A city break

With a few days of last years holiday left, I decided to revisit London for the first time in around 30 years.
It was about the time that I had started to become interested in photography, and had my first film camera, a Praktika LB2.
If I am being honest, my photos were woeful from this excursion but I knew that I would return in the future.

Thirty years later, I am armed with my X100f and a heap more knowledge about my hobby, so was looking forward to completing as much of my photographic bucket list as possible.
My coach had left Exeter at eight thirty, reaching the Victoria coach station just before 1pm, a 15 minute walk to find my hotel in the Pimlico area, where I was checked in and ready to take some shots just a few minutes later.

I had been very fortunate to pick a day of blue cloudless skies, the temperatures were the highest recorded in February for some years, spring had arrived early

While I had put together an itinerary of sorts, the first afternoon was always about strolling along the River Thames, taking in the iconic landscape and enjoying rediscovering the city.
I had an idea in my mind that I would walk the North side first, then the south the following day, I ended up meandering both sides like a drunk snail, walking one side to the other.

I had packed my large tripod, thinking I would need it for some low light shots later that evening but decided to leave it at the hotel, knowing that I had another full day on the Wednesday if I could not get away using the mini tripod I carried in my bag.
My decision was rewarded with several low height walls with pillars big enough to accommodate the small tripod.


Wednesday morning dawned with more blue skies and sunshine, my first point of call was a cafe just 5 minutes from the hotel which opened at 7am, where my full English breakfast  was cooked to order and served piping hot, along with a cuppa and toast.
This has to be the first time I had eaten breakfast to Copland’s fanfare for the common man but certainly very uplifting.

My route this morning was to keep to the north side, passing Buckingham palace and the national gallery, finding a few good shots along the way, especially by the national gallery where lines of people went about their day.

The sun was creating some wonderful shadows, between the pillars at Somerset house, the light and shadow created a celestial zebra crossing on the concrete, right at the end of the light one of the staff was opening the building.

Reaching St Paul’s cathedral for the second time in as many days, I carried on to London city where I had wanted to capture Leadenhall market and the LLoyd’s buildings.


The day was slipping by very quickly, I was happy with the shots I was getting but there was still the matter of one more iconic building to fulfil my personal goals, the Tate modern staircase.
It is just one of those photos that I have wanted to capture for myself, now was my chance.
The gallery was not overly busy, so I was able take some time to stand and stare at one or two of the exhibitions,  admiring most, while in my ignorance not ‘getting’ some of the others, then to that staircase …


I like the simplicity of the first image but it really does need the human interest, so I was happy to patiently for a few minutes to get some other shots.

My plan to walk everywhere enabled me to find parts of the city I may not have otherwise seen, perhaps another time, I will use the tube or buses more, either way, I still have so much more to see on future trips.
Yes, I will return, I came to London with a thousand ideas, I have returned with a million more, I went as a stranger, and returned having met some wonderful people that made me feel very welcome in their home city.

 

A walk in the fog

Sunday morning, the first day of a few days off from work, with the promise of a few outings out with the camera.

It’s just after 6:30am, the mornings are becoming a little lighter and there is a promise of fine weather again today but this morning begins with a thick shroud of fog and mist.
Keen to begin my day, I decline a second cuppa, and set out to capture the conditions by the river and within the city.

With no early commute to work for many on a Sunday, the streets lay almost silent, the normally clearly seen high street stores hidden behind a grey veil.
Just a few souls around this morning, we have the city to ourselves.

After a few street shots, my route will take me towards the cemetery of the church of St. David’s, where the mist will add another dimension to graveyard within.
With no trains until later, St. David’s station lies still, with my camera set for Black and white photos, the film noir ‘look’ is there for the taking.

Walking along the river, my company is that of the occasional dog walker or runner, pleasantries are exchanged briefly and the tranquility descends once more.
A flock of gulls are disturbed by my presence, I manage to capture their flight across the water, one of my favourite shots of the day.


As my walk meanders towards the quay side, local rowing clubs are out in force, sleek boats cutting through the still water like a knife through butter.

