50 days of 50mm #29

A lot of my seaside visits for camera walks involve getting up early for a sunrise and enjoy the indulgence of having an entire beach to myself for a short while.

Brixham is different, this bustling fishing town on the ‘English riviera’ is more photogenic when there are plenty of people around, walking the breakwater wall, or exploring the town itself.

It has been over a year since my last visit here, little may have changed but sometimes after a long absence from a favourite place, it is almost like visiting for the first time again.

Famous for its fishing heritage, Brixham’s fish market and fishing fleet retain a healthy presence here, where the fish market sells to both Joe public and the catering industry.

An array of kiosks along the sea front sell cockles, prawns and crab to those visitors keen to taste the local wares,
If shellfish is not your thing there are cafes and restaurants aplenty, to entertain ones gourmet cravings.

My choice is the local pasty shop after my meandering around the quayside and breakwater wall, where I am under scrutiny from a herring gull, who is keen to share the delight of my lamb and mint flavoured pasty, they have become so adept at taking the slimmest of opportunities to steal food, that I keep my lunch very much within its bag after each bite, it is far too good to share with this avian thief!






50 days of 50mm #18

Day 18 may prove to be one of my favourite photo walks of the entire 50mm project, simply because of the variety of shots I was able to take today.

An opportunity to mooch around the market town of Totnes for a couple of hours will rarely be refused, especially on a market day, when the town will be busier than normal.

The market square is where my shoot begins, where a myriad of marketeers ply their trade, from bric a brac to fruit and veg, antiques to Panama hats but the busiest stalls appear to be the street food stalls, where the subtle aroma of spices tantalize the taste buds.

As the queue at the Ethiopian food stall dissipates temporarily, I ask for an Impromptu photo of the owner Hanna, as she works, she generously obliges, asking only that I share the photos with her, of course I am more than happy to do so.

I had planned to spend around 15 minutes at the market, I spend the best part of 40 minutes just trying to capture the essence of the scene and the street close to the market.




As I move from here, I head through the main street to the riverside, then take the footpath to the local steam railway station at Totnes, which had I checked their website, I would have known it was yet to open for the new season, never mind, the walk is still a very pleasant one.


If I was slightly disappointed at missing out from the Totnes steam railway, a visit to Buckfastleigh on the way back home, more than makes up for it, this will be the third ‘chapter’ for todays outing.

While Totnes station was yet to open, Buckfastleigh was hosting an event for railway enthusiasts, plenty going on here then!
It would appear that most of these enthusiasts are also keen photographers, where the mix of Canon and Nikon is evenly split, with the odd Sony user, they all have one thing in common, the long zoom lens, I feel kind of under dressed here, with just my faithful fifty.

That said, I rarely if ever feel that I have missed a shot using just one focal length, learning to adapt is what helps to keep my love of photography alive.

50 days of 50mm #10

Day ten of my 50mm project and I decide to reach once more for my vintage Pentacon 50mm lens for a morning stroll around Exeter.

This is a lens that I had purchased a few years back while dipping my toe into the waters of vintage lenses and their usage with mirrorless cameras, just one of the many and varied chapters along my photographic journey.

At the time, I liked the lens for its close focusing ability but my obsession with wanting clinically sharp images, meant it was cast aside for much of the time, left to its fate in my box of ‘stuff I may use later’.

My decision late last year to withdraw from the desire to keep up with newest cameras on the market has been late in coming but I am really enjoying using a twelve year old DSLR that was out of my budget at a time when it was one of Canon’s flagship models.

What has changed with regard to the pentacon lens?
Perhaps the challenge of shooting 50mm has given me the reason I needed to get to know this lens a little more, to embrace the flaws and use them to my advantage.

An image I took of a gravestone in a local churchyard, I shot at wide open for one shot and stopped down to F4 for another , it was the wide open image I preferred, the softness around the edges leading the eye to the subject perhaps ?


