10 August 2010

Extreme photo tour / workshop in Devon

It wasn't advertised as an extreme photo workshop, but that's what it evolved into.  However I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the second of my photo workshops, and the first in Devon.   Everyone met, and indeed most people were staying for a few days at Steve Lundy's lovely Home Farm Hotel & Restaurant.  There were 5 photo tourers (Pete, Sheila, Denise, Ryan & Peter), myself, and our driver and tour guide Russ Hewer from Tailored Tours UK.

After we'd established the level of humour everyone was at by Denise suggesting my Little Black Book of Scantily Clad Women should have wipe clean pages (if you don't get it, I'm not explaining it!), we enjoyed a lovely meal cooked up by Home Farm's master chef Dennis.

Our first stop was Haldon Belvedere (Lawrence Castle) where we had a slightly breathless climb to the top of the hill from the carpark, and then an even harder climb up to the top of the tower.  The views were fab, but the weather was not in our favour, the cloud cover was making everything look kind of bland and uninteresting.

After a quick stop at a pretty stone bridge over a river the next proper stop was in the village of Chagford.  It was maybe the most important stop of the day because it was time for a Devon cream tea.  What a tea it was.  We found a cute little tea place, and had the most amazing scones (still warm), clotted cream (heart attack think) and strawberry jam.  It was just perfect.

With everyone on a sugar high we hit the road again, this time heading onto Dartmoor proper with the aim of finding somewhere cool to photograph the sunset from.

We stopped next at Postbridge Clapper.  This is a bridge which is older than the earth itself (this may or may not be true).

While we were driving everyone in the car was shouting out whenever we saw, "SHEEP", "HORSE", "COW", or "CAR!!!" (when one was heading straight for us down a single track road).  We almost lost Ryan on a couple of occasions due to him nearly choking himself to death on his own laughter.

With a little bit of help from an old fashioned map, and a little bit of guess work we worked our way around some tiny single track lanes, almost breaking Russ's car on several occasions, until finally the roads stopped and the dirt tracks took over.  This is where the extreme photo tour started.  In Russ's specially prepared 2 wheel drive Ford (driven over 400,000 miles) Galaxy we ventured onwards up this track that even a 4x4 owner would have thought twice at.  A hundred metres and several shrieks of "we're all going to die!" later we decided it was probably best to stop and walk the rest of the way to the top of the tor.

Most of the group elected to climb the 10 minutes to the top of the tor.  I decided to stay by the car.  Why?  I'm too fat to climb / I'm too lazy to climb / My camera bag has wheels but wasn't going to roll over rocks very well / I thought I'd get better sunset photos where I was / To keep Denise company (delete as applicable).

The grey clouds had started to break a couple of hours before sunset, and with an hour to go I had a feeling we were in for a treat.  I wasn't wrong.  The sunset was one of the best I've seen in England.

The drive back to Home Farm was a bit of a trek.  We missed getting food at a Little Chef by just 45 seconds (which some might say is a blessing in disguise), and ended up stopping at Burger King on the M5 services.  They short changed me and only gave me 12 of their tasteless stupidly tiny chicken ball things instead of 14, but we'd eaten.

Back at the hotel everyone headed to their rooms and to bed, while Russ and myself both faced a 2 hour drive home.  On the plus side there was no traffic on the roads at midnight.

It had been a special day.  Thank you to everyone involved.  Photography doesn't get more fun than that.

Must concentrate.

A rare photo of the lesser spotted Sheila.

A long way down.

Russ trying to figure out where we are.

A sheep and my pupils up on the tor.

A self portrait of my legs.

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