It’s the half way point of my 50 days of 50mm project, something that began as a seed of an idea for a long term project as 2021 came to a close and commenced on my first outing of the new year.
Shooting with a Canon 5d MKII body, I have allowed myself a little indulgence, in that I will occasionally use one of my vintage 50mm manual lenses, the go to lens for this is a Pentacon 50mm F1.8, a lens that had been left forgotten in my collection of old lenses but has become a regular passenger in my camera bag.
This project so far has changed my approach to my photography, before I would have a large camera bag with perhaps 3 lenses, filters and a tripod, these days I rarely take the tripod and the only filter I tend to have with me is a polarising filter.
The simpler set up is clearly lighter but with minimal options in terms of gear, I am thinking more creatively with my compositions, the lens choice dilemma that would sometimes creep into my shot making no longer exists, can only I use what I have.
Today’s venue was to be Stoke Woods, pretty much on my doorstep but my first visit here since autumn last year, I will be hoping for a few bluebells somewhere along the woodland trails but just being around nature is all I need after a busy working week.
I have decided to use the Pentacon lens once more, I am learning to use the corner softness of this lens to my advantage, rather than see it as a flaw.
I have remarked in previous posts how using a manual lens has made me feel more a part of the photographic process again, the 5d body is the same, with no tilting screen, I have to physically get as low I need in order to get the low angle shots, but it is what we all did before, so why not now?
The route through the woods zig zags gently down to the busy ‘Exe valley’ road, where just literally across the road from the woodland trail, is a footpath that leads to some pretty rural villages just on the outskirts of Exeter.
I will follow this path for a mile or so, just to take in some of the scenery that I have captured before including a beautiful old oak tree, however my last image of this arboreal beauty stood majestically in place last autumn, will be my last, as it is now nothing more than a mass of tangled timber, having become a victim of the recent winter storms.
It is just as I begin the return trip back along the path that the sun finally breaks through the cloud, hopefully I can capture some of that light through the trees as I make my way back through the woods…..
It has been a rather busy week one way and another, so I am later than usual in posting the second of last weeks camera outings, some may say better late than never.
Having spent Friday and Saturday visiting family, Sunday was my day to travel back to Exeter, taking in a photo walk somewhere on the way back.
That somewhere would be a visit to Staverton Steam railway and a walk along the woodland path, sandwiched between the Railway and River.
With bluebells gradually taking their turn on the botanical stage, it may be a little early to capture that carpet of blue in the woodland but I did find one or two images, a preview of the weeks to come.
Sadly, the full route of this footpath is no longer open at weekends but I understand the need to conserve these areas of natural beauty from the damage of erosion from so much footfall over the years.
I head back to the steam railway station where the first of the new season’s trips have commenced, these stations are kept so immaculately by the team of volunteers, the retro signage and paraphernalia are always an attraction, the photographer’s holy trinity of texture, colour and patina well represented with old sack trucks, travel cases and the mandatory vintage bicycle or two.
There is always a warm friendly feeling to these old stations, perhaps even,a yearning for the days when we were in less of a rush to do everything by yesterday.
After a couple of very pleasant hours, it’s time for a welcome brew before heading back home, where I look forward to seeing my weekend’s efforts and the new memories I have created over the last few days.
With Easter just over the horizon, this may well be the last of my three day weekends until late September, so I will be spending this weekend in Salcombe , first and foremost visiting family and hopefully a sunrise photo shoot on Saturday morning.
It’s 5am and day 22 of my 50mm challenge, sunrise is at just after six thirty, so I have a good hour to walk to a favourite place in Salcombe, the National trust footpath at Snape’s point, where I hope to catch the early light as it reflects on the town I once called home.
Too early for a full breakfast, I drink my first brew of the day and eat a slice of toast before heading into the last few minutes of night time, as I walk briskly towards my destination.
As the darkness fades, I have clear skies above, with just a hint of orange on the horizon, a promising portent for the day to come.
The early chill has been negated by my brisk pace but I will feel it more once I stop to wait for sunrise, as my favoured spot for today is at the top of a hill overlooking the estuary and various creeks.
It would appear that I have times my arrival to perfection, barely ten minutes later and there is a beautiful orange glow painting the sky, this is why I get out early on my days off, the sheer pleasure of watching a new day dawn will never fail to leave me inspired.
