After the expected recent lockdown measures, any thoughts of trips to the seaside or Dartmoor are out of the question for now, so my new January musings will follow familiar waking routes around the River and other local haunts.
I had considered starting another long term photography project this year that is on hold for now but still have one or two ideas for some themed photo shoots around my home city that can still be achieved during the lockdown period.
As usual, I had been checking the weather forecast for this weekend, hoping for a couple of dry days to get out for my permitted daily exercise, Saturday was looking good until Friday night, when the promise of sunshine was to be cancelled due to overcast skies.
Unperturbed, at just after seven thirty, I head out into the cold of the day to hopefully get a few shots. As I walk through the city centre, I grasp the chance of a couple of quick photos, before heading towards the riverside.
From here, a steady walk to the River, where slowly but surely the night gives way to daylight, albeit overcast, uninspiring skies.
While Saturday was grey and drab, Sunday started with some early mist and perhaps a little sunshine to come a little later, so with a new optimism I set forth once more.
I was not to be disappointed today, as a combination of the mist and the morning sunrise competing for attention were to offer some lovely images, so glad I made the decision to get out again instead of the lazy Sunday option I had considered.
The best bit of winter walks is getting home to the self promised hot cup of tea and bacon roll, while looking at the mornings efforts, then embracing that idea of a lazy Sunday.
Today was to be a Dartmoor day, the first in a couple of weeks, to a venue I have visited on four occasions previously, on each occasion coming away without a particular shot I have sought, due to strong winds.
The venue is Fernworthy reservoir, just a few miles from Chagford on Dartmoor, one of several reservoirs on the moor that has public footpaths allowing a walk around its perimeter.
The area is just wall to wall photogenia, especially when like today there is no breeze, so the reservoir stands serene reflecting the surrounding landscape on mirror flat waters.
The early morning fog and mist had cleared, revealing bright blue skies with just a hint of winter in the air, a perfect day for photography.
The bracken to the right of path display hues of bronze, dew droplets hanging from fronds, while dew laden cobwebs hang like tinsel draped between the clusters.
Going back to the introduction, I mentioned a particular shot I have been hoping to get, a tree that stands close to the waters edge, that in spring and summer show off its verdant plumage, in autumn and winter laying bare its gnarled twigs and branches, yet oozing character. Previous visits have been in windy conditions, my hope for a long exposure shot to calm the waters of the reservoir thwarted, the trees movement would be just a blurry mess, I would have to try yet again another day.
I am within sight of my goal, today is the day, and there it stands, free from movement but as a bonus for me, the water levels are high enough that it stands surrounded by water.
Finally, I had bagged the shot and while it looked okay in colour, I preferred the drama of the black and white image.
I am barely a third of the way around todays walk but take a minute or two to just sit and enjoy the tranquility of my surroundings before moving on.
I take my usual zig zagging route, taking detours down side paths I think may be of interest, a four mile walk becomes a five and a half miler, all down to my curious nature!
One such path leads to a copse of pine trees, where the morning sun is making an impression on the last of the early mist, this is a shot I have to have.
I was over the moon to have finally got ‘my’ tree shot, yet this is my favourite from the day, as the sun pierces through the mist, painting a golden glow on the path.
Today just seemed to be one of those days that just kept giving, the play between light and mist adding an ethereal beauty to an already picturesque location.
Making my way back to the car park, it is considerably more full than earlier in the morning, yet I feel that I have had the best of the day, as I drink a well earned brew before heading home.
As we approach the mid way point in the UK’s second lockdown, my recent photo walks have all been based around a radius of around seven or so miles, making the most of the many footpaths that follow the River Exe, from canal to estuary, or just a quick walk as far as the quayside and back again.
This weekend has been a case of the latter, grey, uninspiring mornings have allowed the luxury of a lie in but I always feel that I have wasted my weekend if I do not walk at least a few miles.
Walking towards the city centre at just after nine, it feels like a Sunday morning as ‘unessential’ shops remain closed, a permanent reminder of 2020’s legacy.
Normally at this time of year, the festive build up begins, the high street would be full of shoppers looking for gifts for family and friends, the cathedral green would be a mini village of chalets offering hand made gifts and such like from local businesses or a selection of foods from around the world, but not this year….
My ambling takes me to the Mill on the Exe pub, or at least its car park, where I will often stand and just watch the water flow past, the sound of rushing water has often been a source of relaxation, today is no exception.
My first images today are a few long exposures to capture the water movement, I must have taken this shot hundreds of times in my twenty years of residing in Exeter, yet I care not, I love to see the river in all its moods throughout the seasons.
As usual for a Saturday morning the canal path is used by many, runners, cyclists and dog walkers, all out for some fresh air, my progress somewhat slower than the others as I slowly mooch along the path looking for my next shots.
I spend a little time watching the world pass, as I enjoy a flask of tea I prepared earlier. Refulled and ready to continue, I make my back to the main high street as I head for home.
I miss the hustle and bustle of a normal Saturday, the groups of teenagers shopping for designer clothes, the buskers in their allotted places are missing, the coffee connoisseurs no longer sit at outdoor tables and catch up with their friends and family, no carrier bag laden consumers moving from shop to shop to spend their hard earned cash.
Today was not my biggest walk ever but am glad I have had my fix of shutter therapy while getting out of the house for a couple hours, I shall look forward to my next fresh brew, while I contemplate on how I may start this latest blog.
I had made the most of a bright and sunny Friday bonus day off to get out for my weekly photo walk, knowing that the rest of the weekend was likely to be unsettled.
Saturday was as forecast, wind and rain for most of the day but it looked as if there may be a break much later in the day, a chance for another night time shoot around Exeter city centre.
