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.

A trip to Whiteworks

Saturday morning and I have a date with Dartmoor once again, doing my best to make up for my enforced lockdown absences.

Today’s destination is one of my favourites, Whiteworks, a disused tin mining area not far from Princetown.

Tin mining in the area dates as far back as 1790, mining here was at its most prolific here as the demand for tin for the industrial revolution increased, the ore was sent from here to the Calenick smelting house in Truro, as at this time, Devon had no smelting houses.

By 1880, the mining was ceased, only to be revived briefly again in the early 20th century as the value of ore increased but by 1914 mining was discontinued, the land then used for livestock farming and pony breeding.

It is the remnants of this history that brings me back here time and again, the fallen remains of the stone cottages, the fenced off areas showing where the mining shafts once were.

This place has character in spades, where buildings once were, trees now stand, what is left of the cottages brickwork is covered in a verdant cloak of lichen, adding more texture for the photographer’s eye.

Some of my favourite trees of Dartmoor are located here, one in particular torn asunder at its root, it’s branches a tangle of twigs, defiantly reaching for the skies, yet so near to the ground, today this beauty is emphasized by the moody skies blown along by an early autumn breeze.

I am here for pleasure but it is not hard to imagine the brutal nature of the work that once existed in this chapter of Dartmoor’s history.

This rugged beauty of Dartmoor will continue to draw me in like a magnet, it is always a pleasure to spend time here, exploring whatever it wishes to give.

Sunday on the moor

In this strangest of years, my trips to Dartmoor have been few and far between, after the enforced absence of lockdown , I feel that I am reacquainting myself with an old friend once again.

In the last three or four years, I have made regular visits, yet still, I have barely scratched the surface of all that Dartmoor has to offer.
Yesterday’s outing was to a place I had been to just once before, Bonehill rocks, not far from the well known Haytor and Hound Tor.

Arriving just after 10:30 am after a hearty breakfast, the car parks are already beginning to fill with holiday makers looking to make the most of the long bank holiday weekend.
The skies are a clear blue, the sun is bright but a strong breeze keeps the temperature ideal for walking.

Bonehill rocks are a random array of tors and granite outcrops of varying shapes and sizes, a favourite destination for climbers of all abilities, a good few of which have made the trip here today.

I love that the moor has so much to offer for so many, rock climbing, walking and cycling to name just a few, for me of course, it is to hopefully capture the moor in all its moods through my lens, indelible memories to look back upon on those days when I cannot visit.

As usual, I was spoiled for choice with photo opportunities, the heather and gorse creating a vibrant display either side of footpaths, the weathered nature of the rocks and tors, light and shadow emphasizing the cracks and fissures within the stone.

As usual, I took a good number of photos on yesterday’s amble, all the above are my pick of the bunch.

Sunrise with the GRIII

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 :

  1. Adaptor Ricoh GR3
  2. 3 Stop Medium GND (0.9)
  3. 3 Stop Soft GND (0.9)
  4. ND8 (0.9) 3 Stop
  5. ND64 (1.8) 6 Stop

Nisi filter kit




Mini Tripod – ideal for travelling as light as I can

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.

A welcome return to Dartmoor

It has been four long months since I last visited Dartmoor, a trip to Wistmans wood in March, just a few days before lockdown restrictions were put in place.
Realising that such measures were likely, I made sure to savour every step of that March outing, unsure of when I may visit again.

That day was yesterday, to say I was looking forward to it would be an understatement, I could not wait to tread once more amongst the vast openness, to hear the sweet summer sounds of the skylarks soaring above, to gaze in awe at the many tors, stone sentinels of the moorland landscape.

The rain from earlier in the morning had abated but the skies still wore remnants of mist and grey cloud, giving the moor a sombre moodiness, for all I cared it could have been torrential rain, I was just happy to be back on familiar ground.

Dartmoor will always present photo opportunities, the most obvious being the landscape as described earlier, yet I find pleasure in finding the smaller treasures, water droplets on grass, a fallen foxglove petal, or fungi thriving in the humid air, to name just a few.

No excuses

I was watching a youtube photography channel earlier this week, the location was an area of outstanding beauty, the sun was out, yet the first words after the intro were ‘ The sky is too blue!’

I too have been out on Dartmoor on a beautiful sunny day, happily taking in the vast openness but wishing for cloud, yet on those grey rainy days, I wish for sun, essentially photographers are never happy!

In the eternal search for perfect light, we will always find something that isn’t quite right but the last couple of days have provided skies full of character with an ever changing light that gave plenty of opportunity for image making, today there would be no excuses.

While travel on public transport for photography trips is still out of the question, I am taking full advantage of the opportunity for unlimited exercise by taking walks around Exeter’s picturesque quayside and river walks, pictures I have taken a few hundred times before but with a renewed appreciation of what is on my doorstep.




For the record, all images were taken with a recently adopted Canon 5d Mark 1 with canon 20-35mm lens, there is something about using older camera gear I really like.

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.

 

Post Christmas outing

With the festive holidays in full swing, I am one of the many fortunate enough to have some time off over the Christmas period.
I have spent a quiet but pleasant few days with family, eating far too much and not getting out as much as I would have liked with the camera until today, my trip back home.

The last few days in terms of weather have been bleak, rain, wind and a blanket of characterless grey cloud have been the order of the day, today is little better, though the wet stuff is due to stay away for a few hours.

Leaving Salcombe just after 11:30, Slapton sands will be the first port of call, then a walk around Dartmouth for a bite to eat before heading back to Exeter.

Slapton sands is quite unique, in that one side of the road faces the sea, while the other faces a freshwater lagoon, or Ley as it is called here, the car park is on the ley side, so my first pictures are of the bird life here.

The recent strong winds have dropped, the ley lies in a state of calm, the bird life, used to human presence here are not too bothered with me taking photos.

Walking to sea wall side, a mist hangs over the distant coast towards Dartmouth, a chance for some moody monochrome images.
I was expecting the beach to be far busier with other people looking to walk off the festive excesses, maybe the weather is keeping them at home.

From here, Dartmouth is just a few miles along the coast, it is here we find the previously absent crowds, car parking spaces are as rare as hen’s teeth but a space is found and part two of today’s outing will proceed.

I spent a few happy years, living and working in Dartmouth in my early career as a chef, I always enjoy my brief revisits here, it is one of those thriving towns with a lot of character.

My walk follows a familiar route, along the embankment to Bayards cove, famous as the filming location for the Onedin line in the 1970’s.

As always, I look forward to looking at the day’s images, while planning more outings for what remains of the holidays.

Delaying the Xmas shopping

Monday morning, over the last few weeks, my camera day out but today I have the task of completing the rest of my Christmas shopping.

The morning has started dull and grey, the perfect conditions for a trip into town but I am a reluctant starter this morning, by the time I have had my third cup of tea, the clouds are lifting, the day is looking a little brighter.

It looks like the shopping will be delayed a little longer, as I decide to take my camera for a stroll along the River Exe before embarking upon the shopping.
My decision to do so is justified, the recent strong winds have dropped, the River lies serene but higher than I have seen for a long time, debris from rising water levels lay strewn along the footpath, cast aside like an unwanted toy.

I take a selection of familiar shots, work from the newly finished flood defences complete, there are no longer miles of barriers or fences to spoil the view.

Business as usual along the quayside, but fewer people around today, being a Monday, I enjoy sharing the views with just a few others lucky enough to have the day off.

As I drink the last of my flask of tea, my main mission can be delayed no longer, that Christmas shopping will not complete itself!

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.