My decision to shoot mostly monochrome was an easy one, the weather conditions were perfect, in terms of editing, mainly just cropping, but added a little more contrast and fade in lightroom to the rare colour photos.

Favourite places

We all have our favorite haunts that we love to photograph, places that inspire, or simply somewhere we just want to be.
With a plethora of such places within an hours drive away, I appreciate just how fortunate I am in this regard.

With both coastline and moorland, I can never fail to be inspired by nature’s beauty but another favourite venue of mine is of a less organic nature but a place that has encouraged my photographic creativity.
Buckfastleigh steam railway is less than an hours drive away, run by a diverse group of very knowledgable and dedicated staff, that make it one of the most enjoyable places to go for a day out.

While the trains running the route are always a perfect photo opportunity, I get as much enjoyment from chatting the guards, the drivers and those that help keep the station running, when the opportunity arises.
Their enthusiasm is contagious, along with the welcoming ambience, is one of the factors for my many visits here.

It is not just the wonderfully restored trains and carriages, as around the periphery of the station, where the hidden treasures can be found


Locos and carriages on sidings, awaiting or beyond the restorers craft, are an Aladdins cave of textures, colours and patina!
Weathered wood on freight carriages, with peeling paint reveal past paintwork, rust coloured streaks run down woodwork from rusted rivet heads, the sheer size of these railway leviathans just oozing heritage.

Public access is very generous here, but it is those treasures that lie beyond public access that I try to photograph through a convenient gap, which give an air of mystery to what lies beyond.

Yesterdays overcast conditions helped to create the gritty, industrial feel I like to capture at these places, all taken with my trusty X100f for my one camera project.

Spring in February

February, normally one of those months that likes to dish up a menu of cold winds and grey skies, just to remind us that winter is still here for a few more weeks but occasionally, we are offered a respite, where the temperature touches double figures and there is a real warmth in the sun.
Today was one of those days, with the added bonus that it was a day off, a perfect day for a visit to the seaside.

With half term on the horizon, Dawlish Warren was emerging from its winter hibernation, as the local shops began receiving their first deliveries of the year in anticipation of the first holiday makers of 2019.

With high tide just an hour away, there would be no chance of my usual meander along the beach, to the nature reserve and back along the path to the car park, but more than content to enjoy an hour or two taking photos and watching the waves roll in.

Continuing with my one camera, one lens theme for the year, I feel that I am becoming more considered and creative in my choice of shot, rather than worrying if perhaps I should be using a different lens.

 
I have been asked a number of times why I want to ‘restrict’ myself with just one camera for a whole year, the answer is mainly because I like to challenge myself, it breeds a more fertile imagination and it will stop me buying more camera gear!
Henri Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm lens exclusively for over 60 years, what better way to be inspired.

Raw V Jpeg

Somewhere, written down in the commandments of digital photography, there is an edict that states “Thou shalt only shoot RAW”
For as long as I have owned digital cameras, I too have followed this mantra, that RAW is the promised land of photographic perfection…. until a few months ago

I have been using fujifilm cameras on and off, for a number of years, there is something about the colour rendition I like in the way I shoot, Fujifilm are well documented in reviews for having a superb JPEG engine in camera but I persisted in being the RAW purist.

So, you ask, what has changed?

The way an amateur in any walk of life can improve their game, is to learn from the pros, so with the wealth of material that can be found online, I enjoy watching videos of how other photographers shoot and manage their post processing workflow.
It was after watching a YouTube video by Kevin Mullins, a well respected documentary and wedding photographer that sowed the seed of change, he was explaining how, in his journalism days, the workhorse camera was the Canon 1DX, he was telling a fellow journalist how he shot Jpegs with this particular camera.

His fellow journalist reponded in the manner that I used to think myself, until a few months ago, “You use a £5000 camera to shoot Jpeg”?
Kevin Mullin’s response was quite simply “You use a £5000 camera and you do not trust it?”

After feeling suitably inspired, I immediately changed my own camera to shoot Raw & Jpeg together for the first time, also learning how to customize the in camera film simulations to my liking, or at the very least a starting point with the flexibility to experiment.

