As the year passes by at an alarming rate, the early morning starts I regularly enjoy are getting steadily lighter, with sunrise at around six AM.
Being a Sunday, it is the one day I rarely set an alarm yet I am still awake at just after 4am, this morning however, I manage another hour before deciding to venture out for an early riverside walk.
It has been a week of clear blue skies with an abundance of sunshine, spring has arrived at last but there is still a chill in the early morning air.
The strong winds of the last few days have abated for a while, only a gentle breeze ripples the still waters and as the sun makes its first appearance, its golden rays paint the opposite side of the riverbank in its warm glow.
But for a couple of anglers, a dog walker and a brace of joggers, the riverside is mine, the peace and solitude only occasionally interrupted by an industrious woodpecker and a stonechat going about their avian business.
Today may not have been the longest of walks, it is more about getting out for a couple hours and grabbing a few snapshots along the way, for me, the perfect way to start a lazy Sunday
It seems like the five hundredth day of January, as I wake this Friday morning. just after 6am.
As with many others, I am longing to have the shackles of lockdown loosened as I contemplate which part of my home town I shall walk today, I would like to take an early train and catch the sunrise on one of the local beaches but respect the importance for only necessary travel on public transport and decide upon a circular walk following the River Exe once more.
It is another one of those still winter morning’s where the cold soon shakes any latent sleepiness from you, while hidden patches of ice on the pavements also help keep you alert.
A cold mist floats above some parts of the River, in my head the deep purple ‘smoke on the water’ intro plays in a loop as I look for my first shots of the day.
There are still traces of night lingering in the skies above as my first shots are taken, I love the moodiness of this time of day, the longer shutter speed turning the river to an almost smooth mirror, the star like light emanating from the street lights on the opposite pathway.
With the city behind me, I join the footpath to the Riverside valley trail, where the powerful gushing of the fast flowing weir is replaced by the first strains of the dawn chorus, a sound I will never tire of.
If the sound of birdsong was not enough, my reward is twofold, as I see the cloud begin disperse, their edges painted with the glow of the morning sun, how different from last Friday’s insipid, uninspiring blanket of grey.
This morning is offering photo opportunities at every turn, the river reflections and golden skies, the grass either side of the footpath dusted with a light frost, it is a day to treasure.
The highlight of today’s shoot, my picture of the day was an opportunist shot, taken opposite the Double Locks pub, where on the landing stage a young lady stands, taking photos of the local swans, who with their natural grace and elegance are as photogenic as ever.
With the sun adding a golden glow to the scene, I have my favourite shot of the day.
From a safe distance we exchange greetings and I explain that the shot was too good to miss and would she like a copy of the image.
The young lady’s name is Ama, she explains that under normal circumstances she would have been in Mexico, celebrating a friend’s birthday with them but instead, here she was in the middle of an English winter, making the most of the allowed exercise. Ama loves the picture, she says it will be a memento of lockdown she will treasure, I promise to send the image later in the day via email.
With a good few landscape images under my belt, I seek out the more abstract images I find so much enjoyment from, close ups of plants bathed in the glow of the morning light, ice crystals atop a fence post, bramble leaves seemingly candied with frost.
The smaller details are as much fun to photograph as the grand vistas, finding beauty in the every day has taught me not just to look but how to see the apparently mundane in a different light.
As I make my way back home, ideas for this blog begin to germinate, that initial thought of despair so early this morning of it feeling like the five hundredth day of January as the opened curtains revealed nothing but darkness has been replaced by ‘ the five hundredth day of January was a great day to be alive! ‘
It is the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, many of us will be having to entertain thoughts of heading into towns or cities for some Christmas shopping, fortunately I am not one of the many, instead I shall be heading out for a morning hike, with the hopes of catching the sun as it rises along the way.
Setting off at just after seven fifteen AM, darkness still hangs around like an unwanted guest, I have about 45 minutes before the sun begins its morning ascent into northern hemisphere skies.
A little rain is still in the air but today is forecast as mainly sunny until later in the day, one of the reasons I have chosen today for my outing. I have about a mile and half before reaching the well trodden riverside path that follows the River Exe to the Exe estuary, it is when I reach this path that I spot some orange hues in the sky as the morning awakens.
I reach one of my favourite spots along the footpath, close to the Double Locks pub, the sun breaks through the cloud in all its golden glory, what a start to the day.
After the light show, I decide to capture a long exposure shot of the river as it looks back towards Exeter, the serene stillness broken only by the melody of the avian chorus.
Another five minutes and the stillness of the river is broken by the first of many early morning rowers, their sleek boats cutting through the water like a knife through butter, as they glide so elegantly by.
From here, the path takes me to Countess wear, one of Exeter’s main arteries out of the city, where I will cross the already busy main road to join the path on the other side, another 3 miles will take me to Turf Locks, another of my favourite photographic venues.
I am not alone on my walk, the river bank has seen overnight fishermen hoping for their catch of a lifetime, the predator anglers seeking pike in one place, while down river the carp anglers have set up their temporary base, sandwiching a solitary Tench angler making his first cast of the morning.
