For someone who enjoys street photography, the notion of getting up early to enjoy the experience of having a place to oneself may sound odd, but every now and then, even the most tranquil scenes need that human element to help tell a story, or give an image context.
Walking along the riverside footpath earlier this spring, I had taken a few shots with the puddles on the path and the sun slowly making itself visible through the mist, while I was quite happy with the results, I felt it needed something else.
Just a few moments later and these three very obliging ladies walked into frame, for me completing the image perfectly and one of my favourite shots of the last couple of years.
It’s a Sunday morning and an invitation to get out on to Dartmoor once again will rarely be turned down, today is no exception as I go through my pre outing routine of checking batteries are charged and most importantly, I have a thermos of tea to look forward to after the morning’s walk.
It’s a lovely September morning, that autumnal freshness is making itself more prominent, there are also signs of low cloud in the distance, as usual, my eyes are peeled for any impromptu shots on the way.
With this potential for mist in the landscape, the thought is to head to Foggintor, scene of quarry workings and former quarry workers buildings, long since abandoned.
The blue skies of Exeter, less than an hour earlier are replaced by more moody skies, my second shot of the day is barely yards from the car park, a wonderful interplay of light upon the landscape, one of the many reasons for my frequent visits here.
As I think about the images I have just captured, I look forward to whatever else I may be fortunate to see as the next 3 or four miles begin in earnest.
My next shot, taken a few steps to the left of the one above, will be the last of the sunlight I will see on the moor today, a huge front of ominous grey approached from the distance, there may well be a few monochrome images today.
The footpath passes Yellowmeade farm, the bovine community is out and about, of course I take a shot and a name immediately comes to mind for the image, ‘The Yellowmeade farm beef mountain’.
I come to realise This will become something of a theme today, the name of the image is decided before the click of the shutter, I come to realise that I actually do this on a regular basis…. here another one named before the shot was taken on the return leg of the walk.
It is a good half way around the walk that the grey seems to want a permanent residency over the landscape, a chance for me to experiment with black and white images in camera or for later editing.
The ruins that remain of this part of Dartmoor look stark against the barren moorland, I do my best to capture the atmosphere which is helped by approaching mist.
My favourite trees, alone in most cases, stand defiant as ever against the elements, while horses look to find what little shelter they may offer.
I will finish this blog entry with the last picks of todays’s outing, all in monochrome, these really capture the essence of the moor in it’s raw beauty.
As the days are getting warmer, the chances of capturing those misty late spring mornings were fading, at least until later in the year or so I thought, however I was to be pleasantly surprised on today’s morning foray.
Fuelled with a good breakfast and the usual two cups of tea, I set out just after six thirty am, to what felt like one of the warmest mornings so far.
Heading towards the River, a drop in temperature was noticeable and there in the distance a blanket of mist lit by the glow of the dawn sun.
I had already decided on a different route this morning, taking a footpath I have only walked a few times over the years.
To get there, I walk past St. David’s train station to the Exe valley road, but only after a little diversion, taking in the old railway shed and some long time dormant freight cars on the railway sidings.
It appears that the mist is not about to give way to the sun’s warmth just yet, so my next stop is to Cowley bridge, another little diversion from my planned route, hoping for a few nice reflections with the waters being so serene.
The next part of the walk is along a normally busy main road, the main reason that I decide only rarely to do this walk but this morning is okay, as I walk the mile or so to the footpath entrance.
Just a few minutes walk from the buzz of the main road, I have walked into a place of near silence, a skylark soars above, its distinctive trill, a sure sign that summer days are nearly upon us.
The mist gives the scene an ethereal beauty, it is a time to sit and stare at the wonder of nature, as I find a convenient rock to park myself and take a few sips of water while enjoying the moment.
At some point, I will explore these footpaths further but I am hoping to get some photos of the mist in some woodland, another half mile or so away.
As I reach Stoke woods, the sun is finding its way through the many glades, narrow strips of light dappling the woodland floor.
The smell of wild garlic overpowers the initial sweet smell of pine, and that refreshing coolness of walking in woodland invigorates the senses.
I arrived too late for the misty woodland shots, they will come another day, as it is I have covered around six miles so far today, with another 3 miles to walk home and the enjoyment of seeing my mornings efforts.
It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.
My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.
From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.
As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.
It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.
As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.
A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.
It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.
It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.
With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.
My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.
As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.
The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.
From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.
From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.
My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.
This is the sort of blog I would normally write during those dark winter days, a reminiscence of previous outings, a looking forward to the seasons to come, this however, could be the first of many ‘staying home’ entries during the unwelcome presence of the Covid – 19 virus.
I am using this time to catch up on those jobs that have been left for too long on the bottom rung of the task ladder, to read that book I bought last year and to have another attempt at sorting through terabytes of images taken over the last 5 years.
It was while I going through this process, a trip to Buckfastleigh steam railway, jumped out as being one of my best days out in the last 2 years.
It was not the most inspiring of days in terms of weather, a grey misty day with drizzle hanging in the air, but a trip to a steam railway could offer something out of seemingly nothing, in the back of my mind, I had the thoughts of some ‘film noir’ style images to create some interest.
Steam railways are places I could spend hours exploring, with platforms often furnished with vintage luggage trucks, old suitcases and coloured signs of the products of the time.
Old rolling stock often lies abandoned on sidings, not always accessible to the public but Buckfastleigh has little that is not accessible.
I enjoy the chats I have with the many volunteers that help keep these railways open, their love of keeping the steam heritage alive is evident, one of the reasons for my frequent visits here.
For those that are interested, these were taken with a Lumix G80 m43 camera with 25mm 1.4 lens (50mm in full frame terms)
When time allows, there will be many places to revisit, in the meantime, I had better crack on with the sorting ….
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.