A trip to Fishtown

Brixham is one of those towns that I visit for photo outings on a regular basis, it is just one of those places that maintains a sense of community and always offers a warm welcome to its visitors.

Known as Briseham in the Domesday book, Brixham was also the landing place of William of Orange during the glorious revolution in 1688, some of the street names still bear the names of its Dutch history.

Famous for the design of the Brixham trawler, the design was adopted by boat builders throughout the UK, this boat design helped form the fishing fleets of Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft.

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To the left, the modern Brixham trawler, on the right, one of those lovingly restored.

Brixham was featured in a fascinating documentary called Fishtown, on the Discovery channel a few years ago, an insight into the workings of a busy fishing town and its residents.

Typical of any seaside town, the shops around the quay side are dotted with the usual cafes, bars and eateries but more notably, the number of small shacks, selling the fresh fish and shellfish, cockles, prawns and crabmeat from the fish market just around the corner.

From the photography perspective, it is just such a picturesque town, the brightly coloured houses on the hill, the fishing paraphernalia and those beautifully restored iconic fishing trawlers of yesteryear will keep me coming back for more.

Six months of 35mm

I do not normally set myself any new years resolutions, I know that by the end of January, the promise to eat no more sweets and biscuits will have been broken but I did think I could achieve something relevant to photography.

My GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) had taken a hold, it was time reduce the amount of gear and challenge my photographic ability and not my bank account.

By the first week in January, I had made the first of many social media posts declaring my intentions, there, it was out, I was committed, I was to spend the next 12 months shooting only 35mm.

The camera I had chosen is the Fujifilm X100F, a rangefinder style camera that has style in abundance and can be carried around all day with no issues.
With a much lighter camera bag and no worries about which lenses to pack for any given shoot, as long as I have a couple of spare batteries charged I am good to go at an instant.

I have discussed in previous blogs how I feel that I am at my creative best with prime focal lengths but since embarking upon this challenge, I have become more open minded with my photography ethos, I will explain.

Until this year, I had always shot RAW images exclusively, it’s the law, everyone says you have to….
Hands up, I will admit to being one of those who would sneer at the thought of anyone shooting JPEG’s, even with my previous Fuji cameras (xpro-1 xe-1), I had never thought to even try.
I may be late to the JPEG party but at least I have now arrived, with the many film simulations offered within the camera’s custom settings, I am happy to experiment with various set ups, a part of my previous fuji cameras I had missed out on through my own stubbornness.

I liked the analogy given by Fuji ambassador Kevin Mullins, wedding and documentary photographer, when he says ‘do you not trust your camera to produce good images?’

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I still shoot RAW for paid assignments but for my personal use, I am having fun trying new recipes, some have been good, others consigned to digital dustbin.
I find myself using the aspect ratio settings more as well for the Jpegs, deciding to shoot 1:1 images for an entire shoot can be fun.

The biggest and most enjoyable part of the project, is that I am using a camera long enough to get to know its quirks and foibles.
Many of my fellow 100F users have such things as a touch screen or tilting screen on their wish list, I have one, please can we remove the drive option from the D-pad and allow it to become a custom button or menu item, I am frequently going from single shot to other shooting modes because of where my thumb rests on the camera, other than that, I simply love using this little beaut of a camera.

In much the same way that I was inspired to do this challenge, a few of my fellow photographers have expressed an interest in doing  a self imposed project themselves, it is good to think we can share ideas in our own development and  creativity.

I am always eager to read about other peoples challenges, I am already thinking about what I will do next year.

Different views

I am often asked what I enjoy most about photography, a simple enough question but with a little consideration there are actually several things that feed my desire to keep going out with the camera.

Going to a new destination is always an enjoyable experience, I spend a few hours looking online, to see what the attractions of that particular destination may be, writing down a few of the ones I would like to photograph myself, saving the ones I did not get as an excuse to visit again another day.
Of course, I will play the tourist and get a couple of the usual photos but I also like to have my own take on a popular photo, a different view.

Going to a place regularly is seen for me, as an opportunity to explore beyond the usual images, a composition that seemed mundane one one day can be seen as photo worthy on another, mindset and weather often the key.

Another facet of photography I find valuable, are the ‘non camera’ days, where I read about or watch videos on the people that have helped to inspire me, keeping my own creativity alive, which leads me to probably my most enjoyable part of my photo forays… experimenting.

Experimenting is perhaps using a vintage lens found in a charity shop, using a 50mm lens wide open for an entire trip, getting to know my camera inside out.
Some of my favourite images are the more obscure shots, perhaps a section of barbed wire framed with the said 50mm lens, a single flower head backlit with the early sun.

Finding that different view, the more unique angle probably stems from my enjoyment of using prime lenses, I have always had a 35mm and 50mm lens in my armoury, zooms are great but make me lazy, using my feet to find a shot helps to find that ideal angle.

The fact that I have been using a fixed lens (35mm ) camera as a project this year is also nurturing my enthusiasm, some say they would find this restricting, I have found it liberating, no feeling of thinking I should change lenses, just get out and find what I can.

The above images are a few of my personal favourites over the last 18 months , many taken with a vintage nifty fifty but most taken during my one camera project this year.

A trip to Dorset

Occasionally, the opportunity arises to go further afield for a photo shoot, Wednesday was one such chance, to Lulworth Cove and Portland.

The last time I was in this vicinity, it would have been the mid 1990’s I was still working as a chef and at that time I was not into photography, so did not have any pictorial records of the places I visited on my days off.

Lulworth Cove is a tourism magnet, it’s horseshoe shaped cove was formed around 10,000 years ago by coastal erosion, this is also an important area in the study of geology, where there are some excellent examples of folding rock strata, the Lulworth crumple is its popular name.

