After a short two day week, I have three days off plus the weekend to enjoy some well earned time off.
What better way to enjoy the time, than to head out to Dartmoor for a little shutter therapy, a trip to Hound Tor, famously said to have inspired Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor folklore has it that the tors were hounds turned to stone by a vengeful witch, while fact has Hound Tor recorded in the Domesday book as ‘Hundatora’.
It is a pleasant September morning, with a noticeably cool breeze, with sporadic sunshine peering from increasingly thickening clouds. I am barely out of the car park before the first shot of the day is in the bag, looking back towards the car park and the view beyond, a low layer of cloud hangs over the landscape.
Climbing higher towards the Tors, there are already a few climbers being shown the ropes (pun intended) with much encouragement from their instructors below, I watch for a while, take a couple of snaps and continue onwards.
The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, I take several shots in close proximity, each added to my treasure trove of Dartmoor memories.
No trip to the moor is complete without at least a couple of moody monochrome shots, there will be no exception to that rule today, as Dartmoor does what it does best in having a complete change of mind about the weather, from bright skies and some gorgeous light to grey skies and a poor attempt at rain in the matter of a few moments but for all that, in all her moods Dartmoor will always be beautiful.
I have only covered three miles today but it was always going to be more of a mooch and an explore rather than a full on hike, as usual, there are reasons to be back again as there are so many paths and trails to follow.
For all my trips here to the moor, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface, what better excuse for continued exploration of this truly wonderful landscape.
It has been a while since my last blog entry, a busy August has left little spare time to write, however there are a few entries in the offing.
The first of these is a first time trip to Piles Copse, the third and less well known of the ancient oak woodlands of Dartmoor, situated on the banks of the River Erme, a few miles from Cornwood and Ivybridge.
I have visited Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse before, both of which are breathtakingly beautiful and popular, Piles copse has a less defined footpath so a map is pretty much essential.
Arriving at just before 7am, the sun is making its way into the sky, my first photo of the day is a copse of fir trees silhouetted by the morning light, a truly inspiring start to today’s outing.
With my need for some urgent shutter therapy and the outstanding natural beauty of the landscape, the hike towards Sharp tor takes a while, and upon reaching the tor, the view below is second only to the local equine population atop the hill.
From this vantage point, to the woods below is a steep zigzagging route weaving a path around the dense vegetation, it is clear that this is not a well used path.
The copse itself is owned and managed by the Howard family, who thankfully allow rights of access through the woodland but camping is not allowed with the area being designated site of scientific interest status.
Like Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse, one could be forgiven for thinking that you had come to middle earth, the lichen and moss coated trees and rocks, and twisted tree limbs looking so beautifully other worldly.
I find my usual photographic fodder of back lit leaves and dappled sunlight through the trees, a spiders web shimmering in the gentle breeze that whispers quietly as it passes by.
The route out of the copse is as hard as the one in, yet for this, I feel a sense of reward, nothing as beautiful as this should be easy to reach, the total distance of just under six miles feels more like ten but I feel privileged to have completed the Dartmoor triumvirate of ancient woodlands.
I did not bother to see the new year in this year, quite frankly, like many, I was glad to see the back of 2020, so let it slip out quietly while I dozed.
New years morning was like a proper winters day, a hoar frost had given a white dusting to all it touched, everywhere was Christmas card perfect, the air still.
A bowl of hot porridge and the usual two cups of tea would set me up for my morning walk, setting out at just before seven forty five, I would have a good couple of hours before too many others would stir.
With the conditions as they were, it was not hard to decide upon a route along the riverside, chances for reflections and maybe a few close ups of the frost but more importantly, glad of the opportunity to be out.
My walk towards St. David’s station was brisk, where I intend to join the riverside is just the other side of the station, yet it was the station that gave me my favourite shot of the day, the rails and platform coated in the frost, giving an incongruous beauty amongst the functionality of the station.
It is rare that we have winter days such as this in the south of the UK, so I was keen to capture as much of the mood as I could, all too soon the normal service of grey clouds and rain will resume.
To the few others I meet, Happy new year exchanges are made, talk then turns quickly to the cold start, how very British!
For the short distance I walked, I found a treasure of photo opportunities, trying to capture the mood of a winter’s day in both colour and monochrome.
While the legacy of 2020 will continue for some time, travel to places further afield remain on hold, but who needs to travel far with this on their doorstep?
I had made the most of a bright and sunny Friday bonus day off to get out for my weekly photo walk, knowing that the rest of the weekend was likely to be unsettled.
Saturday was as forecast, wind and rain for most of the day but it looked as if there may be a break much later in the day, a chance for another night time shoot around Exeter city centre.
On a normal Saturday night at just after 7pm, the streets would be full of people having enjoyed a day out and looking for a place to eat, or those looking to meet with friends in one of the many city city centre pubs or clubs but this is 2020, a year that is far from normal.
With the second national lockdown going into its second week, the city is like a ghost town, more like a Monday night in January instead of a Saturday just a few weeks from the festive countdown.
For all the adversity this year has brought, a spirit of ‘the show must go on’ prevails, as the Christmas lights have been turned on, almost as an act of defiance in the face of covid, normally I would be the first to say that it is too early, this year I welcome the cheer that they offer.
The eerie silence is disturbed only briefly by the sounds of buses going about their business, virtually empty chariots going to places where nobody waits.
