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.

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.

Into the woods once more

It’s the last week of October and I am keen to revisit a favourite woodland walk, Newbridge, situated on edge of Dartmoor between Ashburton and Poundsgate.

On arrival, the car park is already well utilised, this area is popular with walkers and canoeists alike, I spend a few minutes chatting with a group that have come from Horsham to sample the fast flowing waters of the River Dart, I leave them to their final preparations while I head to the woods.

Holly bushes seem to have an abundance of berries this year, a contrast of red and green against the slowly browning bracken along the edge of the path, these colour contrasts are one of the reasons that autumn is my favourite season.

As usual, I cannot resist the urge to create some long exposure images of the River, the smoky look of the water against algae clad rocks, some of which are speckled with the yellows and golds of fallen leaves.


As my walk takes me further into the woodland, I stop to take pictures of the fungi.
Each year, I promise to educate myself to learn the names of the species I see, each year, I fail miserably in doing so, yet my admiration of the beauty and fragility of their nature will never dwindle.

A simple rust coloured leaf, still clinging to its vine grabs my attention, acorns on a lush verdant cushion of lichen, ivy leaves basking in the autumn sun, all these little treasures are there to be found, the fun is in seeking them out.

My walk has come full circle, I am back at the car park supping a welcome cup of tea, I am thinking about how my photo walk tomorrow in Bristol will be the polar opposite of today, from spacious woodland to sprawling urban conurbation.

Totnes, then the seaside

It’s Monday morning, the third day of a rather welcome 3 days off, it’s just after 6am as I enjoy the first cuppa of the day, while listening to the rain as it hits the windows.

The weather forecast suggests that the morning’s rain will clear to sunny spells, either way, I intend to have a good day out.

My first destination will be Totnes, a town I really enjoy photographing, it’s quayside and town centre are always a hive of activity, I will have a mooch for a couple hours here, before meeting my parents for lunch, my treat today, they are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary this weekend!

As the grey clouds begin to clear, the morning has a lovely mood with a warm autumnal glow of sunlight, a good start to the day.

After a pleasant couple of hours with my folks, I continue my photo day trip, off to Paignton and Torquay, the ‘English Riviera’.

It’s half term, I was expecting the beach to be busy with family groups, perhaps the recent drop in temperatures are keeping the less hardy ones at home, those that are here are having a great time, one young lad trying to show his mum the dead crab he has found, mum wants none of that thank you!

There is a keen wind near the pier atr Paignton, bobble hats and scarves have been salvaged from their summer hibernation, to use a Games of Thrones analogy, ‘winter is on the way’.

From the confines of a cosy cafe by the sea, I watch the world go by with a welcome cuppa, browse through my photos so far before making my way back to the town centre where I hope to get some photos from the steam railway station there, then head over to Torquay for an hour or so before making my way home.

 

It has been a long time since I had a day like today, being able just go at leisure with no time constraints, it is something I hope to do more often over the coming months.

Looking back

With the first of the autumn rain storms making its presence felt, there will be little chance of getting out with the camera today, on such days I will take a little time in going through some of the images I have taken throughout the year, cataloguing and backing up to clear space for those images yet to come.

72448328_10219537537167370_98786343752040448_oThe image above was taken at around 5am in August, as I wait for the first train to Teignmouth to capture the sunrise, my enjoyment of early mornings has honed my low light photography skills, so much so, it is probably my favourite genre of photography.

 

I was not to be disappointed with my arrival at Teignmouth that morning, while there was a promise of a good sunrise, the cloud obscured the early rays but still produced some very atmospheric light, of course, as I was making my way back to the train station, the sun appeared for a brief few moments as I walked under the pier.

 

Brixham has always been a favourite location to visit, I enjoy photographing the fishing paraphernalia but there is a certain something about this town that draws me back time and time again, I have been meaning to and photograph Brixham at night for some time, with the evenings drawing in, that opportunity will come soon.

With Dawlish and Dawlish Warren both just a thirty minute train journey away, I will never tire of the scenic route by this coastline, a few early morning shots before the very enjoyable walk back to Exeter along the estuary and canal footpaths.

 

Further along the coast in the opposite direction, is the Jurassic coast, Lyme Regis is another of those places that I have yet to capture at dawn, this is on the list for next year, along with more visits to Portland Bill, a location I revisited for the first time in over 20 years!

I like the way that looking back on photos can often give inspiration for different compositions and new ideas.
I have a small notebook which I carry in my camera bag that has various ideas for various locations, I would use my smartphone to do this but I can probably write as quickly as I am able to type on that tiny phone keyboard anyway!

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.

 

Another early start

My alarm was set for 4am but at three thirty I am already awake, keen to get another sunrise along the coast.
I am happy to drink the first brew of the day but food is beyond me at this time of day, I will treat myself later when I arrive back into town.

With my camera gear already packed, I slip quietly out into the early darkness, to catch the first train to Starcross.
My train departs at just after 5:15am, I will reach my destination a good half an hour before sunrise at 06:15, time to find a spot to await the awakening of the day.

On my arrival, the  first signs of dawn are already there, a beautiful red hue paints the scene with its warmth, I think I have picked a good day.

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The tide is well out,  I look for different locations along the shoreline, for possible shots, being careful to avoid the random areas of soft estuary mud.

As the light brightens, the silhouettes of geese, gathered by the waters edge are visible, their presence had been noted moments earlier, their cackling the only noise above the otherwise tranquil start to the day.

I have been here just about 20 minutes but already the palette in the sky is changing, a few shots already in the bank, it is such a pleasure to watch the morning unfold.

Initially, I was hoping to catch the sunrise on a rising tide but the light reflections on the shore and mud flats give added texture to the images, I am spoiled for choice with the rapidly changing scene.

With a glow of bright orange in the distance, the red and orange make way for the yellow and gold carnival to begin, how glad I am that I decided to choose this morning for my shoot!

An hour has flown by, my intention is to hike back to Exeter for breakfast, a nine mile walk, so it is time to pack away the tripod, but will leave the camera close to hand for any shots along the way.

I finish the last of the flask of tea I had brought and make my way home, slowly of course, this morning’s sunlight has a warm ambience as it caresses the landscape, one of my best morning shoots in a long time

Above, a handful of shots I took  as I hiked back to Exeter, to a well earned breakfast and a meeting up of friends.