Mike Wright Photography

20th January 2018


Some good news this month – I have had four photographs accepted for display in an exhibition entitled, 'Capturing Dartmoor' at Wildwood Arts Gallery in Horrabridge, running from 10th to 17th February, (Website:  wildwoodart@dartmoor.co.uk), so if you are in the area get down and have a look.  It's worth a look without the exhibition - it has some beautiful artwork by local artists.  The exhibition is a good opportunity to get my pictures enlarged and framed to a gallery standard. They are now framed and waiting to be curated.  I had lots of compliments, both from the people at the framing company and some of their customers.  I'm looking forward to seeing them hanging with other photographers' work.


I have made a slight change to the website gallery this month – I've put a sub-gallery up. This is because I took so many pictures of birds at the Bowling Green Marsh Reserve that I didn't think people would want to wade through them all, so if you like birds, particularly shots of large flocks of waders wheeling around the landscape and forming amazing patterns, have a look. I think it is well worth it.


Having struggled with my knee after falling before Christmas, it's getting back to as normal as it is ever likely to get until I get a knee replacement to get rid of the arthritis. I'm gradually extending the distance I'm walking and also the difficulty of the terrain. I still haven't managed to get up a tor, yet, but I am walking up stairs normally and beginning to do it without thinking about how much it is going to hurt. Coming down stairs is a bit more painful, and walking down all but the gentlest slope is more difficult than walking up them, and is unlikely to get much better – something I'm just going to have to grin and bear and keep taking the paracetamol.


The first few pictures this month were taken at Lopwell, parking at Maristowe Quay and walking along the lane to the Dam, which is quite flat and not a challenge to walk along. It was one of those cold, wintery, December, days where everything was completely still and pretty much completely dead. For quite a while, there was no movement in the hedgerows, no birdsong and no birds flying past. Hence most pictures are of the remnants of summer. Then I spotted the goldcrest foraging through the bushes and had a few minutes trying to catch it on the few occasions that it gave me a good view. While painful, the knee held up walking this relatively short distance, so I was quite pleased.


The next set of shots came after Christmas. We have a family tradition of our family meeting up with my sister-in-law's family between Christmas and New Year, staying for a night in an hotel. This year we went to the Passage House Hotel, just outside Newton Abbot. Both families had a great time, but I was particularly pleased that the hotel is situated on the banks of the River Teign and there is a walk along the bank which I got up early for. It was a beautiful morning, frosty and cold, with a beautiful sunrise. The path was rougher than anything I had walked on since before Christmas and my my knee gave a few nasty twinges as it got put into a position which it didn't like, and stiffened up quite a lot on the occasions when I set up the tripod and stood in one place for a while. It was worth it for the pictures. The egrets here were much more confiding than the ones at Lopwell and I was particularly pleased with the light on the railway bridge and the reedbeds.


My next trip put was into Plymouth. The weather forecast was for big waves along the South Coast, so I thought I would try for a shot of waves breaking over the lighthouse on the breakwater. Unfortunately, the tide was wrong and the waves were breaking further out, so while they were quite high, they weren't hitting the lighthouse. Still, the light was good and there were some interesting shots to be had, so it wasn't a wasted trip. I did go on to Wembury, but the tide was right out by then and I didn't fancy the walk down the steep steps and slope to the beach, so I didn't stay.


A few days later we had another frost, so I went down to Bere Ferrers to catch the sunrise. To get a change of viewpoint I went into the churchyard and had a walk round the church to where I could see across the river. There were some canada geese around and some of the boats in the estuary showed up well in the frost and the early light. Also, see if you can spot the alien in the tree trunk!  Again, it wasn't a strenuous walk, and there weren't any great hills to walk up and down, so the knee coped quite well.


Following this shoot, Lesley had a course in Exeter, so I gave her a lift in and then went down to the RSPB's Bowling Green Marsh Reserve, where there is an excellent hide looking over some pools and wetlands. This time, the tide worked well, as it was coming up towards high tide when I arrived, so as the water rose out in the Exe Estuary, the birds were forced off their feeding grounds and came up to the reserve until the tide dropped again. The result was large flocks of Black Tailed Godwits wheeling across the sky and later, large flocks of avocets arrived. This was all in addition to the swans, a range of ducks, little grebes, lapwings and smaller waders that were quietly feeding and occasionally flying around.


I ended up filling my card and having to delete pictures so that I could continue taking pictures until it was time to leave and go and pick up Lesley. I took so many pictures that, as mentioned above, I have put these shots into a separate gallery, so that if you are not interested in birds, you don't have to plough through them. It was a good mile walk along streets and then a downhill along a lane to reach the reserve, so it was a good trial for the knee, which – while it ached a bit – was working more normally.


My next shoot almost didn't happen. I looked out of the kitchen window and saw mist down in the valley. It seemed to be quite thick so I ummed and ahhd a bit and then decided that I should go out and thank goodness I did. The mist was fantastic, ebbing and flowing, revealing some parts of the valley and then covering it up again. I was really pleased with the shots I got, shooting from three different locations. I began at the top of the lane which runs down to Gawton, and then moved to the crossroads just above Philleigh Farm, and finished next to the Tamar at Wier Quay. I would have liked to get a shot of a train going across the viaduct with only the top showing, but none came. I have checked the timetables now, so the next time there is a mist, I shall be out at the right time and hopefully catch the train floating in the mist.


The final photographs this month are of some mould which was growing out of one of the bird feeders. When it rains, the seeds swell and jam, so don't reach the feeding points. If they are left, they go mouldy and it was their fruiting bodies which I took pictures of before emptying and washing the feeder.


I have been up on The Moor over some rough walking and the knee has held up. It was quite painful walking down towards a stream, and the big problem I have is having the confidence to step down (even a small step of a couple of inches) when I haven't got anything to support me after I put my foot down. I think I'm probably going to have to invest in a thumbstick, just to give me the confidence to take these steps. More detail next month.