Once I had returned from this first JPEG / RAW shoot, I imported my images into lightroom and began, through habit, to process the RAW images, only to notice that my RAW edit was very similar to the in camera JPEG.

With Fuji’s legacy of film development, they have brought this knowledge into the digital age, the classic chrome simulation, with its muted colours and contrasty style appeals to the way I see images, also the Across B&W simulation is also one I use a lot on my days out.

From my own perspective, I think perhaps I had become lazy by shooting RAW, if not lazy, complacent, by relying on post processing to correct my mistakes.
Shooting Jpeg has taught me to be more disciplined in getting the image right in camera again, perhaps treating it like my early days using film, where each exposure was precious if you were to get your moneys worth.

For any paid assignments, I will probably still use RAW as a backup, but for my own pleasure, I am enjoying that my workflow on the PC has reduced immensely, I enjoy editing but am taking pleasure from seeing an image and only perhaps cropping slightly and nothing more.

The images below, were all jpegs, on a low light shoot last night in Exeter, probably my most challenging and rewarding shoot since my photographic enlightenment

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By the seaside

A windy February day, the rain holds off for an hour or two and I can get out with the camera once more.

Growing up in a seaside town, it is easy to take the beauty of your surroundings for granted, I certainly did until I spent a few years away, since coming back home to Devon, I am only ever a short journey away from the seaside.

As a child, I would love the days such as yesterday, strong winds whipping waves up to the shore, I would have so much fun at low tide, combing the shore for ‘treasure’, a playground amongst nature.

My fascination for the shoreline has never diminished, neither has my desire to take photos of regularly visited haunts, capturing the moods of the different seasons.
Summer beaches are a riot of colour, sandcastles built from psychedelic buckets, colourfully striped windbreaks hammered into the sand, brightly adorned beach huts completing the quintessential seaside holiday.

For all of the fun of the above, I find as much pleasure in the winter beach, watching the waves, listening to the sound of pebbles being dragged back from the shore into the briny maelstrom, the sight of seabirds soaring and diving against the gusts, or sometimes the undiluted emptiness.

Yesterdays jaunt to Exmouth was no exception to the winter beach enjoyment, dogs running after a favourite ball or playing with newly made canine friends.
Anglers trying their hand against the tide and mother nature, others sat in shelters watching, supping hot coffee, or devouring paper wrapped fish & chips, that wonderful smell of vinegar on chunky chips….

I had no pre conceived theme for yestedays shoot other than my ongoing one camera project, however it turns out that most of my shots were taken in monochrome, hopefully, I have captured the mood of the day by doing so

 

One camera, one lens, the first month

The last day of January, the first month of my self imposed 12 month challenge is done.
I may not have got out so much as I would have liked, either through work or other commitments that have demanded my time but I am pleased at least, to have got this project up and running.

Today was one of those mornings with grey clouds fit to burst and a keen biting wind but since I had no chance to get out for a camera walk yesterday, it was today, or wait until my next scheduled day off next week!

Another local jaunt today, as I do not have a full day to go out and explore, but with plenty of frost around, the River Exe will always have potential for some good photo opportunities.
Following a similar route to my previous outing, the grass is covered in a frosty white coating, the river displays a cold stillness, I am seeing potential for several B&W images this morning.

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After the first month, it is already evident I am becoming accustomed to my chosen focal length, I am seeing the composition before I even raise the camera to my eye, a very useful tool in the armoury for street photography where a moment can be lost.

I have been asked if I miss using other cameras, the answer thus far is no, they are packed in another bag out of sight, also, the X100F is a camera that you just want to take everywhere.

A few of today’s images, the colour ones using the Fuji CC film simulation, the monochrome use Fuji Acros, with a tweak or two in lightroom.
For those that are interested, I am shooting mainly Jpeg these days, this is a subject for another blog post in the future but Fuji’s Jpeg engine renders some superb images.

February is on the horizon, I have a little break planned later in the month, an opportunity to travel a little further afield and to hopefully get out more frequently.