Another Monday meander

Monday morning, I am up at an early hour after having a rather lazy Sunday, I have good intentions to get out and about for the day.

The day is set to be cold and bright, so set about looking at train and bus timetables.
Just twenty minutes later my train tickets paid for online, my destination is Plymouth, a chance for some street photography and another excuse to walk around the historic Barbican area of the city.

I am travelling with minimal gear today, just the 100F and a couple of batteries, no tripods, no filters, Plymouth always offers plenty of photographic opportunities.

Arriving at the train station, the sun casts some interesting shadows around the platform, the day is under way.

It takes about an hour from Exeter to Plymouth, passing through Newton Abbot and Totnes, it is a very pleasant journey passing through the countryside until reaching my destination.

As usual, I head towards Plymouth Hoe, with the intention of paying a visit to Smeatons tower, the predecessor to the Eddystone lighthouse, which was painstakingly dismantled from its location on the Eddystone rocks and reassembled on land in 1884.
My ideas of taking some high up shots of the Hoe from the tower are scuppered by the site of huge fences and scaffolding surrounding the tower,winter maintenance is under way it would appear.

From here, I walk just a short distance to one of the many small kiosks offering snacks and hot beverages, a cup of tea sat in the sunshine will do me nicely for a few minutes thank you.

Sun and shadow will be a theme in today’s proceedings, a day where opportunities present themselves willingly, a day where I will happily just meander to seek them out.

My time here in Plymouth is soon over but my day will continue back in Exeter, where the annual Christmas market is now under way.
The early part of the week will be a good opportunity to have a more relaxed wander around without the weekend crowds while I take a few more photos.

It’s beginning to look a lot like ….

With Halloween and Guy Fawkes night only just behind us, mid November sees the seemingly ever earlier build up to the festive season.
My home city of Exeter is no exception, the festive lights were put up before the end of October for last week’s official switch on.

While I feel hesitant to celebrate the festive season too early, I do look forward to the annual Christmas market, held in the grounds of Exeter’s magnificent cathedral.

As a self confessed and unashamed foodie, I love the atmosphere and aroma’s that come from the myriad of food stalls and of course, as a photography addict  I like to take my camera when I visit.

I like to arrive just as dusk approaches, the coloured lighting of the market stalls add a lot of character to potential images.

Armed with just my trusty 100f, I make a lap of the market to scout possibilities, usually lingering around the various food stalls, offering such culinary delights as Thai curries, chillies, wraps, burritos and bratwurst to name just a few.

The delicate spicy aromas of the curry shack hit my senses first, then the sweet smell of cinnamon from the mulled wine stall, then of course the strains of Christmas playlist can be heard over the PA system.

A few of the stall holders are more than happy to pose for photos, the simple act of asking for photos has been something I have done for the first time on a regular basis this year, in the past, I may have attempted more candid shots but been very self conscious, now I feel that I have earned a shot by asking, often offering to post on their social media accounts in return.

The market will remain until a week before Christmas, plenty of time for me to sample even more delights.

Exploring Bristol

I had set myself a couple of photography goals this year, one being my ongoing one camera one lens project, the other was to travel further afield to photograph and explore towns and cities I had not really explored fully, if at all.

I had started well enough in March, my 2 day trip to London was very enjoyable, since then, a combination of various things (along with the constant allure of Dartmoor) had sidelined more regular outings further afield until yesterday.

Having booked my bus ticket a few days before, Monday morning sees me heading to catch an early bus to Bristol, I happen to choose the morning with the first autumn frosts of 2019, as I venture out just before 6am towards the bus stop.

The journey will take a couple of hours and as the day breaks, I admire the amazing hues of orange in the sky, just a shame I could not ask the driver to stop for a few minutes to take some photos!

At eight fifteen, the bus arrives at the coach station, I have until late afternoon to explore the city before my return journey home.
I have a few ideas of where I want to go today but over a welcome breakfast, I finalise and abridge an unrealistic itinerary.

Bristol is well known for its urban artwork, I am barely two minutes into today’s foray when I see a perfect opportunity for some street images….

As usual for me with any place I am unfamiliar with, I spend a couple of hours just looking for potential ideas, then revisit later in the day, one such possibility is St. Nicholas market, where the stall holders are just starting to set up for the day, I will definitely come back here when it is busier!

My walk takes me towards the quayside, I came here a few years ago but had little time to photograph as much as I wanted, I will rectify that this morning.
Tall cranes, stand like sentinels along the dockside, my favourite being the old steam crane at the far end, all relics of Bristol’s maritime heritage.

