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.

First sunrise of the year

Already nearly two weeks into the new year but today is my first opportunity to capture the first sunrise of 2020 and being January, I can set an alarm for a more sociable hour than those 3am alarm calls of the early summer.
The alarm is not not required, the sound of wind whistling around the windows and the last of the heavy rain are playing their final encores, or so I hope.

I am well ahead of time this morning, so I relish the last of two hot buttered crumpets and a second cup of strong tea, finish packing my camera bag and prepare a flask of tea to take with me.

It will take me just under an hour to reach a place for my first glimpse of the sunrise, as I head out into what still appears to be midnight!
Slowly but surely, the last of the heavy clouds begin to disperse and the sky begins to brighten, as I approach the footpath by the River Exe, the remaining clouds show the fiery tinged edges of the morning sun.


As I make my way along the path, there is an abundance of photo opportunities, light and shadow,colours and contrast feed my creative appetite with ideas.

With a chance of showers forecast, I watch the build up of cloud cautiously but the weather gods appear to be in a better mood of late and what little rain there is passes behind me.

The trees, bereft of foliage give some lovely shadows against the painted sky, I also see opportunities for some black and white images here.

The next part of my walk takes me back towards the quayside at Exeter, as I progress, it is clear that others intend to make the most of this sunny Sunday, sleek sculling boats from the local rowing clubs pass by with effortless grace, while in places, fishermen are casting their first baits of the day in their search for piscatorial pleasure.

With a good six miles under my belt, I reach the quayside at Exeter, where I meet a couple of friends for a new year catch up, the review of today’s images will be something to look forward to later this afternoon.

First shoot of the year

With Christmas fading to just a memory, slowly but surely life will return to some sort of normality, from that between Christmas and new year twilight world where all days feel like a weekend and we lose all track of time.

Today was to be the my first shoot of 2020, the first time in a year when I could use a variety of focal lengths after last years self imposed challenge.
In my bag today, would be a fuji XE-2  bought recently for a good price online, and my Xe-1 that I have had for a number of years.
Paired with the xe2, I have a used 16mm f2 Fuji lens, along with the 18-55mm ‘Kit’ lens on the Xe1.

Lyme Regis would be today’s destination, another seaside town that I enjoy visiting whenever I can.

The morning has started with a pall of grey cloud, but these clouds do at least have structure and character, not the washed out grey we have had so much over the last few weeks.

My first shots with the 16mm lens are test shots, it is the first time I have used this lens in anger, the field of view is somewhat wider than that I have been used to, but it does not take too long to get used to.

The 16mm lend will be used a lot more today than the 18-55mm, it seemed strange using a zoom lens, as I have always preferred to use primes.
A walk along the shoreline will not be possible today, the tide well up, showing only a few small patches of shingle, the wind is also blowing pretty well today, giving some nice waves as they crash suddenly into the waiting rocks.

The footpath to the main town centre and beach has some pleasing curves and texture, a couple of monochrome shots with the wide angle lens are taken, the results look pleasing, only time will tell.

My walk as usual, takes me to the Cobb wall, today it is doing it’s job as it prevents waves crashing over the wall to where many of us are walking, those walking on top of the wall for a better view are having several near misses from the waves as they attempt to capture them on their mobile phones.

As the clouds slowly depart, they make way for blue skies and sunshine, a rather pleasant January day, it has to be said.

With a number of the kiosks open for business, the aroma of eau de fish and chips is in the air, the kind of smell that wakes an appetite.

The first trip of the new year has been very welcome, a chance to walk off the festive excesses and to enjoy a few hours out with the camera, for me a good way to spend a few hours.

Mission accomplished

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.

Post Christmas outing

With the festive holidays in full swing, I am one of the many fortunate enough to have some time off over the Christmas period.
I have spent a quiet but pleasant few days with family, eating far too much and not getting out as much as I would have liked with the camera until today, my trip back home.

The last few days in terms of weather have been bleak, rain, wind and a blanket of characterless grey cloud have been the order of the day, today is little better, though the wet stuff is due to stay away for a few hours.

Leaving Salcombe just after 11:30, Slapton sands will be the first port of call, then a walk around Dartmouth for a bite to eat before heading back to Exeter.

Slapton sands is quite unique, in that one side of the road faces the sea, while the other faces a freshwater lagoon, or Ley as it is called here, the car park is on the ley side, so my first pictures are of the bird life here.

