Shooting monochrome

In the last eighteen months, I have occasionally set myself small challenges while out on my photo walks, I find that setting a theme or challenge helps me become more creative in my shot making when shooting for my own pleasure.

I am becoming more accustomed to my more compact camera setup, I have been taking full advantage of the G9’s twin card slots, shooting Raw only on one card, JPEG on the other, just to see how the different in camera picture styles are rendered.

One particular style I am using more often than not, is the LmonochromeD setting, which produces some good quality Black and white images, that require little or no post processing.

My G9 is coupled with my Ricoh GR3, which also has some very good monochrome simulations, my favourite being the high contrast black and white.
The ricoh also has the added advantage of shooting 1:1 aspect ratio in RAW, shooting ‘squares’ is something I like to do on a regular basis.

Last week’s photo outing to Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton saw plenty of changeable weather, bright and sunny one minute, then some rather nice moody clouds scuttling along in the wind, perfect for some black and white shots.


More and more these days, I am enjoying spending less time editing, which in theory, means I could spend more time out with the camera …..

Another early start

Saturday morning just before 4am, I am awake before my alarm, not a work day today though, I am hoping for the kind of skies that have tantalised me all week on my early morning walks to work.

It’s too early to think about breakfast but enjoy my first brew of the day, and head to St. David’s station to catch the 5am train to Starcross.
The station is pretty much deserted at this time of day, a railway ghost town, it appears I am the only customer as the rail staff prepare the trains for the for the first departures.

My journey will take only 15 minutes, I watch with interest as the skies are already showing some promise of colour, as the early clouds part like curtains to make way for the dawn.

Stepping off the train and onto the platform, I stop to enjoy views of the high tide, the water lies still, with reflections beginning to form as the day breaks, then the colours of dawn begin to paint the sky with hues of yellow and orange, this is what I had hoped for, I am glad I made the effort to get out of bed!


Five minutes after my arrival, the hues of yellow paint the dawn skies.

The silhouette of the railway bridge and platform fences make a lovely contrast against the coloured sky, time to find some more shots before the light show ends.

The peace and tranquility of the sunrise never ceases to be a source of joy, watching a new day unfold is a pleasure on its own, capturing them on camera is a privilege.

From Starcross, I head towards Turf Locks, where the path leaves the estuary side and follows the Exeter canal, a walk I have done many times in my twenty years of living in the area, a walk that I will never tire of.

All these images were taken using my recently acquired Ricoh GR III, a lightweight single focal length camera (28mm)
The Nisi filter kit specially designed for the Ricoh was used for the long exposure shots.

Minimal gear

It has taken a long time but I have finally decided to minimize my gear choices on days out, carrying a bag of lenses and other gear has become less appealing, shooting with what I have, has become more fun.

On today’s trip to Dawlish, I took my trusty 100f and a recently acquired Ricoh GRIII, a fixed 18mm (28 mm equivalent in full frame terms) camera that boasts amazing image quality in a small form factor.

The GRIII is a favourite with street photographers but is perfect in my quest for minimal gear on days out

The lack of built in viewfinder takes a little getting used to but this little beast is a joy to use.

I mentioned that I also took my 100f today, but I barely used it, for two reasons.
One reason being that I was keen to get used to the controls of the Ricoh, the second being that I had forgotten to replace the memory card I had used for my first few test shots with it yesterday evening.
The GRIII has 2gb of internal memory storage, around 40-50 images in RAW format, I know this because I used its full allocation, then had to pilfer the card from my 100f!
Looking through the menu, I was able to copy the internal memory images to the now installed SD card, my schoolboy error had been rectified.

Getting to Dawlish Warren just after 10am, the beach was already filling with those that wanted a day by the sea, I was happy to stay for just a couple hours to get some much wanted sea air and to get more accustomed to the GR.


It will take a while to customise the controls of the GR to my liking and the GR gives plenty of scope for doing so but if this first batch of images is anything to go by, then the GR will be my ideal minimal gear set up

New technology, old methods

As technology in digital cameras becomes ever more advanced, the inquisitive part of me looks forward to reading about the latest features in new cameras, yet my inner luddite  feels that the technological roundabout is going too fast and I want to get off.

Since acquiring my first digital camera, I fully appreciated the way that settings could be changed on the fly, I embraced the way that I could experiment with composition more, as I was no longer restricted to a maximum of 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film, I could also see my image in an instant, rather than having to wait for my last roll  to come from the developers via the post.

Modern cameras all have state of the art video capabilities, they allow us to see how our images will look within the viewfinder, perfect for the fast paced society we live in today, where we want everything yesterday, each new camera boasts faster autofocus but it is too easy to become reliant on the tech and forget the art of photography.

My enjoyment of ‘old school’ photography has perhaps been rekindled by the ability to use manual focus vintage lenses on mirrorless cameras, a reminder of when most SLR cameras only came with a 50mm lens and we were perfectly happy.

It was with this ‘old school’ mindset that I decided to set myself a challenge on yesterday’s outing to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.
Since my X100f has both an electronic and optical viewfinder, I set the camera to OVF only and switched the rear LCD screen option to viewfinder only, relying only upon the camera’s meter reading for exposure ( a bit like the original X100).

For the first few shots, I had to resist the urge to look at the rear screen but soon got into a ‘wait and see it later’ frame of mind, it was then that I began to realise how much more care I was taking in each shot, if I wanted each one to count, I had to be more patient.

Back at the car, while enjoying a hot cup of tea, I took the opportunity to look at the images I had taken, it was almost like opening that package of developed photos for the first time, it was a pleasantly rewarding exercise that I will continue with on future shoots.

First shoot of the year

With Christmas fading to just a memory, slowly but surely life will return to some sort of normality, from that between Christmas and new year twilight world where all days feel like a weekend and we lose all track of time.

