As I set off for today’s photo walk by the Exeter quayside , in the back of my mind there was that nagging voice about trying to find new subjects on familiar walks, after all, having lived in Exeter for over twenty years, it is easy to take a place for granted.
Yes, I know Exeter pretty well but what I never know on any given outing is what may unfold as I follow my chosen route, what story can I tell with the camera today?
I would not have guessed that today’s favourite picture would be of a trio of pigeons, what the photo does not show, is the pigeon on my shoulder and one on my camera bag, looking for non non existent bird seed!
An excited cry of ‘That man has a pigeon on his shoulder’ from a giggling youngster who just seconds earlier was lamenting the fact he could not have another ice cream that day, along with some good banter with other walkers enjoying their Sunday stroll.
With my spontaneous pigeon camouflage, I have clearly made my way into this avian fraternity where I am able to get close to the trio already perched on the bridge railings.
Okay, an osprey plucking an unsuspecting fish from the water it is not but it was a moment that kept several onlookers and myself amused….
With the hours of daylight lasting only for the duration of the blink of an eyelid, it is only a matter of time before the inevitable festive countdown begins, as Christmas decorations adorn our towns and cities.
Under normal circumstances, I would say that the countdown starts far too early but with the omnipresent spectre of Covid, the vibrant colours and feelgood factor are a pleasant distraction.
Before anyone hurls the ‘bah humbug!’ tag in my general direction, I do look forward to the local Christmas market, a perfect place to not only indulge in my pursuit of photography but also an opportunity to take in the wonderful aromas from the myriad of food stalls selling their wares over the next few weeks.
My sense of smell is tantalized from all directions, the subtle spiced aromas of a Thai food stall one minute, that fried onion and home made burger the next, with the essence of winter spices from the mulled wine counter just around the corner.
As I make my way around, one or two of the stall holders allow me to take their photos before the after work crowds arrive, up to a couple of years ago, this would have been a swift candid photo but more and more I am enjoying the engagement with those who so generously indulge my requests.
I am sure I will be making one or two more visits to the Xmas markets over the coming weeks but for now I will leave a selection of my favourite images.
As the year flies by, we are already hurtling into November, the clocks have gone back, giving us those extra hours of darkness, the perfect chance to indulge in one of my favourite genres of photography, low light.
The way that the hours of darkness transform a city can often mean that we may see compositions in low light that we may never consider during the day.
Exe bridges, located in my home of Exeter is one of the main arteries into the city, so unless you want pictures of traffic, not a place that one would think of spending any time looking for shots during daylight hours, especially with the River Exe, just a few steps away.
Looking for a sunrise just a couple weeks ago, I am heading to the River, where I am walking over the bridge, where I see the first signs of light emerging from the darkness.
I had not carried a tripod, as I had wanted to travel light, however, the bridge has a very convenient flat railing, perfectly suitable to use as an impromptu tripod, where I set a 40 second long exposure.
I liked the way the street lamps lit the Renslade house building in the centre of the image (now a hotel) and the sporadic traffic added the light trails as they made their way to B from A.
With the local Christmas market starting within the next week and the festive decorations awaiting the big switch on ceremony, I hope to share more low light images from the place I call home.
As we approach the mid way point in the UK’s second lockdown, my recent photo walks have all been based around a radius of around seven or so miles, making the most of the many footpaths that follow the River Exe, from canal to estuary, or just a quick walk as far as the quayside and back again.
This weekend has been a case of the latter, grey, uninspiring mornings have allowed the luxury of a lie in but I always feel that I have wasted my weekend if I do not walk at least a few miles.
Walking towards the city centre at just after nine, it feels like a Sunday morning as ‘unessential’ shops remain closed, a permanent reminder of 2020’s legacy.
Normally at this time of year, the festive build up begins, the high street would be full of shoppers looking for gifts for family and friends, the cathedral green would be a mini village of chalets offering hand made gifts and such like from local businesses or a selection of foods from around the world, but not this year….
