Out of the mist and into the woods

As the days are getting warmer, the chances of capturing those misty late spring mornings were fading, at least until later in the year or so I thought, however I was to be pleasantly surprised on today’s morning foray.

Fuelled with a good breakfast and the usual two cups of tea, I set out just after six thirty am, to what felt like one of the warmest mornings so far.

Heading towards the River, a drop in temperature was noticeable and there in the distance a blanket of mist lit by the glow of the dawn sun.

I had already decided on a different route this morning, taking a footpath I have only walked a few times over the years.
To get there, I walk past St. David’s train station to the Exe valley road, but only after a little diversion, taking in the old railway shed and some long time dormant freight cars on the railway sidings.

It appears that the mist is not about to give way to the sun’s warmth just yet, so my next stop is to Cowley bridge, another little diversion from my planned route, hoping for a few nice reflections with the waters being so serene.

Cowley bridge

The next part of the walk is along a normally busy main road, the main reason that I decide only rarely to do this walk but this morning is okay, as I walk the mile or so to the footpath entrance.

Just a few minutes walk from the buzz of the main road, I have walked into a place of near silence, a skylark soars above, its distinctive trill, a sure sign that summer days are nearly upon us.

The mist gives the scene an ethereal beauty, it is a time to sit and stare at the wonder of nature, as I find a convenient rock to park myself and take a few sips of water while enjoying the moment.

At some point, I will explore these footpaths further but I am hoping to get some photos of the mist in some woodland, another half mile or so away.

As I reach Stoke woods, the sun is finding its way through the many glades, narrow strips of light dappling the woodland floor.
The smell of wild garlic overpowers the initial sweet smell of pine, and that refreshing coolness of walking in woodland invigorates the senses.



I arrived too late for the misty woodland shots, they will come another day, as it is I have covered around six miles so far today, with another 3 miles to walk home and the enjoyment of seeing my mornings efforts.

A bit more milage

Unlimited exercise, the two sweetest words I have heard in a long time, two words that those of us that love the outdoors will be relishing.

Recently, these late spring mornings have dawned with beautiful blue skies and a freshness in the air that invigorates the senses, so with a licence to walk, I was keen to get a few miles under my belt.

One of my favourite local walks, is one that takes a path along the River Exe and on to the town of Topsham, via a footpath that runs alongside the estuary, with high tide a couple of hours away, I will have chance to walk the path before it is cut off by the tide, the alternative route being close to a main road and the incessant roar of traffic.

It is one of those very tranquil mornings, not even a breeze disturbs the water, so what little reflections there are at low tide are perfect mirror images.
Since it has been over three months since my last walk along this route , it feels as if I am seeing it all for the first time again, constant reminders of how picturesque the area I am privileged to call home is.


Keen to retrace the path I have walked before high tide, I save my other favourite places in Topsham for another day, as it is, today’s walk is just over 11 miles, a good start to my day.

A route well trodden

It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.

My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.

From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.

Early light 2

As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.

It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.

As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.

New brood

A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.

It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.

Lockdown photo walks

It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.

With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.

My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.

As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.

The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.

From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.

From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.

My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.

 

Another Dartmoor day

It has been a few weeks since I last visited Dartmoor, yet it feels like months, but today I shall atone for my absence with a visit to a favourite haunt on the moor,Wistmans wood.

For the unfamiliar, Wistmans wood is one of the highest ancient oakwoods in the UK, designated as a site of special scientific interest in 1964, it’s mixture of lichen covered granite boulders and oak trees have been the source of inspiration for writers and artists for generations.

It is thought that the name derives from an old dialect word ‘wisht’ meaning eerie or uncanny, pixie led or haunted.

The weather gods have been kind today, the rain is off duty, it is so good to see clear blue skies and to feel the warmth of the early spring sunshine, as I begin the two miles along the well trodden path towards the woods.

One of the enduring images of Dartmoor are the miles of dry stone walls, standing as a testament to the stone mason’s craftsmanship, my route today is no exception, I stand as I so often do and admire a skill that only a few will ever master.

The sound of traffic from the nearest road is soon lost in the vast openness of the land, overhead a skylark hovers above, its song a pleasure to hear, in my mind, I am hearing Vaughan William’s lark ascending, my favourite classical piece

As I approach the ancient oaks, the skylark’s song is replaced by the familiar tunes of chaffinches as they flit between the branches.

At first sight, the trees would appear to have played some macabre version of twister, as lichen clad branches twist and turn in all directions, it is not hard to see why this woodland has so much folklore attached to it.

I take a few moments just to sit on one of the many boulders under the trees, just listening to the sounds of nature, a welcome interlude these worrying times of late.
I have taken far fewer pictures today than normal, I have simply enjoyed my return to the moor and will always take away more memories than photographs.

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 technology, old methods

As technology in digital cameras becomes ever more advanced, the inquisitive part of me looks forward to reading about the latest features in new cameras, yet my inner luddite  feels that the technological roundabout is going too fast and I want to get off.

Since acquiring my first digital camera, I fully appreciated the way that settings could be changed on the fly, I embraced the way that I could experiment with composition more, as I was no longer restricted to a maximum of 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film, I could also see my image in an instant, rather than having to wait for my last roll  to come from the developers via the post.

Modern cameras all have state of the art video capabilities, they allow us to see how our images will look within the viewfinder, perfect for the fast paced society we live in today, where we want everything yesterday, each new camera boasts faster autofocus but it is too easy to become reliant on the tech and forget the art of photography.

My enjoyment of ‘old school’ photography has perhaps been rekindled by the ability to use manual focus vintage lenses on mirrorless cameras, a reminder of when most SLR cameras only came with a 50mm lens and we were perfectly happy.

