Out at last

Friday and Saturday had been a complete wash out in terms of any plans I had of getting out for my weekend photo walk, can there be any rain left to fall I ask?

Sunday morning and much of the same, as I enjoy my first brew of the day and a bacon butty, the skies are a grey wash of mediocrity, the gentle sound of rain against the windows, is this to be another ‘stay in’ day?

As I finish breakfast, I look out to see that there appears to be a break in the rainfall, without further ado, I decide to get some fresh air, even if it is only for a brief time.

The rain may have stopped but the sky still shows intent, so I set a brisk pace as I head towards my undetermined destination.

It is on these spontaneous forays that I find myself becoming more creative, looking for shots that I have not taken before, which in a city I have lived in for over twenty years, can be a challenge.

A lot of today’s shots will be black and white, to capture the mood of the day, but keep an open mind.




It has been my intention this year, to spend less time editing my photos, attempting to capture the mood with in camera presets or ‘recipes’ I have been creating over the last few weeks.

With today being such a dull day, monochrome and desaturated colour images, with contrasty shadows are the order of the day, with only a little cropping as needed done in post processing.

Despite the short duration and distance of today’s jaunt, I feel that I have salvaged something from this weekend and look forward to my next outing.

A city at night

Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I did not manage to get out with the camera, my days off were spent unpacking boxes and settling into my new abode, so no opportunity for the usual shutter therapy.

My hopes for a bright and sunny Friday and Saturday are to be dashed by two days of wind and rain.

Ever the opportunist, Thursday evening is at least dry, so decide to head out for an hour or so, just around the city centre for some night time photography.

As I walk past St James station, I realise that I have lived in Exeter for twenty years and never taken a photo here, in daytime the small station is one of the many smaller ones along the Exmouth railway route but the lights reflecting on the platform catch my eye enough to take a photo.

In all honesty, I have no plan in mind for tonight’s impromptu foray, as with the station image, it will be whatever catches my eye, as I make my way into the city centre.


My favourite shot of the evening, I liked the lines and light through the window

I love the way a city seems to take on another persona at night, the way light reflects onto other buildings, or onto the street, offer chances not seen during daylight hours.

While I do not consider myself to be a ‘crowds’ person, I look forward to times when the city streets will be busy once more, where the hospitality and retail industry can open their doors once more and to see my home city getting back to business as usual.

A city in lockdown

Most of my exercise walks in lockdown have followed a well trodden path away from the main city centre, strolls along the riverside are a brief respite and a reminder of the normality that we once had before this ever present threat of covid.

As much as I enjoy capturing the beauty of a sunrise or the mist rising from a river on a cold winter morning, these strange times have a story of their own, the following words are observations and images, taken over the last couple of weeks, on my brief incursions into a city in lockdown.

The city streets are bereft of bargain hungry shoppers, a melancholy silence hangs above the city, where even the faintest sound will drift between empty alleyways.

Shop window displays remain unchanged, last season’s merchandise that nobody can buy, only essential shop doors can welcome the customer for now.

An optimistic gull perched upon a street light waits for morsels that rarely appear, once easy pickings have become a drought, so he files to another spot, where he is quickly dispersed by a rival already close by.


Lone souls find a place in the winter sun to drink a welcome hot tea or coffee while others patiently wait for their buses to take them home.

I think we have become a little more sociable these days, while we have spent a lot of time at home, the company of a stranger is a welcome yet brief chance to make each others day a little more pleasant.

I was asked recently if I found it more difficult to enjoy street photography with so few people around, to a degree maybe but I look to find other subject matter within the streets to photograph. rainwater on a bench perhaps, colours and textures lit by the sun as they cast patterns, shadows of people against a wall offering an abstract take.

For as long as the current lockdown remains in place, I will continue to make my observations but I am looking forward to the days when my images are of a city free from the necessary constraints, where we can meet once more with friends and revisit those places we have missed.

A cold start

It seems like the five hundredth day of January, as I wake this Friday morning. just after 6am.