My ambling takes me to the Mill on the Exe pub, or at least its car park, where I will often stand and just watch the water flow past, the sound of rushing water has often been a source of relaxation, today is no exception.
My first images today are a few long exposures to capture the water movement, I must have taken this shot hundreds of times in my twenty years of residing in Exeter, yet I care not, I love to see the river in all its moods throughout the seasons.
As usual for a Saturday morning the canal path is used by many, runners, cyclists and dog walkers, all out for some fresh air, my progress somewhat slower than the others as I slowly mooch along the path looking for my next shots.
I spend a little time watching the world pass, as I enjoy a flask of tea I prepared earlier.
Refulled and ready to continue, I make my back to the main high street
as I head for home.
I miss the hustle and bustle of a normal Saturday, the groups of teenagers shopping for designer clothes, the buskers in their allotted places are missing, the coffee connoisseurs no longer sit at outdoor tables and catch up with their friends and family, no carrier bag laden consumers moving from shop to shop to spend their hard earned cash.
Today was not my biggest walk ever but am glad I have had my fix of shutter therapy while getting out of the house for a couple hours, I shall look forward to my next fresh brew, while I contemplate on how I may start this latest blog.
I had made the most of a bright and sunny Friday bonus day off to get out for my weekly photo walk, knowing that the rest of the weekend was likely to be unsettled.
Saturday was as forecast, wind and rain for most of the day but it looked as if there may be a break much later in the day, a chance for another night time shoot around Exeter city centre.
On a normal Saturday night at just after 7pm, the streets would be full of people having enjoyed a day out and looking for a place to eat, or those looking to meet with friends in one of the many city city centre pubs or clubs but this is 2020, a year that is far from normal.
With the second national lockdown going into its second week, the city is like a ghost town, more like a Monday night in January instead of a Saturday just a few weeks from the festive countdown.
For all the adversity this year has brought, a spirit of ‘the show must go on’ prevails, as the Christmas lights have been turned on, almost as an act of defiance in the face of covid, normally I would be the first to say that it is too early, this year I welcome the cheer that they offer.
The eerie silence is disturbed only briefly by the sounds of buses going about their business, virtually empty chariots going to places where nobody waits.
While taxis lie still at their ranks, it is the takeaway delivery driver that is king of the road, knights on two wheels, delivering Saturday night treats to the many, one of my favourite images of tonight’s outing being one such rider awaiting his next delivery.
I seek out a few compositions for some light trails, but there is little traffic around of course but do manage one or two, so decide to turn my attention to some black and white shots around the city.
The black and white shots are pretty much straight out of camera Jpeg’s from the Ricoh GR3, the high contrast preset is a favourite of mine.
Returning home to the inevitable brew, I see that I have walked around 5 miles tonight, not bad considering I just intended an hour or so, that ended up as a 3 hour mooch.
I have found that seeing a place in the dark offers so many different ways of seeing the familiar, the speed of a car passing a zebra crossing, the shadows and light of a car park staircase are not things I would consider during the day.
With the longer hours of darkness here for the duration, I will look to embrace the chances they offer but I will still look forward to those longer, lighter days at the end of March.
With autumn stepping into Summer’s vacant shoes, I reluctantly bid a fond farewell to those long, light evenings, but welcome the opportunity to capture the colours and moods of one of my favourite seasons of the year.
With woodland and riverside walks high on the agenda, hopes will be high to capture that colourful carpet of fallen leaves before they fade to winter mulch, golden leaves on lichen cloaked rocks teasing us with a show of colour before the barren winter months to come.
It is also at this time of year that I try to embrace the inevitable darker evenings, by honing my favourite photographic genre, low light and night time photography.
Emerging from summer photography mode into the discipline of low light work, my skills area little ring rusty, it is time to re-hone the skills with a couple hours night shooting around Exeter.
