With summer all but a distant memory, my trips to local seaside towns become more frequent, especially when the first of the autumn winds begin to make their presence known.
A trip to the East Devon seaside town of Sidmouth did not disappoint on Friday, blustery winds and showers being on the meteorological menu.
I had initially thought that my ‘one frame’ blog from this trip would have been one of the photos I took of waves crashing dramatically over the sea wall, edited with a contrasty black and white vibe but there was just something about this scene that appealed more and was perhaps less of a photographic cliché.
In a world that is forever in a hurry, these coastal towns have a way of slowing down the madding crowd, where we actually make the time to watch the waves crash and recede over the beach below.
One frame – Pitville park Cheltenham
As a way of keeping a more regular blogging routine, I have decided to take a single frame from one of my photo shoots and give a little back story to the image.
I spent a few days away near Cheltenham last week, a town I have only ever passed through until now but was given a quick fire guided tour on the Sunday afternoon.
This particular location is Pitville park, first opened in 1825 and is the largest ornamental lake in Cheltenham.
I had wandered around the lake, looking for a suitable composition, as I was toing and froing , the sun peered from behind its cumulus mask to bathe the boathouse in its late afternoon light.
With the trees above me acting as a natural frame, this was my first shot of the day and easily one of my favourites from the four day excursion.
More moor moodiness
It’s a Sunday morning and an invitation to get out on to Dartmoor once again will rarely be turned down, today is no exception as I go through my pre outing routine of checking batteries are charged and most importantly, I have a thermos of tea to look forward to after the morning’s walk.
It’s a lovely September morning, that autumnal freshness is making itself more prominent, there are also signs of low cloud in the distance, as usual, my eyes are peeled for any impromptu shots on the way.
With this potential for mist in the landscape, the thought is to head to Foggintor, scene of quarry workings and former quarry workers buildings, long since abandoned.
The blue skies of Exeter, less than an hour earlier are replaced by more moody skies, my second shot of the day is barely yards from the car park, a wonderful interplay of light upon the landscape, one of the many reasons for my frequent visits here.
As I think about the images I have just captured, I look forward to whatever else I may be fortunate to see as the next 3 or four miles begin in earnest.
My next shot, taken a few steps to the left of the one above, will be the last of the sunlight I will see on the moor today, a huge front of ominous grey approached from the distance, there may well be a few monochrome images today.
The footpath passes Yellowmeade farm, the bovine community is out and about, of course I take a shot and a name immediately comes to mind for the image, ‘The Yellowmeade farm beef mountain’.
I come to realise This will become something of a theme today, the name of the image is decided before the click of the shutter, I come to realise that I actually do this on a regular basis…. here another one named before the shot was taken on the return leg of the walk.
It is a good half way around the walk that the grey seems to want a permanent residency over the landscape, a chance for me to experiment with black and white images in camera or for later editing.
The ruins that remain of this part of Dartmoor look stark against the barren moorland, I do my best to capture the atmosphere which is helped by approaching mist.
My favourite trees, alone in most cases, stand defiant as ever against the elements, while horses look to find what little shelter they may offer.
I will finish this blog entry with the last picks of todays’s outing, all in monochrome, these really capture the essence of the moor in it’s raw beauty.
Hound Tor walk
After a short two day week, I have three days off plus the weekend to enjoy some well earned time off.
What better way to enjoy the time, than to head out to Dartmoor for a little shutter therapy, a trip to Hound Tor, famously said to have inspired Conan Doyle’s The hound of the Baskervilles.
Dartmoor folklore has it that the tors were hounds turned to stone by a vengeful witch, while fact has Hound Tor recorded in the Domesday book as ‘Hundatora’.
It is a pleasant September morning, with a noticeably cool breeze, with sporadic sunshine peering from increasingly thickening clouds.
I am barely out of the car park before the first shot of the day is in the bag, looking back towards the car park and the view beyond, a low layer of cloud hangs over the landscape.
Climbing higher towards the Tors, there are already a few climbers being shown the ropes (pun intended) with much encouragement from their instructors below, I watch for a while, take a couple of snaps and continue onwards.
The views from here are nothing short of breathtaking, I take several shots in close proximity, each added to my treasure trove of Dartmoor memories.
No trip to the moor is complete without at least a couple of moody monochrome shots, there will be no exception to that rule today, as Dartmoor does what it does best in having a complete change of mind about the weather, from bright skies and some gorgeous light to grey skies and a poor attempt at rain in the matter of a few moments but for all that, in all her moods Dartmoor will always be beautiful.
I have only covered three miles today but it was always going to be more of a mooch and an explore rather than a full on hike, as usual, there are reasons to be back again as there are so many paths and trails to follow.
For all my trips here to the moor, I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface, what better excuse for continued exploration of this truly wonderful landscape.
Low tide at Exmouth
For last week’s three day weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend two of them out and about with the camera, with Dartmoor on Friday and a local trip to Exmouth on Sunday.
My expeditions to Dartmoor may be a more recent bookmark in my photography timeline but my love of the coast and seaside towns is etched into my DNA, growing up as I did in a small seaside town in South Devon.
Of course, in my formative years, I did not have a camera but my innate curiosity always drew me to the well weathered maritime paraphernalia of the fishing quays and the treasure trove of flotsam that would wash up on the beaches after a storm, the very things that I look to capture with my camera.
With the summer holidays now a fading memory, the local beaches will be a little quieter until half term, I have never been a ‘crowds’ person so I am happy to wait my turn to visit on my camera days out.
I have decided to travel light, it’s the x100v and the Ricoh Gr3 that have their place in my bag, however, it is the ‘V’ that will get most use today, as I have been experimenting with more ‘home brew’ recipes using the various film simulations built into Fuji cameras.
