After Saturday morning’s sunny start to the Mayday bank holiday, Sunday reverted to the more traditional British bank holiday fare of grey skies and intermittent rain.
Unperturbed, a hastily planned trip to the East Devon coast was to be my destination for today’s outing, more precisely, Budleigh Salterton.
After the recent Easter holidays, the tourist season has begun, the beach huts that line various locations along the beach are now out of winter storage, most are still padlocked shut but the odd one or two are cosy wooden havens from which to watch the waves, for those that have brought a bite to eat and hot drinks.
This Mayday bank holiday is probably the least busy of the spring bank holidays, closely sandwiched as it is, between Easter and Whitsun, there is no half term holiday to extend the week.
There is rain in the air, as I embark on another seaside foray, the sky above just a few shades of grey with little character, perfect for those monochrome edits I like.
For today’s outing, I am using the native Canon lens (50mm F1.8), a lens I am coming to know inside out, one of the side benefits of using a particular lens for a length of time, many of today’s images will be shot between f1.8 & F2 and rarely above F5.6, just because that slight softness will suit today’s conditions.
My meander from one end of the beach to the other will take just over an hour, as I thread my way between the small fishing boats along the shore, snapping the array of lobster and crab pots that await their next use.
It may not have been the brightest day but any seaside exploration is a more than pleasant way to enjoy a Sunday.
What better way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning than to wander around the seaside town of Exmouth, taking in the spring sunshine and capturing a few images, at 50mm of course.
Seaside towns such as Exmouth are once more coming to life after the winter months, kiosks, cafes and restaurants offering the day tripper welcome refreshments and temporary havens of warmth in a still quite chilly breeze.
The aroma of fish and chips floats briefly in the air, then I spot the well wrapped white parcels sat upon the laps of a couple who have found a suitable bench on which to enjoy their early lunch, I am sure the sea air helps increase one’s appetite!
At the first opportunity, I stray from the concrete sea front path to the beach, the ebbing tide revealing pristine sand for footprints to be made, while herring gulls patrol the shoreline edge for newly uncovered shellfish and other such piscatorial treats.
Dogs race up and down the beach at full pelt, some fetching a favourite ball, others fetching the favourite ball of a new canine friend they have just met, dogs just know how to have a great time at the seaside.
A couple of intrepid families, intending to make a day of it at the seaside, huddle around windbreak fortifications, sipping from thermos flasks, while the kids armed with buckets and spades are busy making sandcastles or looking for buried treasure.
For me, one of the many attractions of these seaside walks, is that there is always a picture to be taken, a spontaneous moment captured perhaps, or that one abandoned boat with its increasingly weathered textures and muted colours, a particular view perhaps?
More than anything it is becoming an ever increasing appreciation of the places I am fortunate to be so close to, what better reason to get out and share it with others.
As the weekend storms offer a little respite for a few hours at least, a walk along the beach at Budleigh Salterton is a welcome chance to get out with the camera for a few hours.
With the rows of beach huts in winter storage, the sea front is empty of the colour and character they add to the typical British seaside .
The wintry skies still have a little post storm moodiness, the occasional flurry of rain disappearing as quickly as they come as I amble my way along the pebbled beach.
Waves pound and churn the shoreline, a mixture of pure white form with the dark brown shingle making for a cold and uninviting sea, yet I have always loved the sound waves as they crash clumsily to shore, followed by that ‘swoosh’ as the smaller pebbles are dragged back into the watery maelstrom.
One or two of the beach side cafes are open, offering welcome havens of hot refreshments and temporary shelter for my fellow walkers, I exchange pleasantries with those who choose to sit outside and watch the world go by, how typically British that we revert to type and discuss the weather!
My favourite part of Budleigh beach is where the local fishermen have their lobster posts and other piscatorial paraphernalia, rich pickings of texture, shape and colour for the photographer’s eye.
While most of my current blog posts are centering around my 50mm for fifty days project, I will continue to pick out the odd single frame and give a little of the back story behind the shot.
I think it is fair to say that I have undergone a metaphorical ‘reset’ in my photographic journey in the last few months, in as much as that I have made a conscious decision to carry less gear on my photo shoots, partly due to my ongoing project but mainly that I prefer to carry a lighter camera bag.
My desire to keep up with the latest and best tech has been replaced by the pleasure of rediscovering what I already have, namely a handful of 50mm vintage lenses that add a little variety to the native Canon 50mm.