While the conversation with them all is about their piscatorial prowess, the one thing we all have in common, is the joy of watching the morning sunrise, where we are all agreed that the early mornings are the best part of the day.
A little way along the footpath, it splits into two, a narrower path following the river is ideal for walkers, the wider path below takes the cyclists, as I join the narrow river path, I can take in the views at my leisure.
Making my way to Turf locks, the clouds above start to thicken hiding the sun for a few moments before it appears once more casting that wonderful winter light upon the landscape.
With the light changing rapidly, I try to keep up with the moody skies, grey and threatening one moment, then back to sunny landscapes as the sun escapes from its cloudy cloak.
Reaching Turf locks, the skies begin to darken and in the distance the clouds shed their cargo of rain, tide in or out, this part of my walk is just so photogenic.
I take a couple of in camera monochrome shots to capture the drama of the changing light, the exposed mud flats add more to the mood.
Having decided that I would catch a bus home, I take a road I have not walked before, looking at possible new routes and footpaths along the way.
I walk about another mile and a half before hearing the traffic pass on the main road ahead, as I reach the junction a convenient bus stop is just on the other side of the road, I have approximately 15 minutes to finish my flask of tea before the next bus arrives.
The ride home gives me a chance to look through my mornings photos, I am pleased that I made the effort to get out when I did, as Sunday’s weather is looking pretty hopeless.
It’s the last Friday in November and I have a bonus day off from work, so decide to set my usual 4am work alarm to an hour later, with the intention of spending a few hours out with the camera.
No need for the alarm, I have become so accustomed to the early starts but the dark mornings never look that inviting.
As usual, I have my camera bag ready, leaving no excuses not to go anywhere, my intention is to head to the coast,so I will catch a train that departs just after seven fifteen. I leave the house an hour before this, perhaps I can take advantage of the quiet streets of Exeter and take some low light shots.
The streets are empty but for the road sweepers and the few early commuters, I take full advantage of shop lights illuminating the streets and seize a quick opportunity to take a photo of a locked up bicycle lit by a mechanical road sweeper making its rounds, immediately thinking this would make a good black and white shot.
The previous evening’s weather forecast had overcast skies for most of Friday, as I wait for my train, patches of blue hour coloured sky are visible through the cloud, maybe I could even see a glimpse of sun.
Arriving at Teignmouth, there is a noticeable chill in the wind, the mornings have that feel of winter about them but no matter, the light of morning is looking rather good, time to get to the beach.
The strong winds are offering some good wave action, exposure times of less than ten seconds will be enough for me to capture the movement of the water, it promises to be a good morning,
With just a glimpse of sun peering from behind its cloudy curtain, the colours are a reminder of why I like to get out whenever possible to watch the day unfold.
With a dozen or so shots in the bag, it’s time to treat myself to a hot cup of tea and a breakfast baguette, luckily for me, a local cafe open for takeaway service is just a short walk away. Fed and watered, I am ready to walk the short distance along the sea wall to Dawlish.
With schools and work now under a semblance of normality, there are few other souls around today, one of the reasons I enjoy getting out on a weekday.
As the morning progresses, the clouds begin to thicken and turn a dull grey, I feel fortunate to have captured the earlier light but see the changing light as a chance for some monochrome shots.
It has been a good mixture of a morning, a few miles walked and a good selection of shots , I decide to catch the next train from Dawlish and head for home, where I look forward to checking out my mornings efforts.
It’s another early Saturday morning, I am on my way to greet the morning sunrise at Teignmouth, a little further down the coast from last weeks jaunt.
Once again, I have come armed with the GRIII, this little powerhouse of a camera is such a joy to use, the image quality is just superb from its fixed 28mm equivalent lens.
The GRIII is a favourite amongst street photographers, its compact size and silent shutter are perfect for the genre, however, it it is pretty darned good at landscapes as well!
Another recent addition to my photographic arsenal since getting the GRIII is the Nisi filter kit, a specially developed mini filter kit for the GR, consisting of the following :
Adaptor Ricoh GR3
3 Stop Medium GND (0.9)
3 Stop Soft GND (0.9)
ND8 (0.9) 3 Stop
ND64 (1.8) 6 Stop
With my filter kit and mini tripod, I am able to travel with minimal weight, while being able to shoot long exposure scenes when I require, a set up I am enjoying more and more.
I have been asked if I miss not having a viewfinder, in honesty, it takes a little getting used to but it is the perfect way to compose long exposure compositions.
My walk takes me into Dawlish, where I decide to grab a cup of tea and a bite to eat, with the day already warming up and the local beaches filling with holiday makers, I decide to catch the next train back to Exeter, I have got what I came for, so I am happy to move on.
Just half an hour later, I am back in Exeter, Saturday shoppers are out in force, a chance for some post lockdown street photography.