Today was to be the my first shoot of 2020, the first time in a year when I could use a variety of focal lengths after last years self imposed challenge.
In my bag today, would be a fuji XE-2  bought recently for a good price online, and my Xe-1 that I have had for a number of years.
Paired with the xe2, I have a used 16mm f2 Fuji lens, along with the 18-55mm ‘Kit’ lens on the Xe1.

Lyme Regis would be today’s destination, another seaside town that I enjoy visiting whenever I can.

The morning has started with a pall of grey cloud, but these clouds do at least have structure and character, not the washed out grey we have had so much over the last few weeks.

My first shots with the 16mm lens are test shots, it is the first time I have used this lens in anger, the field of view is somewhat wider than that I have been used to, but it does not take too long to get used to.

The 16mm lend will be used a lot more today than the 18-55mm, it seemed strange using a zoom lens, as I have always preferred to use primes.
A walk along the shoreline will not be possible today, the tide well up, showing only a few small patches of shingle, the wind is also blowing pretty well today, giving some nice waves as they crash suddenly into the waiting rocks.

The footpath to the main town centre and beach has some pleasing curves and texture, a couple of monochrome shots with the wide angle lens are taken, the results look pleasing, only time will tell.

My walk as usual, takes me to the Cobb wall, today it is doing it’s job as it prevents waves crashing over the wall to where many of us are walking, those walking on top of the wall for a better view are having several near misses from the waves as they attempt to capture them on their mobile phones.

As the clouds slowly depart, they make way for blue skies and sunshine, a rather pleasant January day, it has to be said.

With a number of the kiosks open for business, the aroma of eau de fish and chips is in the air, the kind of smell that wakes an appetite.

The first trip of the new year has been very welcome, a chance to walk off the festive excesses and to enjoy a few hours out with the camera, for me a good way to spend a few hours.

T’was the Sunday before Christmas

It’s the last weekend before Christmas, as usual, I have no wish to be a part of the crowds seeking those last minute Christmas gifts, instead a trip just a few miles from Exeter, to Shaldon is my plan for the day.

Shaldon sits on the opposite side of the estuary from Teignmouth, it is one of those charming little towns that I like to visit throughout the seasons.
Shaldon boasts its own zoo and famous ‘smugglers tunnels’ built by the 8th Lord Clifford in the 1860’s, to give access to the ‘ness’ beach.
Evidence of the Clifford family influence is still prominent within the town, the Clifford arms and Clifford close are reminders of the town’s history.

It is amazing to think of the number of times I had visited Shaldon without any photos of the tunnels, this is something I shall put right today.


In taking pictures of the tunnels, it occurred that in all my visits here, I had never truly explored thoroughly, so why not do so today, attempting some different images from my usual seascape views that I always enjoy.

As I walk along the sea front, a fishing competition is taking place, a local angling club fishing for flounders, their annual Christmas hamper competition.
Some of the anglers have had early catches, others not so lucky but say a bad days fishing is far better than spending the day shopping!

After a stroll along the beach, a quick visit to St. Peter the apostle church, where the festive display is looking resplendent, I like the challenge of low light photography, so take a few images here.

It seems my detour into the church was timely, a heavy squall just passes, as I head further on today’s foray.

Having walked further along the road than I had normally done, this is where I stumble across the church of St Nicolas, one of those moments of fortunate happenstance.
The doors were not open for exploration within the church but the graveyard has a number of commonwealth graves.

As I look compose my next few shots, the sun appears from behind the cloud to give the church a lovely light, why had I not walked here before?

As I am enjoying a post walk snack and cup of tea, the wind is blowing stronger, I watch the increasingly larger waves crash into the sea wall at Teignmouth, I never fail to be fascinated by the raw power of the sea.

 

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.

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.

To the lighthouse

One of the things I most enjoy about visiting a new town, or  location for photography, is to find the popular destinations and to take my images, hopefully from a more original angle but how many of us visit places that are close to home?

I had lived in Exeter for ten years before I made my first of now many visits to the city’s iconic cathedral, my previous visits had been with school trips, the local museum is just one other popular venue, that being on my doorstep, is so easy to overlook.

I am trying to redress this imbalance, slowly but surely, in recent years I have had National trust memberships to access some of the many properties in the South west, as well as making full use of our local steam railway stations and other local attractions.

I have been very fortunate to have lived near the coast for many years, walking the coast path at all times of year is such a pleasant way to indulge the joys of the great outdoors.

Just this week, after a visit to my home town of Salcombe, the journey back to Exeter, would include a visit to Dartmouth and Start point and its lighthouse.

This stretch of coastline has claimed many a ship over the years but it was not until 1836 that the lighthouse, designed by James Walker was built to warn passing ships of the treacherous coastline.

The lighthouse, as so many these days, is fully automated but this does not make them a closed shop to visitors, opening up to the public during summer months, adds welcome funding to the Trinity house coffers.

I normally visit Start Point in the winter months, a perfect alibi for not having made a visit here before but today, with the doors open and a tour about to start, I clocked up another local venue on my tick list.

With another 10 or 11 people in the tour group, photographic opportunities were few, but I was also keen to hear the history of the lighthouse from the well informed guide.
Until this week, I never knew that each lighthouse had a unique light signal, each one of a designated duration.

The early keepers had a long and busy day, maintenance being the biggest part of their roles in keeping the light in working order, there were also regular weather reports to write, and signalling of passing ships with weather and any other information they required.

 

A handful of photos of the footpath down to the lighthouse, the views around the bay and a couple of interior shots of the lighthouse.

The tour lasted for about 45 minutes, time and money well spent, I have come away with a renewed determination to visit more of the attractions that lie on my doorstep.