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.

 

Being creative

If this were a normal Easter weekend, I would look forward to a long walk at dawn to capture the sunrise, as I have done over the last few years, however, 2020 is far from a normal year.

With lockdown approaching its third week, I have resisted the temptation to take a camera with me on my daily walk, but have thought of alternative ways of being creative with the camera, while staying at home.

In one of my recent decluttering exercises, I found a few odds and sods that may enable me to make a rudimentary light box for some close up photography, that little seed of an idea was put into practice today, where I fashioned my basic cube from some sturdy packaging, and made good use of the black fabric of an old sports hold all  to make a simple backdrop for inside the box, with other coloured fabrics bought cheaply online.

For the light source, I have used two LED strips that were being thrown away, part of another light box that had broken but the LED’s still worked.

While I was happy with my fabric background, for the dandelion shots, I used the screen of a long since dead tablet, the glass offering a certain amount of reflection.

Above are the results of an hour of finding things from around the house and garden, no doubt there will be more to come.

Crisp winter days

Here we are, half way through January and I feel that we have not yet felt the icy fingers of winter, it could be the lull before what is now termed a polar vortex but used to be simply known as ‘a cold snap’.

Today, winter arrived but in one of it’s kinder moods, one of those cold, bright days where you wake to a dusting of frost on house roofs and the grass has turned white, as if through shock.

It is about an hour before the sun will rise, but through the lifting darkness there appears to be a blanket of mist in the distance, the omens are good for some more photos along the Exe.

As I head out, it would appear Jack Frost has worked overtime, painted icy swirls on cars  that are actually quite beautiful to look at, for me at least, not those that may have to spend time scraping it off if they need be somewhere early.

I reach the footpath to the river, luminous yellow jacketed volunteers have been out in force placing route direction signs for a fun run that has been organised today, it is not long before the serious runners appear in the distance, I will happily step aside as they pass, to a man (or woman) they keep a regular check on their watches in their pursuit of personal best times.

As the first group passes, I admire the serene beauty of frost laden brambles and other hedgerow flora and fauna, the stillness of the river and the eerie silence of the still heavy mist on the river.
Through the mist, I can just make out a heron, stood statue like by the waters edge, as the next group of runners pass by, it takes off effortlessly, and there he was…. gone.

The sun has made an appearance, just a milky glow as seeks to penetrate through the cloud but makes for some atmospheric shots as more runners appear in the distance, more shadow than portrait, I think these may just work.

I have a good half mile to go before I get to where I hope the best moody shots could be, I would really like the mist to hang around a while longer to get some shots of the scullers as they appear through the fog.
There is a pub nearby called the double locks, here they have a couple landing stages for the boats to be physically pulled in and out of the water to make progress in either direction.

My fears of the sun burning through the cloud are unfounded, here I get a couple of shots I am really happy with, anything else is a bonus.

 

I would appear to have something of a routine going these days, as I am about to head for home, I will find a place to sit, and enjoy the hot thermos of tea I made earlier, while making a few notes for today’s blog and a few ideas for my later photo editing.
What a great start to the day.

A walk in the woods

September has always been one of my favourite times of year, the turning of the season from summer to autumn, nature’s changing of the guard.

Watching the leaves turn from green to hues of orange and gold has always held a fascination, photographing them is a pleasure I will always enjoy, yet it is always tinged with that bittersweet taste of knowing dark winter nights are not that far away.

One of my favourite haunts to observe the rite of passage from summer to autumn is Hembury woods near Buckfastleigh, just on the edge of Dartmoor, the woodland lies alongside the River Dart.

With the summer holidays just a fading memory, I have the woods and river pretty much to myself, one of the advantages of having weekdays off from work.

With just the whisper of wind through the leaves and the occasional birdsong, it is so peaceful, a place to reflect or gather ones thoughts after a busy week, as I sit on a rock watching the river flow past.

As usual, my eye is drawn to those small patches of light that seep through to the woodland floor, also to the long since fallen trees with various species of fungi that will be prevalent at this time of year, along with the many fallen acorns.

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I tried so hard not to take the usual long exposure of the water, but those orange leaves that had already fallen on to the rocks were just too good to miss, it also gave me the excuse to stay by the river for just a few minutes longer.

After a four mile stroll, it is time to head back for a little light refreshment and something to eat before the next best part of the day, reviewing the days photos.

Venford Falls

Another Sunday, another trip to the place that is fast becoming a second home, Dartmoor.

A bright and sunny April Sunday, this time to find the well hidden gem of Venford falls.

Armed with instructions on how to find the falls, we walk along the main footpath for a while until we hear the sound of fast running water in the valley below.

Our instructions recommend the use of walking poles to reach the falls, advice that would be well heeded as the walk path down is not that well trodden and is pretty steep! Finally we reach the sun dappled valley, with the falls cascading majestically below us.

Because the falls are so well hidden, we were able to take our time getting the shots we wanted without disturbance or interruption, perfect conditions for the long exposure shots we wanted.

From a photography point of view, the light was fantastic as it filtered through the woodland onto the ferns and floor below, where with one of my favourite 50mm vintage lenses, I sought out the most appealing images

The route we took back up was somewhat meandering, as we spent time looking for places to cross to the opposite path and while it is possible to cross the river in places, the rocks look very slippery, and the water flows through rapidly!

A place well worth visiting, but be prepared for some challenging terrain.