While taxis lie still at their ranks, it is the takeaway delivery driver that is king of the road, knights on two wheels, delivering Saturday night treats to the many, one of my favourite images of tonight’s outing being one such rider awaiting his next delivery.
I seek out a few compositions for some light trails, but there is little traffic around of course but do manage one or two, so decide to turn my attention to some black and white shots around the city.
The black and white shots are pretty much straight out of camera Jpeg’s from the Ricoh GR3, the high contrast preset is a favourite of mine.
Returning home to the inevitable brew, I see that I have walked around 5 miles tonight, not bad considering I just intended an hour or so, that ended up as a 3 hour mooch.
I have found that seeing a place in the dark offers so many different ways of seeing the familiar, the speed of a car passing a zebra crossing, the shadows and light of a car park staircase are not things I would consider during the day.
With the longer hours of darkness here for the duration, I will look to embrace the chances they offer but I will still look forward to those longer, lighter days at the end of March.
Sunday morning, the only morning when I tend not to set an alarm, yet still I wake at around 4am, my futile attempts at a lie in are appeased by the thought of my first cuppa, while I lazily thumb through the weekend papers or read one of the three books I currently have on the go.
A quick look out of the window and of course it is still dark, the rain covered road and pavements reflecting the lights of the few cars that pass by at this early hour.
Regardless of the weather, I have planned to spend an hour or three by the sea, a little shutter therapy is a welcome Sunday pastime, so make sure my camera bag is ready and batteries charged.
The earlier rain has cleared, but the overcast skies still show some intent, a strong breeze offers plenty of wave movement with the high tide just about to turn.
Dawlish Warren offers so many photo opportunities on days like this, naturally I look to try a couple of long exposures to capture the drama in both clouds and sea.
Setting aside my tripod, I then decide to make my first attempt at the concept known as ICM photography. ICM or intentional camera movement is where the camera is deliberately moved during exposure time, so an exposure of a second or more is recommended to get the desired effect, the effect essentially being the polar opposite of the sharpness and definition photographers strive for, a blurred ‘arty’ looking image, that implies an image rather than defining it.
I have an ND filter attached to my camera lens, at F5.6 I have an exposure time of just over a second, so begin my experiments in earnest, the first 5 attempts are not brilliant as I try different speeds with the camera movements. On my 6th attempt, I have something that looks interesting if nothing else but it is a concept I will have more attempts at in the future.
Putting the filters away, my aim is just to stroll to the far end of the Warren and take the footpath around the nature reserve side of the beach, a long slow trudge through the soft sand that is the pathway.
Naturally there are several other people with the same idea of spending some time at the beach, a chance to to do some ‘street’ photography by the sea.
Over the coming days I will go through the days shoot, the shots posted here are my favourites from the day.
In the last eighteen months, I have occasionally set myself small challenges while out on my photo walks, I find that setting a theme or challenge helps me become more creative in my shot making when shooting for my own pleasure.
I am becoming more accustomed to my more compact camera setup, I have been taking full advantage of the G9’s twin card slots, shooting Raw only on one card, JPEG on the other, just to see how the different in camera picture styles are rendered.
One particular style I am using more often than not, is the LmonochromeD setting, which produces some good quality Black and white images, that require little or no post processing.
My G9 is coupled with my Ricoh GR3, which also has some very good monochrome simulations, my favourite being the high contrast black and white. The ricoh also has the added advantage of shooting 1:1 aspect ratio in RAW, shooting ‘squares’ is something I like to do on a regular basis.
Last week’s photo outing to Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton saw plenty of changeable weather, bright and sunny one minute, then some rather nice moody clouds scuttling along in the wind, perfect for some black and white shots.
More and more these days, I am enjoying spending less time editing, which in theory, means I could spend more time out with the camera …..
With autumn stepping into Summer’s vacant shoes, I reluctantly bid a fond farewell to those long, light evenings, but welcome the opportunity to capture the colours and moods of one of my favourite seasons of the year.
With woodland and riverside walks high on the agenda, hopes will be high to capture that colourful carpet of fallen leaves before they fade to winter mulch, golden leaves on lichen cloaked rocks teasing us with a show of colour before the barren winter months to come.
It is also at this time of year that I try to embrace the inevitable darker evenings, by honing my favourite photographic genre, low light and night time photography.
Emerging from summer photography mode into the discipline of low light work, my skills area little ring rusty, it is time to re-hone the skills with a couple hours night shooting around Exeter.
With me, I have my Olympus EM5 MKII with a recent new addition, the 17mm F1.2 Pro lens, with the EM5’s image stabilization and the wide aperture, I want to see how this combo performs with hand held shots.
As usual, the Ricoh GR3 tags along, small enough to fit in a pocket, it is a great little camera to stand on some of the street furniture, that act as a substitute tripod.
No night time foray is complete without the obligatory traffic trail shots, I do my duty with the ricoh perched on top of a metal pavement bollard, a passing bus giving a nice abstract look to the scene.
The olympus with the 17mm perform admirably too, my first shoot with this lens, so experimenting aplenty here.
I have deliberately chosen a less busy Thursday night for tonight’s foray, tomorrow will see more looking to start the weekend, I am happy in an emptier city.
With a little of the ring rust shaken off, I have a couple of ideas for some night time photography projects in the coming months, after all, I may as well take full advantage of the longer hours of darkness.