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.

Staying local

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.

Another night time shoot

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.

With the streets empty of diners, this delivery driver waits for his next call

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.

A bit more milage

Unlimited exercise, the two sweetest words I have heard in a long time, two words that those of us that love the outdoors will be relishing.

Recently, these late spring mornings have dawned with beautiful blue skies and a freshness in the air that invigorates the senses, so with a licence to walk, I was keen to get a few miles under my belt.

One of my favourite local walks, is one that takes a path along the River Exe and on to the town of Topsham, via a footpath that runs alongside the estuary, with high tide a couple of hours away, I will have chance to walk the path before it is cut off by the tide, the alternative route being close to a main road and the incessant roar of traffic.

It is one of those very tranquil mornings, not even a breeze disturbs the water, so what little reflections there are at low tide are perfect mirror images.
Since it has been over three months since my last walk along this route , it feels as if I am seeing it all for the first time again, constant reminders of how picturesque the area I am privileged to call home is.


Keen to retrace the path I have walked before high tide, I save my other favourite places in Topsham for another day, as it is, today’s walk is just over 11 miles, a good start to my day.

Small world

I remember my first experience of looking through the eyepiece of a science lab microscope at school and being immediately captivated by the details that were previously kept hidden from my inquisitive mind.
Of course I had seen images in the children’s magazines of the day, (look and learn being a particular favourite) but to see these images in the real world made me want to look at the world in a different way.

The fascination for these miniature worlds has never left me, I count macro photography as one of my favourite subjects, typically it is fair to say I have bought and sold a few dedicated macro lenses over the years but it is possible to get close without spending a fortune.

These days, rather than lugging an expensive and often heavy lens around, I use one of my vintage 50mm lenses for close up work, while not a dedicated macro lens, its close focusing ability allows for a much lighter camera bag and some decent results.

The lens is question is one I mention often in my musings, a Pentacon 50mm 1.8 lens, available very fairly priced on online auction sites.
These lenses are often the of the  M42 screw mounting, popular with many of the SLR cameras of the day, for around £10-£20, an m42 mount adaptor can be bought for most makes of camera.

Focus is manual only, aperture is controlled from the lens aperture ring, focus from the lens ring, just like the good old days.

In the current ‘stay home’ directive, take a little time to look around the garden at things that we take for granted, take pleasure in the things that we can see, not those that we can’t.

 

Close to home

Walking has always been something I have enjoyed, from an early age growing up by the sea, I took great pleasure in discovering the miles of coast path around the picturesque south hams.
It has only been in the last 10 years that a camera has become a part of my continued exploration of old and new places, what better way to record the changing of the seasons in those favourite haunts?

More recently, I have endeavoured to travel further afield, with day trips to Bristol, a 3 day break in London, other venues were due to follow this year but for the Covid spanner being thrown into the works.

The moving of the goal posts has been the same for all of us, it is how we respond to new challenges that can make us more creative, or perhaps in my case, to appreciate all the more the opportunities that are on our doorstep.

For the last couple of mornings, I have taken an early walk around the River Exe, watching the day unfold but this morning I was keen to see what I could find closer to home.

With the morning spent doing the few jobs I had set out to do, it was unusual for me to set out after lunch but with ideas in mind, it was a favourite 50mm vintage lens that was put onto the camera, the pentacon 50mm 1.8, which offers a close focusing ability.

There is something about the rendering of colours from vintage lenses that I really like for this type of close up image, as well as the fact that manual focusing gives you the feeling of taking the shot, not just point and click.

While I only took a fraction of the photos that I would on a ‘normal’ photo walk, I was happy with the majority of them, just going to prove we should not ignore, or take for granted the beauty than can be found close to home.