First February foray

One of my favourite local walking routes, is one that goes from Exeter to Topsham, following the ‘estuary trail’.

There is a choice of routes, one of which is to follow, a popular walking and cycle route,or my preferred route where the path follows the shoreline but where the timing needs to be right for this one, as parts of the path become submerged at high tide.
As it happens, the water was just starting to lap the path edge as I was passing, clearly I spent too long taking photos on the way.

Today is one of those perfect walking days, a keen wind, yet mild, overcast skies but the prospect of sunshine later in the morning.
As I reach the estuary path , it is surrounded either side by reeds, offering a natural wind break, they sway like a pendulum as the wind whispers through their midst.
It is here that I get my favourite photo of the day, just as the sun is about to emerge from below the clouds, sunrays appear like torch light into the skies, the reeds in silhouette as I shoot into the light

sunrise

The path passes a boatyard to my left, the loud buzz of a sander on the hull of a boat, sounding like a bee on steroids as the boat is being prepared for its new coat of paint.

The sounds and smells from the boatyard evoke memories of me helping my dad on his boat during the winter months when I was a boy, I always got to clean or sand in preparation, rarely to paint, from what I remember.

By the time I reach Topsham, I have done around four miles, time for some refreshment.
Thankfully Topsham is one of those towns that have resisted the clutches of the chain brand stores, instead, offering a good selection of independently owned restaurants, cafe’s and other retail outlets.

It is from one such cafe, I take a window seat and watch the world go by, the nearby church bells chime, announcing the wedding taking place later that morning, my box office seat is perfect to see the wedding guests arrive in their finery.
It was just a few moments earlier that I had seen the groom being directed into a series of poses by the wedding photographer, keen to have the estuary back drop as his composition.

From Topsham, I have arranged to meet a friend and head to Exmouth for a few more photos, Exmouth is one of those seaside towns that seems perennially busy throughout the year.
With the car parked, a walk towards the waterside once again, where windsurfers are fighting against the wind in their pursuit of speedy forward motion.
The wind changes direction suddenly, snatching the sail from the surfers grip. Splash!

With the tide just reaching the ebb, I can take a favoured route along the shoreline to the sea front, here the beach is a perfect shelter for more boats undergoing the winter restoration work, while one or two have been left neglected.

I leave the beach for now and walk along the concrete footpath, beside which a large development of residences have been built, striking in their vivid hues of Yellows, blues, reds and oranges, wooden decked balconies overlook the estuary. Watching the sun set from here must be worth the substantial asking price alone.

Typical of so many seaside towns, the familiar smell of fish and chips hangs in the air, mostly from the hardy souls choosing to eat their lunch sat on the sea wall, the more prudent finding one of the many shelters away from both wind and opportunist gulls.

I join the many in returning to the beach, pristine sand uncovered by the receding tide, solitary shells left high and dry, abandoned to their fate.
The cafes by the shoreline are doing a brisk trade today, as the hour ticks to 1pm, it is hungry ‘O clock.
Ticket number 27 raises his hand as his number is called, this moments winner of culinary bingo, he receives his reward for his patience, fish and chips for him, a burger each for the rest of the family.

I enjoy these winter beach walks, taking time to talk to other people, or simply to walk in my own little space, taking in the day.

My ‘step’ app tells me I have reached seven miles today, my longest walk so far this year, a gentle run in, but hoping for some much longer walks during the coming months.

 

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.

December sunshine

I must be one of a small minority of people that enjoy waking up on a Monday morning, for me it is my ‘Sunday’, a day that has become my ‘out with the camera day’.
This Monday is no Exception, a planned trip to see family in my home town of Salcombe, then a trip to a couple of my favourite seaside haunts, Hope Cove and Bantham.

Hope Cove is one of those charming seaside villages, tucked away in a beautiful area of the South Hams, a haven for summer visitors with its prime location along the South west coast.

Today is one of the first cold and crisp days of December, such a pleasant change from the weeks of rain and grey overcast skies of the last few weeks, there is little wind to speak of, a perfect day for walking.

The views from the beach across to bigbury bay are superb, the sea rolls gently along the shoreline, almost a whisper as it goes back and forth along the fine sand.

I have spent countless hours here in Hope Cove, it was always a place I headed for when I had my first ten speed racing bike as a young teenager, my first taste of having my own transport and a sense of independence.

I would cycle here on a Sunday afternoon, on arrival, I would buy an ice cream and a cold drink from a small shop that is now an art gallery, and enjoy both while sitting on the sea wall before heading off for another few miles along the quieter back roads.

