With summer all but a distant memory, my trips to local seaside towns become more frequent, especially when the first of the autumn winds begin to make their presence known.
A trip to the East Devon seaside town of Sidmouth did not disappoint on Friday, blustery winds and showers being on the meteorological menu.
I had initially thought that my ‘one frame’ blog from this trip would have been one of the photos I took of waves crashing dramatically over the sea wall, edited with a contrasty black and white vibe but there was just something about this scene that appealed more and was perhaps less of a photographic cliché.
In a world that is forever in a hurry, these coastal towns have a way of slowing down the madding crowd, where we actually make the time to watch the waves crash and recede over the beach below.
My first seaside walk since early March saw me going back to my home town of Salcombe last weekend, my main agenda was to visit my dad for father’s day, the second to enjoy a low tide walk along the shore of a favourite haunt from my childhood.
With the tide at its lowest ebb, there is an opportunity to walk along the best part of the beach, taking in views of the town of Salcombe from a different perspective, it is here that many of my favourite views can be seen.
From an early age, I have enjoyed these walks along the shore, especially after winter storms, where all sorts of maritime debris would be washed up along the shore, all treasures to a youngsters mind.
To this day, I unashamedly love peering into rock pools, and still like to look under seaweed for any small crabs that may be lurking beneath, evoking memories of looking for peeler crabs for fishing bait in spring and early summer.
It is true to say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, my absence was just 3 months, yet I felt a new appreciation for something that can be so easily taken for granted.
The second part of today’s jaunt, was a revisit to Slapton sands, another of my favourite beaches, with it’s lagoon or ‘ley’ to one side and the open sea on the other, the two are sandwiched by probably the longest length of straight road in Devon, a road that over the years has been washed away more than once by savage winter storms.
As popular as ever, the beach was busy, but not crowded to the extent of those recently depicted in the mainstream media, the visitors here were observing social distancing and there was a happy buzz as complete strangers were making new friends while waiting for their takeaway food or drinks from the pub and cafes, attempting some semblance of normality in these odd times.
It was here I have taken my favourite shot of the year so far, a gentleman with his two dogs, sat on the sea wall, he kindly agreed for me to take his photo, which if I am being honest, was not expecting.
As usual, a rather enjoyable trip to the seaside, as usual, time passes too quickly but looking forward to my next trip here already.
I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.
Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.
Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.
I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.
Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.
Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.
I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….
I last visited Bristol for the first time in a number of years just before December last year, on this occasion I had walked the usual day trippers routes and attractions but promised myself another visit to photograph some of the city’s iconic street art in the not too distant future.
That day was yesterday, since once again, the weekend weather was somewhat underwhelming, I spent the time productively looking over coach or train timetables for places to visit.
With my coach ticket booked in a matter of minutes, I then began to scour the internet to research the locations of the most popular street art, that I could hopefully find within the time I had before my return journey, with so much to see, there will be a few more visits in the coming months.
As usual, I prepare my camera bag ahead of time, I will be taking my XE1 and XE2, with 18mm f2 and 35mm f2 lenses respectively, (27mm and 52mm in full frame terms) and of course, a couple of spare batteries.
My coach leaves at 06:15, I arrive as usual, far too early but I cannot be that person who leaves it until the last possible moment, arriving just seconds before departure time, or worse, arriving as the bus leaves without them.
As the bus starts the 2 hour journey in darkness, I dig out the weekends cryptic crossword I had brought with me, finishing it just in time to see the first sight of sun in seemingly weeks, it’s a good start to the day.
In Bristol by just after 08:20, my first port of call is to find somewhere for my second cuppa of the day and a bacon butty, here I plan the first couple of hours before meeting with my cousin Louise, for the first time in years.
As the meeting place is an area I have not previously visited, I allow plenty of time for my usual time consuming detours into alleyways and side streets that are adorned with vibrant, eye catching art, the cobbled streets give some added interest to the amazing artwork this city has to offer.
