More moor moodiness


It’s a Sunday morning and an invitation to get out on to Dartmoor once again will rarely be turned down, today is no exception as I go through my pre outing routine of checking batteries are charged and most importantly, I have a thermos of tea to look forward to after the morning’s walk.

It’s a lovely September morning, that autumnal freshness is making itself more prominent, there are also signs of low cloud in the distance, as usual, my eyes are peeled for any impromptu shots on the way.

First shot of the day, heading out from Exeter , low cloud and gorgeous light over the landscape.

With this potential for mist in the landscape, the thought is to head to Foggintor, scene of quarry workings and former quarry workers buildings, long since abandoned.

The blue skies of Exeter, less than an hour earlier are replaced by more moody skies, my second shot of the day is barely yards from the car park, a wonderful interplay of light upon the landscape, one of the many reasons for my frequent visits here.

Shot two, yards from the car park.

As I think about the images I have just captured, I look forward to whatever else I may be fortunate to see as the next 3 or four miles begin in earnest.

My next shot, taken a few steps to the left of the one above, will be the last of the sunlight I will see on the moor today, a huge front of ominous grey approached from the distance, there may well be a few monochrome images today.

The last of the sunlight seen on today’s outing.

The footpath passes Yellowmeade farm, the bovine community is out and about, of course I take a shot and a name immediately comes to mind for the image, ‘The Yellowmeade farm beef mountain’.

The Yellowmeade beef mountain

I come to realise This will become something of a theme today, the name of the image is decided before the click of the shutter, I come to realise that I actually do this on a regular basis…. here another one named before the shot was taken on the return leg of the walk.

Rare steak and pea soup


It is a good half way around the walk that the grey seems to want a permanent residency over the landscape, a chance for me to experiment with black and white images in camera or for later editing.

The ruins that remain of this part of Dartmoor look stark against the barren moorland, I do my best to capture the atmosphere which is helped by approaching mist.

My favourite trees, alone in most cases, stand defiant as ever against the elements, while horses look to find what little shelter they may offer.

I will finish this blog entry with the last picks of todays’s outing, all in monochrome, these really capture the essence of the moor in it’s raw beauty.

Hound Tor walk


After a short two day week, I have three days off plus the weekend to enjoy some well earned time off.

What better way to enjoy the time, than to head out to Dartmoor for a little shutter therapy, a trip to Hound Tor, famously said to have inspired Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles.

Dartmoor folklore has it that the tors were hounds turned to stone by a vengeful witch, while fact has Hound Tor recorded in the Domesday book as ‘Hundatora’.

It is a pleasant September morning, with a noticeably cool breeze, with sporadic sunshine peering from increasingly thickening clouds.
I am barely out of the car park before the first shot of the day is in the bag, looking back towards the car park and the view beyond, a low layer of cloud hangs over the landscape.

Today’s first shot

Climbing higher towards the Tors, there are already a few climbers being shown the ropes (pun intended) with much encouragement from their instructors below, I watch for a while, take a couple of snaps and continue onwards.

The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, I take several shots in close proximity, each added to my treasure trove of Dartmoor memories.


No trip to the moor is complete without at least a couple of moody monochrome shots, there will be no exception to that rule today, as Dartmoor does what it does best in having a complete change of mind about the weather, from bright skies and some gorgeous light to grey skies and a poor attempt at rain in the matter of a few moments but for all that, in all her moods Dartmoor will always be beautiful.


I have only covered three miles today but it was always going to be more of a mooch and an explore rather than a full on hike, as usual, there are reasons to be back again as there are so many paths and trails to follow.

For all my trips here to the moor, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface, what better excuse for continued exploration of this truly wonderful landscape.

A trip to Piles Copse

It has been a while since my last blog entry, a busy August has left little spare time to write, however there are a few entries in the offing.

The first of these is a first time trip to Piles Copse, the third and less well known of the ancient oak woodlands of Dartmoor, situated on the banks of the River Erme, a few miles from Cornwood and Ivybridge.

I have visited Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse before, both of which are breathtakingly beautiful and popular, Piles copse has a less defined footpath so a map is pretty much essential.

Arriving at just before 7am, the sun is making its way into the sky, my first photo of the day is a copse of fir trees silhouetted by the morning light, a truly inspiring start to today’s outing.