I do find myself using the Petacon lens for close up shots a lot more than I would the native Canon 50mm 1.8, the ability to get closer to the subject is one reason, the other is that I am rediscovering the joy of manual focus, taking more time to look around the frame, being more involved in the process of photography than simply clicking the shutter when the autofocus system says I can.


With the ground dusted in a coating of frost, my eye was drawn to the contrast of the white and green, simple natural beauty at my feet, likewise, greenery behind the centre shot above, adding a perfect backdrop to the subject, while the catkin just looked better with its monochrome edit.

If I am depicting this lens as a one trick pony, I will dispel that notion with my last few images of the day, my walk home takes me through the city centre, where I try its hand at street photography and a couple of landscapes, shot at F2, I was more than happy with the results, okay, so they are not competition winning images but I think they tell a story, record a moment in time that can never be recaptured, most importantly, I enjoyed my two hours, capturing the world through a vintage lens.

Vintage nifty fifties

After moving house earlier this year, I had left a few boxes unopened and put to the back of various cupboards until just recently.
Among one of the boxes was my collection of vintage lenses, which have since found a new lease of life on my mirrorless camera.

A recent trip to Dartmouth saw me using a Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm 2.8 lens, a lens with very pleasing colours and image quality.
With a few errands to run in town last Saturday, I chose to take my Super Takumar 50mm 1.4 and 55mm 1.8 lenses for a little street photography.

One of the pleasures of street photography is not knowing what will unfold as you shoot, today’s best moment for me, was capturing a hen party as they were about to embark upon the day’s revelry.

The vintage lens project may have been a little late off the ground but will become a regular part of my photography this year, I still have a 30mm and 28mm lenses to spend time with, in the coming weeks, watch this space.

The pick of the days images are posted below, I would welcome comments, questions and feedback from anyone, especially if you were thinking of experimenting with older lenses.

A city in lockdown

Most of my exercise walks in lockdown have followed a well trodden path away from the main city centre, strolls along the riverside are a brief respite and a reminder of the normality that we once had before this ever present threat of covid.

As much as I enjoy capturing the beauty of a sunrise or the mist rising from a river on a cold winter morning, these strange times have a story of their own, the following words are observations and images, taken over the last couple of weeks, on my brief incursions into a city in lockdown.

The city streets are bereft of bargain hungry shoppers, a melancholy silence hangs above the city, where even the faintest sound will drift between empty alleyways.

Shop window displays remain unchanged, last season’s merchandise that nobody can buy, only essential shop doors can welcome the customer for now.

An optimistic gull perched upon a street light waits for morsels that rarely appear, once easy pickings have become a drought, so he files to another spot, where he is quickly dispersed by a rival already close by.


Lone souls find a place in the winter sun to drink a welcome hot tea or coffee while others patiently wait for their buses to take them home.

I think we have become a little more sociable these days, while we have spent a lot of time at home, the company of a stranger is a welcome yet brief chance to make each others day a little more pleasant.

I was asked recently if I found it more difficult to enjoy street photography with so few people around, to a degree maybe but I look to find other subject matter within the streets to photograph. rainwater on a bench perhaps, colours and textures lit by the sun as they cast patterns, shadows of people against a wall offering an abstract take.

For as long as the current lockdown remains in place, I will continue to make my observations but I am looking forward to the days when my images are of a city free from the necessary constraints, where we can meet once more with friends and revisit those places we have missed.

Staying local

As we approach the mid way point in the UK’s second lockdown, my recent photo walks have all been based around a radius of around seven or so miles, making the most of the many footpaths that follow the River Exe, from canal to estuary, or just a quick walk as far as the quayside and back again.

This weekend has been a case of the latter, grey, uninspiring mornings have allowed the luxury of a lie in but I always feel that I have wasted my weekend if I do not walk at least a few miles.