Bantham is a little further along the coast, a popular destination for surfers, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Burgh island, famously known as a popular holiday destination for Agatha Christie.

Bantham is notorious for its fast currents and riptides, many a daytripper has been caught out here, one of the reasons lifeguards are employed throughout the summer season.

At low tide, evidence of the tidal maelstrom can be seen in the sand, these were emphasized more today by the sunshine and shadow, great textures for the photographic eye to admire.

There is just something about a stroll along a beach on days like today, it invigorates the soul and and makes the senses come alive.

With the temperature dropping and the light slowly fading, it will take just over an hour to travel the fifty or so miles back to Exeter, where the post outing cuppa will be enjoyed while going through today’s images.

Totnes, then the seaside

It’s Monday morning, the third day of a rather welcome 3 days off, it’s just after 6am as I enjoy the first cuppa of the day, while listening to the rain as it hits the windows.

The weather forecast suggests that the morning’s rain will clear to sunny spells, either way, I intend to have a good day out.

My first destination will be Totnes, a town I really enjoy photographing, it’s quayside and town centre are always a hive of activity, I will have a mooch for a couple hours here, before meeting my parents for lunch, my treat today, they are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary this weekend!

As the grey clouds begin to clear, the morning has a lovely mood with a warm autumnal glow of sunlight, a good start to the day.

After a pleasant couple of hours with my folks, I continue my photo day trip, off to Paignton and Torquay, the ‘English Riviera’.

It’s half term, I was expecting the beach to be busy with family groups, perhaps the recent drop in temperatures are keeping the less hardy ones at home, those that are here are having a great time, one young lad trying to show his mum the dead crab he has found, mum wants none of that thank you!

There is a keen wind near the pier atr Paignton, bobble hats and scarves have been salvaged from their summer hibernation, to use a Games of Thrones analogy, ‘winter is on the way’.

From the confines of a cosy cafe by the sea, I watch the world go by with a welcome cuppa, browse through my photos so far before making my way back to the town centre where I hope to get some photos from the steam railway station there, then head over to Torquay for an hour or so before making my way home.

 

It has been a long time since I had a day like today, being able just go at leisure with no time constraints, it is something I hope to do more often over the coming months.

One camera one lens, the last quarter

My one camera, one lens project is now approaching its final quarter, when it began in January, I had doubts that I would still be on course by autumn but I am as keen as ever to complete the full year.

During the last nine months, I have learned to be more creative with a single camera set up, rather than relying on a bag of kit that may or may not be used, by travelling light, I am happy to shoot for longer, a win, win scenario.

This project has also made me more open minded in my photography too, before this year, I would only ever shoot RAW images, (it’s the law isn’t it?) but I will happily shoot both Raw and Jpeg, or even just Jpeg’s on occasions!

For my occasional paid shoots, I will always shoot RAW, just for peace of mind but for my photo walks, I do not always want to spend too long at the PC editing, especially since the Fuji Jpeg engine is so good.

Yesterday was one such day, where I wanted to get out for a few hours before the next rainy spell arrived later in the day, so a trip to the seaside town of Teignmouth was decided upon, a spot of lunch and a few photos.

Earlier in the week, I had taken some photos using the square format aspect ratio and since I had enjoyed doing so, set the camera to do so again today.
It is not everyone’s cup of tea but I actually enjoy composing shots in the square format, I quite like the polaroid camera feel of the square format, it also makes you think a different way in terms of shot composition.

Just for the record, I set the camera to shoot Raw and Jpeg, but all the shots above were the Jpeg’s with very minor, if any post processing.

Teignmouth is one of my favourite local beaches to go for a brisk Sunday stroll, with plenty of photo opportunities.
A big thank you to the two very generous people who allowed me to take their photos while sat on the sea wall, I told them about my ‘shooting square’ theme and they were very happy to oblige.

I am looking forward to the next 3 months, watching the seasons change, while reluctantly accepting the shorter hours of daylight.

The early bird

A 4am alarm call and just for a few seconds, a reluctance to get out of bed but after a few days of rain and wind, the forecast today is good for the chance of a sun rise.

Walking to the train station after a hurried first cuppa of the day, it is noticeable that darkness is slowly extending its territory once more, a sure sign that autumn is not that far away.

My arrival time at Teignmouth is just over 10 minutes before the sunrise, so without delay, set up the tripod and camera, ready for sun’s appearance over the horizon.
With a part of the sky already showing some warm fiery hues, there is still a thick layer of cloud that may yet spoil the show but with a strong wind, there will also be the chance of some long exposure cloud movement.