I considered going to the SS Great Britain museum, after chatting to one of the custodians, a minimum of 2 hours is needed to barely scratch the surface of their exhibits, I will come here on another day, when I have more time, a perfect excuse for another trip, if I ever needed one.

By mid morning, according to my mobile app, I have covered 6 miles or so, time for another tea break, and a chance to write a few ideas for today’s blog, while they are still fresh in my mind.
My immediate thought is in the contrast of yesterday’s trip to the woods, a place of tranquillity, compared to the hustle and bustle of  today, yet both very enjoyable.

I head back towards the market that I had spotted earlier, the aroma of herbs and spices float in the air, tantalising taste buds.
I have timed this just right, a real hive of activity as the last of the lunchtime crowds walk away with bao buns or rice bowls, curries and burrito’s.

Two of the traders are happy to let me take photos when I ask, I prefer this approach in markets, as they will often take time to pose a ‘working’ shot, as they tell me about their business.

I cover around seven or eight miles today, yet I feel that I have barely scratched the surface, there appears to be photo opportunities wherever I turn.

Time has slipped away all too quickly,  I have an hour before my bus departs, just time to go and find an area of graffiti I had spotted earlier.

The next time I come to Bristol, it will be for a couple of days, I would like to photograph the city at night time, as well as go to the places I could not cover today, in the meantime, I will enjoy looking back at the memories I have made today.

Into the mist

Six AM and I have just finished my night shift, my normal routine would be to get home for a welcome cup of tea and a few hours sleep but the city wakes, wrapped in a grey shroud of late October fog, too good an opportunity to miss, for some moody shots before the darkness lifts.

I am barely a few hundred yards from my doorstep when the first potential shot is seen, a central heating outlet throws warm air out into this damp, cold morning, creating its own fog into a side alley ….. click!
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Walking through the city centre, an opportunity perhaps, for the early buses awaiting their cargo of commuters, it seems strange to see the dormant Christmas decorations suspended above, it will be another three weeks before the annual switch on event, and the increasingly early build up to the festive season.

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I move quickly to a place where I had noted the potential for a good ‘mist’ shot in the past, the old iron bridge has some lovely old style street lamps, placed fairly close together, as I reach the spot, my hoped for shot is as there for the taking, as well as a couple of ornamental lamps on the nearby buildings.


I even manage to find a place to rest my camera for a long exposure shot of a passing car, my improvised tripod is a handily placed waste bin with a convenient flat surface, perfect!

At this point, I am not far from the River Exe, so decide to make a beeline there to one of the bridges I have photographed so many times before in low light conditions, I am here so why not?

On my way to the bridge, I am drawn to the way the trees are lit by the street lights, there is a moody feel to this shot, as with the rest of today’s images, they will be black and white.

The darkness is slowly conceding ground to daylight, the eternal tug of war between night and day slowly swings to night time’s advantage, more so this weekend with the changing of the clocks.

My walk along the river bank is broken up by a few sporadic shots of the mist slowly lifting away, it was the last of the night time shots I was out for, so am happy to make my way back home for a shower and a few hours sleep.


The spontaneous nature of today’s shoot, has made it all the more enjoyable, I have always admired the moodiness of these misty autumn mornings, to capture them is always a pleasure.

Going light

Since embarking upon my one focal length project this year, my faithful Fuji has been the perfect take anywhere camera, with no lenses to consider packing, my camera bag is considerably lighter than it ever has been, yet I still like to take a selection of filters and a tripod for my planned trips to Dartmoor and the coast, where I like to experiment with long exposures with the skies and water but I am beginning to wonder if I always need to carry the extra gear, just in case.

To elaborate further, I have found myself with just the camera and a spare battery when I am on errands in town, where I have really enjoyed having just the camera and no extras, minimalist photography.

A few shots from today’s foray into town, no contrasty shadows today with the overcast skies but I managed to find a few little gems.

 

 

Has this, maybe sown the seed for next years project, going light on all trips, just my chosen camera, no tripod and no extras, other than a spare battery or two?

If I am being honest, I am not sure I could do that for a whole year, I really enjoy all aspects of photography, the tripod and filters are part of what I enjoy about going on my outings, yet, it could be another steep learning curve

I am open to ideas on any future camera projects for next year, feel free to add any thoughts in the comments.

My journey into street photography

Up until about three years ago, I would never have considered doing street photography, my innate dislike of large crowds in confined spaces was one of the contributing factors, any weekend errands I needed to do, were done at around opening time, to facilitate a quick escape back home.

My first fujifilm 100 series changed that, a used X100s was coming with me wherever I went, the  dynamic had changed, I was about to embrace a whole new genre.

I’m not saying that I embraced street photography overnight but I was beginning to see the possibilities open up for the days I could not get to the moor or coast.

