Out at last

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.

A city at night

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.


My favourite shot of the evening, I liked the lines and light through the window

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.

A city in lockdown

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.

Photography from the dark side

With autumn stepping into Summer’s vacant shoes, I reluctantly bid a fond farewell to those long, light evenings, but welcome the opportunity to capture the colours and moods of one of my favourite seasons of the year.

With woodland and riverside walks high on the agenda, hopes will be high to capture that colourful carpet of fallen leaves before they fade to winter mulch, golden leaves on lichen cloaked rocks teasing us with a show of colour before the barren winter months to come.

It is also at this time of year that I try to embrace the inevitable darker evenings, by honing my favourite photographic genre, low light and night time photography.

Emerging from summer photography mode into the discipline of low light work, my skills area little ring rusty, it is time to re-hone the skills with a couple hours night shooting around Exeter.

With me, I have my Olympus EM5 MKII with a recent new addition, the 17mm F1.2 Pro lens, with the EM5’s image stabilization and the wide aperture, I want to see how this combo performs with hand held shots.

As usual, the Ricoh GR3 tags along, small enough to fit in a pocket, it is a great little camera to stand on some of the street furniture, that act as a substitute tripod.

No night time foray is complete without the obligatory traffic trail shots, I do my duty with the ricoh perched on top of a metal pavement bollard, a passing bus giving a nice abstract look to the scene.

The olympus with the 17mm perform admirably too, my first shoot with this lens, so experimenting aplenty here.

I have deliberately chosen a less busy Thursday night for tonight’s foray, tomorrow will see more looking to start the weekend, I am happy in an emptier city.





With a little of the ring rust shaken off, I have a couple of ideas for some night time photography projects in the coming months, after all, I may as well take full advantage of the longer hours of darkness.

Seaside ambles

My first seaside walk since early March saw me going back to my home town of Salcombe last weekend, my main agenda was to visit my dad for father’s day, the second to enjoy a low tide walk along the shore of a favourite haunt from my childhood.

With the tide at its lowest ebb, there is an opportunity to walk along the best part of the beach, taking in views of the town of Salcombe from a different perspective, it is here that many of my favourite views can be seen.

From an early age, I have enjoyed these walks along the shore, especially after winter storms, where all sorts of maritime debris would be washed up along the shore, all treasures to a youngsters mind.

To this day, I unashamedly love peering into rock pools, and still like to look under seaweed for any small crabs that may be lurking beneath, evoking memories of looking for peeler crabs for fishing bait in spring and early summer.

It is true to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, my absence was just 3 months, yet I felt a new appreciation for something that can be so easily taken for granted.

The second part of today’s jaunt, was a revisit to Slapton sands, another of my favourite beaches, with it’s lagoon or ‘ley’ to one side and the open sea on the other, the two are sandwiched by probably the longest length of straight road in Devon, a road that over the years has been washed away more than once by savage winter storms.

As popular as ever, the beach was busy, but not crowded to the extent of those recently depicted in the mainstream media, the visitors here were observing social distancing and there was a happy buzz as complete strangers were making new friends while waiting for their takeaway food or drinks from the pub and cafes, attempting some semblance of normality in these odd times.

It was here I have taken my favourite shot of the year so far, a gentleman with his two dogs, sat on the sea wall, he kindly agreed for me to take his photo, which if I am being honest, was not expecting.

I do not consider myself as a portrait photographer but I love the candid nature of this shot, even though it was posed.



As usual, a rather enjoyable trip to the seaside, as usual, time passes too quickly but looking forward to my next trip here already.

A city wakes

Just over half way into 2020, yet it seems this year has already outstayed its welcome, a year to remember for all the wrong reasons.

Cities have been reduced to ghost towns, devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of the lifestyle we take so much for granted.

I am not a ‘crowds’ person but even for me, this extended and enforced silence has been an uncomfortable one, only the passing buses and open supermarkets offering a semblance of normality during these strange days.

After this week’s opening of non essential shops, small seeds of optimism have been sown, there is a feeling of cautious hope, as the city I call home slowly wakes from an unwelcome slumber.

Of course, ‘normal’ will not happen for some time to come, as bright yellow 2m signs on the pavements remind us,to keep our distance, as well as attempts to make either side of the street one way for pedestrians which have thus far failed miserably as the public go about their business.

During lockdown, I had felt disinclined to document the silent streets, a feeling that taking a camera around seemed somehow indulgent but today I wanted to capture the first Saturday after the easing of lockdown measures, to capture the essence of the shackles being lifted from months of constraint.

While the streets were not overly busy, there was a buzz, as shop doors were once again open to welcome us in.
Taxi ranks were full for the first time in weeks and I even had a complete stranger stand in front of my camera, wanting his picture taken, which I was of course happy to do.

No trip to town is complete without a walk to the quay and riverside, how pleasant again to see a number of businesses open once more to satisfy the need for a drink and snack to eat while enjoying views of the Exe.

Today was not the sunniest of days as we begin a slow and careful transition but frankly, I do not think any one of us cared, it was good to be out.

No excuses

I was watching a youtube photography channel earlier this week, the location was an area of outstanding beauty, the sun was out, yet the first words after the intro were ‘ The sky is too blue!’

I too have been out on Dartmoor on a beautiful sunny day, happily taking in the vast openness but wishing for cloud, yet on those grey rainy days, I wish for sun, essentially photographers are never happy!

In the eternal search for perfect light, we will always find something that isn’t quite right but the last couple of days have provided skies full of character with an ever changing light that gave plenty of opportunity for image making, today there would be no excuses.