The sun makes the briefest of appearances before being masked by more cloud but the subtle light gives the pier a lovely ambient glow, while I take the first shots of the morning.

I have always found this time of the day something special, the feeling of having a place pretty much to yourself, feeling privileged to watch the day awaken is worth the early start.

Before I know it, 2 hours have been spent watching the changing light and taking a selection of photos, my next mission is to find a place for breakfast and a more leisurely cuppa than the morning’s first one, before embarking on a walk along the sea wall to Dawlish.

I find a cafe that has opened early and order the house special full English, the manager explains there may be a wait as she has still yet to fully set up, but with a mug of tea already served, I am happy to sit and watch the town awaken, I am in no hurry.
I sit happily browsing through the images I have taken so far.

It has been a while since I last walked the stretch between Teignmouth and Dawlish, the sea wall takes me as far as a railway tunnel, where it takes me under the railway and onto a steep path leading out of Teignmouth.

The majority of my chosen route has taken me along the main road, so not many photos taken here, but the view looking down into Dawlish on a path leading into the town is stunning, as it is bathed in a little morning sunshine.

Sitting on the sea wall near to Dawlish station, I check the train times, the earliest one is just 10 minutes away, so decide to take this one back home, saving Dawlish for another day.

A summer migration

The winds of change have been a prevailing force for me so far in 2019, most of them have been self induced, such as a desire to eat more healthily and take more exercise, other changes have been made for me, in terms of my employment and now my choice in photo editing software.

For a good six to seven years, I have invested a good amount of time in learning lightroom and photoshop, I was comfortable using the software and saw no reason for changing, it did what I wanted and suited my needs very well.

Then came the whole subscription idea, where the selling pitch is that you will always have regular updated camera raw conversion software but the price for this is £10 per month forever!
No thanks Adobe, you are good, but not that good, perhaps you have become a little complacent, even a little greedy in having had the lions share of the market for so many years.
It’s not me, it’s you, I was happy to upgrade every two to three years for the agreeable discount you gave to already licenced users.

While I did decide to take a 12 month usage plan last October with Adobe, I made a conscious effort to seek out the alternatives, making good use of trial periods of about five other packages, two of which I liked enough to purchase, alien exposure 4 and capture one Fuji edition.

Capture one has been a big learning curve but the company provide superb webinars and online tutorials, with a number of different packages to suit most needs.
There is a perpetual subscription model, there are other packages with extra built in styles or presets in adobe parlance.

The fuji edition (there is also a Sony only edition) was bought with a 50% discount offer, since taking the plunge, I have started to develop a few custom styles that suit the photos I like to take.

I have developed a simple workflow in Capture one that seems so much more efficient than LR’s, the use of non destructive layering is so useful once you get used to how it works.

The above photos are from a trip today in Torquay, ‘The English Riviera’

A trip to Dorset

Occasionally, the opportunity arises to go further afield for a photo shoot, Wednesday was one such chance, to Lulworth Cove and Portland.

The last time I was in this vicinity, it would have been the mid 1990’s I was still working as a chef and at that time I was not into photography, so did not have any pictorial records of the places I visited on my days off.

Lulworth Cove is a tourism magnet, it’s horseshoe shaped cove was formed around 10,000 years ago by coastal erosion, this is also an important area in the study of geology, where there are some excellent examples of folding rock strata, the Lulworth crumple is its popular name.

Arriving around mid morning, the bland skies that had been left behind in Exeter, were replace by more defined clouds, it looked promising for some good photos.

The beach is a mixture of pebble & shingle, with the finer shingle nearer the waters edge being a good base for a tripod and some long exposure photography.
With the few visitors that had already made their way to the area, there was a pleasant buzz about the place, without being overcrowded.
Before moving to the next destination, Portland, a pleasant half hour was spent watching the world go by, with a welcome cuppa at the beach front cafe.

Arriving at Portland, the sun had decided to make a welcome appearance, adding light to a very interesting landscape.
The lighthouse here is one of those images that photographers are duty bound to take photos of, myself included but I was more drawn towards the boat cranes perched on the cliff top, coated in their uniforms of rust from exposure to the salt air.
A single boat by the base of the first one, this is right up my street!

 

The collection of working huts are mixed with those used by holiday  makers, where the garden borders are not the usual garden flower, but hardy sea pinks, outdoor wooden benches have the rugged look of exposure to the elements, more photo fodder for me.

As usual, the sands of time fall all to quickly and it is time to pack the gear away and head back home, it will however be a little less than 20 years before my next visit here.