50 shades of meh

Finally the last days of January are approaching, it feels like 233rd day of the month, two hundred and thirty of them having consisted of a combination of grey skies, rain and constant meteorological melancholy (or …..meh).

It is these constant grey days that make me crave for a ‘proper’ winter, crisp bright days when we wake to lawns iced with frost, and the serene stillness of a classic winter’s morning, where we wear more layers than a Mille-feuille as we set forth into the great outdoors.

I have attempted over the last few weeks to use the weather to my advantage and begin the process of cataloguing and sorting through many of my photos, my migration from lightroom to Capture one has given me the incentive to at least be a little more efficient in that regard, I have also began to build or replicate a number presets or styles with the new software to make my workflow a little easier when I want a certain look to an image.

This however, does not replace the enjoyment of being outdoors actually taking photos, so even on the dreariest of days, I will get into town to get my photographic ‘fix’.
Days such as these are when I decide to keep a monochrome theme, setting the camera so that the viewfinder is also monochrome, that way, I can see the way the image is exposed and alter as needed.

I always remember as a child, the Giles’ cartoon books, he had this way depicting wet days in his drawings with such drama and contrast, this is how I like to process my images when I do street photography, to try and pick out the mood and atmosphere.


The lack of any character in the sky makes me look for tighter compositions. close ups of the mundane that can end up looking more interesting because of the different angle, reflections from windows or using shutter speeds just fast enough to give the perception of movement.

With less people on the high street at this time of year, it keeps the mind active in looking for opportunities, pictures I may not have considered on brighter, more sunny days.

Above, is a selection of images taken from a trip into Exeter city centre, taken from a few of my favorite vantage points around the high street and vicinity.

Crisp winter days

Here we are, half way through January and I feel that we have not yet felt the icy fingers of winter, it could be the lull before what is now termed a polar vortex but used to be simply known as ‘a cold snap’.

Today, winter arrived but in one of it’s kinder moods, one of those cold, bright days where you wake to a dusting of frost on house roofs and the grass has turned white, as if through shock.

It is about an hour before the sun will rise, but through the lifting darkness there appears to be a blanket of mist in the distance, the omens are good for some more photos along the Exe.

As I head out, it would appear Jack Frost has worked overtime, painted icy swirls on cars  that are actually quite beautiful to look at, for me at least, not those that may have to spend time scraping it off if they need be somewhere early.

I reach the footpath to the river, luminous yellow jacketed volunteers have been out in force placing route direction signs for a fun run that has been organised today, it is not long before the serious runners appear in the distance, I will happily step aside as they pass, to a man (or woman) they keep a regular check on their watches in their pursuit of personal best times.

As the first group passes, I admire the serene beauty of frost laden brambles and other hedgerow flora and fauna, the stillness of the river and the eerie silence of the still heavy mist on the river.
Through the mist, I can just make out a heron, stood statue like by the waters edge, as the next group of runners pass by, it takes off effortlessly, and there he was…. gone.

The sun has made an appearance, just a milky glow as seeks to penetrate through the cloud but makes for some atmospheric shots as more runners appear in the distance, more shadow than portrait, I think these may just work.

I have a good half mile to go before I get to where I hope the best moody shots could be, I would really like the mist to hang around a while longer to get some shots of the scullers as they appear through the fog.
There is a pub nearby called the double locks, here they have a couple landing stages for the boats to be physically pulled in and out of the water to make progress in either direction.

My fears of the sun burning through the cloud are unfounded, here I get a couple of shots I am really happy with, anything else is a bonus.

 

I would appear to have something of a routine going these days, as I am about to head for home, I will find a place to sit, and enjoy the hot thermos of tea I made earlier, while making a few notes for today’s blog and a few ideas for my later photo editing.
What a great start to the day.

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.

It’s beginning to look a lot like ….

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.

Dodging the rain

It’s a Monday morning, the familiar sound of rain beating against the window wakes me just after six, I keep the darkness of the early hour shut behind the curtains while I check my e-mails and the weather forecast while I relish a bacon sandwich.

Once again, the forecast is for heavy showers but today’s trip to Burrator reservoir to capture the autumn colours will go ahead as planned, this is a trip I always enjoy, something of an annual pilgrimage.

Burrator Reservoir stands on the edge of Dartmoor, not far from Yelverton, it was completed in 1898 and expanded in 1929 and as with the other Dartmoor reservoirs, has a walkable route around the perimeter, today’s walk is just 3.5 miles.

 

On arrival, a recent rain shower has just passed, leaving that lovely ‘between showers’ light to reflect upon the water and bathe the trees in its ambient glow, my first shots are in the bag, time to see what the morning will bring.