Again, the GR excels, the compact nature of the camera does not concern those I pass, using the 2m snap focus to full effect.
As I have become more accustomed to the GRIII, I have slowly customised it more to my liking, it is possible to save various custom settings into 3 user settings accessible on the mode dial, one of which I have saved as ‘street’ settings, the second, I have a 1:1 square aspect ratio, shooting Jpegs, I really like the built in mono and the positive film preset , the third I have yet to decide upon.
While my current set up is working well for me, I would be interested to see other people’s favourite set ups, to see how others like to shoot on days out.
Saturday morning just before 4am, I am awake before my alarm, not a work day today though, I am hoping for the kind of skies that have tantalised me all week on my early morning walks to work.
It’s too early to think about breakfast but enjoy my first brew of the day, and head to St. David’s station to catch the 5am train to Starcross. The station is pretty much deserted at this time of day, a railway ghost town, it appears I am the only customer as the rail staff prepare the trains for the for the first departures.
My journey will take only 15 minutes, I watch with interest as the skies are already showing some promise of colour, as the early clouds part like curtains to make way for the dawn.
Stepping off the train and onto the platform, I stop to enjoy views of the high tide, the water lies still, with reflections beginning to form as the day breaks, then the colours of dawn begin to paint the sky with hues of yellow and orange, this is what I had hoped for, I am glad I made the effort to get out of bed!
The silhouette of the railway bridge and platform fences make a lovely contrast against the coloured sky, time to find some more shots before the light show ends.
The peace and tranquility of the sunrise never ceases to be a source of joy, watching a new day unfold is a pleasure on its own, capturing them on camera is a privilege.
From Starcross, I head towards Turf Locks, where the path leaves the estuary side and follows the Exeter canal, a walk I have done many times in my twenty years of living in the area, a walk that I will never tire of.
All these images were taken using my recently acquired Ricoh GR III, a lightweight single focal length camera (28mm) The Nisi filter kit specially designed for the Ricoh was used for the long exposure shots.
It has been a while since my last musing here, for the first time in a while, I have not felt compelled to write, since my exercise walks have taken a very familiar route, yet this morning, I felt this malaise lift and wanted to share a few images I have taken over the last few days.
My route well trodden, takes me to the Riverside valley park on the outskirts of the city, on these cooler May mornings, I have been fortunate to capture the low lying mist, sometimes tinted with the glow of the rising sun.
From behind majestic oaks, wrapped in their new verdant green leaf cloaks, I capture my favourite picture so far this year, perhaps this one moment made me realise that while I miss the outings by the sea and on the moor, I am fortunate to have such immediate beauty on my own doorstep.
As late spring turns to early summer, my alarm is set from early, to silly O’ clock, yet this seems such a small price to pay when I apparently have the whole place to myself.
It is not just the sights, the sound of a stonechat nearby, a woodpecker also heard in the distance and just the whisper of the breeze as it ghosts through the trees.
As the human race becomes more accustomed to new ways of life, nature continues as nothing has happened, the first brood of cygnets trail behind mom, as they take their first few forays along the Exe.
A kingfisher, a dart of orange, too quick to take a picture of but there nonetheless, an egret too camera shy for its picture, all calming sights during troubled times.
It is true to say that familiarity can breed a certain amount of taking for granted those things close to home, it is safe to say that my sense of appreciation has been wakened from its slumber.
It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.
With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.
My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.
As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.
The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.
From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.
From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.
My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.
Already nearly two weeks into the new year but today is my first opportunity to capture the first sunrise of 2020 and being January, I can set an alarm for a more sociable hour than those 3am alarm calls of the early summer.
The alarm is not not required, the sound of wind whistling around the windows and the last of the heavy rain are playing their final encores, or so I hope.
I am well ahead of time this morning, so I relish the last of two hot buttered crumpets and a second cup of strong tea, finish packing my camera bag and prepare a flask of tea to take with me.
It will take me just under an hour to reach a place for my first glimpse of the sunrise, as I head out into what still appears to be midnight!
Slowly but surely, the last of the heavy clouds begin to disperse and the sky begins to brighten, as I approach the footpath by the River Exe, the remaining clouds show the fiery tinged edges of the morning sun.
As I make my way along the path, there is an abundance of photo opportunities, light and shadow,colours and contrast feed my creative appetite with ideas.
With a chance of showers forecast, I watch the build up of cloud cautiously but the weather gods appear to be in a better mood of late and what little rain there is passes behind me.
The trees, bereft of foliage give some lovely shadows against the painted sky, I also see opportunities for some black and white images here.
The next part of my walk takes me back towards the quayside at Exeter, as I progress, it is clear that others intend to make the most of this sunny Sunday, sleek sculling boats from the local rowing clubs pass by with effortless grace, while in places, fishermen are casting their first baits of the day in their search for piscatorial pleasure.
With a good six miles under my belt, I reach the quayside at Exeter, where I meet a couple of friends for a new year catch up, the review of today’s images will be something to look forward to later this afternoon.
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.
The 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!