Back in the late spring, I visited a forest that to my shame, I had not really explored that much, despite being just a few miles from my doorstep.
I blame my preoccupation of Dartmoor and the nearby coast for my lapse but today, I intend to fulfil a promise I made to myself after the last trip, which was to become more familiar with my local forests and woods.
Immersing myself within this beautiful landscape is not hard, listening to the stonechat just ahead of me, interrupted very rudely by the screech of a jay, neither of which I see, just knowing they are here is good enough.
I choose once more to use my manual focus 50mm lenses (50mm takumar F1.4 and Pentacon F1.8), as I find the act of twisting a focus ring so much more pleasurable than pressing a button, that same feeling goes for changing aperture value on the lens itself, rather than through a screen.
Hopefully the enjoyment I had here is evident in my selection of photos in the gallery below, I will also ensure my next visit will sooner than the autumn.
It has been some time since my last ‘one frame’ blog but as I have been going through my images from the last couple of months, I have picked out one of my favourite images from just a couple of weeks ago.
A walk around a local forest had started off with dull clouds smothering any sunlight but gradually the cloud disappeared, offering small areas of light for brief periods of time.
With the untrodden areas of woodland, a carpet of verdant ferns surround the base of the trees, this particular tree, catching the light as it finally escaped its prison of cloud.
With my vintage 50mm lens at an aperture of F2, I wanted to capture the detail and texture of the tree bark with its adornment of ivy, while leaving a softer out of focus background.
My last few Saturdays have been early starts, as I have been keen to catch those late spring sunrises around the local coastline of Dawlish and Teignmouth respectively.
Day 30 starts with grey, overcast skies with brighter sunny spells later in the day, so decide that a trip to a local woodland just a few miles away may be an idea, after all, I have not visited this one for a couple of years.
Ashclyst forest is owned and maintained by the National trust, just on the outskirts of the village of Broadclyst in East Devon and a stones throw away from Killerton House.
As with any location on one’s doorstep, I Have not visited Ashclyst as many times as perhaps I should but I am certainly looking forward to exploring the myriad of trails and footpaths that make any woodland and forest so enjoyable.
Even if I were not involved in my current 50mm project, a 50mm lens would be my choice for today’s venue, the wider aperture of a 50mm prime lens is perfect for those out of focus backgrounds in woodland, as well as plenty of scope for those close up shots that have become a part of my photographic repertoire over the years.
There is something very calming about ambling around these forest trails, the pure joy of hearing the birds singing, their melodies undiluted from traffic noise and other man made interruptions.
I take a little time to experiment with some ‘intentional camera movement’ (ICM) shots, as I stand in a clearing, facing a copse of fir trees, a three stop ND filter attached to my lens gives me an exposure time of around two seconds, enough to create some abstract images of the scene before me.
After a number of attempts., I have a couple that I am happy with, it is this type of experimenting that keeps me wanting to get out and trying new (to me) techniques.
With patches of concealed bluebells just waiting to be found, the paths are a riot of late spring colour, with buttercups and celandine offering a vivid contrast to the campion that sways gently in the pleasant May breeze.
Dandelions lie in various states of undress, some with their full Afro of pappus, others semi bald, their party crowns long since stolen away by the breeze.
Even among this spring time palette, traces of the ochres and browns of winter can be found, oases of fallen ferns and fir cones, lying forgotten as last years Christmas toys, yet still beautiful, even in decay.
It’s the half way point of my 50 days of 50mm project, something that began as a seed of an idea for a long term project as 2021 came to a close and commenced on my first outing of the new year.
Shooting with a Canon 5d MKII body, I have allowed myself a little indulgence, in that I will occasionally use one of my vintage 50mm manual lenses, the go to lens for this is a Pentacon 50mm F1.8, a lens that had been left forgotten in my collection of old lenses but has become a regular passenger in my camera bag.
This project so far has changed my approach to my photography, before I would have a large camera bag with perhaps 3 lenses, filters and a tripod, these days I rarely take the tripod and the only filter I tend to have with me is a polarising filter.