Walking towards the city centre at just after nine, it feels like a Sunday morning as ‘unessential’ shops remain closed, a permanent reminder of 2020’s legacy.

Normally at this time of year, the festive build up begins, the high street would be full of shoppers looking for gifts for family and friends, the cathedral green would be a mini village of chalets offering hand made gifts and such like from local businesses or a selection of foods from around the world, but not this year….

My ambling takes me to the Mill on the Exe pub, or at least its car park, where I will often stand and just watch the water flow past, the sound of rushing water has often been a source of relaxation, today is no exception.

My first images today are a few long exposures to capture the water movement, I must have taken this shot hundreds of times in my twenty years of residing in Exeter, yet I care not, I love to see the river in all its moods throughout the seasons.


As usual for a Saturday morning the canal path is used by many, runners, cyclists and dog walkers, all out for some fresh air, my progress somewhat slower than the others as I slowly mooch along the path looking for my next shots.

I spend a little time watching the world pass, as I enjoy a flask of tea I prepared earlier.
Refulled and ready to continue, I make my back to the main high street
as I head for home.

I miss the hustle and bustle of a normal Saturday, the groups of teenagers shopping for designer clothes, the buskers in their allotted places are missing, the coffee connoisseurs no longer sit at outdoor tables and catch up with their friends and family, no carrier bag laden consumers moving from shop to shop to spend their hard earned cash.

Today was not my biggest walk ever but am glad I have had my fix of shutter therapy while getting out of the house for a couple hours, I shall look forward to my next fresh brew, while I contemplate on how I may start this latest blog.

Focusing on 50

I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.

Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.

Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.

I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.

Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.

Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.

I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….

 

Exploring Bristol

I had set myself a couple of photography goals this year, one being my ongoing one camera one lens project, the other was to travel further afield to photograph and explore towns and cities I had not really explored fully, if at all.

I had started well enough in March, my 2 day trip to London was very enjoyable, since then, a combination of various things (along with the constant allure of Dartmoor) had sidelined more regular outings further afield until yesterday.

Having booked my bus ticket a few days before, Monday morning sees me heading to catch an early bus to Bristol, I happen to choose the morning with the first autumn frosts of 2019, as I venture out just before 6am towards the bus stop.

The journey will take a couple of hours and as the day breaks, I admire the amazing hues of orange in the sky, just a shame I could not ask the driver to stop for a few minutes to take some photos!

At eight fifteen, the bus arrives at the coach station, I have until late afternoon to explore the city before my return journey home.
I have a few ideas of where I want to go today but over a welcome breakfast, I finalise and abridge an unrealistic itinerary.

Bristol is well known for its urban artwork, I am barely two minutes into today’s foray when I see a perfect opportunity for some street images….

As usual for me with any place I am unfamiliar with, I spend a couple of hours just looking for potential ideas, then revisit later in the day, one such possibility is St. Nicholas market, where the stall holders are just starting to set up for the day, I will definitely come back here when it is busier!

My walk takes me towards the quayside, I came here a few years ago but had little time to photograph as much as I wanted, I will rectify that this morning.
Tall cranes, stand like sentinels along the dockside, my favourite being the old steam crane at the far end, all relics of Bristol’s maritime heritage.

I considered going to the SS Great Britain museum, after chatting to one of the custodians, a minimum of 2 hours is needed to barely scratch the surface of their exhibits, I will come here on another day, when I have more time, a perfect excuse for another trip, if I ever needed one.

By mid morning, according to my mobile app, I have covered 6 miles or so, time for another tea break, and a chance to write a few ideas for today’s blog, while they are still fresh in my mind.
My immediate thought is in the contrast of yesterday’s trip to the woods, a place of tranquillity, compared to the hustle and bustle of  today, yet both very enjoyable.

I head back towards the market that I had spotted earlier, the aroma of herbs and spices float in the air, tantalising taste buds.
I have timed this just right, a real hive of activity as the last of the lunchtime crowds walk away with bao buns or rice bowls, curries and burrito’s.

