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.

First shoot of the year

With Christmas fading to just a memory, slowly but surely life will return to some sort of normality, from that between Christmas and new year twilight world where all days feel like a weekend and we lose all track of time.

Today was to be the my first shoot of 2020, the first time in a year when I could use a variety of focal lengths after last years self imposed challenge.
In my bag today, would be a fuji XE-2  bought recently for a good price online, and my Xe-1 that I have had for a number of years.
Paired with the xe2, I have a used 16mm f2 Fuji lens, along with the 18-55mm ‘Kit’ lens on the Xe1.

Lyme Regis would be today’s destination, another seaside town that I enjoy visiting whenever I can.

The morning has started with a pall of grey cloud, but these clouds do at least have structure and character, not the washed out grey we have had so much over the last few weeks.

My first shots with the 16mm lens are test shots, it is the first time I have used this lens in anger, the field of view is somewhat wider than that I have been used to, but it does not take too long to get used to.

The 16mm lend will be used a lot more today than the 18-55mm, it seemed strange using a zoom lens, as I have always preferred to use primes.
A walk along the shoreline will not be possible today, the tide well up, showing only a few small patches of shingle, the wind is also blowing pretty well today, giving some nice waves as they crash suddenly into the waiting rocks.

The footpath to the main town centre and beach has some pleasing curves and texture, a couple of monochrome shots with the wide angle lens are taken, the results look pleasing, only time will tell.

My walk as usual, takes me to the Cobb wall, today it is doing it’s job as it prevents waves crashing over the wall to where many of us are walking, those walking on top of the wall for a better view are having several near misses from the waves as they attempt to capture them on their mobile phones.

As the clouds slowly depart, they make way for blue skies and sunshine, a rather pleasant January day, it has to be said.

With a number of the kiosks open for business, the aroma of eau de fish and chips is in the air, the kind of smell that wakes an appetite.

The first trip of the new year has been very welcome, a chance to walk off the festive excesses and to enjoy a few hours out with the camera, for me a good way to spend a few hours.

Post Christmas outing

With the festive holidays in full swing, I am one of the many fortunate enough to have some time off over the Christmas period.
I have spent a quiet but pleasant few days with family, eating far too much and not getting out as much as I would have liked with the camera until today, my trip back home.

The last few days in terms of weather have been bleak, rain, wind and a blanket of characterless grey cloud have been the order of the day, today is little better, though the wet stuff is due to stay away for a few hours.

Leaving Salcombe just after 11:30, Slapton sands will be the first port of call, then a walk around Dartmouth for a bite to eat before heading back to Exeter.

Slapton sands is quite unique, in that one side of the road faces the sea, while the other faces a freshwater lagoon, or Ley as it is called here, the car park is on the ley side, so my first pictures are of the bird life here.

The recent strong winds have dropped, the ley lies in a state of calm, the bird life, used to human presence here are not too bothered with me taking photos.

Walking to sea wall side, a mist hangs over the distant coast towards Dartmouth, a chance for some moody monochrome images.
I was expecting the beach to be far busier with other people looking to walk off the festive excesses, maybe the weather is keeping them at home.

From here, Dartmouth is just a few miles along the coast, it is here we find the previously absent crowds, car parking spaces are as rare as hen’s teeth but a space is found and part two of today’s outing will proceed.

I spent a few happy years, living and working in Dartmouth in my early career as a chef, I always enjoy my brief revisits here, it is one of those thriving towns with a lot of character.

My walk follows a familiar route, along the embankment to Bayards cove, famous as the filming location for the Onedin line in the 1970’s.

As always, I look forward to looking at the day’s images, while planning more outings for what remains of the holidays.

Delaying the Xmas shopping

Monday morning, over the last few weeks, my camera day out but today I have the task of completing the rest of my Christmas shopping.

The morning has started dull and grey, the perfect conditions for a trip into town but I am a reluctant starter this morning, by the time I have had my third cup of tea, the clouds are lifting, the day is looking a little brighter.

It looks like the shopping will be delayed a little longer, as I decide to take my camera for a stroll along the River Exe before embarking upon the shopping.
My decision to do so is justified, the recent strong winds have dropped, the River lies serene but higher than I have seen for a long time, debris from rising water levels lay strewn along the footpath, cast aside like an unwanted toy.

I take a selection of familiar shots, work from the newly finished flood defences complete, there are no longer miles of barriers or fences to spoil the view.

Business as usual along the quayside, but fewer people around today, being a Monday, I enjoy sharing the views with just a few others lucky enough to have the day off.

As I drink the last of my flask of tea, my main mission can be delayed no longer, that Christmas shopping will not complete itself!

Avoiding the Christmas crowds

With just one more weekend before the Christmas holidays, today’s trip was planned to be away from the madding Christmas crowds, seeking their inspiration for festive gifts.

After a traditional English breakfast at a favourite cafe, the destination was to be Brixham, one of my favourite towns to photograph, with it’s fishing heritage and thriving community, it always offers a warm welcome.

A keen wind reminds us that winter is waiting just around the corner, it is however warmer when the sun makes its welcome sporadic appearances from behind the passing clouds, blown like tumbleweed across the mid day skies.

The wooden kiosks that in the height of summer offer boat trips around the bay or seafood brought fresh from Brixham’s famous fish market are boarded shut for the winter months, in hibernation until the early spring.

Cafes along the harbour area are undergoing winter refurbishments, or closed while their proprietors take well earned winter breaks, after a hopefully busy summer season.
Those that are open are welcome refuges for those few that enjoy the quieter out of season months.

The light has a lovely quality today, my walk along the breakwater gives some very moody photo opportunities, a perfect day for photography, maybe not so perfect for the few fishermen that have braved the elements today, as they cast their lines from the breakwater wall into the sea below.

One of my favourite shots of the day is taken from here, a lone trawler sets sail as foreboding clouds make their way out to sea, the remnants of a rainbow just visible in the sky.


One of the things I enjoy most about revisiting a place throughout the year, is the opportunity to capture the location in all its moods, fair and foul, warm and cold.

I am hoping at some time in the next few months to photograph Brixham at night, just another of the many items I need to cross off my photographic bucket list.