Avoiding the Christmas crowds

With just one more weekend before the Christmas holidays, today’s trip was planned to be away from the madding Christmas crowds, seeking their inspiration for festive gifts.

After a traditional English breakfast at a favourite cafe, the destination was to be Brixham, one of my favourite towns to photograph, with it’s fishing heritage and thriving community, it always offers a warm welcome.

A keen wind reminds us that winter is waiting just around the corner, it is however warmer when the sun makes its welcome sporadic appearances from behind the passing clouds, blown like tumbleweed across the mid day skies.

The wooden kiosks that in the height of summer offer boat trips around the bay or seafood brought fresh from Brixham’s famous fish market are boarded shut for the winter months, in hibernation until the early spring.

Cafes along the harbour area are undergoing winter refurbishments, or closed while their proprietors take well earned winter breaks, after a hopefully busy summer season.
Those that are open are welcome refuges for those few that enjoy the quieter out of season months.

The light has a lovely quality today, my walk along the breakwater gives some very moody photo opportunities, a perfect day for photography, maybe not so perfect for the few fishermen that have braved the elements today, as they cast their lines from the breakwater wall into the sea below.

One of my favourite shots of the day is taken from here, a lone trawler sets sail as foreboding clouds make their way out to sea, the remnants of a rainbow just visible in the sky.


One of the things I enjoy most about revisiting a place throughout the year, is the opportunity to capture the location in all its moods, fair and foul, warm and cold.

I am hoping at some time in the next few months to photograph Brixham at night, just another of the many items I need to cross off my photographic bucket list.

49 weeks

As I wrote the title above, I can scarcely believe that in just three weeks time it will be new year’s eve, the final day of my one camera challenge.
No doubt, I will be out somewhere on that day, weather allowing, as I will be one of the many fortunate enough to be  enjoying some time off over the Christmas holidays.

Will there be a new project in 2020? perhaps not a long term one, maybe a series of monthly ideas, as I am looking forward to using the camera bodies I have left at home over the last 12 months.

I had an idea earlier this year, that I would enhance my camera collection as a ‘reward’ for completing my project but I have a collection of vintage lenses I have bought online over the last 2 or 3 years, that will be fun to use again, they can be used on the systems I already have, no need to change!

My trusty 100f will always have a place in my camera bag, I have enjoyed seeing the world through 35mm but no doubt I will also be using 50mm, another favourite focal length of mine.

The ‘F’ was taken out again yesterday, a few hours out at a nature park just 20 minutes from home, then to the seaside on the way back, this little beauty never fails to give a lot of fun in taking photos.

I would be interested to know of any photo projects that others are embarking on next year, I hope you get as much enjoyment from yours as I have mine this year

December sunshine

I must be one of a small minority of people that enjoy waking up on a Monday morning, for me it is my ‘Sunday’, a day that has become my ‘out with the camera day’.
This Monday is no Exception, a planned trip to see family in my home town of Salcombe, then a trip to a couple of my favourite seaside haunts, Hope Cove and Bantham.

Hope Cove is one of those charming seaside villages, tucked away in a beautiful area of the South Hams, a haven for summer visitors with its prime location along the South west coast.

Today is one of the first cold and crisp days of December, such a pleasant change from the weeks of rain and grey overcast skies of the last few weeks, there is little wind to speak of, a perfect day for walking.

The views from the beach across to bigbury bay are superb, the sea rolls gently along the shoreline, almost a whisper as it goes back and forth along the fine sand.

I have spent countless hours here in Hope Cove, it was always a place I headed for when I had my first ten speed racing bike as a young teenager, my first taste of having my own transport and a sense of independence.

I would cycle here on a Sunday afternoon, on arrival, I would buy an ice cream and a cold drink from a small shop that is now an art gallery, and enjoy both while sitting on the sea wall before heading off for another few miles along the quieter back roads.

Bantham is a little further along the coast, a popular destination for surfers, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Burgh island, famously known as a popular holiday destination for Agatha Christie.

Bantham is notorious for its fast currents and riptides, many a daytripper has been caught out here, one of the reasons lifeguards are employed throughout the summer season.

At low tide, evidence of the tidal maelstrom can be seen in the sand, these were emphasized more today by the sunshine and shadow, great textures for the photographic eye to admire.

There is just something about a stroll along a beach on days like today, it invigorates the soul and and makes the senses come alive.

With the temperature dropping and the light slowly fading, it will take just over an hour to travel the fifty or so miles back to Exeter, where the post outing cuppa will be enjoyed while going through today’s images.

Plan B or even C

About half way through my working week, I look at the weather forecast for the coming days, especially Sundays and Mondays, my days off.
The last few weeks have been nothing more than grey murk or rain, so seeing the possibility of some welcome sunshine, I had planned to take a hike to some local woods, to capture what may be left of the autumn colourscape and a serene walk enjoying nature.

My usual Sunday routine after getting home from my nightshift just after 6am, is a couple hours nap, then up and at it, but a busy week and barely 3 hours sleep the day before saw me sleep through my wake up call and beyond but was still keen to get out with the camera.

As I enjoy a light brunch, I look through my notebook of photographic ideas, and the notion of a themed shoot of patterns and textures seems my likely course of action, a walk into the city will provide more than enough subject matter.

Guess who forgot that it was the not only the first Sunday in December but also payday weekend?
The High street was heaving, yet there was a real buzz around the city, the local buskers were out in force, the Christmas market was in full swing, it really was looking a lot like Christmas!

Up until a few months ago, I would have wanted to get out of the crowds at the first opportunity but today I embraced the atmosphere and started to look for opportunities.
I am not the most prolific of portrait photographers but today was different, I wanted to capture the smiles on the faces of those watching a brilliant dance group that were entertaining in a local shopping centre.