As with many others, I am longing to have the shackles of lockdown loosened as I contemplate which part of my home town I shall walk today, I would like to take an early train and catch the sunrise on one of the local beaches but respect the importance for only necessary travel on public transport and decide upon a circular walk following the River Exe once more.

It is another one of those still winter morning’s where the cold soon shakes any latent sleepiness from you, while hidden patches of ice on the pavements also help keep you alert.

A cold mist floats above some parts of the River, in my head the deep purple ‘smoke on the water’ intro plays in a loop as I look for my first shots of the day.

There are still traces of night lingering in the skies above as my first shots are taken, I love the moodiness of this time of day, the longer shutter speed turning the river to an almost smooth mirror, the star like light emanating from the street lights on the opposite pathway.

Atmospheric cloud and smooth water, the lights reflection make for a satisfying first image of the day
A patch of blue sky is quickly hidden by the spectre of cloud
Just a few minutes later, as the sky lightens the day, the mist rises from weir like a ghost

With the city behind me, I join the footpath to the Riverside valley trail, where the powerful gushing of the fast flowing weir is replaced by the first strains of the dawn chorus, a sound I will never tire of.

If the sound of birdsong was not enough, my reward is twofold, as I see the cloud begin disperse, their edges painted with the glow of the morning sun, how different from last Friday’s insipid, uninspiring blanket of grey.

Beautiful reflections and light as the sun makes a welcome appearance

This morning is offering photo opportunities at every turn, the river reflections and golden skies, the grass either side of the footpath dusted with a light frost, it is a day to treasure.


The highlight of today’s shoot, my picture of the day was an opportunist shot, taken opposite the Double Locks pub, where on the landing stage a young lady stands, taking photos of the local swans, who with their natural grace and elegance are as photogenic as ever.

With the sun adding a golden glow to the scene, I have my favourite shot of the day.

An elegance of swans have their photos taken/

From a safe distance we exchange greetings and I explain that the shot was too good to miss and would she like a copy of the image.

The young lady’s name is Ama, she explains that under normal circumstances she would have been in Mexico, celebrating a friend’s birthday with them but instead, here she was in the middle of an English winter, making the most of the allowed exercise.
Ama loves the picture, she says it will be a memento of lockdown she will treasure, I promise to send the image later in the day via email.

With a good few landscape images under my belt, I seek out the more abstract images I find so much enjoyment from, close ups of plants bathed in the glow of the morning light, ice crystals atop a fence post, bramble leaves seemingly candied with frost.


The smaller details are as much fun to photograph as the grand vistas, finding beauty in the every day has taught me not just to look but how to see the apparently mundane in a different light.

As I make my way back home, ideas for this blog begin to germinate, that initial thought of despair so early this morning of it feeling like the five hundredth day of January as the opened curtains revealed nothing but darkness has been replaced by ‘ the five hundredth day of January was a great day to be alive! ‘

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.

Fuji Jpegs

I have been using Fuji cameras on and off for the last seven or eight years, I say on and off because I have had a tendency to chop and change gear, not because I think I will become a better photographer, more because I have simply enjoyed trying different cameras.

I have come full circle in the last couple of years, there is just something about these cameras that has drawn me back to the Fuji family, a combination of the physical the dials, a range of superb lenses and excellent image quality are of course a factor but for me, they are cameras that you want to pick up on days out.

Using my X100f for a whole year for a recent project, changed my photographic ethos, I was a long time member of the ‘shoot raw only’ club, until I began to experiment with the well regarded ‘film’ simulations, I will now happily shoot Jpeg only for my personal photography, especially as I feel less inclined to sit at a computer for hours clicking on sliders.

Yesterday was one of those JPEG days, knowing that I do not have a Raw image to fall back on, keeps me focussed on getting the exposure right first time, a discipline that I had become complacent with, given how forgiving Raw files can be.

A selection from yesterday, with minor cropping and straightening in capture 1, with a vignette added to the daisy image.


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.