While the artwork is striking, so is the diversity and number of independent businesses that appear to be thriving, it is here that I enjoy my self promised mug of tea and sandwich, in a family owned cafe, where I arrive as a stranger and leave as though I have been visiting the place for years, perhaps my request for the owner to turn the music up as he brought my food was the catalyst, but Buddy Guy and B.B King just have to be turned up to eleven!
Arriving at the arranged venue to meet with my cousin Louise fifteen minutes early, I order myself a drink and go through my photos so far, already up to just under 80 shots, 81, as a perfect opportunist shot presents itself in front of my eyes, as a fellow customer is engrossed in her mobile phone, the natural light from the window table she sits at was too good to miss.
With the family catch up complete, I am armed with good advice on which buses to catch for my next graffiti goals, so much to do and the day is passing like an express train….
With just four hours before I need to be back at the bus station, I realise that I will get probably just a third of my list of artwork, I make a decision to slow the pace a little and head for St Nicholas market, to hopefully capture some images during the lunch time rush.
I am not to be disappointed, the array of culinary aromas drift on the breeze, well before I arrive at the market place, which is filling by the minute, healthy appetites waiting to be tempted by a myriad of gastronomic goodies.
As with my previous visits, I end up walking to the harbourside, where the forecast rain has arrived ahead of schedule, there will be less photos taken this afternoon but I have pretty much got what I came for.
Those I do take are taken under some sort of shelter, making me look for different ideas for the last few shots.
Back at the coach station I drink a well earned cuppa, the beginnings of a blister on my left foot reminds me to check how many miles I have walked, a grand total of eleven, according to my phone app, note to self to wear thicker walking socks on my next day trip.
This may have been a return visit, yet I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what Bristol has to offer, perhaps some night time shots on my next return and a longer stay is in order.
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.
Monday morning, over the last few weeks, my camera day out but today I have the task of completing the rest of my Christmas shopping.
The morning has started dull and grey, the perfect conditions for a trip into town but I am a reluctant starter this morning, by the time I have had my third cup of tea, the clouds are lifting, the day is looking a little brighter.
It looks like the shopping will be delayed a little longer, as I decide to take my camera for a stroll along the River Exe before embarking upon the shopping.
My decision to do so is justified, the recent strong winds have dropped, the River lies serene but higher than I have seen for a long time, debris from rising water levels lay strewn along the footpath, cast aside like an unwanted toy.
I take a selection of familiar shots, work from the newly finished flood defences complete, there are no longer miles of barriers or fences to spoil the view.
Business as usual along the quayside, but fewer people around today, being a Monday, I enjoy sharing the views with just a few others lucky enough to have the day off.
As I drink the last of my flask of tea, my main mission can be delayed no longer, that Christmas shopping will not complete itself!
As I wrote the title above, I can scarcely believe that in just three weeks time it will be new year’s eve, the final day of my one camera challenge.
No doubt, I will be out somewhere on that day, weather allowing, as I will be one of the many fortunate enough to be enjoying some time off over the Christmas holidays.
Will there be a new project in 2020? perhaps not a long term one, maybe a series of monthly ideas, as I am looking forward to using the camera bodies I have left at home over the last 12 months.
I had an idea earlier this year, that I would enhance my camera collection as a ‘reward’ for completing my project but I have a collection of vintage lenses I have bought online over the last 2 or 3 years, that will be fun to use again, they can be used on the systems I already have, no need to change!
My trusty 100f will always have a place in my camera bag, I have enjoyed seeing the world through 35mm but no doubt I will also be using 50mm, another favourite focal length of mine.
The ‘F’ was taken out again yesterday, a few hours out at a nature park just 20 minutes from home, then to the seaside on the way back, this little beauty never fails to give a lot of fun in taking photos.
I would be interested to know of any photo projects that others are embarking on next year, I hope you get as much enjoyment from yours as I have mine this year
About half way through my working week, I look at the weather forecast for the coming days, especially Sundays and Mondays, my days off.
The last few weeks have been nothing more than grey murk or rain, so seeing the possibility of some welcome sunshine, I had planned to take a hike to some local woods, to capture what may be left of the autumn colourscape and a serene walk enjoying nature.