The simpler set up is clearly lighter but with minimal options in terms of gear, I am thinking more creatively with my compositions, the lens choice dilemma that would sometimes creep into my shot making no longer exists, can only I use what I have.
Today’s venue was to be Stoke Woods, pretty much on my doorstep but my first visit here since autumn last year, I will be hoping for a few bluebells somewhere along the woodland trails but just being around nature is all I need after a busy working week.
I have decided to use the Pentacon lens once more, I am learning to use the corner softness of this lens to my advantage, rather than see it as a flaw.
I have remarked in previous posts how using a manual lens has made me feel more a part of the photographic process again, the 5d body is the same, with no tilting screen, I have to physically get as low I need in order to get the low angle shots, but it is what we all did before, so why not now?
The route through the woods zig zags gently down to the busy ‘Exe valley’ road, where just literally across the road from the woodland trail, is a footpath that leads to some pretty rural villages just on the outskirts of Exeter.
I will follow this path for a mile or so, just to take in some of the scenery that I have captured before including a beautiful old oak tree, however my last image of this arboreal beauty stood majestically in place last autumn, will be my last, as it is now nothing more than a mass of tangled timber, having become a victim of the recent winter storms.
It is just as I begin the return trip back along the path that the sun finally breaks through the cloud, hopefully I can capture some of that light through the trees as I make my way back through the woods…..
It has been a rather busy week one way and another, so I am later than usual in posting the second of last weeks camera outings, some may say better late than never.
Having spent Friday and Saturday visiting family, Sunday was my day to travel back to Exeter, taking in a photo walk somewhere on the way back.
That somewhere would be a visit to Staverton Steam railway and a walk along the woodland path, sandwiched between the Railway and River.
With bluebells gradually taking their turn on the botanical stage, it may be a little early to capture that carpet of blue in the woodland but I did find one or two images, a preview of the weeks to come.
Sadly, the full route of this footpath is no longer open at weekends but I understand the need to conserve these areas of natural beauty from the damage of erosion from so much footfall over the years.
I head back to the steam railway station where the first of the new season’s trips have commenced, these stations are kept so immaculately by the team of volunteers, the retro signage and paraphernalia are always an attraction, the photographer’s holy trinity of texture, colour and patina well represented with old sack trucks, travel cases and the mandatory vintage bicycle or two.
There is always a warm friendly feeling to these old stations, perhaps even,a yearning for the days when we were in less of a rush to do everything by yesterday.
After a couple of very pleasant hours, it’s time for a welcome brew before heading back home, where I look forward to seeing my weekend’s efforts and the new memories I have created over the last few days.
If woodland walks in autumn are a bittersweet reminder of the shorter days and longer nights to come, those same walks in spring are a treasure trove of mother nature’s wonders, as new life slowly emerges from winter’s grip, we can look forward to the annual displays of snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells to add a splash of colour to the landscape.
A recent trip to steps bridge, just on the edge of Dartmoor was the perfect antidote to what felt like months of constant grey skies, as the sun’s rays made their presence known with a little spring time warmth.
The woodland path was a riot of yellow and green, as daffodils paraded their bright yellow bonnets for all to see, while trees began to show the delicate beauty of their early blossom, or the vibrant green of new foliage.
To spend just a couple of hours amongst nature, listening to the wind as it whispers between the trees and the sweet melody of the avian chorus revives the senses and shakes off that feeling of lethargy that winter can bring, as I sit by the riverside listening to the river rush by, I look forward to the months to come and my next trip to Dartmoor.
It is the start of another week and as has become something of a routine, I take another browse through the images of my weekend photo shoot, with the intention of writing the back story of either the whole outing, or taking ideas from a single image for my ‘one frame’ series.
From Saturday’s outing to Fernworthy reservoir, may I present ‘Medusa’s lair’ the title for which I had in an instant, even before I composed this final image.
I had taken a similar shot on a previous outing but the diffused light and the tight crop of a 50mm lens added more impact.
There are a few landscape / woodland photographers that may find this scene a little to busy for their tastes, for me, it is this apparent chaos that makes the eye want to follow every twist and turn of these Medusa like lichen coated branches.
In such an incredibly inspiring place such as Dartmoor, steeped as it is in legend and folklore, it is not hard to let the imagination run free.
