Focusing on 50

I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.

Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.

Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.

I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.

Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.

Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.

I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….

 

Winter woodlands

From an early age, I have always enjoyed the enduring appeal of woodlands.
Where once they were a place to play out childhood fantasies, they are now  a haven of solace and tranquility, a source of pleasure from my walking and photography perspectives.

A walk around the woods at Shaugh Prior, just on the edge of Dartmoor is today’s destination, a place with the added bonus of the River Plym running alongside its banks.

The bronze and amber leaves of autumn have lost their crispness, as they lay discarded, turning slowly to mulch after weeks of rain, most of the trees, now stripped of their foliage, are arboreal skeletons standing bare against the elements.

Yet, amongst this austerity, the woodland still has treasures to show, rust coloured bracken against the lush green lichen coating both rock and trees alike, colour in this minimalist landscape.

Fungus that finds nourishment from a tree, long since felled, a single leaf hangs defiantly alone, just waiting for the next gust of wind to deliver the coup de grace.

I love the majesty of the granite outposts of rock, standing like guardsmen along the path, the sound of the river below, the wooden archways formed by the meeting of tree branches from either side of the path.

As much as I love to capture the essence of the woods throughout the seasons, spring will always remain my favourite, where the cycle of life begins anew, mother nature’s changing of the guard.

Mission accomplished

Twelve months ago today, I had embarked upon my one camera, one lens,one year challenge, I can honestly say that initially I had doubts that I would actually complete it, yet here I am, about to share the final blog of 2019 and for me, one of my best days out of the year.

The last few days had followed a pattern of sporadic rain, and dull, uninspiring skies but today was to be the best of the weather before the new year, so a trip to Dartmoor was the order of the day.

Driving through the southern part of the moor, the skies were bright and cloudless, but as Princetown loomed ever closer, it was hidden under  low cloud and fog, the perfect ingredients for a moody Dartmoor and a visit to the ruins and quarry of Foggintor.

With no wind, an eerie silence was broken only by the sound of walking boot on gravel, an occasional attempt by the late December sun to break through the misty shroud was thwarted, yet ethereally beautiful.

As with all the best days on Dartmoor, the changing light and weather can happen in a second, today was no exception, at one moment, the sun threatens once more to pierce the mist, then once again the mist rolls in a little more, this meteorological tug of war will continue throughout today’s outing, giving some truly breathtaking scenery along the way.

My camera settings fluctuate between moody monochromatic and colour, trying to capture all moods, I have decided to shoot just Jpegs today, I have learned enough this year to know that the ‘F’ will capture the scene the way I want, why spend hours at a computer editing?

At the end of just over six miles, just a few yards away from the car park and I am still taking shots, I know that this has been one of my best outings of the year, I hope my images have done Dartmoor justice.

In terms of a project for 2020, the canvas remains blank, I have some vintage lenses I will look forward to using once more with my Xe2, I have also acquired a Fuji 16mm (24 equiv) F2 lens which is as yet unused.

This blog, which has been a most enjoyable part of the last 12 months will continue to tell the story of my days out, I am very appreciative of the many kind words of encouragement I have received from those that have taken time out of their day to read my musings in 2019.

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.

 

Shooting with the ‘F’

100f

I have had my ‘F’ for 12 months now, I have used it exclusively this year as my main camera for my personal photography, so I thought I would write something of a user experience review, with my take on this little gem.

On my photographic journey, I have come to realise that I prefer to shoot with prime lenses, a lot of my images were shot with either 35mm or 50mm lenses, even before I bought my first X100s a few years back, it is the ‘S’ that originated my dalliance with Fujifilm cameras.

My own story is like so many others, the ‘F’ was bought as a secondary camera, to take out on the days when I did not want to carry a bag with a heavy camera body and lenses, then slowly but surely, it was the ‘F’ that was being taken out exclusively.

This is a camera that you can trust to take some stellar images, the 35mm full frame equivalent focal length is so versatile, it is a camera that is a joy to use in so many ways.

Fujifilm are renowned for their colour science technology, I really like the colour rendering it produces, its out of cameras JPEGS are superb, if you prefer not to shoot RAW and post process, I will often shoot JPEG only and upload to a mobile device and post to social media, not something I thought I would ever do in the past.

As well as its portability, the ‘F’ is silent when shooting, a real asset for street photography, it’s leaf shutter offers nothing more than a whisper, so much smoother than the shutter slap of larger cameras that tell the world you have just taken a photo!

Like its older siblings, the ‘F’ has a built in 3 stop ND filter, ideal for shooting wide open on bright days, I have assigned this to the front custom button of my camera, for ease of use.

One of the the features of the X100 series that has always appealed, are the physical shutter speed and exposure compensation dials on the top plate, this is so much better than diving into menu systems in my opinion.

I am not keen on the integrated shutter speed, ISO dial, it is a little too fiddly for me, but the option to programme ISO control to the front command dial is available, this is what I use.

It is possible also, to assign custom control to the 3 of the four way control dials on the rear of the camera, which brings me to the one thing that I hope Fuji will change in the future.

The top ‘drive’ button is assigned to control the use of film or exposure bracketing and other custom shooting styles, I find this rather too easy to press inadvertently and find I am in panorama or video mode when I want to take a shot, as I use these features so little, if at all, perhaps this could go back to being a dedicated button on the other side of the camera as it used to be?

Of all the cameras I have bought and changed over the last few years, this one will be staying until it ceases to be, until it has shuffled off its mortal shutter, such is the enjoyment I get from using it….

 

Into the mist

Six AM and I have just finished my night shift, my normal routine would be to get home for a welcome cup of tea and a few hours sleep but the city wakes, wrapped in a grey shroud of late October fog, too good an opportunity to miss, for some moody shots before the darkness lifts.

I am barely a few hundred yards from my doorstep when the first potential shot is seen, a central heating outlet throws warm air out into this damp, cold morning, creating its own fog into a side alley ….. click!
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Walking through the city centre, an opportunity perhaps, for the early buses awaiting their cargo of commuters, it seems strange to see the dormant Christmas decorations suspended above, it will be another three weeks before the annual switch on event, and the increasingly early build up to the festive season.

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I move quickly to a place where I had noted the potential for a good ‘mist’ shot in the past, the old iron bridge has some lovely old style street lamps, placed fairly close together, as I reach the spot, my hoped for shot is as there for the taking, as well as a couple of ornamental lamps on the nearby buildings.


I even manage to find a place to rest my camera for a long exposure shot of a passing car, my improvised tripod is a handily placed waste bin with a convenient flat surface, perfect!

At this point, I am not far from the River Exe, so decide to make a beeline there to one of the bridges I have photographed so many times before in low light conditions, I am here so why not?

On my way to the bridge, I am drawn to the way the trees are lit by the street lights, there is a moody feel to this shot, as with the rest of today’s images, they will be black and white.

The darkness is slowly conceding ground to daylight, the eternal tug of war between night and day slowly swings to night time’s advantage, more so this weekend with the changing of the clocks.

My walk along the river bank is broken up by a few sporadic shots of the mist slowly lifting away, it was the last of the night time shots I was out for, so am happy to make my way back home for a shower and a few hours sleep.


The spontaneous nature of today’s shoot, has made it all the more enjoyable, I have always admired the moodiness of these misty autumn mornings, to capture them is always a pleasure.

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.