I went for a New Year’s Day stomp on Dartmoor to make the best of the good weather after a few overcast days. My destination was Higher White Tor via Littaford Tor and Longaford Tor as, having visited a few times on walks, I am yet to get a “nice light” photo from there.
These are my favourite photos of 2017. It wasn’t a prolific year for me but I am quite pleased with several of the photos I managed to get. There are possibly a number of reasons why it wasn’t a prolific year, but one must be the weather. I remember during late winter and early spring having a frustrating time of it at weekends, with few opportunities to get out due to rain. Another frustration was autumn – I normally love getting out into autumnal woodlands, but somehow this year it passed me by. Or maybe I let it?
Despite the infrequent nature of my outings, I am pleased with a number of the resulting photos. They may not all be technically perfect but they are personal favourites. One common theme is that many were
Hay Tor was the last place I was expecting to end up on this particular morning. Well, I guess that’s not strictly true as, Dartmoor-wise, Fur Tor would have been a little less likely, but “boring old Hay Tor” wasn’t high on my list of destinations.
It’s been a slow autumn for my photography. I’ve had little chance to take time off work when the weather has looked promising so I’m depending on weekends to get out and about, and the conditions haven’t favoured me.
Still, a Saturday morning a couple of weekends ago looked OK. A front had passed during the evening and overnight; showers and strong winds followed in the morning and I hoped to get up to the moor and get some early morning rainbow action.Read more
With sunrise still conveniently late, I’m taking my opportunities to put some miles in for sunrise shots. Today’s destination was Peek Hill on the west of Dartmoor, overlooking Burrator Reservoir. I’d been here a few weeks ago to a cloudless sky and I was hoping for better this time after overnight rain. I wasn’t sure what to expect after coming out of a fogbound Princetown so I parked up the car and strolled the short distance to the viewpoint with a sense of anticipation. I have to admit that the last thing I was expecting was Read more
On Sunday morning I found myself at Sharp Tor on Dartmoor. There are several Sharp Tors and I guess that this one is one of the easiest to access. It’s the one just off the Ashburton to Two Bridges road and with a very convenient car park.
Truth be told, I was heading further west to Peek Hill above Burrator. For the previous twenty minutes I had been wondering why I had bothered as the sky was resolutely overcast. I was contemplating going home but thought Read more
Ever since I first saw it, perched on the side of its hill in mid Dartmoor, I’ve wanted to visit Crow Tor. It’s not a straightforward walk in and a diversion from the Littford/Longaford/Higher White Tor ridge, or down and up from Beardown Tors is required.
I chose the latter and on an admittedly impulsive walk (I had planned to go elsewhere) decided to pay a quick visit as the low cloud was promising some dramatic side-lighting.
I got lucky and, despite not getting my pre-envisaged shot, I am quite pleased with the result here. It was a nice walk in and, in the calm after sunset, a nice walk back. As usual, I wished I could have stayed for longer.
I’d gotten into the mindset that I’d be having a lie-in this Saturday morning. The initial forecast a couple of days ago was for a totally cloudy weekend. No photography for me then but, hey, that meant I could have a wine-soaked Friday evening and maybe watch a good film.
Then I checked the forecast again.
The cloud was forecast to clear by 9. Sunrise was at 8:15. With a bit of give in the timing of the forecast it looked like I might get a good sky for the golden hour, so it was off to bed early(ish) for me and off up to Dartmoor to see what I could get. It is a new year resolution of mine to hunt out new locations and, having spent much of 2011 photographing coastal seascapes, I have added Dartmoor to the list of places that I really should explore this year.
Easing myself into my resolution I thought I’d just potter around Hay Tor and Saddle Tor and see what compositions I could get. Turning up well before sunrise it was still raining, and pretty damn windy, but I had faith in the forecast and wandered off trying to pick out a viewpoint with my head-torch. I found an OK, but not too inspiring, viewpoint on Saddle Tor and, sure enough, with about 20 minutes to go the cloud began to break and there was a good-ol’ letterbox on the horizon promising some first-light low rays to light up the scenery around me.
Then things began to go wrong.
