Dodging the rain

It’s a Monday morning, the familiar sound of rain beating against the window wakes me just after six, I keep the darkness of the early hour shut behind the curtains while I check my e-mails and the weather forecast while I relish a bacon sandwich.

Once again, the forecast is for heavy showers but today’s trip to Burrator reservoir to capture the autumn colours will go ahead as planned, this is a trip I always enjoy, something of an annual pilgrimage.

Burrator Reservoir stands on the edge of Dartmoor, not far from Yelverton, it was completed in 1898 and expanded in 1929 and as with the other Dartmoor reservoirs, has a walkable route around the perimeter, today’s walk is just 3.5 miles.

 

On arrival, a recent rain shower has just passed, leaving that lovely ‘between showers’ light to reflect upon the water and bathe the trees in its ambient glow, my first shots are in the bag, time to see what the morning will bring.

The short walk along the road to the main footpath is under an avenue of trees, either side, the road is coated in golden leaf litter, a lovely contrast to the dark surface of the tarmac road.

The reflection of the blue skies on the water add another splash of colour to the trees near the waters edge, I take another few shots while watching the impending rain clouds as they threaten another heavy downpour.

In amongst my shelter of trees, the skies have not so much opened, more torn asunder, as hailstones fall, and a wind that has come from nowhere denudes a few more branches of their leaves.

In amongst my arboreal shelter, I spot a tree with a cluster of fungi, as the squall finally passes, I grab a shot and walk a little further into the woodland, where the sun once again emerges from behind the now well dispersed clouds.

At the two mile mark, is a favourite spot of mine to take stop for some long exposure shots of the water.
Rocks coated in a lush green cloak of lichen sprinkled with fallen leaves make for an archetypal autumn scene, this type of shot is something of a photographic cliche but I am happy to sit by the water and just enjoy the moment.

After enjoying the moment, or thirty of them to be exact, it’s time to walk the final stretch of this years visit to Burrator and to head back for a spot of lunch and then home.

It is over my post walk meal that I go through my images, looking forward to seeing them on the bigger screen, also  padding out the ideas from a few words I had written for today’s blog.

Back at home, I make a note to hopefully visit again before next autumn, in reality, it probably won’t happen, the ratio of places I want to visit, compared to the time I have to do them all is not mathematically possible, so I guess I will see you again next November Burrator!

Into the woods once more

It’s the last week of October and I am keen to revisit a favourite woodland walk, Newbridge, situated on edge of Dartmoor between Ashburton and Poundsgate.

On arrival, the car park is already well utilised, this area is popular with walkers and canoeists alike, I spend a few minutes chatting with a group that have come from Horsham to sample the fast flowing waters of the River Dart, I leave them to their final preparations while I head to the woods.

Holly bushes seem to have an abundance of berries this year, a contrast of red and green against the slowly browning bracken along the edge of the path, these colour contrasts are one of the reasons that autumn is my favourite season.

As usual, I cannot resist the urge to create some long exposure images of the River, the smoky look of the water against algae clad rocks, some of which are speckled with the yellows and golds of fallen leaves.


As my walk takes me further into the woodland, I stop to take pictures of the fungi.
Each year, I promise to educate myself to learn the names of the species I see, each year, I fail miserably in doing so, yet my admiration of the beauty and fragility of their nature will never dwindle.

A simple rust coloured leaf, still clinging to its vine grabs my attention, acorns on a lush verdant cushion of lichen, ivy leaves basking in the autumn sun, all these little treasures are there to be found, the fun is in seeking them out.

My walk has come full circle, I am back at the car park supping a welcome cup of tea, I am thinking about how my photo walk tomorrow in Bristol will be the polar opposite of today, from spacious woodland to sprawling urban conurbation.

Dartmoor days

Sunday morning, 7am, I am supping my first cuppa after arriving home from my nightshift, another week complete, the day is mine to  do with as I choose, that choice will be heading out to Dartmoor.

Camera packed and batteries charged, I decide against carrying a tripod, I want to travel as light as possible, a day for exploring without the need for too much gear.

Today’s venue is a favourite, with a variety of things to see, but it is the solitude of the place that appeals, it could be high summer and it may be possible to meet just a handful of other walkers here…. perfect.

There is a distinct coolness to the wind today, it is the first time I have dug my fleece out for a walk since early spring, even my wellies will be worn today, the recent rains will have made areas of today’s venue quite boggy in places, these places have some rather nice abandoned buildings which will look good in the sunshine that has just made an appearance.

The first thing that hits you with Dartmoor is just the absolute peace and quiet, no roar of traffic, just the gentle thud of  Wellington boots against the path,the sound of the wind and the rush of the nearby River Swincombe, the perfect antidote for the hustle and bustle of every day.

As with all my Dartmoor days, I will be searching for its treasures, not just the beauty of the vast open space but the gnarled spindly tree surviving against the harsh winds that try to break its will to survive, hidden fungi growing on a fallen tree and the textures of weathered wood and rusty fences.

 

A walk in the woods

September has always been one of my favourite times of year, the turning of the season from summer to autumn, nature’s changing of the guard.

Watching the leaves turn from green to hues of orange and gold has always held a fascination, photographing them is a pleasure I will always enjoy, yet it is always tinged with that bittersweet taste of knowing dark winter nights are not that far away.

