It feels a bit strange to start reminiscing about things that happened a month ago, but the weather moves quickly from summer to Autumn and we’ve already had the heating on a couple of evenings in my house. It also distracts me from completing several worthy write ups of the Tamron 15-30mm lens and the Sony 35mm F1.4. Regardless, summer was fun this year, after the trauma of last years house move. I’ve already covered our trip to Norfolk, so I won’t talk about that.
What I will cover is two camping trips and a holiday in Dorset. The first camping trip is a bit of a swizz since it involved camping in the back garden. I only even mention it because it leads to me posting this long exposure, which is one of the first pictures I took with my A7RII. We were taking part in the RSPB big wild sleep out, an event intended to get kids interested in the nature in their back gardens. Thankfully, our son didn’t hate camping!
I say thankfully because we had booked in to camp at a nearby campsite (Church Farm) at Ardeley (near Stevenage) in mid August. This was all minded towards gently introducing the concept of camping to our son. The event involved campfires, bands, bees and barbecues (and quite a bit of cider for the parents too…).
In an added bonus the campsite is part of a community run farm. This meant that when Mum and Dad were a wee bit hung… I mean tired, our son got to have some fun feeding the animals.
There was also an opportunity in the evening to take shots of the night sky with the A7RII and 16-35. The view of the stars was beautiful, but I’m still no astrophotographer. I did have some fun with the light effects from the campfires and tents though.
It’s jurassic! At the end of August we headed to Swanage in Dorset for a week. This was great fun but it didn’t start well when the dimensions we had been given for the parking garage turned out to be “a bit off.” It was lucky there was some long term parking nearby otherwise I think I would have gone ballistic (I had double checked the dimensions with the agent). In fairness, we did get the cost of the parking refunded after complaining.
On arrival we headed for the beach, where of course it began to rain! Traditional British seaside weather… We did have an amazing walk via the pier and along the beach though and watched the arrival of a sailing ship, Moonfleet, which made the day. Our son gave us comedy value too by leaping into every foxhole allow the beach like a demented call of duty player!
Swanage itself is fun. It’s been a seaside resort since the 19th century, but feels very at ease with itself in a way other such resorts sometimes don’t. It’s amusing seeing the bears and gorillas on the high street and people are very friendly. It even has street art on the walls and when we visited a group of bikers were there for a few days.
The street art in Swanage is really on the old Pier Head building, condemned many years ago as being unfit for use, but stuck in a battle between developers and the council over redevelopment. It’s of surprisingly good quality.
This is a place that doesn’t do much commercial fishing by comparison to some of the other places we’ve visited on the coast this year, but the RNLI (the lifeboat charity) is very much in evidence here as well and you have to wonder if all the leisure activity makes it busier, not quieter for them.
Of course no trip to Swanage is complete without a journey on the (heritage) railway. In this case I visited the station one morning while on my way to retrieve breakfast and one of the volunteers kindly agreed to pose for a portrait and I got to watch a diesel move some trucks around. My inner 4 year old was thrilled. 😉 Needless to say another trip was planned with the real four year old.
The next day we took the train over to Corfe Castle, the amazing castle in the middle of the isle of Purbeck that was blown up by the parliamentary army that captured it in the civil war. The heritage railway runs right past the castle, making for amazing views. The steam trains also include a “spam can” similar to the one I saw pulling the “White Rose” earlier in the year. Again, some very kind volunteers were kind enough to pose for me (impressive moustache too).
Corfe castle is great fun to visit and the remains make it very easy to visualise the structure that existed before Cromwell’s army blew it to smithereens. It’s odd what people think of photography when you are out and about though. While our son was eating lunch on a bench I found myself getting evils from the couple on the next bench as I took photos of the castle. This was kind of odd, since the lens wasn’t pointed at them and they were sitting on a bench in front of an eye catching historical monument. It seems quite unlikely, in that situation, that you are the subject. Part of me wants to holler over “look behind you!” like a bad pantomime audience. 😀
On the way home we got to admire the steam engines of the railway again. What amazed me is that in taking shots in auto ISO the D810 defaulted to ISO 4000 but the results were genuinely acceptable. This shocked me because I thought the limit I would get acceptable results at was ISO 1600. Of course the highlights were blown, but I didn’t really care given the quality of the result.
No trip to Swanage would be complete without a visit to the beautiful Durlston Country Park. Since we walked up the hill from town, I packed my A7RII in anticipation of a long walk. Pretty glad I did because we walked out from the restaurant to the globe and Anvil Point lighthouse. I remember trying to do this walk with a buggy and a 2 year old in 2013 and thinking it was a nightmare. Actually it was a nice, brisk walk with some amazing views of Tilly Whim caves and the coast. Once past the lighthouse we carried on down the slope back towards Swanage.