Arriving around mid morning, the bland skies that had been left behind in Exeter, were replace by more defined clouds, it looked promising for some good photos.

The beach is a mixture of pebble & shingle, with the finer shingle nearer the waters edge being a good base for a tripod and some long exposure photography.
With the few visitors that had already made their way to the area, there was a pleasant buzz about the place, without being overcrowded.
Before moving to the next destination, Portland, a pleasant half hour was spent watching the world go by, with a welcome cuppa at the beach front cafe.

Arriving at Portland, the sun had decided to make a welcome appearance, adding light to a very interesting landscape.
The lighthouse here is one of those images that photographers are duty bound to take photos of, myself included but I was more drawn towards the boat cranes perched on the cliff top, coated in their uniforms of rust from exposure to the salt air.
A single boat by the base of the first one, this is right up my street!

 

The collection of working huts are mixed with those used by holiday  makers, where the garden borders are not the usual garden flower, but hardy sea pinks, outdoor wooden benches have the rugged look of exposure to the elements, more photo fodder for me.

As usual, the sands of time fall all to quickly and it is time to pack the gear away and head back home, it will however be a little less than 20 years before my next visit here.

Photography and me…

I started my journey in photography in much the same way as many others have, a camera with some unused film and the innate inquisitiveness of a teenager, topped with an ever growing love of gadgets.

I would like to have been able to have the talent for art that my elder sister had but I lacked 2 main ingredients, patience and ability, so developed the creativity I enjoyed with computer programming and ray tracing software, where I could render 3d scenes with various light and shadow combinations.

A mixture of work and dabbling with other hobbies, meant I did not get fully into photography until about 10 years ago, where by joining various groups and forums, I have learned so much and found a  number of ways to enjoy my hobby.

I like to shoot in natural light, I rarely use flash, perhaps if I did more portrait work, that would change but this goes back to my fascination with light, especially low light situations, where knowing the camera you are using is a must.
My learning curve here came from visiting National trust buildings, where flash photography is not allowed, so use of natural light with fast aperture lenses is a distinct advantage.

Prime lenses are my favourite type of lens to use, I like the image quality that comes from a single focal length lens, alongside the way they make you think.

Setting challenges and projects for myself is something I have only done fairly recently but is something I intend to carry on doing as long as the ideas continue, those following my ramblings will know I am using just one focal length for my own photography this year, 35mm is a great way to see the world!

When in town, I have begun setting myself timed challenges to get as many different shots as possible and yes, I keep to my self governed limits.

 


The shots above were a 10 minute challenge, set in Exeter city centre while waiting for a lunch meeting with friends.
Discovering new places is always an enjoyable part of photography, I will look at the popular tourist shots and landmarks for the first day, then try to find my own take on the same shots, then find some new ones of my own.

One of my biggest rules for my own photography, is that there should be no rules, do not be afraid to try something different, shoot for pleasure, not to some pre defined mantra that may not work for your own style.

I very often shoot JPEG only on my personal shoots, either to be able to post on to social media more quickly, or just because I like what the camera produces.

I have recently decided to get away from subscription only editing suites, I am now experimenting more in terms of colour and look of my images, something I had become lazy with, since I had developed a number of preset looks and become stuck in a ritual of habit.

With a wealth of resources on social media channels, inspiration is never far away, so on those days where the weather makes a decision for me, I will watch videos on editing techniques or watch my favourite photographers at work, inspiring me to my next challenge.

By the sea again

For the first time in 30 plus years, I have the month of June to myself, an opportunity to spend time with family and friends before starting something new.
It will also mean having to spend time out with the camera …..

Friday afternoon sees the first of these outings with a trip to the seaside at Dawlish Warren, just a twenty minute trip away from Exeter.
The beaches are already busy with half term holiday makers, all waiting for the sunshine that is promised for later today.

Vibrantly coloured wind breaks are dotted across the beach, each family group huddle around their chosen spot while the youngsters ignore the lack of sunshine, engrossed in the ancient art of sand castle building, or stood with fascination over the many jellyfish that have been washed ashore this year.

Other families play beach cricket, the yell of ‘CATCH IT’ carries in the wind, while the bowler watches with disappointment as the ball falls short of outstretched fingers of his younger sibling, while dad will claim another hour at the sandy crease.

As the earlier grey skies are beaten away to reveal blue skies, the light offers some much more photogenic opportunities, as I enjoy the meander along the beach.

Walking to the furthest end of the beach, the town of Exmouth lies across the estuary, I am sure to be posting photos from there in the coming weeks.

Time to change

For as long as I have been shooting with digital cameras, I have used photoshop or lightroom for my editing needs, the familiarity of the workflow and the editing tools make the editing process much easier, however, the seeds of change have come to fruition since the subscription only models with the more popular software names.

While I appreciate that the monthly subscription will work for many, I am a bit of a dinosaur in that I like to pay a one off fee and know I have a perpetual licence.
Yes, support for that particular software may dwindle after a time, but I will more than likely still be using the cameras I had when I bought that version at the time.

It is not just the issue with the subscription that has made me look at alternatives, as a long time Fujifilm camera user, there have been known issues with the way that lightroom sharpens Fuji’s X-Trans files.

Over the last few months, I have trialled a few different alternatives and have found two I really enjoy using.
Alien exposure 4 and Capture 1 Fuji edition.

While I like Alien exposure for its many film simulation presets, I like capture one for its in depth editing of colouring and powerful but intuitive masking tools.
Youtube has provided some superb tuition to make the learning curve less steep, so that today, for the first time I have not edited any photos in Lightroom….

 

I still have much to learn from both editing suites but I do find myself using capture 1 more and more, as I find it more intuitive, with much more online tutorial content available.