Just a few steps into today’s walk and this is my view

With my need for some urgent shutter therapy and the outstanding natural beauty of the landscape, the hike towards Sharp tor takes a while, and upon reaching the tor, the view below is second only to the local equine population atop the hill.

My first photo of this little beauty was from some distance away, but I sat quietly on a rock and she slowly but surely came closer to satisfy her curiosity.
The view from Sharp tor down to Piles Copse

From this vantage point, to the woods below is a steep zigzagging route weaving a path around the dense vegetation, it is clear that this is not a well used path.

The copse itself is owned and managed by the Howard family, who thankfully allow rights of access through the woodland but camping is not allowed with the area being designated site of scientific interest status.

Like Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse, one could be forgiven for thinking that you had come to middle earth, the lichen and moss coated trees and rocks, and twisted tree limbs looking so beautifully other worldly.


I find my usual photographic fodder of back lit leaves and dappled sunlight through the trees, a spiders web shimmering in the gentle breeze that whispers quietly as it passes by.

The route out of the copse is as hard as the one in, yet for this, I feel a sense of reward, nothing as beautiful as this should be easy to reach, the total distance of just under six miles feels more like ten but I feel privileged to have completed the Dartmoor triumvirate of ancient woodlands.

The vintage lens shoot

My last blog was about how I had rekindled an interest in using vintage SLR camera lenses on a modern mirrorless camera body, and how the more deliberate process of manual focus and controlling an aperture ring on a lens made me feel much more a part of the photographic process.

Up to now, I had used my vintage lenses for more creative compositions, the wide open aperture of my Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 allows for some lovely bokeh for close ups of flora and such but it occurred to me that I had never used one of my older lenses for an entire shoot.

As I am always keen to give myself new photography orientated projects, I decided that for my next outing, I would not pack my usual 20-60mm lens, instead picking out a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens 50mm F2.8.

With a trip to the picturesque town of Dartmouth on the cards, I was looking forward to the first of these one lens only forays.

As I left Exeter, the morning sky was just a miserable mass of grey, in contrast, Dartmouth was bathed in a warm late June sun, with plenty of holiday makers determined to make the most of the day.

One of the things I enjoy most about photography are the spontaneous conversations that may be had with fellow photo hobbyists, I had a lovely chat with one gentleman who recognised the lens and said he had used one in the late sixties and early seventies on his Praktika film camera.
He was curious about using older lenses on modern cameras, he went away with the idea of rediscovering his older lenses that had not been used for some years, he was even more pleased when I told him that his current Sony camera was perfect for his needs, he just needed the adaptor. (His wife was even more pleased when she knew the adaptor would not cost that much!)

I was aware of how much more deliberate I was in picking my shots today, I was spending more time looking for something a little different, part of this, could be my familiarity with Dartmouth, I spent a very happy 5 or six years in and around the area, while I was working as a chef in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, it will always remain a haven of happy memories.

With just a 2 hour parking limit, there was no time to walk as far as Dartmouth Castle, that can be another trip for another day, back at the car a brief look at the images on my camera screen looked pleasing, this lens renders colours in a way I like, perhaps a little over saturated but not overly so.

On seeing my efforts on my computer screen, I was more than happy with the images from this lens, my only regret being that I had not used it that much before, there were a few shots where I had missed focus but the sharpness of this little gem even wide open was surprising.

There is no doubt that I have become used to the clinical sharpness of modern day lenses, so today’s outing has given me a eureka moment, realising that not everyone who sees an image cares about the sharpness,or what camera was used, more that for them it evokes a memory, or it reminds them of somewhere similar that they have visited, regardless, for someone else to take pleasure in a photo means that my job is done!




As I browse my vintage lens collection, I have another 3 50mm lenses to choose from, I am already looking forward to the next outing.

Between the rain showers

As we reach the middle of May, it has to be said that it has been a little more than underwhelming on the weather front, it appears that the usual April showers overslept and are now playing catch up.

I was not entirely surprised to see that this weekend was not looking much better but I was determined that I would get out for a few hours on at least one of my days off.

Saturday morning just after 5am and the familiar sound of rain falling gently on the windows, I make my first brew of the day and ruminate over the weather forecast apps, each one telling a different story but decide to head out regardless.