On a normal Saturday night at just after 7pm, the streets would be full of people having enjoyed a day out and looking for a place to eat, or those looking to meet with friends in one of the many city city centre pubs or clubs but this is 2020, a year that is far from normal.
With the second national lockdown going into its second week, the city is like a ghost town, more like a Monday night in January instead of a Saturday just a few weeks from the festive countdown.
For all the adversity this year has brought, a spirit of ‘the show must go on’ prevails, as the Christmas lights have been turned on, almost as an act of defiance in the face of covid, normally I would be the first to say that it is too early, this year I welcome the cheer that they offer.
The eerie silence is disturbed only briefly by the sounds of buses going about their business, virtually empty chariots going to places where nobody waits.
While taxis lie still at their ranks, it is the takeaway delivery driver that is king of the road, knights on two wheels, delivering Saturday night treats to the many, one of my favourite images of tonight’s outing being one such rider awaiting his next delivery.
I seek out a few compositions for some light trails, but there is little traffic around of course but do manage one or two, so decide to turn my attention to some black and white shots around the city.
The black and white shots are pretty much straight out of camera Jpeg’s from the Ricoh GR3, the high contrast preset is a favourite of mine.
Returning home to the inevitable brew, I see that I have walked around 5 miles tonight, not bad considering I just intended an hour or so, that ended up as a 3 hour mooch.
I have found that seeing a place in the dark offers so many different ways of seeing the familiar, the speed of a car passing a zebra crossing, the shadows and light of a car park staircase are not things I would consider during the day.
With the longer hours of darkness here for the duration, I will look to embrace the chances they offer but I will still look forward to those longer, lighter days at the end of March.
Thursday morning, the fourth morning of a well earned week off and the most promising in terms of a possible sunrise, after a damp and miserable start to my holiday.
Today also happens to be my 54th birthday, so I have set aside the whole day to indulge in my two favourite pastimes, walking and photography.
Sunrise is around 7:30 am, so I arrange to leave Exeter Central station an hour or so earlier, the twenty minute journey gives plenty of time to find my sunrise location and to scout other potential areas of interest.
Having set up close to the sea shore, I opt for a place near one of the many groynes along the beach, a typical sunrise shot with a silhouette of groynes and beacon against the rising sun, that is when the plan changes.
Two shots into today’s outing and the lighting behind me casts a golden glow on the path above the beach, the picket fence and grass, either side,the sand covered footpath is a shot to good to miss.
It was to become one of those rare days that wherever I turned, the beautiful October light presented so many photo opportunities, I was in my element!
Happy with the shots I had captured, it felt like I had put a single coin into a fruit machine and won the jackpot on the first roll, yet I still had the rest of the day ahead and a small matter of 12 miles to walk back home…..
….But first, a pit stop at a local bakery, where a hot cup of tea and a breakfast baguette went down rather well, the perfect fuel for an October morning hike.
Signs of autumn are all around, the local amusement park closed until half term, its attractions hidden under tarpaulins, the transition of greens to golds, oranges and reds of leaves along the way, the coolness of the early morning, lingering for a few minutes a day more.
The walk along the estuary trail to the Exeter canal has some of the most wonderful scenery, it is a walk I will always enjoy, whatever the season,my camera will be kept busy today, with the wealth of opportunities.
From Dawlish Warren and Starcross, through the small village of Cockwood, the path takes me through Powderham, where my route goes from B Road to footpath, alongside the estuary, where it passes another favourite haunt, Turf locks. The Turf locks pub is sadly closed, the views, fortunately are still very much open.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this route cannot offer any more in the way of stunning views, yet as the path meanders from estuary trail to canal trail, there is still much to see, changing with the seasons.
With a good nine miles under my belt, the opportunity for a welcome refreshment at the double locks pub is far to good to pass up, from the outside, the pub commands picture postcard views, even the interior is worth a photo, as I like the way the light and shadows play through the large windows.
It is well into the afternoon before I reach Exeter, it has been a long time since I had a whole day set aside for my own indulgence, it is a day I have enjoyed immensely, a day that will end with a well earned fish and chip supper before looking through the days efforts.
As my working week progresses, I start to sow little seeds of ideas for weekend outings with the camera, regularly checking to see what hand the weather gods may deal for my days off. By Wednesday evening, I had arranged another visit to Salcombe, an overnight stay on Friday and Saturday, with an amble back to Exeter on the Sunday.
My hopes for an early sunrise on the Saturday morning were to be scuppered by heavy rain and winds, which were forecast for most of the day, with a slim chance of a two hour clear spell later in the day.
By mid day, I had drunk copious amounts of tea, made a mushroom soup for lunch and completed Saturday’s cryptic crossword, a personal best time of 37 minutes, I guess rainy days have their uses.
It was after lunch that the skies began to brighten, discarding its grey cloak revealing patches of blue sky, perhaps I would get some photos today after all. As I made my way into the town’s high street, it seems that everyone had the same idea, enjoy the spell of sunshine for as long as it lasts.
It is these unexpected photo walks that throw up unexpected photo opportunities, the earlier rains had not all drained from the road, creating some interesting reflections, perfect for a low angle perspective.
Sunday morning woke up to brighter skies but still a keen wind, I would be heading back to Exeter later today but only after another walk around a favourite footpath with superb views of the estuary and countryside.
On the edge of the footpath, poppies and daisies gave a vibrant display of colour, a distinct and welcome contrast to the previous morning, poppies like bright red flags waving in the wind.
The estuary was already thriving with those wanting a day on the water, this normally quiet path popular with other Sunday walkers.
After the disappointment of Saturday morning’s washout, the enjoyment taken from that small window of opportunity more than made up for it later in the day, even Sunday’s destination was a spur of the moment decision…. who needs plans anyway?
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.