One of my favourite haunts to observe the rite of passage from summer to autumn is Hembury woods near Buckfastleigh, just on the edge of Dartmoor, the woodland lies alongside the River Dart.

With the summer holidays just a fading memory, I have the woods and river pretty much to myself, one of the advantages of having weekdays off from work.

With just the whisper of wind through the leaves and the occasional birdsong, it is so peaceful, a place to reflect or gather ones thoughts after a busy week, as I sit on a rock watching the river flow past.

As usual, my eye is drawn to those small patches of light that seep through to the woodland floor, also to the long since fallen trees with various species of fungi that will be prevalent at this time of year, along with the many fallen acorns.

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I tried so hard not to take the usual long exposure of the water, but those orange leaves that had already fallen on to the rocks were just too good to miss, it also gave me the excuse to stay by the river for just a few minutes longer.

After a four mile stroll, it is time to head back for a little light refreshment and something to eat before the next best part of the day, reviewing the days photos.

Another early start

My alarm was set for 4am but at three thirty I am already awake, keen to get another sunrise along the coast.
I am happy to drink the first brew of the day but food is beyond me at this time of day, I will treat myself later when I arrive back into town.

With my camera gear already packed, I slip quietly out into the early darkness, to catch the first train to Starcross.
My train departs at just after 5:15am, I will reach my destination a good half an hour before sunrise at 06:15, time to find a spot to await the awakening of the day.

On my arrival, the  first signs of dawn are already there, a beautiful red hue paints the scene with its warmth, I think I have picked a good day.

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The tide is well out,  I look for different locations along the shoreline, for possible shots, being careful to avoid the random areas of soft estuary mud.

As the light brightens, the silhouettes of geese, gathered by the waters edge are visible, their presence had been noted moments earlier, their cackling the only noise above the otherwise tranquil start to the day.

I have been here just about 20 minutes but already the palette in the sky is changing, a few shots already in the bank, it is such a pleasure to watch the morning unfold.

Initially, I was hoping to catch the sunrise on a rising tide but the light reflections on the shore and mud flats give added texture to the images, I am spoiled for choice with the rapidly changing scene.

With a glow of bright orange in the distance, the red and orange make way for the yellow and gold carnival to begin, how glad I am that I decided to choose this morning for my shoot!

An hour has flown by, my intention is to hike back to Exeter for breakfast, a nine mile walk, so it is time to pack away the tripod, but will leave the camera close to hand for any shots along the way.

I finish the last of the flask of tea I had brought and make my way home, slowly of course, this morning’s sunlight has a warm ambience as it caresses the landscape, one of my best morning shoots in a long time

Above, a handful of shots I took  as I hiked back to Exeter, to a well earned breakfast and a meeting up of friends.

Tuesday on the moor

An opportunity to go walking on Dartmoor is rarely passed up when it is offered, yesterday morning was no exception, so just after 9am, I am heading to a well photographed part of the moor, Windy Post.

Also known as Beckamoor cross or Windy stone, the stone is thought to have been placed here in the 16th century, however there are other schools of thought that suggest otherwise.
The cross is well known for it’s slight leaning, probably from the Dartmoor ponies that have seen it as a convenient scratching post.

The waterway flowing alongside the cross is the Grimstone and Sortridge leat, a handy watering hole for the ponies and sheep that graze the area.

There seemed to be a lot more Dartmoor ponies in the area today, also a good few foals shadowing mum, one or two curious ones very keen to introduce themselves, some not quite so confident.

While the day was not particularly sunny, it was very humid, I was thankful I had taken a bigger water bottle for today’s amble, as usual I was quite happy just to sit on a rock and take in the scenery, Dartmoor never fails to fill the senses with pleasure.

After taking the usual long exposure shots, it was a joy to watch the equine residents come to the leat to take on water, the moody skies providing the perfect backdrop.

 

 

Of course, I came back with the usual large shipment of photos, the above are my pick of the bunch.

Ashclyst Forest – Spring

Easter weekend is upon us, so attempting to find somewhere not too busy to go with the camera was not going to be easy.

How easy it is to overlook the many places virtually on the doorstep… enter Ashclyst forest.
Not far from Killerton house and gardens, Ashclyst is part of the national trust, so a well maintained area with several different trails of varying distance.

Finding a place to park just away from the main car park area, we had our chosen path to ourselves for a good half hour, even then, it was brief encounters with dog walkers.

An overcast morning, there was not much sunlight coming through the trees, also a little too early in the year for the abundance of butterflies that may be seen in the warmer months.

So with my favourite 50mm vintage lens and my trusty Nikkor 105mm F2.8 Macro, it was time to explore this quiet little haven, with just the sound of birdsong and the gentle breeze whispering through the trees….

 

Woodland exploration always fills me with wonder, the cycle of nature demonstrated so clearly with some branches festooned with last winter’s foliage hanging by gossamer threads, while others hold the promise of new blossom, seeking the warmth of a summer sun.

Ferns uncoil, fronded fingers of pure symmetry, while delicate wild flowers carpet the ground in a show of defiance from winter’s grasp.

I hope to explore the forest in summer, autumn and winter, watching the change as the year passes by.