Going light

Since embarking upon my one focal length project this year, my faithful Fuji has been the perfect take anywhere camera, with no lenses to consider packing, my camera bag is considerably lighter than it ever has been, yet I still like to take a selection of filters and a tripod for my planned trips to Dartmoor and the coast, where I like to experiment with long exposures with the skies and water but I am beginning to wonder if I always need to carry the extra gear, just in case.

To elaborate further, I have found myself with just the camera and a spare battery when I am on errands in town, where I have really enjoyed having just the camera and no extras, minimalist photography.

A few shots from today’s foray into town, no contrasty shadows today with the overcast skies but I managed to find a few little gems.

 

 

Has this, maybe sown the seed for next years project, going light on all trips, just my chosen camera, no tripod and no extras, other than a spare battery or two?

If I am being honest, I am not sure I could do that for a whole year, I really enjoy all aspects of photography, the tripod and filters are part of what I enjoy about going on my outings, yet, it could be another steep learning curve

I am open to ideas on any future camera projects for next year, feel free to add any thoughts in the comments.

To the lighthouse

One of the things I most enjoy about visiting a new town, or  location for photography, is to find the popular destinations and to take my images, hopefully from a more original angle but how many of us visit places that are close to home?

I had lived in Exeter for ten years before I made my first of now many visits to the city’s iconic cathedral, my previous visits had been with school trips, the local museum is just one other popular venue, that being on my doorstep, is so easy to overlook.

I am trying to redress this imbalance, slowly but surely, in recent years I have had National trust memberships to access some of the many properties in the South west, as well as making full use of our local steam railway stations and other local attractions.

I have been very fortunate to have lived near the coast for many years, walking the coast path at all times of year is such a pleasant way to indulge the joys of the great outdoors.

Just this week, after a visit to my home town of Salcombe, the journey back to Exeter, would include a visit to Dartmouth and Start point and its lighthouse.

This stretch of coastline has claimed many a ship over the years but it was not until 1836 that the lighthouse, designed by James Walker was built to warn passing ships of the treacherous coastline.

The lighthouse, as so many these days, is fully automated but this does not make them a closed shop to visitors, opening up to the public during summer months, adds welcome funding to the Trinity house coffers.

I normally visit Start Point in the winter months, a perfect alibi for not having made a visit here before but today, with the doors open and a tour about to start, I clocked up another local venue on my tick list.

With another 10 or 11 people in the tour group, photographic opportunities were few, but I was also keen to hear the history of the lighthouse from the well informed guide.
Until this week, I never knew that each lighthouse had a unique light signal, each one of a designated duration.

The early keepers had a long and busy day, maintenance being the biggest part of their roles in keeping the light in working order, there were also regular weather reports to write, and signalling of passing ships with weather and any other information they required.

 

A handful of photos of the footpath down to the lighthouse, the views around the bay and a couple of interior shots of the lighthouse.

The tour lasted for about 45 minutes, time and money well spent, I have come away with a renewed determination to visit more of the attractions that lie on my doorstep.

One focal length – the story so far

When I decided at the end of 2018 that I intended to shoot with a single focal length in 2019 for my personal photography, I was initially unsure if I could keep to my self made rules, given that I still have other camera gear I use for the occasional paid work, being left behind.

Eight months into the project, far from becoming jaded with the idea, I am enjoying the concept more and more, as I feel I have learned so much in a short space of time, in terms of the way I shoot now, compared to last year.

I would spend an hour or so, the night before a photo outing, performing the usual ritual of battery charging and lens cleaning, then packing, unpacking and repacking the lenses I thought I may want for the outing, then packing an extra one ‘just in case’.
The battery charging remains but packing just a single camera makes the perpetual lens decision redundant.

I have become more selective in the shots I take, more concentrated in picking the best composition instead of simply shooting for the sake of it, I take probably a third less shots than I did but end up with a lot more keepers.

Using a small form factor camera allows better access to shots I may not have considered in the past, potential subjects are not intimidated by a camera that does not have a huge lens on the front and I am more confident to ask for shots than I have ever been, the affirmatives have outweighed the rejections and often the subsequent engagement has made for a more natural final shot.

Ultimately, this project has made me want to go out and take photos, admittedly, this is not hard, as I am very fortunate to live in close proximity to both coast and moorland but even on the dullest days, it is possible to find inspiration if you take your camera with you.

The photos above, are a random selection of a recent steam event, the others a selection of favourite shots from the last eight months.

Reservoir walk at Fernworthy

Sunday morning wakes to cloudy skies and a cool summer breeze, a promising start for a reservoir walk on Dartmoor.

Fernworthy is situated just a few miles from the Dartmoor town of Chagford, the reservoir covers 76 acres of land and holds about 380 million gallons of water.
The footpath around the reservoir was today’s route, a mixture of forest, meadow and of course the breathtaking Dartmoor scenery.

Armed with my usual X100F, a tripod and some filters, the conditions were good for some long exposure shots across the reservoir, to accentuate both cloud and water movement.
I have always enjoyed long exposure landscape photography, there is a discipline I enjoy in setting up the shot in a deliberate fashion, working out the exposure required with a 10-stop filter and deciding upon the composition of the shot.