The recent strong winds have dropped, the ley lies in a state of calm, the bird life, used to human presence here are not too bothered with me taking photos.

Walking to sea wall side, a mist hangs over the distant coast towards Dartmouth, a chance for some moody monochrome images.
I was expecting the beach to be far busier with other people looking to walk off the festive excesses, maybe the weather is keeping them at home.

From here, Dartmouth is just a few miles along the coast, it is here we find the previously absent crowds, car parking spaces are as rare as hen’s teeth but a space is found and part two of today’s outing will proceed.

I spent a few happy years, living and working in Dartmouth in my early career as a chef, I always enjoy my brief revisits here, it is one of those thriving towns with a lot of character.

My walk follows a familiar route, along the embankment to Bayards cove, famous as the filming location for the Onedin line in the 1970’s.

As always, I look forward to looking at the day’s images, while planning more outings for what remains of the holidays.

T’was the Sunday before Christmas

It’s the last weekend before Christmas, as usual, I have no wish to be a part of the crowds seeking those last minute Christmas gifts, instead a trip just a few miles from Exeter, to Shaldon is my plan for the day.

Shaldon sits on the opposite side of the estuary from Teignmouth, it is one of those charming little towns that I like to visit throughout the seasons.
Shaldon boasts its own zoo and famous ‘smugglers tunnels’ built by the 8th Lord Clifford in the 1860’s, to give access to the ‘ness’ beach.
Evidence of the Clifford family influence is still prominent within the town, the Clifford arms and Clifford close are reminders of the town’s history.

It is amazing to think of the number of times I had visited Shaldon without any photos of the tunnels, this is something I shall put right today.


In taking pictures of the tunnels, it occurred that in all my visits here, I had never truly explored thoroughly, so why not do so today, attempting some different images from my usual seascape views that I always enjoy.

As I walk along the sea front, a fishing competition is taking place, a local angling club fishing for flounders, their annual Christmas hamper competition.
Some of the anglers have had early catches, others not so lucky but say a bad days fishing is far better than spending the day shopping!

After a stroll along the beach, a quick visit to St. Peter the apostle church, where the festive display is looking resplendent, I like the challenge of low light photography, so take a few images here.

It seems my detour into the church was timely, a heavy squall just passes, as I head further on today’s foray.

Having walked further along the road than I had normally done, this is where I stumble across the church of St Nicolas, one of those moments of fortunate happenstance.
The doors were not open for exploration within the church but the graveyard has a number of commonwealth graves.

As I look compose my next few shots, the sun appears from behind the cloud to give the church a lovely light, why had I not walked here before?

As I am enjoying a post walk snack and cup of tea, the wind is blowing stronger, I watch the increasingly larger waves crash into the sea wall at Teignmouth, I never fail to be fascinated by the raw power of the sea.

 

Avoiding the Christmas crowds

With just one more weekend before the Christmas holidays, today’s trip was planned to be away from the madding Christmas crowds, seeking their inspiration for festive gifts.

After a traditional English breakfast at a favourite cafe, the destination was to be Brixham, one of my favourite towns to photograph, with it’s fishing heritage and thriving community, it always offers a warm welcome.

A keen wind reminds us that winter is waiting just around the corner, it is however warmer when the sun makes its welcome sporadic appearances from behind the passing clouds, blown like tumbleweed across the mid day skies.

The wooden kiosks that in the height of summer offer boat trips around the bay or seafood brought fresh from Brixham’s famous fish market are boarded shut for the winter months, in hibernation until the early spring.

Cafes along the harbour area are undergoing winter refurbishments, or closed while their proprietors take well earned winter breaks, after a hopefully busy summer season.
Those that are open are welcome refuges for those few that enjoy the quieter out of season months.

The light has a lovely quality today, my walk along the breakwater gives some very moody photo opportunities, a perfect day for photography, maybe not so perfect for the few fishermen that have braved the elements today, as they cast their lines from the breakwater wall into the sea below.

One of my favourite shots of the day is taken from here, a lone trawler sets sail as foreboding clouds make their way out to sea, the remnants of a rainbow just visible in the sky.


One of the things I enjoy most about revisiting a place throughout the year, is the opportunity to capture the location in all its moods, fair and foul, warm and cold.

I am hoping at some time in the next few months to photograph Brixham at night, just another of the many items I need to cross off my photographic bucket list.