reading blogs and watching videos, many of the X100 owners have kept with the original X100, nearly all suggesting the ‘feel’ of the 12mp bayer sensor has a certain something, some saying an almost ‘filmic’ quality.

Fuijifilm are known for the way they listen to their customers feedback, the X100 was improved with later firmware, making a camera that was able to focus better and perform slightly faster but for some owners, the love/hate relationship was too much and their X100’s were sold or traded in for other gear.

Knowing all of the above, I have still wanted the try the original X100 for a number of years, yet despite the perceived faults, it still commands good money in second-hand markets, so I was unable to justify the expense.
Finally, last week my patience was rewarded with a purchase from a well known online market place and last weekend, my x100 arrived.

Due to me having to work over the weekend, I was only able to take a handful of shots with the new purchase but yesterday, I was finally able to give it its first real outing in my hands.

With the wealth of technology in todays modern cameras, I welcomed the back to basics functionality of the X100, no exposure preview in the EVF or the LCD, relying on the exposure meter within the display,  I was having to think about each shot, and become more methodical, but ultimately, I enjoyed taking every shot.

Between the showers, I had some lovely sunny spells, there was a gorgeous light throughout the day and as I looked at some of my efforts on my PC monitor, I was blown away with the image quality that 12mp sensor produces.
I can now see why so many persisted with working with their X100, when you get it right, the rewards are stunning.

I may have joined the X100 party eight years late but I am glad I have finally done so

Spring time at the seaside

A late March morning begins with an early shroud of mist, with a promise of a warm spring day later in the morning.
Today is one of my single days off work, so a few errands to run before getting out again with the camera.

Ten AM, my tasks complete, the day is mine and within the hour, I am heading towards the East Devon town of Sidmouth.
On arrival, the low cloud is just lifting from the coast, a couple of photos capture the ghost like presence against the cliffs.
I have made previous blogs about my enjoyment of visiting seaside towns post season, but the pre season seaside town has another character.
Many of the hotels and eateries have come out of winter hibernation, with newly painted facades and interiors, awaiting the coming seasons holiday makers, it’s like a freshly laid dining table awaiting the guests.

It seems I am a creature of habit in many of my seaside forays, I like to try to capture as much of the landscape as I can before the peak visiting time, then around lunch time, head for refreshment before a wander into the main town.

Seaside towns offer a wealth of photographic opportunities, long exposure shots for the sea, as well as the town offering the urban textures and colours for some street photography.

Sea front benches offer perfect views to enjoy paper wrapped fish and chips, the smell of freshly cooked chips doused in vinegar tease the taste buds, while those with a sweeter tooth enjoy cone laden treats of dairy ice cream.

Today sees just a gentle wind, the incoming tide laps gently at the shore, while clouds drift like gossamer across the horizon, today is truly a prelude to summer, very much the lull before the storm, for in just a few weeks, Easter will see the first holidays of the year, and this currently quiet town will be transformed into a buzzing seaside haven once more.

 

 

 

A walk in the fog

Sunday morning, the first day of a few days off from work, with the promise of a few outings out with the camera.

It’s just after 6:30am, the mornings are becoming a little lighter and there is a promise of fine weather again today but this morning begins with a thick shroud of fog and mist.
Keen to begin my day, I decline a second cuppa, and set out to capture the conditions by the river and within the city.

With no early commute to work for many on a Sunday, the streets lay almost silent, the normally clearly seen high street stores hidden behind a grey veil.
Just a few souls around this morning, we have the city to ourselves.

After a few street shots, my route will take me towards the cemetery of the church of St. David’s, where the mist will add another dimension to graveyard within.
With no trains until later, St. David’s station lies still, with my camera set for Black and white photos, the film noir ‘look’ is there for the taking.

Walking along the river, my company is that of the occasional dog walker or runner, pleasantries are exchanged briefly and the tranquility descends once more.
A flock of gulls are disturbed by my presence, I manage to capture their flight across the water, one of my favourite shots of the day.


As my walk meanders towards the quay side, local rowing clubs are out in force, sleek boats cutting through the still water like a knife through butter.

My decision to shoot mostly monochrome was an easy one, the weather conditions were perfect, in terms of editing, mainly just cropping, but added a little more contrast and fade in lightroom to the rare colour photos.

Favourite places

We all have our favorite haunts that we love to photograph, places that inspire, or simply somewhere we just want to be.
With a plethora of such places within an hours drive away, I appreciate just how fortunate I am in this regard.

With both coastline and moorland, I can never fail to be inspired by nature’s beauty but another favourite venue of mine is of a less organic nature but a place that has encouraged my photographic creativity.
Buckfastleigh steam railway is less than an hours drive away, run by a diverse group of very knowledgable and dedicated staff, that make it one of the most enjoyable places to go for a day out.

While the trains running the route are always a perfect photo opportunity, I get as much enjoyment from chatting the guards, the drivers and those that help keep the station running, when the opportunity arises.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, along with the welcoming ambience, is one of the factors for my many visits here.

It is not just the wonderfully restored trains and carriages, as around the periphery of the station, where the hidden treasures can be found


Locos and carriages on sidings, awaiting or beyond the restorers craft, are an Aladdins cave of textures, colours and patina!
Weathered wood on freight carriages, with peeling paint reveal past paintwork, rust coloured streaks run down woodwork from rusted rivet heads, the sheer size of these railway leviathans just oozing heritage.