Two of the traders are happy to let me take photos when I ask, I prefer this approach in markets, as they will often take time to pose a ‘working’ shot, as they tell me about their business.

I cover around seven or eight miles today, yet I feel that I have barely scratched the surface, there appears to be photo opportunities wherever I turn.

Time has slipped away all too quickly,  I have an hour before my bus departs, just time to go and find an area of graffiti I had spotted earlier.

The next time I come to Bristol, it will be for a couple of days, I would like to photograph the city at night time, as well as go to the places I could not cover today, in the meantime, I will enjoy looking back at the memories I have made today.

Dusk in the city

With the evenings slowly pulling in, it is a sure sign that autumn is just beyond the horizon, making more opportunities for some low light forays in the coming months.
This in mind, yesterday evening, I decided to get out for an evening outing to hone the skills ready for the coming seasons.

After being used to walking through the town in darkness for my early morning outings, it seemed weird to hear the cacophony of party goers on their way to their Saturday evening revelry, for once I have to share the city streets.

My initial plan is to head to the quayside, a favourite venue of mine during the day, hoping for some light trails across the bridges but decide this is a little formulaic and look to find other opportunities.

From the quay, I make way my back up to the city centre, taking a few shots on the way,
I am being very selective in my choice of shot, just looking for something other than the usual night time city shots.

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Tonight’s outing was very much a scouting mission, looking for ideas for night time compositions I may use at a later date, honing the skills for a more thorough shoot, during the longer hours of darkness.

The shots above are the pick of my 60 minute foray, all taken with my trusty X100F, all hand held with an aperture of f2-2.8, iso  adjusted as needed.

My journey into street photography

Up until about three years ago, I would never have considered doing street photography, my innate dislike of large crowds in confined spaces was one of the contributing factors, any weekend errands I needed to do, were done at around opening time, to facilitate a quick escape back home.

My first fujifilm 100 series changed that, a used X100s was coming with me wherever I went, the  dynamic had changed, I was about to embrace a whole new genre.

I’m not saying that I embraced street photography overnight but I was beginning to see the possibilities open up for the days I could not get to the moor or coast.

It was a steep learning curve, I was very conscious of the fact that I was dipping my toes into unknown territory, my style at first was very much point and hope, I had not yet realised the importance of the exposure triangle but we all need to start somewhere.

It began to click on one particularly wet day, I thought it may be good to try and get some water reflections on the pavements, I was stood under a shop awning waiting for a shot of a person in a brightly coloured raincoat, or somebody carrying an unusual umbrella, I was learning to bide my time.

How times have changed, these days, I think nothing of asking people for a photo, if I find them interesting, involving the potential subject makes for a much more natural shot but I do get a buzz from the candid shots that hopefully  tell a story.

 

Most of my street photography is done in my home town of Exeter, in a matter of a few minutes, I can be in town and back home again after just a couple hours but I like to venture further whenever I can.

I had such an opportunity just this week, a trip to the bustling market town of Totnes, well known for its ‘alternative’ lifestyle, it is a great place to capture the essence of street photography.
My time here would be brief, so instead of my usual walk by the riverside, I headed straight for the town centre, where with a combination of the summer visitors and the local market, I was bound to get something.

My first point of call would be ‘Narnia’, a store selling retro merchandise that has a bright yellow facade and a feast of treasures on display, a chance for some window shoppers here.
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The local  market was also in full swing, a myriad of colours, and an array of smells wafting on the breeze from the food vendors.

Totnes is one of those towns with hidden alleys and side roads, slowly but surely, I am finding new ones, in the pursuit of new subject matter.

 

 

In just over an hour, I got some shots I was very happy with, for me, ‘street’ is not necessarily about photographing people, it is about trying to tell a story of the places I visit, attempting to convey the atmosphere I felt as I walk with camera always at the ready.