It’s just after 04:15 as I head out this Saturday morning to capture another seaside sunrise, this time at Dawlish Warren.
As I make my way to the railway station, the dawn chorus has begun already, a male blackbird stands proudly atop a concrete pillar, preaching his avian chorus to anyone who listens, I do, his melodic overture is a pleasure to hear as a new day begins.
My walk to the station is rarely interrupted but for the occasional takeaway car making their last calls to hungry party goers, or taxi cabs ferrying the night club weary back home for a welcome slumber.
In just a few weeks, even the five AM train will not be early enough for those summer seaside sunrises but that is a concern for then, not now.
The train glides out of Exeter St. David’s station on time, I will be at my destination in twenty minutes and with darkness already lifting, I can see a little colour beginning to form in the sky above.
Mine is just the third stop of the train’s journey to Paignton, Dawlish Warren station is just a stone’s throw from here, the local arcades, cafe’s and fairground rides lie dormant for now, in just a few hours, it will be a thriving mini town, as day trippers and tourists from the local camp sites look to entertain family members, young and old.
The beauty of the new day has begun already, bright orange and dark blue skies are all I need to get the camera out for the first shot of the day, a simple composition of nearby benches in silhouette.
It is a fabulous start but I am keen to find a few more shots before the sun begins its rapid ascent, with the tide making its way in, I look to find some reflections in the calm water as a contrast to the rippled patterns in the exposed sand and a couple images from the path above the beach, using the picket fence as foreground interest.
Once the sun appears above the horizon, these beautiful shades will be lost all too soon, all the more reason to just sit and enjoy the rest of this brief show with a well earned cuppa from my generously sized thermos flask.
With mission sunrise achieved, I will make my way along the footpath to Starcross and Cockwood, joining the estuary trail as far as Topsham, where I will catch a ferry and enjoy a well deserved refreshment.
The next set of images are just a handful of those I took along one of my favourite hikes, a good ten miles allowing for my numerous ‘off piste’ ambles along the way in the search for more photos.
After Saturday morning’s sunny start to the Mayday bank holiday, Sunday reverted to the more traditional British bank holiday fare of grey skies and intermittent rain.
Unperturbed, a hastily planned trip to the East Devon coast was to be my destination for today’s outing, more precisely, Budleigh Salterton.
After the recent Easter holidays, the tourist season has begun, the beach huts that line various locations along the beach are now out of winter storage, most are still padlocked shut but the odd one or two are cosy wooden havens from which to watch the waves, for those that have brought a bite to eat and hot drinks.
This Mayday bank holiday is probably the least busy of the spring bank holidays, closely sandwiched as it is, between Easter and Whitsun, there is no half term holiday to extend the week.
There is rain in the air, as I embark on another seaside foray, the sky above just a few shades of grey with little character, perfect for those monochrome edits I like.
For today’s outing, I am using the native Canon lens (50mm F1.8), a lens I am coming to know inside out, one of the side benefits of using a particular lens for a length of time, many of today’s images will be shot between f1.8 & F2 and rarely above F5.6, just because that slight softness will suit today’s conditions.
My meander from one end of the beach to the other will take just over an hour, as I thread my way between the small fishing boats along the shore, snapping the array of lobster and crab pots that await their next use.
It may not have been the brightest day but any seaside exploration is a more than pleasant way to enjoy a Sunday.
After a very enjoyable outing to Totnes, capturing the essence of a busy market town, my Saturday morning will be quite the opposite, as I make my first early morning outing of the year.
With sunrise at just after 6am, I set out just after 5am, heading towards the quayside and the Canal footpath along the River Exe, looking forward to capturing whatever this new day may bring.
As I reach the quayside, the skies above are cloudless but bright, there will be no dramatic clouds to reflect the sun’s early light but there are some beautiful reflections in the mirror like still waters.
At just after six, the sun makes its welcome presence known as it paints the nearby buildings in a subtle golden light, the scene is jigsaw puzzle picture perfect, what a great start to my Saturday morning.
I manage one image of the sun as it rises between the trees, before all too soon those yellow hues fade away.
Happy with the shots I have, I head back along the opposite path, where the local rowers carve through the water like a knife through butter and runners and cyclists take their morning exercise, I admire their dedication as I think about that bacon sandwich I promised myself when I got back home.
It is the eighth day of my 50mm challenge, where I will head out for another camera walk to Beesands, a seaside village along the heart of the South Devon coast.