My usual Sunday routine after getting home from my nightshift just after 6am, is a couple hours nap, then up and at it, but a busy week and barely 3 hours sleep the day before saw me sleep through my wake up call and beyond but was still keen to get out with the camera.
As I enjoy a light brunch, I look through my notebook of photographic ideas, and the notion of a themed shoot of patterns and textures seems my likely course of action, a walk into the city will provide more than enough subject matter.
Guess who forgot that it was the not only the first Sunday in December but also payday weekend?
The High street was heaving, yet there was a real buzz around the city, the local buskers were out in force, the Christmas market was in full swing, it really was looking a lot like Christmas!
Up until a few months ago, I would have wanted to get out of the crowds at the first opportunity but today I embraced the atmosphere and started to look for opportunities.
I am not the most prolific of portrait photographers but today was different, I wanted to capture the smiles on the faces of those watching a brilliant dance group that were entertaining in a local shopping centre.
I have never enjoyed street photography as much as I did today, chatting with the onlookers and the few other photographers that were there, it was a very rewarding few hours.
I may have missed my date with the woods today but plan C has given me some very happy moments to remember.
Monday morning, I am up at an early hour after having a rather lazy Sunday, I have good intentions to get out and about for the day.
The day is set to be cold and bright, so set about looking at train and bus timetables.
Just twenty minutes later my train tickets paid for online, my destination is Plymouth, a chance for some street photography and another excuse to walk around the historic Barbican area of the city.
I am travelling with minimal gear today, just the 100F and a couple of batteries, no tripods, no filters, Plymouth always offers plenty of photographic opportunities.
Arriving at the train station, the sun casts some interesting shadows around the platform, the day is under way.
It takes about an hour from Exeter to Plymouth, passing through Newton Abbot and Totnes, it is a very pleasant journey passing through the countryside until reaching my destination.
As usual, I head towards Plymouth Hoe, with the intention of paying a visit to Smeatons tower, the predecessor to the Eddystone lighthouse, which was painstakingly dismantled from its location on the Eddystone rocks and reassembled on land in 1884.
My ideas of taking some high up shots of the Hoe from the tower are scuppered by the site of huge fences and scaffolding surrounding the tower,winter maintenance is under way it would appear.
From here, I walk just a short distance to one of the many small kiosks offering snacks and hot beverages, a cup of tea sat in the sunshine will do me nicely for a few minutes thank you.
Sun and shadow will be a theme in today’s proceedings, a day where opportunities present themselves willingly, a day where I will happily just meander to seek them out.
My time here in Plymouth is soon over but my day will continue back in Exeter, where the annual Christmas market is now under way.
The early part of the week will be a good opportunity to have a more relaxed wander around without the weekend crowds while I take a few more photos.
With Halloween and Guy Fawkes night only just behind us, mid November sees the seemingly ever earlier build up to the festive season.
My home city of Exeter is no exception, the festive lights were put up before the end of October for last week’s official switch on.
While I feel hesitant to celebrate the festive season too early, I do look forward to the annual Christmas market, held in the grounds of Exeter’s magnificent cathedral.
As a self confessed and unashamed foodie, I love the atmosphere and aroma’s that come from the myriad of food stalls and of course, as a photography addict I like to take my camera when I visit.
I like to arrive just as dusk approaches, the coloured lighting of the market stalls add a lot of character to potential images.
Armed with just my trusty 100f, I make a lap of the market to scout possibilities, usually lingering around the various food stalls, offering such culinary delights as Thai curries, chillies, wraps, burritos and bratwurst to name just a few.
The delicate spicy aromas of the curry shack hit my senses first, then the sweet smell of cinnamon from the mulled wine stall, then of course the strains of Christmas playlist can be heard over the PA system.
A few of the stall holders are more than happy to pose for photos, the simple act of asking for photos has been something I have done for the first time on a regular basis this year, in the past, I may have attempted more candid shots but been very self conscious, now I feel that I have earned a shot by asking, often offering to post on their social media accounts in return.
The market will remain until a week before Christmas, plenty of time for me to sample even more delights.