Sunshine and steam

As life tiptoes cautiously back to a semblance of normality, today is a day I have been looking forward to for a long time, a visit to one of Devon’s steam railways at Buckfastleigh.

For as long as I have carried a camera, this has been a favourite destination and after an eighteen month absence, it is fair to say I am looking forward to it!

This small station always extends a warm welcome to its visitors, it is like being welcomed back into a long lost family, regardless of whether this is your first or umpteenth visit.

Regardless of how many times I have been to any steam railway station, the sight and sound of the steam locomotive arriving at the station never fails to bring out the excitement of the child within, grown adults with cameras around necks, almost running to get a good spot to take a picture.

The platform of course is the main stage but I take as much pleasure in exploring the sidings and workshop areas, watching the army of restoration experts and engineers bringing new life into forgotten heritage.

I am mainly using my Fuji X100V for this trip today, I have been experimenting with some film simulations recipes I am keen to try, two work really well while two more need a little tweaking but this for me is the joy of photography, more so that I am able to try in camera, rather than at a computer screen later.

With the second of my post lockdown trips ticked off the list, all that remains for me to do is post my pick of yesterday’s outing.

Winter walks in lockdown

After the expected recent lockdown measures, any thoughts of trips to the seaside or Dartmoor are out of the question for now, so my new January musings will follow familiar waking routes around the River and other local haunts.

I had considered starting another long term photography project this year that is on hold for now but still have one or two ideas for some themed photo shoots around my home city that can still be achieved during the lockdown period.

As usual, I had been checking the weather forecast for this weekend, hoping for a couple of dry days to get out for my permitted daily exercise, Saturday was looking good until Friday night, when the promise of sunshine was to be cancelled due to overcast skies.

Unperturbed, at just after seven thirty, I head out into the cold of the day to hopefully get a few shots.
As I walk through the city centre, I grasp the chance of a couple of quick photos, before heading towards the riverside.

From here, a steady walk to the River, where slowly but surely the night gives way to daylight, albeit overcast, uninspiring skies.



While Saturday was grey and drab, Sunday started with some early mist and perhaps a little sunshine to come a little later, so with a new optimism I set forth once more.

I was not to be disappointed today, as a combination of the mist and the morning sunrise competing for attention were to offer some lovely images, so glad I made the decision to get out again instead of the lazy Sunday option I had considered.

The best bit of winter walks is getting home to the self promised hot cup of tea and bacon roll, while looking at the mornings efforts, then embracing that idea of a lazy Sunday.

A welcome return to Dartmoor

It has been four long months since I last visited Dartmoor, a trip to Wistmans wood in March, just a few days before lockdown restrictions were put in place.
Realising that such measures were likely, I made sure to savour every step of that March outing, unsure of when I may visit again.

That day was yesterday, to say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement, I could not wait to tread once more amongst the vast openness, to hear the sweet summer sounds of the skylarks soaring above, to gaze in awe at the many tors, stone sentinels of the moorland landscape.

The rain from earlier in the morning had abated but the skies still wore remnants of mist and grey cloud, giving the moor a sombre moodiness, for all I cared it could have been torrential rain, I was just happy to be back on familiar ground.

Dartmoor will always present photo opportunities, the most obvious being the landscape as described earlier, yet I find pleasure in finding the smaller treasures, water droplets on grass, a fallen foxglove petal, or fungi thriving in the humid air, to name just a few.

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

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.

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.

Dartmoor days

Sunday morning, 7am, I am supping my first cuppa after arriving home from my nightshift, another week complete, the day is mine to  do with as I choose, that choice will be heading out to Dartmoor.

Camera packed and batteries charged, I decide against carrying a tripod, I want to travel as light as possible, a day for exploring without the need for too much gear.

Today’s venue is a favourite, with a variety of things to see, but it is the solitude of the place that appeals, it could be high summer and it may be possible to meet just a handful of other walkers here…. perfect.

There is a distinct coolness to the wind today, it is the first time I have dug my fleece out for a walk since early spring, even my wellies will be worn today, the recent rains will have made areas of today’s venue quite boggy in places, these places have some rather nice abandoned buildings which will look good in the sunshine that has just made an appearance.

The first thing that hits you with Dartmoor is just the absolute peace and quiet, no roar of traffic, just the gentle thud of  Wellington boots against the path,the sound of the wind and the rush of the nearby River Swincombe, the perfect antidote for the hustle and bustle of every day.

As with all my Dartmoor days, I will be searching for its treasures, not just the beauty of the vast open space but the gnarled spindly tree surviving against the harsh winds that try to break its will to survive, hidden fungi growing on a fallen tree and the textures of weathered wood and rusty fences.

 

One camera one lens, the last quarter

My one camera, one lens project is now approaching its final quarter, when it began in January, I had doubts that I would still be on course by autumn but I am as keen as ever to complete the full year.

During the last nine months, I have learned to be more creative with a single camera set up, rather than relying on a bag of kit that may or may not be used, by travelling light, I am happy to shoot for longer, a win, win scenario.

This project has also made me more open minded in my photography too, before this year, I would only ever shoot RAW images, (it’s the law isn’t it?) but I will happily shoot both Raw and Jpeg, or even just Jpeg’s on occasions!

For my occasional paid shoots, I will always shoot RAW, just for peace of mind but for my photo walks, I do not always want to spend too long at the PC editing, especially since the Fuji Jpeg engine is so good.

Yesterday was one such day, where I wanted to get out for a few hours before the next rainy spell arrived later in the day, so a trip to the seaside town of Teignmouth was decided upon, a spot of lunch and a few photos.

Earlier in the week, I had taken some photos using the square format aspect ratio and since I had enjoyed doing so, set the camera to do so again today.
It is not everyone’s cup of tea but I actually enjoy composing shots in the square format, I quite like the polaroid camera feel of the square format, it also makes you think a different way in terms of shot composition.

Just for the record, I set the camera to shoot Raw and Jpeg, but all the shots above were the Jpeg’s with very minor, if any post processing.

Teignmouth is one of my favourite local beaches to go for a brisk Sunday stroll, with plenty of photo opportunities.
A big thank you to the two very generous people who allowed me to take their photos while sat on the sea wall, I told them about my ‘shooting square’ theme and they were very happy to oblige.

I am looking forward to the next 3 months, watching the seasons change, while reluctantly accepting the shorter hours of daylight.

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.