It comes to mind that this is the first time that I have come to this location for a sunrise shoot, this has always been a walk I have done later in the day, it is safe to say that I will definitely make the effort to return for another early start later in the year.
After a slow mooch back for a welcome bacon butty and the mandatory cuppa, I make my way back into town for a few more photos, this time capturing the town with a few more people around, especially on the estuary where I watch the local sailing yachts lining up for their next race, while taking a few photos of course.
If woodland walks in autumn are a bittersweet reminder of the shorter days and longer nights to come, those same walks in spring are a treasure trove of mother nature’s wonders, as new life slowly emerges from winter’s grip, we can look forward to the annual displays of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells to add a splash of colour to the landscape.
A recent trip to steps bridge, just on the edge of Dartmoor was the perfect antidote to what felt like months of constant grey skies, as the sun’s rays made their presence known with a little spring time warmth.
The woodland path was a riot of yellow and green, as daffodils paraded their bright yellow bonnets for all to see, while trees began to show the delicate beauty of their early blossom, or the vibrant green of new foliage.
To spend just a couple of hours amongst nature, listening to the wind as it whispers between the trees and the sweet melody of the avian chorus revives the senses and shakes off that feeling of lethargy that winter can bring, as I sit by the riverside listening to the river rush by, I look forward to the months to come and my next trip to Dartmoor.
Day 18 may prove to be one of my favourite photo walks of the entire 50mm project, simply because of the variety of shots I was able to take today.
An opportunity to mooch around the market town of Totnes for a couple of hours will rarely be refused, especially on a market day, when the town will be busier than normal.
The market square is where my shoot begins, where a myriad of marketeers ply their trade, from bric a brac to fruit and veg, antiques to Panama hats but the busiest stalls appear to be the street food stalls, where the subtle aroma of spices tantalize the taste buds.
As the queue at the Ethiopian food stall dissipates temporarily, I ask for an Impromptu photo of the owner Hanna, as she works, she generously obliges, asking only that I share the photos with her, of course I am more than happy to do so.
I had planned to spend around 15 minutes at the market, I spend the best part of 40 minutes just trying to capture the essence of the scene and the street close to the market.
As I move from here, I head through the main street to the riverside, then take the footpath to the local steam railway station at Totnes, which had I checked their website, I would have known it was yet to open for the new season, never mind, the walk is still a very pleasant one.
If I was slightly disappointed at missing out from the Totnes steam railway, a visit to Buckfastleigh on the way back home, more than makes up for it, this will be the third ‘chapter’ for todays outing.
While Totnes station was yet to open, Buckfastleigh was hosting an event for railway enthusiasts, plenty going on here then! It would appear that most of these enthusiasts are also keen photographers, where the mix of Canon and Nikon is evenly split, with the odd Sony user, they all have one thing in common, the long zoom lens, I feel kind of under dressed here, with just my faithful fifty.
That said, I rarely if ever feel that I have missed a shot using just one focal length, learning to adapt is what helps to keep my love of photography alive.
Day nine of my 50mm project and a trip to Dartmoor is planned, in my camera bag is my trusty canon 50mm f1.8 and a Super Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens, the latter being a lens I have had for some time but have rarely used beyond looking for those close up shots with that lovely out of focus bokeh that old manual lenses are known for.
Not all vintage lenses work perfectly with my 5d mk II, some lenses can touch the mirror when focused to infinity, hence the addition of the native canon lens.
Today’s first stop is to Hexworthy, St. Raphael’s church, well known for its proliferation of snowdrops at this time of year and a few images of the inside of this charming little church in the middle of nowhere.
The takumar does well on the detailed shots, is it my imagination, or do the black and white images render better with vintage lenses?
While today is a bright winter’s day, the strong wind is bitingly cold, I am thankful I brought my flask of tea to enjoy between destinations.
The next stop is less than half a mile away, Huccaby bridge, a popular summer haunt for picnic’s and paddling in the river, today’s visitors are dog walkers and hikers, keen to keep moving to keep warm!
The third and final visit, is just another couple of miles away, Sherberton farm, where the light is at its best as I capture the local bovine and equine population at lunch, the vintage lens does me proud on a couple of these shots as the animals enjoy lunch.
