It’s just after 9am on a Friday morning, I am at St. David’s station, waiting for my train to Totnes to arrive, the morning has started bright and crisp, signs at last of spring.
My destination is a couple of days in Salcombe, making the most of what is forecast to be a warmer weekend. With the train a good ten minutes away, I take advantage of the shadows and light on the opposite platform, three souls sat on the same bench, yet worlds apart as they focus on their phones, another passenger to be stands in the sun, waiting for his train to wherever.
After a spot of lunch and welcome brew, I look to make more of this early spring day, a stroll around the seemingly hibernating town, waiting for warmer days and the new holiday season to commence.
As I walk around a favourite route, the local sculptors studio is open, a place I have not visited before, and glad that I decide to do so now, as I admire the craft work of the expert hand, skulls carved with such amazing detail and the most beautiful chessboard I have ever seen.
Jim, the sculptor indulges my request for a photo, the artist at work is a welcome spur of the moment image, something a little different to add to the portfolio.
If 2021 saw me rekindle my enjoyment of the 50mm focal length, then 2022 is the year in which I begin a new project featuring just this lens over the next 50 outings.
It’s new year’s day, a trip to Venford reservoir, a place I have visited on many occasions, my camera bag is laden with the now familar 5D mkII with the 50mm 1.8 now seemingly ‘glued’ to the mount, there were other lenses in the bag but decided that new years day would be the perfect time to begin this new project, so took just this setup without the weight of the camera bag.
The car park has just a couple of other cars on my arrival, the world is enjoying a collective lie in after the new year celebrations, I will be a good way around the route before too many other people have arrived looking to blow the festive fug away.
The colours of autumn are nothing more than a distant memory, the crisp ochres and bronze coloured bracken replaced by damp dark browns, the trees once laden in their autumnal finery now baring their skeletal frames to the elements.
One advantage of the 50mm lens is its ability in the low light of the woodland, only occasional glimpses of light find their way through the melancholy grey skies above, so I am keen to take advantage of these brief windows of opportunity.
There are those areas that defy winter’s decree of desaturation, like diamonds in the rough, leaves cling to their branches like limpets to a rock, for these, I like to use the lens wide open, blurring the background for some interesting bokeh effects.
I find it interesting that with the reservoir just yards from my feet, I take only a few shots of this expanse of water, instead, I am enjoying finding the more intimate details of what lies within the footpath, leaves in puddles or hidden mini waterfalls in less accessible areas of the path.
All that remains from this first day of 50mm is to share the images of today’s amble, I am very much looking forward to day #2
One of the ways that I try to remain creative with my photography, is to set myself personal challenges while I am on a photo walk, it could be that I shoot only in the square format, using the in camera 1:1 aspect ratio option, perhaps when I am in town running a few errands, I may set myself a time limit to find a few images but most frequently, I like to shoot with just one focal length.
After using the Fuji X100 series for a good few years, I am more than familiar with the 35mm focal length, so much so, that I would now not see this as a challenge, especially since a long term project from a couple of years back, was to use just this one camera for a whole year.
A more recent project to use older cameras is still very much in progress, the realization that I do not need the latest and fastest may have come a little late along my journey but I am enjoying taking this latest path with my photography, in the form of a Canon 5d Mark II.
It was as I was packing this old beast into my bag for a Saturday foray on Dartmoor, I made the decision to take just one lens, the classic ‘nifty fifty’, Canon’s 50mm F1.8
The last time that I shot this particular focal length in anger for any length of time, was when I had purchased my first film camera back in the 1980’s, a second hand Zenit camera, most likely armed with a Helios 58mm lens.
My destination is Fernworthy reservoir on Dartmoor, near the village of Chagford, a chance to capture the remains of the autumnal colours and a rather pleasant walk skirting the edge of the reservoir and surrounding woodland.
A damp start to the day sees mist and drizzle set for most of the morning but as I see this as an opportunity to capture the area at its moody and melancholy best.
The autumn colours are all but a faded memory, yet the rust browns and dark green of the local fir trees offer a muted colour palette that adds more atmosphere to the scene.
Occasional glimpses of diluted sun find their way through the murk, only for this curtain of grey to close the gap and bring a little more drizzle.
The morning’s walk may be damp but my mood is quite the opposite as I enjoy looking for my next image, it has taken little time to become accustomed to my chosen 50mm, so much so that I wonder why I have not done this more often.
The walk around the reservoir is just about 5 miles, by which time I am ready for my flask of tea and a welcome hot pasty from a convenient mobile café that had set up for the days business in the car park.
With the pasty devoured and tea drunk, it’s time to head home, good timing as the drizzle is now more constant rain, now to look forward to viewing this latest days foray.
As another weekend approaches, I am keen to become more familiar with my recently acquired ‘new but old’ camera set up, a canon 5d Mk II, so with a few errands to do in town this morning, I take the 5d with a 50mm lens for a brief spell of ‘street’.
With rain showers forecast for most of the day, I shall find a few of my favourite spots around the city and familiarize myself with the camera setup.
There are said to be two types of street photographer, the hunter and the fisherman, the hunter is always on the move, looking for that moment that will tell the story, the fisherman however, will find a spot and wait for the scene to unfold, this is my approach today, as the work goers and Black Friday shopper’s pace will be a little quicker in order to get out of the rain.
My first shots are not fantastic as it is a learning curve getting used to an unfamiliar system but it takes little time before I am happier with the images, most of which I have in mind to be edited in black and white to depict the grey and dreary mood of the morning.
With about 30 or so images taken, the clock has worked its way to nine AM, it is time to tick the boxes of the days ‘to do’ list so that I can leave tomorrow free for a longer day of photography.
Since my very first foray into digital photography, I have bought, sold and repurchased too many cameras, caught up in the trap of feeling that the newest and latest gear will be ‘the camera’ I need to take this passion/obsession to the next level.
I have enjoyed every moment of this not inexpensive journey, but in the last year or so, I have become less interested in the latest offerings from the usual protagonists, not because I do not want them, more because I do not NEED them.
Where this sudden seed of sensibility has come from, I am unsure, I am blaming it on recently reaching my mid fifties and beginning to grow up!
Joking aside, with all that today’s camera technology offers, I have no use for video capability, I do not need 50 plus megapixels files, as I so rarely print anything, I am not a sports photographer requiring blazingly fast autofocus and huge, 500mm plus lenses, nor do I need WIFI to instantly transfer photos to a mobile phone or tablet, as I enjoy the process of looking through my day’s shoot on a bigger screen and editing in my own time.
I do not need the above but there are those that clearly DO need or want the latest and fastest, often trading their ‘out of date’ gear as a way of softening the financial blow the new system will bring.
So I see myself as something of a camera ‘womble’, making use of old tech that the future proofing folks leave behind, where I am able to acquire the cameras I coveted a decade ago but the price was out of my budget.
Enter the used Canon 5D mk 2 DSLR that has recently made its way into my camera bag, yes, its bulky, it ‘only’ has a dozen or so focus points but it is built like a tank and will serve me well for some time to come.
The lenses for these older cameras too are more affordable, good glass will always be good glass in much the same way that a good camera from a decade ago will still be a good camera.
So this weekend has been my first outing with my ‘rescue’ camera, the old dog has found a new forever home and I have a new project to get my teeth into.
The above photos were all taken with either the Canon 50mm F1.8 STM II or Canon 28-105mm lenses, needless to say that I am looking forward to my next days off….