With my week long excursion to Wales all but a memory, it was time to tread more familiar territory once more, with a visit to Torcross and Start point.
I have happy memories of visiting both venues occasionally on Sunday afternoons, the one special day reserved for ‘family time’ in the 1970’s, the post Sunday roast outing.
A few years later on, I would work as as a chef in the nearby town of Dartmouth and become more acquainted with the coast paths around the area, it would be some years later again before any sort of camera would become a part of these walks.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy revisiting a place as much as I do seeing somewhere for the first time, making up for those days when I did not do photography… enough rambling what about today’s walk?
Arriving at just before 10am, being a Saturday, it’s ‘change over day’, those that have enjoyed their week here are getting ready to leave their holiday lets, making space for those arriving later today, I chat with one couple packing up their car, they say they have simply loved watching the sea views from the upper balcony of their holiday rental, it has been their most relaxing holiday ever!
It’s comments such as these that make me appreciate all the more, the fact these views are just an hour’s drive away and just how beautiful the county of Devon is.
After an hour or so capturing a few images around Torcross, it’s time to head out towards Start point, famous for it’s lighthouse and another beautiful part of the South west coast path.
The path towards the lighthouse is a winding route, the views are simply beautiful looking back once more towards Torcross and towards Dartmouth, I am only distracted from these views by a sighting of a pair of yellowhammers and stonechats in the hedges below the footpath wall, no chance of a photo of either species with my 50mm lens, I do not fancy carrying a lens the size of a small ship in my camera bag, I will leave that to the dedicated wildlife photographers.
As I come to the lighthouse itself, the gate is firmly closed, not open for visitors today, this is a trip for another day and a wider lens, something to look forward to on another day.
My last few Saturdays have been early starts, as I have been keen to catch those late spring sunrises around the local coastline of Dawlish and Teignmouth respectively.
Day 30 starts with grey, overcast skies with brighter sunny spells later in the day, so decide that a trip to a local woodland just a few miles away may be an idea, after all, I have not visited this one for a couple of years.
Ashclyst forest is owned and maintained by the National trust, just on the outskirts of the village of Broadclyst in East Devon and a stones throw away from Killerton House.
As with any location on one’s doorstep, I Have not visited Ashclyst as many times as perhaps I should but I am certainly looking forward to exploring the myriad of trails and footpaths that make any woodland and forest so enjoyable.
Even if I were not involved in my current 50mm project, a 50mm lens would be my choice for today’s venue, the wider aperture of a 50mm prime lens is perfect for those out of focus backgrounds in woodland, as well as plenty of scope for those close up shots that have become a part of my photographic repertoire over the years.
There is something very calming about ambling around these forest trails, the pure joy of hearing the birds singing, their melodies undiluted from traffic noise and other man made interruptions.
I take a little time to experiment with some ‘intentional camera movement’ (ICM) shots, as I stand in a clearing, facing a copse of fir trees, a three stop ND filter attached to my lens gives me an exposure time of around two seconds, enough to create some abstract images of the scene before me.
After a number of attempts., I have a couple that I am happy with, it is this type of experimenting that keeps me wanting to get out and trying new (to me) techniques.
With patches of concealed bluebells just waiting to be found, the paths are a riot of late spring colour, with buttercups and celandine offering a vivid contrast to the campion that sways gently in the pleasant May breeze.
Dandelions lie in various states of undress, some with their full Afro of pappus, others semi bald, their party crowns long since stolen away by the breeze.
Even among this spring time palette, traces of the ochres and browns of winter can be found, oases of fallen ferns and fir cones, lying forgotten as last years Christmas toys, yet still beautiful, even in decay.
It’s just after 04:15 as I head out this Saturday morning to capture another seaside sunrise, this time at Dawlish Warren.
As I make my way to the railway station, the dawn chorus has begun already, a male blackbird stands proudly atop a concrete pillar, preaching his avian chorus to anyone who listens, I do, his melodic overture is a pleasure to hear as a new day begins.
My walk to the station is rarely interrupted but for the occasional takeaway car making their last calls to hungry party goers, or taxi cabs ferrying the night club weary back home for a welcome slumber.
In just a few weeks, even the five AM train will not be early enough for those summer seaside sunrises but that is a concern for then, not now.
The train glides out of Exeter St. David’s station on time, I will be at my destination in twenty minutes and with darkness already lifting, I can see a little colour beginning to form in the sky above.
Mine is just the third stop of the train’s journey to Paignton, Dawlish Warren station is just a stone’s throw from here, the local arcades, cafe’s and fairground rides lie dormant for now, in just a few hours, it will be a thriving mini town, as day trippers and tourists from the local camp sites look to entertain family members, young and old.
The beauty of the new day has begun already, bright orange and dark blue skies are all I need to get the camera out for the first shot of the day, a simple composition of nearby benches in silhouette.
It is a fabulous start but I am keen to find a few more shots before the sun begins its rapid ascent, with the tide making its way in, I look to find some reflections in the calm water as a contrast to the rippled patterns in the exposed sand and a couple images from the path above the beach, using the picket fence as foreground interest.