This is one of my favourite walks, following the track to Swincombe bridge and up the ruins of Swincombe ford cottage, popularly known as John Bishop’s house.
This John Bishop was a tin miner, not the comedian of the same name, probably working at the local Gobbet mine, records indicate that he occupied this house from 1840, until his death in 1892.
A few pictures show the ruins bathed in sunlight, I waited patiently between rain showers, watching the clouds pass by until the sun peered through, a wait of about ten minutes that seemed so much longer in the bitter winds.
These remnants of Dartmoor’s industrial history will long remain a source of fascination, as will my desire to explore further, this beautiful landscape.
Today will be the fifth day of my 50mm challenge, a rare Tuesday off, as I use the remnants of last year’s holiday up, hopefully I should get a couple more days of photography in this week but today will be an amble around one of the local parks, with a view to using my lens wide open for some still life / abstract shots.
It is another day of grey washed skies, a typical insipid January morning, if today’s shade were to be described on a paint swatch, it would be called ‘extra meh’, however, I am determined to get some images.
On a brighter day, the park would be thriving with students and office workers, taking a break from stuffy offices and lecture rooms, today I am one of just three others enjoying the space that is just a stones throw from the main city centre.
The vibrant flower beds and hedges of summer are but a memory, leaving only a spectrum of winter browns, yet looking closely there is beauty even in decay, skeletal remains of hydrangea, a reminder of the fragility of nature.
Look beyond the decay and there are signs of spring, as optimistic daffodil leaves begin to show and new buds with bright green leaves embark upon the next cycle of life.
There may not have been any epic vistas or sweeping landscapes today, yet I have enjoyed this outing as much as any Dartmoor hike, it is the being around nature that gives me such pleasure.
As the second weekend of the new year approaches, I tentatively make plans for my second outing of 50mm, the prospects are not looking good as each of my weather apps show yet more rain for most of the weekend.
I do however, have an ace up my sleeve, a bonus Friday off, where the weekend rain is due later in the morning, so I head into town to run a few errands but will make some time to get a few shots around the city before the deluge and my date with a necessary booster jab.
My usual habit, would be to head towards the river and quayside but instead I keep myself around the city centre and local parks, seeing what subject matter may present itself on this dull grey morning.
Given that I was not expecting to get out for any photography this weekend, I feel that the shots I have taken are all a bonus, unless of course Sunday offers me a chance to get out for day 3 of fifty mm.
It is the start of another week and as has become something of a routine, I take another browse through the images of my weekend photo shoot, with the intention of writing the back story of either the whole outing, or taking ideas from a single image for my ‘one frame’ series.
From Saturday’s outing to Fernworthy reservoir, may I present ‘Medusa’s lair’ the title for which I had in an instant, even before I composed this final image.
I had taken a similar shot on a previous outing but the diffused light and the tight crop of a 50mm lens added more impact.
There are a few landscape / woodland photographers that may find this scene a little to busy for their tastes, for me, it is this apparent chaos that makes the eye want to follow every twist and turn of these Medusa like lichen coated branches.
In such an incredibly inspiring place such as Dartmoor, steeped as it is in legend and folklore, it is not hard to let the imagination run free.
As I set off for today’s photo walk by the Exeter quayside , in the back of my mind there was that nagging voice about trying to find new subjects on familiar walks, after all, having lived in Exeter for over twenty years, it is easy to take a place for granted.
Yes, I know Exeter pretty well but what I never know on any given outing is what may unfold as I follow my chosen route, what story can I tell with the camera today?
I would not have guessed that today’s favourite picture would be of a trio of pigeons, what the photo does not show, is the pigeon on my shoulder and one on my camera bag, looking for non non existent bird seed!
An excited cry of ‘That man has a pigeon on his shoulder’ from a giggling youngster who just seconds earlier was lamenting the fact he could not have another ice cream that day, along with some good banter with other walkers enjoying their Sunday stroll.
With my spontaneous pigeon camouflage, I have clearly made my way into this avian fraternity where I am able to get close to the trio already perched on the bridge railings.
Okay, an osprey plucking an unsuspecting fish from the water it is not but it was a moment that kept several onlookers and myself amused….