Do not get me wrong, the canon lens is a cracking lens but these vintage lenses have brought out my inner luddite, there is something I like about changing the lens aperture via the lens, rather than a camera dial, and manual focus with a physical limit, not the fly by wire focusing of the modern lens.
I have found myself looking for simple, minimalist compositions, textures or colours, or simply looking more closely at the detail and beauty in something as simple as a leaf or flower.
One such example is my featured image, the single shell becoming slowly embedded into the sand, the faint patterns made by the waves as they gently caressed the shore.
The shell scene on its own worked to a degree but to my mind needed a little something else. Nature provided that something else, in the form of a wave that I patiently awaited to reach the top of the frame.
It took about six or seven attempts to get a shot I liked but what struck me more, was just how engrossed I had become in capturing this one composition and how much I had enjoyed the process.
In keeping with the simplicity of the composition, the edit was just as straightforward, nothing more than a frame and a square crop was used.
For anyone interested in the lens I used, a Pentacon 50mm 1.8, which seems to be my ‘go to’ lens of the moment, however, I do have a Zeiss ‘Jenna’ 50mm 2.8 waiting in the wings for it’s day out.
It is the eighth day of my 50mm challenge, where I will head out for another camera walk to Beesands, a seaside village along the heart of the South Devon coast.
I have decided today to use an alternative 50mm lens, a Pentacon 50mm F1.8 vintage lens that used to be equipped with Praktika film cameras back in the day.
The Pentacon lens is far from the sharpest lens in my arsenal, yet it has a certain character that I find pleasing, rendering colours in to a pleasing vibrancy without being over saturated. One other aspect of this lens that appeals, is a close focusing distance of about 3.5cm, ideal for those close up shots I enjoy taking.
Arriving at Beesands around mid morning, the village is but a ghost of its summer self, holiday houses empty but plenty of choice for car parking.
Walking along the sea front, sturdy sea defences protect the village from the powers of nature that are a constant threat to so many coastal towns and villages, the sea wall with a bank of large rocks to its front, helping to reduce the damage of winter storms.
A waft of frying bacon permeates the air, too good to miss, the scent takes me to a small premises serving an assortment of tempting snacks and hot beverages, perfect for these January days.
After a rather tasty sausage bap, the photography continues, as I watch for those brief patches of light escaping through the moody grey skies.
I have always enjoyed walks along desolate beaches in winter, the emptiness has a beauty of its own, with plenty of space to find a place to just sit and enjoy the scenery while listening to the crash of waves against the pebbled beach.
I have enjoyed using the Pentacon lens for today’s shoot, having to manual focus each image is a pleasure, not a chore, I have already decided that my next shoot will be with another of my vintage 50’s, my Super Takumar F1.4….
The fourth day of my fifty days at 50mm takes me around two of my favourite places in the South Hams, Torcross and Dartmouth.
Boasting one of south west Devon’s straightest stretch of roads, Torcross has a rare geographical phenomenon, in that on one side of the road is a shingle beach, the other has a freshwater lagoon or ‘ley’.
Blessed with a rare morning of blue skies and sunshine, the beach already has a good few people enjoying the cool sea air, while others sit at the outdoor tables of the local pub, drinking hot beverages or contemplating an early lunch.
Since beginning my latest photography project, my camera bag is minimalist, a camera body with the faithful fifty attached and a spare battery, on sunny days such as today, I do not bother even taking the bag, a lens cloth and spare battery in my coat pocket and the camera in hand or around my neck. On rare occasions, I may bring a tripod and a selection of filters but I am enjoying today’s self set challenge of minimal gear.
A regular question I have been asked is ‘Do you not find 50mm restricting?’ Restricting no, I find it makes me ask questions of my ability to be creative, to shoot with what I have.
I use the tools available to me in camera and in post processing, a simple work around for the tighter focal length is to take multiple shots of a scene and stitch them together in post to create a panorama, this works especially well for landscape photography.
With the nifty fifty produces sharp images stopped down, I like separation of subject and background at the wider apertures, my obsession with clinical sharpness of lenses has lessened over the last couple of years, softness in an image often adds to the story of a photograph.
The pigeon image was my ‘shot of the day’ in Dartmouth, as I sat on a bench along the embankment eating a well earned pasty, the optimistic pigeon became braver and edged closer in hope of a dropped pastry crumb or two, he was virtually stood on my boots when I took this shot, camera in one hand and pasty in the other.
With my appetite sated, I had around 40 minutes before the allotted parking time was up, time enough to capture some good light before the grey clouds rolled in for their late shift.