With me, I have my Olympus EM5 MKII with a recent new addition, the 17mm F1.2 Pro lens, with the EM5’s image stabilization and the wide aperture, I want to see how this combo performs with hand held shots.
As usual, the Ricoh GR3 tags along, small enough to fit in a pocket, it is a great little camera to stand on some of the street furniture, that act as a substitute tripod.
No night time foray is complete without the obligatory traffic trail shots, I do my duty with the ricoh perched on top of a metal pavement bollard, a passing bus giving a nice abstract look to the scene.
The olympus with the 17mm perform admirably too, my first shoot with this lens, so experimenting aplenty here.
I have deliberately chosen a less busy Thursday night for tonight’s foray, tomorrow will see more looking to start the weekend, I am happy in an emptier city.
With a little of the ring rust shaken off, I have a couple of ideas for some night time photography projects in the coming months, after all, I may as well take full advantage of the longer hours of darkness.
It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.
My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.
From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.
As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.
It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.
As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.
A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.
It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.
It was about eighteen months after purchasing my first mirrorless camera roughly six years ago, I read an article about the possibility of using lenses from SLR cameras with an adaptor, I was intrigued to say the least, another chapter in my photography journey was to begin.
Typically of anyone into photography, my collection of old glass grew quite quickly, a range of 50mm lenses from 1.4 to 2.8 some other wider primes and a couple of zoom lenses, all bought at reasonable prices online, or the odd charity shop.
Many of my original purchases have since been sold again or passed on to friends, the few that remain are favourites that are about to experience a new lease of life in 2020
Today’s choice was a Prakticar 80-200mm F4.0 – 5.6 lens, not the fastest lens ever but the early part of the day was offering bright sunshine, ideal for capturing any squirrels or bird life that I might see on today’s quick outing.
After a patient wait, I see my first subject matter, my lack of practice with a zoom lens shows in my first few shots, blurry and not in focus, also trying to remember lenses as old as this one are inherently softer at the upper reach of the zoom.
After adding a few more nuts to the already healthy squirrel picnic, one seems happy enough with my presence to carry on eating his fill.
From here, the River Exe is just a five minute walk, the ever present gulls line the railings by the river bank, I get as close as I dare to try a few more shots.
Just a few minutes after the gull shots, the heavens decide to open and I take shelter under one of the bridges spanning the river, it would appear that I could be here for a while, the rain is getting heavier but I am dry here, so I look for more photo opportunities, what can I get with my zoom?
From my shelter, I spot the water teeming from the bridge, might look good in black and white?
A single leaf from a bush at the far extreme of my shelter…snap
I watch the pigeons and gulls at the edge of the pathway, unfazed by the teeming rain they continue their day.
I am not expecting today’s images to have the sharpness of my Fuji glass, yet they have a character of their own that I really like, especially in the monochrome images.
It is so easy to become distracted with the need for sharpness, sometimes it is the imperfections that make us look in a different way.
Perfect or not, I have had another enjoyable few hours out, doing what I enjoy most.
Monday morning, over the last few weeks, my camera day out but today I have the task of completing the rest of my Christmas shopping.
The morning has started dull and grey, the perfect conditions for a trip into town but I am a reluctant starter this morning, by the time I have had my third cup of tea, the clouds are lifting, the day is looking a little brighter.
It looks like the shopping will be delayed a little longer, as I decide to take my camera for a stroll along the River Exe before embarking upon the shopping.
My decision to do so is justified, the recent strong winds have dropped, the River lies serene but higher than I have seen for a long time, debris from rising water levels lay strewn along the footpath, cast aside like an unwanted toy.
I take a selection of familiar shots, work from the newly finished flood defences complete, there are no longer miles of barriers or fences to spoil the view.
Business as usual along the quayside, but fewer people around today, being a Monday, I enjoy sharing the views with just a few others lucky enough to have the day off.
As I drink the last of my flask of tea, my main mission can be delayed no longer, that Christmas shopping will not complete itself!
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