As the autumn colours begin to appear, my ambles to Dartmoor will cease for a short time, as I begin my annual photographic pilgrimages around the local reservoirs, rivers and woodlands, in search of the treasures this wonderful season gives us.
The slow mooch around woodland trails in search of fungi, especially the ever elusive fly agaric. fallen leaves on algae covered rocks, glints of copper and yellow like coins in a wishing well and of course, the long exposure flowing water shot.
As much as anything, it is an excuse to stand idly by the riverside, where the sound of rushing water is so relaxing, to watch the dippers flit from rock to rock, or just to simply watch the river flow past.
This particular shot, is the River Dart at Deadman’s corner near Holne, a good mile or so following the woodland path, away from the popular kayak launching areas.
The trees may not yet be in their full autumn splendour but that gives me a reason to re visit in another couple of weeks…..
It has been a while since my last blog entry, a busy August has left little spare time to write, however there are a few entries in the offing.
The first of these is a first time trip to Piles Copse, the third and less well known of the ancient oak woodlands of Dartmoor, situated on the banks of the River Erme, a few miles from Cornwood and Ivybridge.
I have visited Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse before, both of which are breathtakingly beautiful and popular, Piles copse has a less defined footpath so a map is pretty much essential.
Arriving at just before 7am, the sun is making its way into the sky, my first photo of the day is a copse of fir trees silhouetted by the morning light, a truly inspiring start to today’s outing.
With my need for some urgent shutter therapy and the outstanding natural beauty of the landscape, the hike towards Sharp tor takes a while, and upon reaching the tor, the view below is second only to the local equine population atop the hill.
From this vantage point, to the woods below is a steep zigzagging route weaving a path around the dense vegetation, it is clear that this is not a well used path.
The copse itself is owned and managed by the Howard family, who thankfully allow rights of access through the woodland but camping is not allowed with the area being designated site of scientific interest status.
Like Wistman’s wood and Black a tor copse, one could be forgiven for thinking that you had come to middle earth, the lichen and moss coated trees and rocks, and twisted tree limbs looking so beautifully other worldly.
I find my usual photographic fodder of back lit leaves and dappled sunlight through the trees, a spiders web shimmering in the gentle breeze that whispers quietly as it passes by.
The route out of the copse is as hard as the one in, yet for this, I feel a sense of reward, nothing as beautiful as this should be easy to reach, the total distance of just under six miles feels more like ten but I feel privileged to have completed the Dartmoor triumvirate of ancient woodlands.
Summer arrived this weekend, its suitcase packed with blue skies and temperatures in the mid to late twenties centigrade, the first prolonged period of decent weather for some time.
Not wishing to sound ungrateful but I will not be one of the many seeking sand, sea and surf, instead I will seek the shade of a woodland walk, while continuing with my series of vintage lens shoots.
Today’s lens of choice is a Helios 44-2 58mm lens, bought some years ago on an online auction site, these lenses are known for their swirly bokeh wide open at F2, with a decent sharpness throughout the focal range.
My introduction to the Helios lens was with my first film camera in the 1980’s, a Zenit TTL, at that time,it would be true to say that I did not appreciate what I had, equally, my relationship with photography had barely begun.
Today’s destination is Dane’s wood, owned by the National trust just a couple miles from the Killerton estate near the village of Broadclyst.
Normally, my woodland walks tend to be in the mid to late autumn months, capturing the changing colours of nature, today will be finding areas of interesting light, flora and fauna, looking for more abstract shots of the woodland.
It is a slow amble through the woods, enjoying the cool shade of the trees,while listening to the birdsong above as I look for my next subjects, of which there is plenty. More and more, I am enjoying the more deliberate process of manual focusing, for sure, auto focus has its many advantages but for me it is not critical in capturing the ‘moment’ in an instant as it would be a journalist, sports or wedding photographer.
A two hour mooch around the woods seems like just a few minutes, it never ceases to amaze me how fast the time passes by on my camera walks. Emerging from the woodland path to the car park, it appears that the world and his brother are looking for a parking space, it looks like a good few others have no wish to go the beach either.