Back on Dartmoor

Saturday morning, a bright start after early rains, so set off early to a favourite breakfast haunt, Ullacombe Farm.
Appetite satiated, just a few minutes drive and arrive at the car park of Haytor, one of the most popular destinations of Dartmoor.

The tor stands majestically at the top of a small incline, it is only once I reach the top that the wind hits, the forecast storm is due later in the day but the wind speed is already significant, so much so, it is a challenge standing still enough to take photos!

The destination is Haytor quarry, used during the 1800-1900’s, the granite from which was taken for the building of London bridge, it is also from here that part of the ‘granite tramway’ is still in evidence, the tramway was designed to carry granite from the local quarries and taken to Teignmouth for shipping.

The construction began in 1776 and was built by George Templar, this route is a recognised walk called the ‘Templar way’

For a few moments the quarry is devoid of the usual traffic of sightseers, so I am able to get a few long exposures of the water, depicting a scene of peace  and tranquility, a far cry from the industry that once existed here.

Highlight of my day, was watching from a distance the Dartmoor ponies grazing, as I move closer, they look up, and perceive no threat, so carry on business as usual, except the smallest of the group who decides that I need further investigation.
The next few minutes are spent further building trust, as he allows me to pet him, nudging me for more if I dare to stop, then he turns and returns to the equine fold to tell all .

As the morning turns to noon, more walkers arrive, keen to take in the scenery of Dartmoor, it is my cue to head back home after another enjoyable Dartmoor trip

 

 

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

51748848_10217620447921337_7152415008033341440_n51033620_10217620448881361_1845885555506675712_n51570542_10217620449521377_5542187526304825344_n52263851_10217620454121492_2547440022034841600_n51461686_10217620447721332_6935106559257083904_o51803996_10217620447041315_4046155313647190016_n51828206_10217620449281371_1695769473484587008_o

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.

walking-the-dogriver-view3high-key-exp

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.

A January Dartmoor outing

January, normally the month of grey skies, cold winds and more than its share of rain, yet occasionally, we are blessed with the odd day where the weather defies the forecast and we see a prelude to the advent of spring.

After a once monthly pilgrimage to a favourite breakfast haunt, appetites are satiated with a delicious farmhouse style breakfast, now energised for the day ahead, the second trip of my one camera, one lens project.
Today will be a test of my resolve, in the past I have always arrived on Dartmoor with a wide angled lens in my armoury to capture what the landscape has to offer.

Heading past the Haytor vale, the light was typical of a slightly overcast January day, in the distance, sun rays broke free of their cloudy shackles to cast their fingers of light to the ground below, just one of the joys of winter photography.

Ideas of capturing images of Hound Tor, were scuppered by a rather full car park, this one can be saved for a mid week day in the coming months.
A new destination was decided upon, one that I had still to tick off from my photographic bucket list, Windy Post.

Windypost Cross, also known as Beckamoor Cross, is situated between the Grimstone and Sortridge leats and is one of the wayside crosses along the “Abbots way” connecting Buckfast with with Tavistock and Buckland abbeys.



Windypost Cross

Finding subject material on Dartmoor is never a problem, so many wind shaped trees surrounded by granite, rugged majestic tors, and a plethora of colours and textures, the perfect materials for the photographic canvas.

In terms of the constraints imposed by the single focal length, I have yet to experience any, if anything, knowing I have to compose with what I have, is actually making me think of shooting in a more creative way, I am thinking in a more deliberate way, taking less shots than if I had other gear, yet using most of what I have taken.

A few of my favourite shots taken from todays outing, the simplicity of a gnarled tree, the drama of a brooding sky and the beautiful ruggedness of a place I will never cease to enjoy.

First trip – One camera, one lens

Saturday morning, the first of my 3 day weekend and the first of my one camera one lens walks for the next 12 months

My usual routine the evening before a photo walk, is to charge batteries and then decide which lenses / cameras to take, depending on the destination.
That was easy, all batteries charged and bag packed with my camera.

What’s in the bag?

Fuji X100F
Manfrotto Pixi EVO tripod
Hoya PROnd 1000 (10 stopper) filter
A small selection of LEE seven five system graduated filters
Spare batteries
Lens Cloths

Today was just going to be a stroll around Exeter and along the riverside, the early rains had cleared and there was potential for some mist along the River Exe.
Taking the one camera today was easy, I often just decide on this setup for local walks, I think the challenge will be harder when I take trips to Dartmoor, where I like to use wider angle lenses.

My route today, was one I rarely do these days, taking the River walk from Exwick / St. Davids in Exeter.
After the grey skies began to lift to reveal some lovely light, the lack of wind also provided some lovely reflection shots


One of my immediate observations about the single camera, was how content I was with the setup, no questioning myself about using other gear!
If I needed to zoom, I used my feet, often noticing another potential shot as I did so

Since my decision to embark upon this project, I have received a number of very positive comments and encouragement through social media and emails, these are very much appreciated and make me more determined to see the project through.


The photos above are just a small offering from todays walk, I am looking forward to posting a lot more over the coming year