While travel on public transport for photography trips is still out of the question, I am taking full advantage of the opportunity for unlimited exercise by taking walks around Exeter’s picturesque quayside and river walks, pictures I have taken a few hundred times before but with a renewed appreciation of what is on my doorstep.




For the record, all images were taken with a recently adopted Canon 5d Mark 1 with canon 20-35mm lens, there is something about using older camera gear I really like.

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….

 

Bristol rediscovered

I last visited Bristol for the first time in a number of years just before December last year, on this occasion I had walked the usual day trippers routes and attractions but promised myself another visit to photograph some of the city’s iconic street art in the not too distant future.

That day was yesterday, since once again, the weekend weather was somewhat underwhelming, I spent the time productively looking over coach or train timetables for places to visit.

With my coach ticket booked in a matter of minutes, I then began to scour the internet to research the locations of the most popular street art, that I could hopefully find within the time I had before my return journey, with so much to see, there will be a few more visits in the coming months.

As usual, I prepare my camera bag ahead of time, I will be taking my XE1 and XE2, with 18mm f2 and 35mm f2 lenses respectively, (27mm and 52mm in full frame terms) and of course, a  couple of spare batteries.

My coach leaves at 06:15, I arrive as usual, far too early but I cannot be that person who leaves it until the last possible moment, arriving just seconds before departure time, or worse, arriving as the bus leaves without them.

As the bus starts the 2 hour journey in darkness, I dig out  the weekends cryptic crossword I had brought with me, finishing it just in time to see the first sight of sun in seemingly weeks, it’s a good start to the day.

In Bristol by just after 08:20, my first port of call is to find somewhere for my second cuppa of the day and a bacon butty, here I plan the first couple of hours before meeting with my cousin Louise, for the first time in years.
As the meeting place is an area I have not previously visited, I allow plenty of time for my usual time consuming detours into alleyways and side streets that are adorned with vibrant, eye catching art, the cobbled streets give some added interest to the amazing artwork this city has to offer.

 

While the artwork is striking, so is the diversity and number of independent businesses that appear to be thriving, it is here that I enjoy my self promised mug of tea and sandwich, in a family owned cafe, where I arrive as a stranger and leave as though I have been visiting the place for years, perhaps my request for the owner to turn the music up as he brought my food was the catalyst, but Buddy Guy and B.B King just have to be turned up to eleven!

Arriving at the arranged venue to meet with my cousin Louise fifteen minutes early, I order myself a drink and go through my photos so far, already up to just under 80 shots, 81, as a perfect opportunist shot presents itself in front of my eyes, as a fellow customer is engrossed in her mobile phone, the natural light from the window table she sits at was too good to miss.
texting

With the family catch up complete, I am armed with good advice on which buses to catch for my next graffiti goals, so much to do and the day is passing like an express train….

With just four hours before I need to be back at the bus station, I realise that I will get probably just a third of my list of artwork, I make a decision to slow the pace a little and head for St Nicholas market, to hopefully capture some images during the lunch time rush.
I am not to be disappointed, the array of culinary aromas drift on the breeze, well before I arrive at the market place, which is filling by the minute, healthy appetites waiting to be tempted by a myriad of  gastronomic goodies.

As with my previous visits, I end up walking to the harbourside, where the forecast rain has arrived ahead of schedule, there will be less photos taken this afternoon but I have pretty much got what I came for.
Those I do take are taken under some sort of shelter, making me look for different ideas for the last few shots.

Back at the coach station I drink a well earned cuppa, the beginnings of a blister on my left foot reminds me to check how many miles I have walked, a grand total of eleven, according to my phone app, note to self to wear thicker walking socks on my next day trip.

This may have been a return visit, yet I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what Bristol has to offer, perhaps some night time shots on my next return and a longer stay is in order.

New life in old lenses

It was about eighteen months after purchasing my first mirrorless camera roughly six years ago, I read an article about the possibility of using lenses from SLR cameras with an adaptor, I was intrigued to say the least, another chapter in my photography journey was to begin.

Typically of anyone into photography, my collection of old glass grew quite quickly, a range of 50mm lenses from 1.4 to 2.8 some other wider primes and a couple of zoom lenses, all bought at reasonable prices online, or the odd charity shop.

Many of my original purchases have since been sold again or passed on to friends, the few that remain are favourites that are about to experience a new lease of life in 2020


Today’s choice was a Prakticar 80-200mm F4.0 – 5.6 lens, not the fastest lens ever but the early part of the day was offering bright sunshine, ideal for capturing any squirrels or bird life that I might see on today’s quick outing.

After a patient wait, I see my first subject matter, my lack of practice with a zoom lens shows in my first few shots, blurry and not in focus, also trying to remember lenses as old as this one are inherently softer at the upper reach of the zoom.

After adding a few more nuts to the already healthy squirrel picnic, one seems happy enough with my presence to carry on eating his fill.


From here, the River Exe is just a five minute walk, the ever present gulls line the railings by the river bank, I get as close as I dare to try a few more shots.


Just a few minutes after the gull shots, the heavens decide to open and I take shelter under one of the bridges spanning the river, it would appear that I could be here for a while, the rain is getting heavier but I am dry here, so I look for more photo opportunities, what can I get with my zoom?

From my shelter, I spot the water teeming from the bridge, might look good in black and white?
A single leaf from a bush at the far extreme of my shelter…snap

I watch the pigeons and gulls at the edge of the pathway, unfazed by the teeming rain they continue their day.

I am not expecting today’s images to have the sharpness of my Fuji glass, yet they have a character of their own that I really like, especially in the monochrome images.
It is so easy to become distracted with the need for sharpness, sometimes it is the imperfections that make us look in a different way.

Perfect or not, I have had another enjoyable few hours out, doing what I enjoy most.