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.
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
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.
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.
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.
I had no plans to start a photographic project during the first part of this year, with an impending house move and the current lockdown restrictions, my time would need to focus on more important matters.
As I write this first blog for February, I am surrounded by boxes, those I have packed, sitting with a pile of empties, awaiting the last minute items to be packed.
With most of my camera gear carefully packed away until next weekend’s move, I have returned to a one camera, one lens set up once more, this time with the Fujifilm X00V.
I had traded my 100f last year, then noticed I had begun seeking out more lenses to fit the replacement camera, something I had tried to avoid but I love trying new stuff! (who doesn’t?)
I had spent some time after work last week packing the first few boxes, with a plan in the back of my mind, that should there be any good weather on one of my days off, I could spend a few hours away from box city and have a little shutter therapy.
Friday morning looked to be a good opportunity, according to the late evening forecast on Thursday, with a suggested less than 5% chance of rainfall.
As I left the house at just after seven fifteen AM, the less than 5% rain was falling quite fast, yet ever the optimist, I was certain there was a break in the clouds somewhere.
At just after 8am, the day begins to brighten, a still morning with still waters, reflecting boats and buildings onto the water,
Today’s walk is somewhat abridged, knowing that I still have boxes to pack, I have made 3 miles before making the decision to make my way back home.
It remains to be seen how long it will take to unpack everything once I have moved, in all honesty, I am enjoying the one camera set up a lot, so will probably continue the inadvertent project for the foreseeable future.
I did not bother to see the new year in this year, quite frankly, like many, I was glad to see the back of 2020, so let it slip out quietly while I dozed.
New years morning was like a proper winters day, a hoar frost had given a white dusting to all it touched, everywhere was Christmas card perfect, the air still.
A bowl of hot porridge and the usual two cups of tea would set me up for my morning walk, setting out at just before seven forty five, I would have a good couple of hours before too many others would stir.
With the conditions as they were, it was not hard to decide upon a route along the riverside, chances for reflections and maybe a few close ups of the frost but more importantly, glad of the opportunity to be out.
My walk towards St. David’s station was brisk, where I intend to join the riverside is just the other side of the station, yet it was the station that gave me my favourite shot of the day, the rails and platform coated in the frost, giving an incongruous beauty amongst the functionality of the station.
It is rare that we have winter days such as this in the south of the UK, so I was keen to capture as much of the mood as I could, all too soon the normal service of grey clouds and rain will resume.
To the few others I meet, Happy new year exchanges are made, talk then turns quickly to the cold start, how very British!
For the short distance I walked, I found a treasure of photo opportunities, trying to capture the mood of a winter’s day in both colour and monochrome.
While the legacy of 2020 will continue for some time, travel to places further afield remain on hold, but who needs to travel far with this on their doorstep?
It is the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, many of us will be having to entertain thoughts of heading into towns or cities for some Christmas shopping, fortunately I am not one of the many, instead I shall be heading out for a morning hike, with the hopes of catching the sun as it rises along the way.
Setting off at just after seven fifteen AM, darkness still hangs around like an unwanted guest, I have about 45 minutes before the sun begins its morning ascent into northern hemisphere skies.
A little rain is still in the air but today is forecast as mainly sunny until later in the day, one of the reasons I have chosen today for my outing. I have about a mile and half before reaching the well trodden riverside path that follows the River Exe to the Exe estuary, it is when I reach this path that I spot some orange hues in the sky as the morning awakens.
I reach one of my favourite spots along the footpath, close to the Double Locks pub, the sun breaks through the cloud in all its golden glory, what a start to the day.
After the light show, I decide to capture a long exposure shot of the river as it looks back towards Exeter, the serene stillness broken only by the melody of the avian chorus.
Another five minutes and the stillness of the river is broken by the first of many early morning rowers, their sleek boats cutting through the water like a knife through butter, as they glide so elegantly by.
From here, the path takes me to Countess wear, one of Exeter’s main arteries out of the city, where I will cross the already busy main road to join the path on the other side, another 3 miles will take me to Turf Locks, another of my favourite photographic venues.
I am not alone on my walk, the river bank has seen overnight fishermen hoping for their catch of a lifetime, the predator anglers seeking pike in one place, while down river the carp anglers have set up their temporary base, sandwiching a solitary Tench angler making his first cast of the morning.
While the conversation with them all is about their piscatorial prowess, the one thing we all have in common, is the joy of watching the morning sunrise, where we are all agreed that the early mornings are the best part of the day.