It was a steep learning curve, I was very conscious of the fact that I was dipping my toes into unknown territory, my style at first was very much point and hope, I had not yet realised the importance of the exposure triangle but we all need to start somewhere.

It began to click on one particularly wet day, I thought it may be good to try and get some water reflections on the pavements, I was stood under a shop awning waiting for a shot of a person in a brightly coloured raincoat, or somebody carrying an unusual umbrella, I was learning to bide my time.

How times have changed, these days, I think nothing of asking people for a photo, if I find them interesting, involving the potential subject makes for a much more natural shot but I do get a buzz from the candid shots that hopefully  tell a story.

 

Most of my street photography is done in my home town of Exeter, in a matter of a few minutes, I can be in town and back home again after just a couple hours but I like to venture further whenever I can.

I had such an opportunity just this week, a trip to the bustling market town of Totnes, well known for its ‘alternative’ lifestyle, it is a great place to capture the essence of street photography.
My time here would be brief, so instead of my usual walk by the riverside, I headed straight for the town centre, where with a combination of the summer visitors and the local market, I was bound to get something.

My first point of call would be ‘Narnia’, a store selling retro merchandise that has a bright yellow facade and a feast of treasures on display, a chance for some window shoppers here.
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The local  market was also in full swing, a myriad of colours, and an array of smells wafting on the breeze from the food vendors.

Totnes is one of those towns with hidden alleys and side roads, slowly but surely, I am finding new ones, in the pursuit of new subject matter.

 

 

In just over an hour, I got some shots I was very happy with, for me, ‘street’ is not necessarily about photographing people, it is about trying to tell a story of the places I visit, attempting to convey the atmosphere I felt as I walk with camera always at the ready.

A city break

With a few days of last years holiday left, I decided to revisit London for the first time in around 30 years.
It was about the time that I had started to become interested in photography, and had my first film camera, a Praktika LB2.
If I am being honest, my photos were woeful from this excursion but I knew that I would return in the future.

Thirty years later, I am armed with my X100f and a heap more knowledge about my hobby, so was looking forward to completing as much of my photographic bucket list as possible.
My coach had left Exeter at eight thirty, reaching the Victoria coach station just before 1pm, a 15 minute walk to find my hotel in the Pimlico area, where I was checked in and ready to take some shots just a few minutes later.

I had been very fortunate to pick a day of blue cloudless skies, the temperatures were the highest recorded in February for some years, spring had arrived early

While I had put together an itinerary of sorts, the first afternoon was always about strolling along the River Thames, taking in the iconic landscape and enjoying rediscovering the city.
I had an idea in my mind that I would walk the North side first, then the south the following day, I ended up meandering both sides like a drunk snail, walking one side to the other.

I had packed my large tripod, thinking I would need it for some low light shots later that evening but decided to leave it at the hotel, knowing that I had another full day on the Wednesday if I could not get away using the mini tripod I carried in my bag.
My decision was rewarded with several low height walls with pillars big enough to accommodate the small tripod.


Wednesday morning dawned with more blue skies and sunshine, my first point of call was a cafe just 5 minutes from the hotel which opened at 7am, where my full English breakfast  was cooked to order and served piping hot, along with a cuppa and toast.
This has to be the first time I had eaten breakfast to Copland’s fanfare for the common man but certainly very uplifting.

My route this morning was to keep to the north side, passing Buckingham palace and the national gallery, finding a few good shots along the way, especially by the national gallery where lines of people went about their day.

The sun was creating some wonderful shadows, between the pillars at Somerset house, the light and shadow created a celestial zebra crossing on the concrete, right at the end of the light one of the staff was opening the building.

Reaching St Paul’s cathedral for the second time in as many days, I carried on to London city where I had wanted to capture Leadenhall market and the LLoyd’s buildings.


The day was slipping by very quickly, I was happy with the shots I was getting but there was still the matter of one more iconic building to fulfil my personal goals, the Tate modern staircase.
It is just one of those photos that I have wanted to capture for myself, now was my chance.
The gallery was not overly busy, so I was able take some time to stand and stare at one or two of the exhibitions,  admiring most, while in my ignorance not ‘getting’ some of the others, then to that staircase …


I like the simplicity of the first image but it really does need the human interest, so I was happy to patiently for a few minutes to get some other shots.

My plan to walk everywhere enabled me to find parts of the city I may not have otherwise seen, perhaps another time, I will use the tube or buses more, either way, I still have so much more to see on future trips.
Yes, I will return, I came to London with a thousand ideas, I have returned with a million more, I went as a stranger, and returned having met some wonderful people that made me feel very welcome in their home city.