I board the train to Topsham at 6:15 am, but for the driver and ticket inspector, I am the sole passenger arriving at Topsham about 20 minutes later.
This is one of my favourite local walks, where the footpath runs alongside the estuary but the whole path is not always accessible at certain points at high tide but today, after checking tide times, I have timed it well.

As the gentle drizzle turns to a more persistent and heavy rain, I think at first that I have rolled the dice and lost but after a few minutes, the distant horizon appears to brighten up.

Often on days such as this, there is the possibility of some dramatic cloud and light as rain and sun fight for aerial superiority, I was not to be disappointed as I make my way along the path, a huge grey cloud attempts to smother a rainbow, what a great start after all.

The seven mile walk back home was to be interrupted only a handful of times with rain showers, I am happy that I made the effort today, even happier with some of the images I took along the way

Familiar ground

As the painstaking process of cataloging years of photos continues, it has been interesting to see how much my photography follows a familiar pattern as the months pass by.

The winter months capture the bleak and moody landscape of the moors, or perhaps a walk along a desolate beach, the months of early spring capture the beginnings of new life, daffodils, snowdrops and tulips bring welcome colour to the bland browns of winter.

Summer brings the occasional trip to the seaside and for me, the season of classic car shows and steam rallies that are always a pleasure to visit, then of course, the colours of autumn, with a plethora of woodland walks.

This of course was during normal times, when the freedom of choice to catch a train or bus for a day out was taken as a given….. until last year.

Looking on the bright side, it made life very easy in planning my photo walks, “where shall I go this weekend? I know, lets do Exeter! “

Let me be the first to say that I consider myself lucky to live in such a historic and beautiful city, where walks by the river are just a walk away but I began to wonder if it was possible to take any more photos of a place that I have lived in for over 20 years.

The initial feelings of frustration and not a little resentment subsided into a more positive frame of mind, challenging myself and my creativity to find something different from familiar ground, after all, I was still able to get out, for many this was not the case.

With this renewed and more welcome mindset, I have looked to process familiar scenes in a different way, learning new editing techniques to keep myself motivated to keep getting out there and taking photos.

An early start

As the year passes by at an alarming rate, the early morning starts I regularly enjoy are getting steadily lighter, with sunrise at around six AM.

Being a Sunday, it is the one day I rarely set an alarm yet I am still awake at just after 4am, this morning however, I manage another hour before deciding to venture out for an early riverside walk.

It has been a week of clear blue skies with an abundance of sunshine, spring has arrived at last but there is still a chill in the early morning air.

The strong winds of the last few days have abated for a while, only a gentle breeze ripples the still waters and as the sun makes its first appearance, its golden rays paint the opposite side of the riverbank in its warm glow.

Early sunlight paints the buildings with a golden glow

But for a couple of anglers, a dog walker and a brace of joggers, the riverside is mine, the peace and solitude only occasionally interrupted by an industrious woodpecker and a stonechat going about their avian business.

Today may not have been the longest of walks, it is more about getting out for a couple hours and grabbing a few snapshots along the way, for me, the perfect way to start a lazy Sunday

Walks by the sea

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.

A long absence

As we begin a considered easing of lockdown rules over the coming weeks, I look forward to treading once more the hallowed turf of Dartmoor, to reacquaint myself with the joys of roaming this vast and wonderful landscape, to marvel once more at the majestic tors, standing tall and proud, sentinels of the landscape, to enjoy each breath of its invigorating and inspiring air and every footstep made along its many paths.

This enforced absence has made me appreciate even more, just why I enjoy taking a camera with me on my walks, looking through photographs of previous visits evoke a memory of that particular day, or time of the year, in some cases, remembering how hard it was to keep the camera steady as a strong wind blew across the moor, or just how quickly that rain cloud appeared just overhead, ready to drench the unwary walker with its cargo.

Over the last few months, I have slowly and somewhat belatedly started to catalogue my photos, a long overdue process that is still a long way from completion, as I seem to make more and more reasons to get out and take yet more photos.
I had dreaded this sorting process, but it has been an interesting insight in to my personal photographic journey, as well as a sobering reminder of the cameras I may have bought, sold and purchased again along with all the ‘necessary’ accessories, yet I have not regretted a single second of this process.

It was looking back at recent trips to the moor that inspired me to pick a few favourites from the archives and sow a seed of optimism that it may not be too much longer before I am there once again.







For the love of clouds

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’