I have decided today to use an alternative 50mm lens, a Pentacon 50mm F1.8 vintage lens that used to be equipped with Praktika film cameras back in the day.
The Pentacon lens is far from the sharpest lens in my arsenal, yet it has a certain character that I find pleasing, rendering colours in to a pleasing vibrancy without being over saturated. One other aspect of this lens that appeals, is a close focusing distance of about 3.5cm, ideal for those close up shots I enjoy taking.
Arriving at Beesands around mid morning, the village is but a ghost of its summer self, holiday houses empty but plenty of choice for car parking.
Walking along the sea front, sturdy sea defences protect the village from the powers of nature that are a constant threat to so many coastal towns and villages, the sea wall with a bank of large rocks to its front, helping to reduce the damage of winter storms.
A waft of frying bacon permeates the air, too good to miss, the scent takes me to a small premises serving an assortment of tempting snacks and hot beverages, perfect for these January days.
After a rather tasty sausage bap, the photography continues, as I watch for those brief patches of light escaping through the moody grey skies.
I have always enjoyed walks along desolate beaches in winter, the emptiness has a beauty of its own, with plenty of space to find a place to just sit and enjoy the scenery while listening to the crash of waves against the pebbled beach.
I have enjoyed using the Pentacon lens for today’s shoot, having to manual focus each image is a pleasure, not a chore, I have already decided that my next shoot will be with another of my vintage 50’s, my Super Takumar F1.4….
Growing up in a small seaside town has ensured a love of the sea and coast have been indelibly etched into my DNA, so any opportunity to visit the many seaside towns throughout Devon will rarely be missed.
In the eighteen or so years that I lived in the beautiful town of Salcombe, I rarely walked the coast path, my enjoyment for coastal walking, indeed walking of any kind had not yet manifested itself, my time being spent fishing with my father, or enjoying the freedom a racing bike can give.
It was my regular cycle rides to the coastal village of Hope Cove, just a five or so mile distance from Salcombe, that made this charming postcard perfect place one of my favourite places to visit even to this day.
With my tendency to start my photo walks at an early hour, it often gives an added bonus of having a beach or town virtually to myself, for at least a couple of hours, a chance to photograph a pristine beach maybe, or to just enjoy the solitude for a few moments.
A lot of my enjoyment with photography, is the way that looking back at images will evoke a memory of that day for me in a personal sense, another is that with the ability to share images to social media, my photographic adventures can be shared with old friends and new, far and wide.
Photographers are an inherently fussy breed, in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ light we abhor those insipid grey washed characterless skies and take exception to those cloudless azure blue skies with equal measure.
To capture the mood of a rainy day requires adequately weather proof camera bodies and lenses, lacking both or either requisite we will keep our gear safe from the elements but moan that we cannot get outside.
For some the midday sun is to bright while an overcast night sky for an astro photographer is about as welcome as a bill from the tax man!
The nature of our hobby is such that not all conditions will suit everyone but my own addiction to shutter therapy means I will try to get out at any opportunity.
Of course, shooting a landscape in the harsh sunlight of mid day is not ideal, but take those same conditions to a busy city, where contrasting light and shadow may be found, it is only a matter of time before people will walk into these areas of light and some interesting shots can unfold. The same may be said of those rainy days, reflections from the wet ground offer some good monochrome shots.
For most of us, the ideal conditions are those days with cloud leaden skies, where the sun escapes through the occasional gap to fall upon buildings or the ground below.
For me, this recipe is best served around the coast at low tide, the mud flats or shallow tidal channels reflecting the light and cloud. I was fortunate enough just recently to have the weather gods on my side just a few days ago, the gallery below are a pick of the many and varied shots I took that day, inspiring the title ‘for the love of clouds’
As we approach the last week of February, the long winter nights and dark mornings are gradually making way for lighter and hopefully brighter days and after last weekend’s rain filled days, a little sunshine would be more than welcome.
I am at Starcross, just after six fifteen AM, my intention to walk the few miles along the estuary footpath back to Exeter. It is one of those very cold mornings where the chill nips at the fingertips but as the skies lighten, the blue hour is nearly upon us.
One of my first shots of today is a spur of the moment experiment, hearing a train in the distance, I set my camera up for a long exposure, not just to flatten the water but to hopefully capture the ‘ghosted’ image of the passing train, I will have just one go at this with the light as it is….
I was more than happy with the resulting image, this would be my ‘photo of the day’.
This time of day may be known as the blue hour, with a camera in hand it feels like just a few minutes, as I take a few more images before moving on.