A little way along the footpath, it splits into two, a narrower path following the river is ideal for walkers, the wider path below takes the cyclists, as I join the narrow river path, I can take in the views at my leisure.
Making my way to Turf locks, the clouds above start to thicken hiding the sun for a few moments before it appears once more casting that wonderful winter light upon the landscape.
With the light changing rapidly, I try to keep up with the moody skies, grey and threatening one moment, then back to sunny landscapes as the sun escapes from its cloudy cloak.
Reaching Turf locks, the skies begin to darken and in the distance the clouds shed their cargo of rain, tide in or out, this part of my walk is just so photogenic.
I take a couple of in camera monochrome shots to capture the drama of the changing light, the exposed mud flats add more to the mood.
Having decided that I would catch a bus home, I take a road I have not walked before, looking at possible new routes and footpaths along the way.
I walk about another mile and a half before hearing the traffic pass on the main road ahead, as I reach the junction a convenient bus stop is just on the other side of the road, I have approximately 15 minutes to finish my flask of tea before the next bus arrives.
The ride home gives me a chance to look through my mornings photos, I am pleased that I made the effort to get out when I did, as Sunday’s weather is looking pretty hopeless.
It’s the last Friday in November and I have a bonus day off from work, so decide to set my usual 4am work alarm to an hour later, with the intention of spending a few hours out with the camera.
No need for the alarm, I have become so accustomed to the early starts but the dark mornings never look that inviting.
As usual, I have my camera bag ready, leaving no excuses not to go anywhere, my intention is to head to the coast,so I will catch a train that departs just after seven fifteen. I leave the house an hour before this, perhaps I can take advantage of the quiet streets of Exeter and take some low light shots.
The streets are empty but for the road sweepers and the few early commuters, I take full advantage of shop lights illuminating the streets and seize a quick opportunity to take a photo of a locked up bicycle lit by a mechanical road sweeper making its rounds, immediately thinking this would make a good black and white shot.
The previous evening’s weather forecast had overcast skies for most of Friday, as I wait for my train, patches of blue hour coloured sky are visible through the cloud, maybe I could even see a glimpse of sun.
Arriving at Teignmouth, there is a noticeable chill in the wind, the mornings have that feel of winter about them but no matter, the light of morning is looking rather good, time to get to the beach.
The strong winds are offering some good wave action, exposure times of less than ten seconds will be enough for me to capture the movement of the water, it promises to be a good morning,
With just a glimpse of sun peering from behind its cloudy curtain, the colours are a reminder of why I like to get out whenever possible to watch the day unfold.
With a dozen or so shots in the bag, it’s time to treat myself to a hot cup of tea and a breakfast baguette, luckily for me, a local cafe open for takeaway service is just a short walk away. Fed and watered, I am ready to walk the short distance along the sea wall to Dawlish.
With schools and work now under a semblance of normality, there are few other souls around today, one of the reasons I enjoy getting out on a weekday.
As the morning progresses, the clouds begin to thicken and turn a dull grey, I feel fortunate to have captured the earlier light but see the changing light as a chance for some monochrome shots.
It has been a good mixture of a morning, a few miles walked and a good selection of shots , I decide to catch the next train from Dawlish and head for home, where I look forward to checking out my mornings efforts.
Saturday morning and I have a date with Dartmoor once again, doing my best to make up for my enforced lockdown absences.
Today’s destination is one of my favourites, Whiteworks, a disused tin mining area not far from Princetown.
Tin mining in the area dates as far back as 1790, mining here was at its most prolific here as the demand for tin for the industrial revolution increased, the ore was sent from here to the Calenick smelting house in Truro, as at this time, Devon had no smelting houses.
By 1880, the mining was ceased, only to be revived briefly again in the early 20th century as the value of ore increased but by 1914 mining was discontinued, the land then used for livestock farming and pony breeding.
It is the remnants of this history that brings me back here time and again, the fallen remains of the stone cottages, the fenced off areas showing where the mining shafts once were.
This place has character in spades, where buildings once were, trees now stand, what is left of the cottages brickwork is covered in a verdant cloak of lichen, adding more texture for the photographer’s eye.
Some of my favourite trees of Dartmoor are located here, one in particular torn asunder at its root, it’s branches a tangle of twigs, defiantly reaching for the skies, yet so near to the ground, today this beauty is emphasized by the moody skies blown along by an early autumn breeze.
I am here for pleasure but it is not hard to imagine the brutal nature of the work that once existed in this chapter of Dartmoor’s history.
This rugged beauty of Dartmoor will continue to draw me in like a magnet, it is always a pleasure to spend time here, exploring whatever it wishes to give.