It was nice to get out of Swanage and visit a couple of places nearby we had not been to before. One of these was Kimmeridge bay. This is notable for the amazing natural bay, the fossils, the Clavell Tower and the recent installation of an Anthony Gormley sculpture, LAND, on rocks near the cliffs under the tower. The sculpture is amazing, but when we visited we found that someone had painted a picture of it onto the rocks nearby. Sadly, it seems that the sculpture has been damaged in a storm at the time of my writing this post. Hopefully it can be re-erected as it was an eye opener.
Our son and I wanted to climb the hill and visit the Clavell Tower ourselves, which was fun but the walk wasn’t the easiest with a 4 year old in tow! For those who don’t know, the Clavell Tower was built in about 1830 by Reverend John Richards Clavell as an observatory and folly. It was used for many years as a lifeguard station until it burned down in 1930. Between 2006-08 it was moved brick by brick to its current location to preserve it from coastal erosion. If you have a bob or two you can now stay in it as a holiday let.
On the beach we found the remains of some Second World War pill boxes, slowly eroding away and full of pebbles from the beach.
Of course, no trip to Dorset is complete without visiting Lulworth Cove and the scenic beauty of Durdle door. Last time we visited, the steps to the beach by Durdle Door had been damaged by erosion and hadn’t been replaced, leading to a hairy walk from the cliff tops carrying respectively a toddler and a buggy. This time, the steps were in place and thus the walk was a good bit easier to contemplate.
We didn’t get too long to visit Lulworth Cove but I do highly recommend the ice cream. In addition, if you know anything about geology the bay is somewhere you’ll love to visit.
Having stayed in Swanage, we of course ended up spending the most time on the beach (in particular Knoll Beach) in Studland (I have to confess here that we wanted to stay in Studland but it was booked out). It’s not free, but it’s beautiful and our son loves it, building sand castles left and right. We visited 2 years ago, but it’s always been immensely relaxing to me every time we’ve visited. Spookily, my father let me know I had visited as a small child (which I didn’t remember).
I also heartily recommend the pub in Studland, the Bankes Arms, which has a great beer garden near to the sea. It was where, a few years ago, I took one of my favourite images of my son after he had finished tidying all the rubbish in the beer garden (or at least trying to). This time around the beer garden allowed for some impressive games of hide and seek with some children our son befriended. I will confess as a proud parent there’s something magical about watching your child learn about childhood experiences as the afternoon transitions slowly to dusk.
On one visit to Knoll Beach we decided to wander over the headland from Studland to the chalk cliffs of old Harry Rocks, which is about 2 miles. The coast here is amazing but absolutely terrifying if you are a bit scared of heights. In particular, there’s a tiny projecting bit of rock just wide enough for one person to walk out on next to the rocks themselves. I will confess here to bottling it at that prospect. Nevertheless the views were spectacular and I put my D810 to good use on this walk. On the way back we saw rabbits left, right and centre.
Before we left Swanage, we thought we would visit the pier again and investigate the tall sailing ship we had seen moored there. It was a replica of a frigate, Shtandart, from Peter the Great’s navy (circa. 17th/18th century). As no plans existed to such ships she had been constructed based on equivalent Dutch and English designs and contemporary descriptions. Amazingly, it was possible to board and view the ship which was a bit of a treat before we headed for home.
I had decided to take fewer cameras on this trip, being the D810, the A7RII and the Leica Q. All performed really well. I ended up forgetting my Nikon 24mm which served as a spur to investigate the Sigma 24mm F1.4 on a prompt from a contact, which happened to have a major discount and turned out to be excellent optically. This has resulted in the sale of my Nikon 24mm F1.4G and my Zeiss 25mm F2. The Leica Q is about the perfect small travel camera, being larger than the RX1 but so much more responsive. Sadly, I think one of my Nikon D750 or Df is going to be sold too. Ultimately, I don’t need 3 DSLRs. The A7RII is a camera I’m a fan of too. It isn’t perfect, but it’s very competent and accurate in everyday use. I hadn’t thought to find a small camera which was broadly the equal of my D810 in terms of image quality, but it impressed me on this trip.
All in all, lots of fun!
Taken with my: (i) D810, Sigma Art 24, 35 and 50; Nikon 70-200 F4G and 80-400 lenses; (ii) A7RII, 16-35, 35, 55 and 70-200 lenses; and (iii) my Leica Q. Click through pictures to see exif information (camera settings).