Public access is very generous here, but it is those treasures that lie beyond public access that I try to photograph through a convenient gap, which give an air of mystery to what lies beyond.

Yesterdays overcast conditions helped to create the gritty, industrial feel I like to capture at these places, all taken with my trusty X100f for my one camera project.

Travelling light V2

In the years that I have been interested in photography, it is fair to say that I have not fallen into any one camp in terms of brand.
I have used Canon and Nikon, both of which have helped me to acqiuire the knowledge I have today, I have also used Sony, Panasonic,Fuji, and Olympus, from which I have had some wonderful images.

It is fair to say that I have experienced my share of G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome), but I have an inquistive mind and enjoy experimenting with techniques and different gear, again, this has been an investment in my own self learning.
Part of the acquisition syndrome is seeing images from other photographers with a different camera brand, thinking that if I had the same gear, I could aspire to the same quality of image.

While being inspired by others is a good thing, it is easy to forget that perhaps that very photographer has been using that camera setup for years and that he or she  knows their lenses and camera gear inside out!

In terms of my own development over the years, I know that I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, with 35mm and 50mm being my two favourites.
I appreciate the convenience that a zoom lens offers, but I believe that I am a more creative photographer when I am challenging my own creative boundaries.

This brings me to my first ever Fuji Camera I used, the X-Pro1 with a 35mm 1.4 lens (52mm equiv).
Those that know their cameras, will remember the early xpro series and even the early x100 series of cameras being inherently slow with autofocus, but this was forgiven by the way that Fuji cameras render colours,along with that amazing image quality.

I used manual focus only with my own xpro1, this alone, helped to hone my composition, as I learned to work at the cameras pace, not my own previously frenetic speed.
300+ photos per shoot dropped to pretty much half that number, but I ended up keeping 95%  more of the images I took.

Enough of the back story, fast forward to last weekend, where once again I was deciding which lenses to pack for my Sunday trip, thinking how much easier it would be, to take just one camera in the bag.

For most of Sunday, I used just one camera body, despite packing 2, enjoying the creativity of the single focal length I was using.

It was using the one body, that made me realise just how many lenses I had collected and could not use them all, so decided to back to a camera I had liked in the past ….
100f
I had bought the X100s a few years previously from Ebay and had loved the quality from this 35mm equivalent lens.

This morning was the first day off I have had since my new purchase, so with just the single camera packed into the smallest of my camera bags, I was off in search of some images with the latest addition.

The mix of sunny spells and showers offered some great contrast and shadows, but the highlight of the day, was the feeling of freedom from deciding which lens to use, which camera body,  as I had just the single option.


Above are a selection of todays shots, I have already resolved to take just this one camera with me on my next holiday in October

Summer steam

Over the last few years, I have attended a number of the annual steam rally events between Devon and Cornwall.

This year, due to the way my weekend work rota fell, I was unble to attend two of my usual events, Powderham vintage rally and Bocconoc steam rally, in Cornwall.

However, this year, I was able to finally visit the Torbay steam Rally, previous attempts had been halted by wet weather.

The day was filled skies of blue, steam engines, vintage cars and motorcycles gleaming with the reflected sun, the owners proudly tending their charges, always happy to give a history of their cherished vintage machines

Each of the various classes of vehicles are given their own show area, each seemingly a mini community, a pool of knowledge,ready to help one another without question.

What is clear, is the sheer amount of hours that have gone into bringing many of these vehicles back to their former glory, a true labour of love, many taking years to complete.

Watching these vehicles in the parade grounds, is to see a part of our engineering history, whether it is a traction engine, classic car or vintage bike, each and every one has a story to tell, each as fascinating as another.

I always try, where possible to send a few of my photos to the event organisers, my way of showing a small token of appreciation for their time in making these wonderful events possible.

Sadly, this years event calendar will be run, machines will be back in the garage for more restoration or storage until the following year, rest assured, I hope to be there in 2019!

 

 

Steam days

One of my favourite camera days out is visiting the various steam Railways we have in the south west.
Buckfastleigh is one of my favourites, where during the course of the year, they host a number of events that are always well attended.

The original railway ran from Buckfastleigh to Ashburton, first opened in on 1st May 1872!

The railway never made much profit but was used to carry coal, cider and agricultural goods.
The railway stopped carrying passengers in 1958, freight continued to be carried until 1962.

A group of businessmen announced an intention to reopen the line as a tourist line and in 1965, the first rolling stock arrived.

In 1969 services commenced between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, the line to Ashburton was lost in 1979, due to the widening of the A38

In 1990, the line was taken over by the South Devon Railway trust, the line renamed South Devon Railway.

I doff my metaphorical hat to those volunteers who help keep these wonderful reminders of our heritage going, giving so much pleasure to many.

Sunday’s outing started with a cloak of grey cloud and drizzle, my immediate thought was to capture the essence of this in monochrome photos, to create a ‘film noir’ or ‘brief encounter’ style shots

 

A mixture of steam and mist really brought my vision to life…..

A big thank you to all the staff here at SDR, they are so obliging to requests of photos, they helped make this trip one of my favourites by far!

Once the weather began to brighten, I saw an opportunity to use a vintage style post edit on some of the shots, some of these are my favourites of 2018, but I am certain there will be many more to come.