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.

A route well trodden

It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.

My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.

From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.

Early light 2

As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.

It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.

As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.

New brood

A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.

It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.

Lockdown photo walks

It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.

With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.

My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.

As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.

The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.

From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.

From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.

My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.

 

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 ….

Strange times

Finally spring arrives, bringing with it a few days of sun, normally these would be days I would take full advantage of, heading out on a days photography but the current situation with Covid – 19 and the latest governmental decree, sees us all being told stay at home where possible.

Of course, the inner photographer would love to get out there and document the empty streets, hardly what would be called a necessary journey, so it is through these strange times that I must find other diversions to satisfy my low boredom threshold.

For the first time in years, I have rekindled my interest in the game of chess, probably the most used app on my mobile phone or tablet, in an attempt to shake the ring rust off my already below par ability, yet enjoying whole re-learning process as I do so.

As I have not had a television for over 4 years, my book cases are healthily fed with an array of different subjects, where once I was a fan of horror and science fiction, the shelves are mainly travel books or biographies, with a sprinkling of WWII and Roman history for good measure.

My enjoyment of the written word leads to my enjoyment of cryptic crosswords, thereĀ  is something very pleasurable in attempting to crack the enigmatic minds of setters such as ‘Portia’, ‘Aquila’, ‘Aelred’ and ‘Lucifer’ to name just a few, while listening to music and of course a cup of tea to lubricate the ‘little grey cells’ as Hercule Poirot would say.

More recently there has been an explosion of Japanese number logic puzzles featured in the daily press, starting with the standard Sudoku puzzles, there is also killer sudoku and kakuro (a numerical crossword of sorts), which I have begun to master over a period of time.

Finally, my interest in food has been retained, years after I came out of the catering industry, working as a chef, I still like to experiment flavours and try foods I have not eaten before.

Once these days of social distancing can safely come to a close, I will appreciate so much more, the days when I may amble at will across beach and moorland once more, until then, I shall keep trying to crack the Saturday Times cryptic in one sitting…

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….