The short walk along the road to the main footpath is under an avenue of trees, either side, the road is coated in golden leaf litter, a lovely contrast to the dark surface of the tarmac road.

The reflection of the blue skies on the water add another splash of colour to the trees near the waters edge, I take another few shots while watching the impending rain clouds as they threaten another heavy downpour.

In amongst my shelter of trees, the skies have not so much opened, more torn asunder, as hailstones fall, and a wind that has come from nowhere denudes a few more branches of their leaves.

In amongst my arboreal shelter, I spot a tree with a cluster of fungi, as the squall finally passes, I grab a shot and walk a little further into the woodland, where the sun once again emerges from behind the now well dispersed clouds.

At the two mile mark, is a favourite spot of mine to take stop for some long exposure shots of the water.
Rocks coated in a lush green cloak of lichen sprinkled with fallen leaves make for an archetypal autumn scene, this type of shot is something of a photographic cliche but I am happy to sit by the water and just enjoy the moment.

After enjoying the moment, or thirty of them to be exact, it’s time to walk the final stretch of this years visit to Burrator and to head back for a spot of lunch and then home.

It is over my post walk meal that I go through my images, looking forward to seeing them on the bigger screen, also  padding out the ideas from a few words I had written for today’s blog.

Back at home, I make a note to hopefully visit again before next autumn, in reality, it probably won’t happen, the ratio of places I want to visit, compared to the time I have to do them all is not mathematically possible, so I guess I will see you again next November Burrator!

Into the woods once more

It’s the last week of October and I am keen to revisit a favourite woodland walk, Newbridge, situated on edge of Dartmoor between Ashburton and Poundsgate.

On arrival, the car park is already well utilised, this area is popular with walkers and canoeists alike, I spend a few minutes chatting with a group that have come from Horsham to sample the fast flowing waters of the River Dart, I leave them to their final preparations while I head to the woods.

Holly bushes seem to have an abundance of berries this year, a contrast of red and green against the slowly browning bracken along the edge of the path, these colour contrasts are one of the reasons that autumn is my favourite season.

As usual, I cannot resist the urge to create some long exposure images of the River, the smoky look of the water against algae clad rocks, some of which are speckled with the yellows and golds of fallen leaves.


As my walk takes me further into the woodland, I stop to take pictures of the fungi.
Each year, I promise to educate myself to learn the names of the species I see, each year, I fail miserably in doing so, yet my admiration of the beauty and fragility of their nature will never dwindle.

A simple rust coloured leaf, still clinging to its vine grabs my attention, acorns on a lush verdant cushion of lichen, ivy leaves basking in the autumn sun, all these little treasures are there to be found, the fun is in seeking them out.

My walk has come full circle, I am back at the car park supping a welcome cup of tea, I am thinking about how my photo walk tomorrow in Bristol will be the polar opposite of today, from spacious woodland to sprawling urban conurbation.

Looking back

With the first of the autumn rain storms making its presence felt, there will be little chance of getting out with the camera today, on such days I will take a little time in going through some of the images I have taken throughout the year, cataloguing and backing up to clear space for those images yet to come.

72448328_10219537537167370_98786343752040448_oThe image above was taken at around 5am in August, as I wait for the first train to Teignmouth to capture the sunrise, my enjoyment of early mornings has honed my low light photography skills, so much so, it is probably my favourite genre of photography.

 

I was not to be disappointed with my arrival at Teignmouth that morning, while there was a promise of a good sunrise, the cloud obscured the early rays but still produced some very atmospheric light, of course, as I was making my way back to the train station, the sun appeared for a brief few moments as I walked under the pier.

 

Brixham has always been a favourite location to visit, I enjoy photographing the fishing paraphernalia but there is a certain something about this town that draws me back time and time again, I have been meaning to and photograph Brixham at night for some time, with the evenings drawing in, that opportunity will come soon.

With Dawlish and Dawlish Warren both just a thirty minute train journey away, I will never tire of the scenic route by this coastline, a few early morning shots before the very enjoyable walk back to Exeter along the estuary and canal footpaths.

 

Further along the coast in the opposite direction, is the Jurassic coast, Lyme Regis is another of those places that I have yet to capture at dawn, this is on the list for next year, along with more visits to Portland Bill, a location I revisited for the first time in over 20 years!

I like the way that looking back on photos can often give inspiration for different compositions and new ideas.
I have a small notebook which I carry in my camera bag that has various ideas for various locations, I would use my smartphone to do this but I can probably write as quickly as I am able to type on that tiny phone keyboard anyway!