Last week I had a few days off work; the thursday and friday. I’d booked them months ago with no real plans, but in my line of work if you don’t book leave early then you can find that before you know it there there is little opportunity to take any. By wednesday the weather was looking promising so we started looking for somewhere to go. That’s the problem with spontaneity, everyone else has already made plans and booked up all the nice places. We knew that we wanted to be by the sea but struggled to find anywhere that had the friday night free (most of them only had the thursday available). Eventually we got lucky, we phoned a place that was booked up on the friday, but who knew of somewhere in the same village that had availability. A quick phone call to the owners secured us two nights at The Cart Barn in Shute Barton. Which you can book for the week or if they have availability as bed and breakfast. They supply everything you need to make the brekkie yourself. Being set up like a self catering cottage it’s really nice to have your own place to sit, and also to make your own food if you want to.

This was a great base from which to explore west Dorset, which is somewhere we haven’t spent much time. I’m not sure why because it is a lovely part of the country. If you ask people what their perfect beach is then they would say it had to be sandy. Under normal circumstances I’d say the same, but I must admit that there is something satisfying to the sound of the sea rolling up and back down again over the top of a pebbly beach. Which is handy because pebbly seems to be what this side of Dorset offers. (Note – If you do want sandy I know the county offers that to the east, because I used to live near Poole and spent most of my wednesday afternoons on the beach between sandbanks and Bournemouth).

A particular favourite of ours was the beach by Burton Bradstock, mostly for the cafe there called The Hive. Not just a coffee and cake place, they do some fantastic simply grilled fish. And they don’t skimp on the portions either. I had a whole plaice that was falling off the side of the plate and my wife got a huge halibut fillet that was twice the size that you get in much ‘posher’ restaurants.

Whilst I’m on the subject of food, it’s worth giving the Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis a mention. All their bread is sourdough only. At lunchtime they offer the option of soup, curry, or salad all served in a bowl made from their bread. So that after you’ve eaten the filling you can eat the bowl too. The veggie curry had quite a bit of poke to it, and plenty of flavour.

Another place that we visited whilst down there was Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. They are very lovely, but the highlight for me was the dragonflies. The huge ones wouldn’t land for us, but some of the slightly smaller ones did. I swapped lenses and got the macro lens on (70-300 Tamron which has macro focusing between the 180-300 range). I managed to get a few shots, see below:


But I’m still learning so I need to be a bit more observant. Whilst I’m happy with the compositions I need to pay more attention to the settings. I had set to camera to shutter priority so that I could keep the shutter speed high. Using the lens at fully extended it is easy for camera shake to send even the best composed photo blurry; a fast shutter speed ensures that this is no problem. The problem with a fast shutter speed is that the camera will open the aperture to its highest setting, thus narrowing the depth of field. Combine this with the proximity of the end of the lens with the subject and you have the head or the body of the dragonfly in focus but the rest of it blurring into the distance. What I needed to have done was to increase the camera’s iso setting (left in auto mode it will try to keep the iso at its lowest). By taking it out of iso-auto increasing the setting to maybe 640/800 the camera would have naturally selected a smaller aperture and the therefore brought more of the subject into focus. There endeth the photography lesson.

As I said earlier I love the sea. Whilst at the Burton Bradstock beach I took the opportunity to swim in the sea, which is something that I haven’t done for ages. This is the right time of year to go wild swimming as the water is at it’s warmest, so there wasn’t that feeling of external bits shrinking into the body….

I thought I’d leave you with one of the all-time classic songs about the sea Charles Trenet’s 1946 song La Mer.