As mid December approaches, the countdown to the yuletide festivities is in full swing, Christmas markets, shopping for gifts and winter wonderlands will occupy the minds and time of many over the next couple more weekends, while I endeavor to make my purchases during the quieter part of the week after work, leaving my weekends free to continue my regular amblings on the moor, or by the sea.
At just after nine AM, I am heading away from Teignmouth railway station and heading for the beach, where remnants of the darker hours linger in the sky above, moody clouds with just a hint of the morning sun’s attempts to paint a little colour on the horizon.
It is a given that I will take a few shots of the pier, a few from either side of the structure as I capture the moodiness of the moment, for once, I do not even consider the normally mandatory long exposure shot, as I see other opportunities a little further away.
A lone fishing boat works a little out to sea, chaperoned by the opportunist herring gull population, looking for a free breakfast, a rare decision to bring a zoom lens, enables me to get a little closer than my normal 35mm focal length.
The changing skies add a little more mood to the scene, affording me several varied looking images.
One of my favourite shots of today is a father and his young daughter walking along the water’s edge, hand in hand, as they explore the shoreline for sea shells and other coastal treasures.
My own love of our coastline began at a similar age, exploring the shoreline at low tide while my dad would be working on his boat, I may have ‘helped’ for a while before the greater need to look for crabs under the carpets of sea weed took hold, or to find the biggest intact whelk shell amongst the shingle.
It was perhaps these sea shore foraging’s that unknowingly taught me the art of ‘seeing’ that would become such an essential part of my photography as I look to find that more unusual shot from the norm.
As I make my way back to the station, ideas for this blog are already forming in my mind, as I wait for my train, I type a few notes on my phone, a reminder of my thoughts at the moment I took a shot, or perhaps an observation I would like to share.
Often, a title eludes me, today it is easy, coastal contentment is what I felt as I meandered my way along the beach today… and so another blog is born.
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.
Growing up in a small seaside town has ensured a love of the sea and coast have been indelibly etched into my DNA, so any opportunity to visit the many seaside towns throughout Devon will rarely be missed.
In the eighteen or so years that I lived in the beautiful town of Salcombe, I rarely walked the coast path, my enjoyment for coastal walking, indeed walking of any kind had not yet manifested itself, my time being spent fishing with my father, or enjoying the freedom a racing bike can give.
It was my regular cycle rides to the coastal village of Hope Cove, just a five or so mile distance from Salcombe, that made this charming postcard perfect place one of my favourite places to visit even to this day.
With my tendency to start my photo walks at an early hour, it often gives an added bonus of having a beach or town virtually to myself, for at least a couple of hours, a chance to photograph a pristine beach maybe, or to just enjoy the solitude for a few moments.
A lot of my enjoyment with photography, is the way that looking back at images will evoke a memory of that day for me in a personal sense, another is that with the ability to share images to social media, my photographic adventures can be shared with old friends and new, far and wide.
As we approach the last week of February, the long winter nights and dark mornings are gradually making way for lighter and hopefully brighter days and after last weekend’s rain filled days, a little sunshine would be more than welcome.
I am at Starcross, just after six fifteen AM, my intention to walk the few miles along the estuary footpath back to Exeter. It is one of those very cold mornings where the chill nips at the fingertips but as the skies lighten, the blue hour is nearly upon us.
One of my first shots of today is a spur of the moment experiment, hearing a train in the distance, I set my camera up for a long exposure, not just to flatten the water but to hopefully capture the ‘ghosted’ image of the passing train, I will have just one go at this with the light as it is….
I was more than happy with the resulting image, this would be my ‘photo of the day’.
This time of day may be known as the blue hour, with a camera in hand it feels like just a few minutes, as I take a few more images before moving on.
From the beautiful hues of blue hour to pastel skies as the sun greets the new day, the cold morning leaves traces of mist in the distance.
From here, the road follows alongside the railway track, to Powderham, Turf locks and back along the path to Exeter. The railway offers a few images in monochrome, as the sun does its best to burn through a cloak of fog on the estuary.
With a mist on the water, inland, the frost on the bracken and grass offer more photo opportunities, until that is, the fog has a second wind and finds its way amongst the trees ahead.
By the time I reach Turf Locks, the sun appears to be winning the day, brighter skies above and a brisk pace mean my hands are thawing and I can shed the fleece I had on under my coat.
The last few favourites from today’s walk, before heading for the home stretch and a reward of a bacon sandwich and a rather large mug of tea.