Today, with its overcast skies was a perfect opportunity for some monochrome shots, for these I will shoot a JPEG and RAW image, seeing the scene in black and white through the viewfinder helps to visualise the final shot.

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There is a single tree along this path that I had been wanting to capture with a long exposure and while I did take the image, I will wait for another day when the leaves will remain still for the shot I would like.

With the tripod put back in its case and the various filters packed neatly away, it was time for some of the close up shots I like to take when I am around woods or moor, just one of the benefits of the 35mm focal length is its versatility.

Where the footpath comes away from the waters edge and into meadow, the ground is a carpet of summer flora, pinks, yellows and whites, a cacophony of colour to please the senses.

Once again, Dartmoor delivers with another display of its natural beauty, this is why it will always be my place away from the madding crowd.

Early starts

 

One of the things I enjoy most about photography this time of year, is the early mornings.
I admit to certain reservations when an alarm is set for around 3:30am at this time of year but that is soon replaced by a feeling of pleasure as I will be one of one of the few fortunate people that will watch the day awaken.

Sunrises have been very few and far between this summer so far but it’s about more than a sunrise for me, it is listening to an avian chorus as they welcome the new day, that feeling of having that space and time all to yourself.

Yesterday morning was an early start, I was meeting a friend who enjoys fly fishing, he asked me some time ago if I would like to go along one morning, a chance I will seldom refuse, so at 4am with his car packed with his fishing gear and my camera bag, we watched the last of the darkness fade as we headed to one of my favourite places on Dartmoor, Fingle bridge.

Fingle Bridge takes its name from Fingle Brook, a minor tributary that flows into the River Teign, while Lucas was on the search for Sea trout and Brown trout, I was looking forward to a gentle stroll along the river bank to take a few shots.

 

I was duty bound to bring a couple of ND filters for some long exposures but the grey skies and shade from the trees along with the built in 3 stop ND filter on the X100F were enough to produce the effect I wanted, 10 second exposures are more than adequate for the fast flowing water here.

Until now, my visits to Fingle Bridge had been saved until mid October, waiting to capture the hues of autumn as nature prepares for the colder months of winter, for this visit, the scene was of lush green leaves and just the sound of the gentle breeze whispering through the foliage and the sound of water flowing over rock, a perfect combination for an early Sunday morning.

As the hours ticked by, it was apparent the day had truly woken, dogs were getting their first walk of the day, my camera bag was subject to much canine curiosity, then aloofness as they discovered it was not full of treats as they had hoped.

I arrived back home just after 11am, I had already been up for over 7 hours, it was time for a well earned cup of tea, a bacon butty and a browse through my mornings efforts.

Six months of 35mm

I do not normally set myself any new years resolutions, I know that by the end of January, the promise to eat no more sweets and biscuits will have been broken but I did think I could achieve something relevant to photography.

My GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) had taken a hold, it was time reduce the amount of gear and challenge my photographic ability and not my bank account.

By the first week in January, I had made the first of many social media posts declaring my intentions, there, it was out, I was committed, I was to spend the next 12 months shooting only 35mm.

The camera I had chosen is the Fujifilm X100F, a rangefinder style camera that has style in abundance and can be carried around all day with no issues.
With a much lighter camera bag and no worries about which lenses to pack for any given shoot, as long as I have a couple of spare batteries charged I am good to go at an instant.

I have discussed in previous blogs how I feel that I am at my creative best with prime focal lengths but since embarking upon this challenge, I have become more open minded with my photography ethos, I will explain.

Until this year, I had always shot RAW images exclusively, it’s the law, everyone says you have to….
Hands up, I will admit to being one of those who would sneer at the thought of anyone shooting JPEG’s, even with my previous Fuji cameras (xpro-1 xe-1), I had never thought to even try.
I may be late to the JPEG party but at least I have now arrived, with the many film simulations offered within the camera’s custom settings, I am happy to experiment with various set ups, a part of my previous fuji cameras I had missed out on through my own stubbornness.

I liked the analogy given by Fuji ambassador Kevin Mullins, wedding and documentary photographer, when he says ‘do you not trust your camera to produce good images?’

100f

I still shoot RAW for paid assignments but for my personal use, I am having fun trying new recipes, some have been good, others consigned to digital dustbin.
I find myself using the aspect ratio settings more as well for the Jpegs, deciding to shoot 1:1 images for an entire shoot can be fun.

The biggest and most enjoyable part of the project, is that I am using a camera long enough to get to know its quirks and foibles.
Many of my fellow 100F users have such things as a touch screen or tilting screen on their wish list, I have one, please can we remove the drive option from the D-pad and allow it to become a custom button or menu item, I am frequently going from single shot to other shooting modes because of where my thumb rests on the camera, other than that, I simply love using this little beaut of a camera.

In much the same way that I was inspired to do this challenge, a few of my fellow photographers have expressed an interest in doing  a self imposed project themselves, it is good to think we can share ideas in our own development and  creativity.

I am always eager to read about other peoples challenges, I am already thinking about what I will do next year.