The letterbox filled in, and the cloud passing overhead began to seemingly “bunch up” on the horizon, meaning no decent light until way after sunrise. It was clear overhead so I stayed put on the moor but took the time to find a better viewpoint. Eventually I found a composition which might work, so set the camera up on the tripod, framed my composition, and waited. A few minutes later I rooted around in my camera bag — what for I can’t remember now — and was abruptly stopped in my tracks by the sound of the tripod falling over, a victim of the strong winds. I don’t care about a tripod falling over by itself, but when it has a Canon EOS 5Dmkii and 24-105L lens on top, that’s a different matter. I swore, picked everything up, gave it a quick visual check, dried it off, and thought “phew – no damage done”.
[edit #1: Turns out I had a broken leg clamp on my tripod]
This had really hacked me off, and the thickening cloud-bank did little to lighten the mood. For some reason I didn’t like where I was any more but, rather than head home, I headed off looking for a post-sunrise location elsewhere.
Ending up at “the tree“, which I’d always promised myself I would avoid, I set up a compo and waited for the light. There were little patches of light hitting the ground in the middle distance around me now, and I promised myself it would eventually come good where I was. Firing off a test shot to check out the compo, I heard the mirror lock up, and then pressed the shutter release button on my cable release again to expose the scene. Nothing. Tried switching it off and switching it on again. As soon as the camera took power from the battery the mirror would lock up again and I couldn’t release the shutter to take a shot. I couldn’t get the damn thing to do anything. I packed up and trudged and drove the hour home in a mood thinking, not really of the cost of the repair — things break and I can take the cost of that on the chin, or go to insurance if the cost is too great for that, but mainly of the time I would be without camera. From past experience of sending off camera gear I would be sans camera for anything between 2 and 12 weeks.
[edit #2: The cost of repair clocks in at a jaw-dropping 670 quid — insurance it is then …]
Getting home I unpacked and tried the camera again. It worked! For about 3 shots and then failed again. I’m unable to change any of the settings using the buttons on the control panel, and I can’t release the shutter. So, off to the Colchester camera repair centre it is ….
Lets look on the bright side and assume I’ll be camera-less for only 3 weeks. What can I do in the meantime? Well, certainly not “visit Start Point for sunset before the sun starts setting around the headland” which was another of my resolutions. And maybe not “visit the Somerset levels for some starling action” which was another, as they may be gone by the time I get the camera back. So, in no particular order, my next few weeks will be spent:
Much of my landscape photography over the last couple of years has involved water — mainly coastal images taken at either end of the day, and many of these were taken with me and tripod standing in the water. Trouble is that my photography footwear has been a trusty pair of old walking boots for as long as I can remember and I’ve become fed up of suffering for my art, with water coming in over the top of my boots. Therefore, and long overdue, my latest photographic purchase has been a simple pair of wellington boots.
Somewhat, but unavoidably, too late in the season I set off for Dartmoor to get some autumnal shots of the fast flowing shallow rivers. Having seen some excellent images by Mark Lakeman and Andy Cosway on Flickr of Hisley Bridge, my chosen destination was the river Bovey just outside Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor. I was quite interested in exploring this area as it was new to me.
We turned up at the car park and set off down the hill towards the river. It was only about a kilometre walk to the bridge but, with a three year old toddler in tow, it took about an hour to get there, having been distracted by such exciting diversions as ants, sticks, and muddy puddles on the way.
Arriving at my new photo location, I spent the next hour or so stood in the middle of this fast flowing shallow river which had a surprisingly strong current for its depth. I tried various compositions but found the bridge itself surprisingly hard to place in a photo so, after a while, I headed off downstream to get some compositions which didn’t feature the bridge itself. The light was dim which led to shutter speeds of several seconds and nice milky water. I’ve posted my favourite shots below.
I knew when it was time to go as I got a bit over confident and found the water coming over the top of my new wellies. The kilometre back to the car was spent with toddler (who had spent the last hour with mummy on the banks) on my shoulders so that soggy feet could be dealt with as quickly as possible. Next year I’ll be in the rivers of Dartmoor by mid-October at the latest and I’m looking forward to it already …