I have never enjoyed street photography as much as I did today, chatting with the onlookers and the few other photographers that were there, it was a very rewarding few hours.

I may have missed my date with the woods today but plan C has given me some very happy moments to remember.

Another Monday meander

Monday morning, I am up at an early hour after having a rather lazy Sunday, I have good intentions to get out and about for the day.

The day is set to be cold and bright, so set about looking at train and bus timetables.
Just twenty minutes later my train tickets paid for online, my destination is Plymouth, a chance for some street photography and another excuse to walk around the historic Barbican area of the city.

I am travelling with minimal gear today, just the 100F and a couple of batteries, no tripods, no filters, Plymouth always offers plenty of photographic opportunities.

Arriving at the train station, the sun casts some interesting shadows around the platform, the day is under way.

It takes about an hour from Exeter to Plymouth, passing through Newton Abbot and Totnes, it is a very pleasant journey passing through the countryside until reaching my destination.

As usual, I head towards Plymouth Hoe, with the intention of paying a visit to Smeatons tower, the predecessor to the Eddystone lighthouse, which was painstakingly dismantled from its location on the Eddystone rocks and reassembled on land in 1884.
My ideas of taking some high up shots of the Hoe from the tower are scuppered by the site of huge fences and scaffolding surrounding the tower,winter maintenance is under way it would appear.

From here, I walk just a short distance to one of the many small kiosks offering snacks and hot beverages, a cup of tea sat in the sunshine will do me nicely for a few minutes thank you.

Sun and shadow will be a theme in today’s proceedings, a day where opportunities present themselves willingly, a day where I will happily just meander to seek them out.

My time here in Plymouth is soon over but my day will continue back in Exeter, where the annual Christmas market is now under way.
The early part of the week will be a good opportunity to have a more relaxed wander around without the weekend crowds while I take a few more photos.

It’s beginning to look a lot like ….

With Halloween and Guy Fawkes night only just behind us, mid November sees the seemingly ever earlier build up to the festive season.
My home city of Exeter is no exception, the festive lights were put up before the end of October for last week’s official switch on.

While I feel hesitant to celebrate the festive season too early, I do look forward to the annual Christmas market, held in the grounds of Exeter’s magnificent cathedral.

As a self confessed and unashamed foodie, I love the atmosphere and aroma’s that come from the myriad of food stalls and of course, as a photography addict  I like to take my camera when I visit.

I like to arrive just as dusk approaches, the coloured lighting of the market stalls add a lot of character to potential images.

Armed with just my trusty 100f, I make a lap of the market to scout possibilities, usually lingering around the various food stalls, offering such culinary delights as Thai curries, chillies, wraps, burritos and bratwurst to name just a few.

The delicate spicy aromas of the curry shack hit my senses first, then the sweet smell of cinnamon from the mulled wine stall, then of course the strains of Christmas playlist can be heard over the PA system.

A few of the stall holders are more than happy to pose for photos, the simple act of asking for photos has been something I have done for the first time on a regular basis this year, in the past, I may have attempted more candid shots but been very self conscious, now I feel that I have earned a shot by asking, often offering to post on their social media accounts in return.

The market will remain until a week before Christmas, plenty of time for me to sample even more delights.

Dodging the rain

It’s a Monday morning, the familiar sound of rain beating against the window wakes me just after six, I keep the darkness of the early hour shut behind the curtains while I check my e-mails and the weather forecast while I relish a bacon sandwich.

Once again, the forecast is for heavy showers but today’s trip to Burrator reservoir to capture the autumn colours will go ahead as planned, this is a trip I always enjoy, something of an annual pilgrimage.

Burrator Reservoir stands on the edge of Dartmoor, not far from Yelverton, it was completed in 1898 and expanded in 1929 and as with the other Dartmoor reservoirs, has a walkable route around the perimeter, today’s walk is just 3.5 miles.

 

On arrival, a recent rain shower has just passed, leaving that lovely ‘between showers’ light to reflect upon the water and bathe the trees in its ambient glow, my first shots are in the bag, time to see what the morning will bring.

The short walk along the road to the main footpath is under an avenue of trees, either side, the road is coated in golden leaf litter, a lovely contrast to the dark surface of the tarmac road.

The reflection of the blue skies on the water add another splash of colour to the trees near the waters edge, I take another few shots while watching the impending rain clouds as they threaten another heavy downpour.

In amongst my shelter of trees, the skies have not so much opened, more torn asunder, as hailstones fall, and a wind that has come from nowhere denudes a few more branches of their leaves.

In amongst my arboreal shelter, I spot a tree with a cluster of fungi, as the squall finally passes, I grab a shot and walk a little further into the woodland, where the sun once again emerges from behind the now well dispersed clouds.

At the two mile mark, is a favourite spot of mine to take stop for some long exposure shots of the water.
Rocks coated in a lush green cloak of lichen sprinkled with fallen leaves make for an archetypal autumn scene, this type of shot is something of a photographic cliche but I am happy to sit by the water and just enjoy the moment.

After enjoying the moment, or thirty of them to be exact, it’s time to walk the final stretch of this years visit to Burrator and to head back for a spot of lunch and then home.

It is over my post walk meal that I go through my images, looking forward to seeing them on the bigger screen, also  padding out the ideas from a few words I had written for today’s blog.

Back at home, I make a note to hopefully visit again before next autumn, in reality, it probably won’t happen, the ratio of places I want to visit, compared to the time I have to do them all is not mathematically possible, so I guess I will see you again next November Burrator!