I have really enjoyed experimenting with these simulations, by doing so, I have learned the attributes of each and have started getting some pleasing JPEG’s out of camera, using Astia for my woodland walks with a warmer white balance to add vibrancy, while Classic chrome with a more muted colour setting is ideal for those moody days on the moor.
While I shoot today, I will be fine tuning a recipe based on the classic neg simulation that so many Fuji shooters love, another more muted based on the videocentric Eterna.
As the day seems to alternate between sunshine and overcast conditions, it will be a good test of how both act in different light, with an aim to using as many of the Jpeg images as possible for my final image.
Over the last few months I have been shooting this way more and more, simply because I love the colours that come from the Fuji camera and I am spending less time trying to replicate them via a computer screen and a plethora of sliders.
For the record, each of the gallery shots were from the Jpeg, with nothing more than a crop or a tweak in exposure settings.
A trip to Piles Copse
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.
Sunshine and steam
As life tiptoes cautiously back to a semblance of normality, today is a day I have been looking forward to for a long time, a visit to one of Devon’s steam railways at Buckfastleigh.
For as long as I have carried a camera, this has been a favourite destination and after an eighteen month absence, it is fair to say I am looking forward to it!
This small station always extends a warm welcome to its visitors, it is like being welcomed back into a long lost family, regardless of whether this is your first or umpteenth visit.
Regardless of how many times I have been to any steam railway station, the sight and sound of the steam locomotive arriving at the station never fails to bring out the excitement of the child within, grown adults with cameras around necks, almost running to get a good spot to take a picture.
The platform of course is the main stage but I take as much pleasure in exploring the sidings and workshop areas, watching the army of restoration experts and engineers bringing new life into forgotten heritage.
I am mainly using my Fuji X100V for this trip today, I have been experimenting with some film simulations recipes I am keen to try, two work really well while two more need a little tweaking but this for me is the joy of photography, more so that I am able to try in camera, rather than at a computer screen later.
With the second of my post lockdown trips ticked off the list, all that remains for me to do is post my pick of yesterday’s outing.
Film simulations with the ‘V’
Without doubt, Fuji’s X100 series of cameras have long held an appeal for me, the small form factor and image quality are now synonymous with most of Fuji’s crop sensor cameras but it is the film simulations and superb Jpeg engine that draw so many photographers of all levels into the Fuji fold.
I have mentioned in earlier blogs about my own reluctance to make the most of the Jpeg files with earlier models, the mantra of ‘RAW is best’ stuck in my mindset, that is until I really started to experiment, and appreciate just how good the images could be.
Every now and then, I make the decision to shoot just JPEG’s for an outing, today’s trip into town was one of those days, I just felt that I did not want to spend too long in front of the PC screen, I had already edited a load images from two previous outings from this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the editing process almost as much as the outing but occasionally, its good to let the camera do the work.
Only very basic edits were done to these images, a little added contrast, highlights and shadow adjustment and cropping / straightening where needed.
Outings such as this are a reminder of how much fun photography can be, it is all too easy to feel that even as amateurs we need to take a ton of gear with us and obsess over making every pixel count, instead of just getting out there and simply enjoying the moments we capture.
For the love of clouds
Photographers are an inherently fussy breed, in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ light we abhor those insipid grey washed characterless skies and take exception to those cloudless azure blue skies with equal measure.
To capture the mood of a rainy day requires adequately weather proof camera bodies and lenses, lacking both or either requisite we will keep our gear safe from the elements but moan that we cannot get outside.
For some the midday sun is to bright while an overcast night sky for an astro photographer is about as welcome as a bill from the tax man!
The nature of our hobby is such that not all conditions will suit everyone but my own addiction to shutter therapy means I will try to get out at any opportunity.
Of course, shooting a landscape in the harsh sunlight of mid day is not ideal, but take those same conditions to a busy city, where contrasting light and shadow may be found, it is only a matter of time before people will walk into these areas of light and some interesting shots can unfold.
The same may be said of those rainy days, reflections from the wet ground offer some good monochrome shots.
For most of us, the ideal conditions are those days with cloud leaden skies, where the sun escapes through the occasional gap to fall upon buildings or the ground below.
For me, this recipe is best served around the coast at low tide, the mud flats or shallow tidal channels reflecting the light and cloud.
I was fortunate enough just recently to have the weather gods on my side just a few days ago, the gallery below are a pick of the many and varied shots I took that day, inspiring the title ‘for the love of clouds’
A city at night
Last weekend was the first weekend in a long time that I did not manage to get out with the camera, my days off were spent unpacking boxes and settling into my new abode, so no opportunity for the usual shutter therapy.
My hopes for a bright and sunny Friday and Saturday are to be dashed by two days of wind and rain.
Ever the opportunist, Thursday evening is at least dry, so decide to head out for an hour or so, just around the city centre for some night time photography.
As I walk past St James station, I realise that I have lived in Exeter for twenty years and never taken a photo here, in daytime the small station is one of the many smaller ones along the Exmouth railway route but the lights reflecting on the platform catch my eye enough to take a photo.
In all honesty, I have no plan in mind for tonight’s impromptu foray, as with the station image, it will be whatever catches my eye, as I make my way into the city centre.
I love the way a city seems to take on another persona at night, the way light reflects onto other buildings, or onto the street, offer chances not seen during daylight hours.
While I do not consider myself to be a ‘crowds’ person, I look forward to times when the city streets will be busy once more, where the hospitality and retail industry can open their doors once more and to see my home city getting back to business as usual.