From the beautiful hues of blue hour to pastel skies as the sun greets the new day, the cold morning leaves traces of mist in the distance.
From here, the road follows alongside the railway track, to Powderham, Turf locks and back along the path to Exeter. The railway offers a few images in monochrome, as the sun does its best to burn through a cloak of fog on the estuary.
With a mist on the water, inland, the frost on the bracken and grass offer more photo opportunities, until that is, the fog has a second wind and finds its way amongst the trees ahead.
By the time I reach Turf Locks, the sun appears to be winning the day, brighter skies above and a brisk pace mean my hands are thawing and I can shed the fleece I had on under my coat.
The last few favourites from today’s walk, before heading for the home stretch and a reward of a bacon sandwich and a rather large mug of tea.
Friday and Saturday had been a complete wash out in terms of any plans I had of getting out for my weekend photo walk, can there be any rain left to fall I ask?
Sunday morning and much of the same, as I enjoy my first brew of the day and a bacon butty, the skies are a grey wash of mediocrity, the gentle sound of rain against the windows, is this to be another ‘stay in’ day?
As I finish breakfast, I look out to see that there appears to be a break in the rainfall, without further ado, I decide to get some fresh air, even if it is only for a brief time.
The rain may have stopped but the sky still shows intent, so I set a brisk pace as I head towards my undetermined destination.
It is on these spontaneous forays that I find myself becoming more creative, looking for shots that I have not taken before, which in a city I have lived in for over twenty years, can be a challenge.
A lot of today’s shots will be black and white, to capture the mood of the day, but keep an open mind.
It has been my intention this year, to spend less time editing my photos, attempting to capture the mood with in camera presets or ‘recipes’ I have been creating over the last few weeks.
With today being such a dull day, monochrome and desaturated colour images, with contrasty shadows are the order of the day, with only a little cropping as needed done in post processing.
Despite the short duration and distance of today’s jaunt, I feel that I have salvaged something from this weekend and look forward to my next outing.
Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I did not manage to get out with the camera, my days off were spent unpacking boxes and settling into my new abode, so no opportunity for the usual shutter therapy.
My hopes for a bright and sunny Friday and Saturday are to be dashed by two days of wind and rain.
Ever the opportunist, Thursday evening is at least dry, so decide to head out for an hour or so, just around the city centre for some night time photography.
As I walk past St James station, I realise that I have lived in Exeter for twenty years and never taken a photo here, in daytime the small station is one of the many smaller ones along the Exmouth railway route but the lights reflecting on the platform catch my eye enough to take a photo.
In all honesty, I have no plan in mind for tonight’s impromptu foray, as with the station image, it will be whatever catches my eye, as I make my way into the city centre.
I love the way a city seems to take on another persona at night, the way light reflects onto other buildings, or onto the street, offer chances not seen during daylight hours.
While I do not consider myself to be a ‘crowds’ person, I look forward to times when the city streets will be busy once more, where the hospitality and retail industry can open their doors once more and to see my home city getting back to business as usual.
Most of my exercise walks in lockdown have followed a well trodden path away from the main city centre, strolls along the riverside are a brief respite and a reminder of the normality that we once had before this ever present threat of covid.
As much as I enjoy capturing the beauty of a sunrise or the mist rising from a river on a cold winter morning, these strange times have a story of their own, the following words are observations and images, taken over the last couple of weeks, on my brief incursions into a city in lockdown.
The city streets are bereft of bargain hungry shoppers, a melancholy silence hangs above the city, where even the faintest sound will drift between empty alleyways.
Shop window displays remain unchanged, last season’s merchandise that nobody can buy, only essential shop doors can welcome the customer for now.
An optimistic gull perched upon a street light waits for morsels that rarely appear, once easy pickings have become a drought, so he files to another spot, where he is quickly dispersed by a rival already close by.
Lone souls find a place in the winter sun to drink a welcome hot tea or coffee while others patiently wait for their buses to take them home.
I think we have become a little more sociable these days, while we have spent a lot of time at home, the company of a stranger is a welcome yet brief chance to make each others day a little more pleasant.
I was asked recently if I found it more difficult to enjoy street photography with so few people around, to a degree maybe but I look to find other subject matter within the streets to photograph. rainwater on a bench perhaps, colours and textures lit by the sun as they cast patterns, shadows of people against a wall offering an abstract take.
For as long as the current lockdown remains in place, I will continue to make my observations but I am looking forward to the days when my images are of a city free from the necessary constraints, where we can meet once more with friends and revisit those places we have missed.