It was with this ‘old school’ mindset that I decided to set myself a challenge on yesterday’s outing to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.
Since my X100f has both an electronic and optical viewfinder, I set the camera to OVF only and switched the rear LCD screen option to viewfinder only, relying only upon the camera’s meter reading for exposure ( a bit like the original X100).

For the first few shots, I had to resist the urge to look at the rear screen but soon got into a ‘wait and see it later’ frame of mind, it was then that I began to realise how much more care I was taking in each shot, if I wanted each one to count, I had to be more patient.

Back at the car, while enjoying a hot cup of tea, I took the opportunity to look at the images I had taken, it was almost like opening that package of developed photos for the first time, it was a pleasantly rewarding exercise that I will continue with on future shoots.

Am I over G.A.S ?

By mid December last year, I was two weeks away from completing my one camera project, shooting with my Fuji X100F exclusively for my personal photography.
I was looking forward to rediscovering my vintage lens collection and a newly acquired 16mm F2 Fuji lens to use on my XE-2.

My 100F was given a well earned break during January, but just recently, I am finding once more that it is the sole camera I am choosing to take on my days out.
I really like the 16mm wide angle lens, I also like the ‘character’ of my Helios and pentacon vintage lenses, but I think the key word here is ‘like’, because with the  100F, I WANT to take photos.

My camera bag too, has become more basic, where I may have carried a couple of filters and a small tripod, I am beginning to care less about long exposure photography, after all, how many smokey water shots does one need,besides which, carrying extra gear ‘just in case’ is losing its appeal.

All the above appear to be pointing to the fact that my G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) is finally on the ebb, the final nail in the coffin, just this week, with the announcement of the shiny, new X100V, a camera called by one ambassador for the fuji brand as ‘refined’.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would love to buy the new model, but a modicum of sense has crept into my thought process and simply asked, ‘Do I NEED it’, the answer is quite simply, no.
Fujifilm got a lot right with the ‘F’, enough to make this once serial camera changer happy to continue shooting with what I have.

 

 

 

50 shades of meh

Finally the last days of January are approaching, it feels like 233rd day of the month, two hundred and thirty of them having consisted of a combination of grey skies, rain and constant meteorological melancholy (or …..meh).

It is these constant grey days that make me crave for a ‘proper’ winter, crisp bright days when we wake to lawns iced with frost, and the serene stillness of a classic winter’s morning, where we wear more layers than a Mille-feuille as we set forth into the great outdoors.

I have attempted over the last few weeks to use the weather to my advantage and begin the process of cataloguing and sorting through many of my photos, my migration from lightroom to Capture one has given me the incentive to at least be a little more efficient in that regard, I have also began to build or replicate a number presets or styles with the new software to make my workflow a little easier when I want a certain look to an image.

This however, does not replace the enjoyment of being outdoors actually taking photos, so even on the dreariest of days, I will get into town to get my photographic ‘fix’.
Days such as these are when I decide to keep a monochrome theme, setting the camera so that the viewfinder is also monochrome, that way, I can see the way the image is exposed and alter as needed.

I always remember as a child, the Giles’ cartoon books, he had this way depicting wet days in his drawings with such drama and contrast, this is how I like to process my images when I do street photography, to try and pick out the mood and atmosphere.


The lack of any character in the sky makes me look for tighter compositions. close ups of the mundane that can end up looking more interesting because of the different angle, reflections from windows or using shutter speeds just fast enough to give the perception of movement.

With less people on the high street at this time of year, it keeps the mind active in looking for opportunities, pictures I may not have considered on brighter, more sunny days.

Above, is a selection of images taken from a trip into Exeter city centre, taken from a few of my favorite vantage points around the high street and vicinity.

Crisp winter days

Here we are, half way through January and I feel that we have not yet felt the icy fingers of winter, it could be the lull before what is now termed a polar vortex but used to be simply known as ‘a cold snap’.

Today, winter arrived but in one of it’s kinder moods, one of those cold, bright days where you wake to a dusting of frost on house roofs and the grass has turned white, as if through shock.

It is about an hour before the sun will rise, but through the lifting darkness there appears to be a blanket of mist in the distance, the omens are good for some more photos along the Exe.

As I head out, it would appear Jack Frost has worked overtime, painted icy swirls on cars  that are actually quite beautiful to look at, for me at least, not those that may have to spend time scraping it off if they need be somewhere early.

I reach the footpath to the river, luminous yellow jacketed volunteers have been out in force placing route direction signs for a fun run that has been organised today, it is not long before the serious runners appear in the distance, I will happily step aside as they pass, to a man (or woman) they keep a regular check on their watches in their pursuit of personal best times.

As the first group passes, I admire the serene beauty of frost laden brambles and other hedgerow flora and fauna, the stillness of the river and the eerie silence of the still heavy mist on the river.
Through the mist, I can just make out a heron, stood statue like by the waters edge, as the next group of runners pass by, it takes off effortlessly, and there he was…. gone.

The sun has made an appearance, just a milky glow as seeks to penetrate through the cloud but makes for some atmospheric shots as more runners appear in the distance, more shadow than portrait, I think these may just work.

I have a good half mile to go before I get to where I hope the best moody shots could be, I would really like the mist to hang around a while longer to get some shots of the scullers as they appear through the fog.
There is a pub nearby called the double locks, here they have a couple landing stages for the boats to be physically pulled in and out of the water to make progress in either direction.

My fears of the sun burning through the cloud are unfounded, here I get a couple of shots I am really happy with, anything else is a bonus.

 

I would appear to have something of a routine going these days, as I am about to head for home, I will find a place to sit, and enjoy the hot thermos of tea I made earlier, while making a few notes for today’s blog and a few ideas for my later photo editing.
What a great start to the day.