Once the sun appears above the horizon, these beautiful shades will be lost all too soon, all the more reason to just sit and enjoy the rest of this brief show with a well earned cuppa from my generously sized thermos flask.
With mission sunrise achieved, I will make my way along the footpath to Starcross and Cockwood, joining the estuary trail as far as Topsham, where I will catch a ferry and enjoy a well deserved refreshment.
The next set of images are just a handful of those I took along one of my favourite hikes, a good ten miles allowing for my numerous ‘off piste’ ambles along the way in the search for more photos.
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’s the Easter weekend and according to local radio reports, the roads are packed with the holiday crowds heading towards the south west, so I decide that I will finally spend some time catching up on that backlog of jobs I have evaded until now but not before an early(ish) start for day #24, another morning stroll by the river.
As I make my way through the city centre at just after six am, the local road sweepers are out in force, clearing the night before’s takeaway debris left by the lazy who have lost the ability to locate and use a bin. Urban gulls fight like drunkards over a polystyrene box, only dispersed by a passing ambulance, blues and twos turned up to eleven!
My approach to the river, takes me via the subway, a labyrinth of graffiti painted walls, abstract images and messages, I take a couple of shots with the aim of a grunge style edit, ideal for the subject matter.
The river lies still, not a breath of wind in the air, a little overcast with a hint of mist in the distance, I enjoy these conditions to capture the reflections and mood of this Holy Saturday morning.
Only two boats from the local rowing club have the River to themselves, I had expected to see more, I watch, admiring the synchronicity of the rowers as the boat glides gracefully through the water and into the distance.
A little further along, a fly fisherman stands thigh deep in the briskly flowing waters, the first time in my 22 years in Exeter that I have seen anyone fish this spot, I decide to stop here awhile to enjoy a cup of tea from my flask as I watch him cast his line in graceful arcs into the water.
A fellow angler shouts encouragement from the bank, there have been salmon caught a little further down river a couple of days before. I watch, fascinated by the methodical way in which fly fishermen work the swim, their unwavering optimism that the next cast will find their elusive prey.
I remain here until my flask is empty, sometimes it is good to just sit and watch the world go by, runners on their daily exercise, some unplugged, just the sound of their feet for rhythm, others plugged into their motivational play list, both ‘in the zone’.
My playlist is the sound of the nearby weir, where a heron stands statue still on sentry duty, patiently waiting for his unsuspecting prey, he will find his fish before the fisherman for sure.
I have eked out two or so hours here but I am determined to get back home and tackle that list of jobs, I will only allow myself to look through the morning’s images once I am half way through them, I do better than that, I complete all but two tasks that can be done tomorrow…. or Monday.
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.
After a very enjoyable outing to Totnes, capturing the essence of a busy market town, my Saturday morning will be quite the opposite, as I make my first early morning outing of the year.
With sunrise at just after 6am, I set out just after 5am, heading towards the quayside and the Canal footpath along the River Exe, looking forward to capturing whatever this new day may bring.
As I reach the quayside, the skies above are cloudless but bright, there will be no dramatic clouds to reflect the sun’s early light but there are some beautiful reflections in the mirror like still waters.
At just after six, the sun makes its welcome presence known as it paints the nearby buildings in a subtle golden light, the scene is jigsaw puzzle picture perfect, what a great start to my Saturday morning.
I manage one image of the sun as it rises between the trees, before all too soon those yellow hues fade away.
Happy with the shots I have, I head back along the opposite path, where the local rowers carve through the water like a knife through butter and runners and cyclists take their morning exercise, I admire their dedication as I think about that bacon sandwich I promised myself when I got back home.
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.
It has been a rare weekend, one where I have not felt at all like getting out and about with my camera, after the works lurgy finally cornered me into staying at home to get over that horrible feeling of lethargy that has lasted all week.
Day 16 is belatedly, last Sunday’s trip back home from Salcombe, once again all taken with my current favourite fifty, the Pentacon 50mm 1.8.
The scenic route back to Exeter, will pass through Kingsbridge, Torcross and Dartmouth, a good route in the quieter days of early spring, a little harder in the peak tourist season.
Barely a mile out of Kingbridge and Bowcombe creek and bridge are lit up nicely by the sporadic sunny spells, a photo I have been wanting for some time but inevitably the tide always appears to be fully out.
A quick excursion to Torcross and this time a couple of photos from the ‘Strete gate’ end of the beach, where I watch the waves roll and break in the strong winds, no better entertainment than watching the forces of nature.
After that bracing sea air, I start to feel that it is time for a bite to eat, stopping at Dartmouth for another brief pit stop, a rather tasty chicken and chorizo pasty hits the spot while I watch the world pass by.
A rather disgruntled gull looks on as he watches me devour the last of my pasty, sorry mate, that was too good to share with you!
My non camera weekend has not been entirely wasted, a couple of seeds have been sown for another project later in the year and it has been kind of fun, catching up with some reading and a few challenging cryptic crosswords while listening to the rain and wind outside and while I should not wish my life away, I cannot wait to get out next weekend.