So summer is well and truly here, and the Devon countryside is bedecked in green, the coast alive with visitors and the sparkling sea lapping calmly at the shore. It surely must be time to race out to photograph anything and everything that Devon has to offer - and that is, actually, rather a lot.

I've said it before, but we really are hopelessly spoiled for choice when it comes to photo subjects in Devon, especially in summer. But that in itself can be a problem. Where on earth do you start? Well, we can start by pinpointing what difficulties are associated with summer photography, and from there work out how to be highly selective in what and how we shoot, in order to get the best.

One of the main problems of summer photography is that the sun gets awfully high in the sky, in the middle of the day delivering an often harsh light that is rather blue in colour. It also makes shadows very short, resulting in scenes that look quite flat and lifeless. In short, images shot during the middle of a sunny summer's day often don't look that great.

The solution is to shoot early in the morning and late in the evening, when the sun is low in the sky. At these times the light has a little red in it, making it feel rather 'warm' in atmosphere. The low sun also generates good long shadows that enhance the three dimensional feel of your subjects. The difficulty then, of course, is persuading yourself to get out early enough in the morning, so you may find the evening option a little easier to handle, unless you're intending to photograph east-facing subjects, in which case early morning is the only option!

Of course, on cloudy days, and if the aim of your summer photography is simply to catch some snaps of Devon, then the early and late rule doesn't apply. However, on sunny days and for photography requiring top quality lighting and colour it's quite an important guide to follow.

That said, there are times when you may want deliberately to shoot when the sun is high, such as to have that rather bluish light and short shadows, features that enhance the sense of 'heat' and 'the height of summer'. Furthermore, although many photographic scenes don't work too well when they're crowded with people, there are times when 'busy' is just what you want, such as for example in photographing watersports or outdoor dining.

Most of the shots here are taken early or late in the day, except for one shot on a cloudy day (Dart Valley), one taken under high, rather bluish sunlight (Mattiscombe), and a couple that capture a bit of human action (Royal William and Windsurfing Exmouth). I hope you'll love the images, and that they will inspire you to shoot the best Devon has to offer this summer.

Great British Life: Bayards Cove. Photo: Nigel HicksBayards Cove. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Bayard’s Cove

Bathed in early morning sunlight, the historic buildings of Bayard's Cove, in the heart of Dartmouth, come alive with a stunningly warm glow across their whitewashed walls. The buildings all face east, so to have them illuminated by the sun they need to be shot in the morning. Shooting while the sun is still low in the sky, within an hour or two of sunrise, ensures not only that the buildings are sunlit but also that the quality of the light is warm and 'flattering', rather than harshly blue.

Great British Life: Wildflowers at Berry Head. Photo: Nigel HicksWildflowers at Berry Head. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Wild flowers at Berry Head

A pyramidal orchid and a couple of greater knapweeds bask in golden evening sunlight with the sea as a backdrop on Berry Head, near Brixham. One of the really unexpected joys of the Torbay coast is the mass of wild flowers that adorn the grasslands of this exposed limestone headland. From late May through to July, Berry Head is awash with a succession of flowers, both coastal maritime specialists and those more normally found on inland limestone grasslands. The orchid shown in this image is frequently found both inland and at coastal sites, though the greater knapweed is more usually an inland flower.

Great British Life: Dart View. Photo: Nigel HicksDart View. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Dart View

Arguably one of Devon's most famous sights, the view from Kingswear of the Dart estuary snaking through the verdant Devon countryside in early summer, and filled with moored boats, really takes some beating. Photographed in early morning with the sun still reasonably low in the sky, the whole scene is bathed in a 'fresh' warm light that enhances the calmness of the scene.

Dart Valley

The boulder-strewn River Dart tumbles downhill from its Dartmoor home, passing through ancient oak woodlands that crowd in all around. Newly leafed-out at the start of summer, the forest is lush and vibrant, a rich and warm contrast to the starkness of the bare trees in winter. This deep valley landscape, seen on a cloudy day in the Dart Valley Nature Reserve, is home not only to the River Dart, but also some of Dartmoor's most ancient woodland, a very different environment to views of the river on the open moor just a few miles further upstream.

Great British Life: Lympstone. Photo: Nigel HicksLympstone. Photo: Nigel Hicks


Basking in a summer's evening sunlight the riverside village of Lympstone, on the eastern shore of the Exe estuary, looks quite idyllic, a feeling enhanced by the fortuitous arrival of a boat. The whole image just epitomises the feelings of summer, fun and holiday, all the things we look forward to at this time of year. Photographing the scene from the end of the village harbour jetty enabled me to look back at the village and so capture this harbour and shoreline scene.

Great British Life: Mattiscombe. Photo: Nigel HicksMattiscombe. Photo: Nigel Hicks


A huge weather-worn boulder stands in the shallows, surrounded by crystal clear waters, and lit by a high summer sun, just offshore from the beach at Mattiscombe, near Start Point. For all the world more closely resembling a Mediterranean scene rather than anything in the UK, for me this simple image epitomises the summer beauty of Devon's south coast.

Great British Life: Royal William Yard. Photo: Nigel HicksRoyal William Yard. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Royal William Yard

Summer alfresco lunches on the harbourside in Royal William Yard, one of Plymouth's old Royal Naval dockyards now finding a new lease on life as a fashionable waterside dining and yachting experience. Shot in early evening, this could only be summer of course, and for me this image encapsulates the feeling of outdoor summer relaxation on the Devon coast.

Great British Life: Sutton Harbour. Photo: Nigel HicksSutton Harbour. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Sutton Harbour

As dusk falls over Plymouth's Sutton Harbour, the very modern restaurants and bars lining the historic Barbican's wharf start coming to life, past and present woven together neatly by the presence of a tallship. Dusk is often the best time to photograph city views, particularly when it comes to waterside scenes, as well as outdoor restaurants and bars. But always they must be shot while there is still light in the sky. The violets, blues and pinks of the evening sky add mood and colour and complement the man-made lights, and the buildings still clearly visible against the evening sky.

Great British Life: Teign estuary. Photo: Nigel HicksTeign estuary. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Teign Estuary

Early morning sunlight bathes the beautiful, hilly countryside that surrounds the calm waters of the River Teign estuary. Shot just a couple of miles from Teignmouth and hence the sea, this golden, early summer landscape paints a gloriously tranquil rural idyll that - in my mind at least - totally captures the essence of Devon's beauty. When you see a landscape like this, why would you want to be anywhere else?

Great British Life: Kite-surfing and windsurfing at Exmouth. Photo: Nigel HicksKite-surfing and windsurfing at Exmouth. Photo: Nigel Hicks

Windsurfing Exmouth

In a strong summer breeze, a windsurfer powers across the water just offshore from Exmouth beach, the sands and dunes of Dawlish Warren forming a distant backdrop. During the summer months Exmouth's inshore waters are transformed into a windsurfing and kite-surfing mecca, attracting people from all over the country. A hugely colourful scene, I find the watersports off Exmouth quite exciting to photograph. You have to get things just right, however - a good strong wind to power the sails and kites, decent sunlight to lift their colours and to add that oh-so critical sparkle to the water, and a good, rapid-focus telephoto lens that can keep track of the fast-moving action. A great piece of summer fun.

Great British Life: Beautiful Devon bookBeautiful Devon book ABOUT NIGEL

Nigel is a Devon-based professional photographer who has worked with the USA’s National Geographic Image Collection and the UK’s Dorling Kindersley publishers, and who regularly supplies a number of magazines and international photo agencies. In the South West he runs regular one-day photography workshops and is available for bespoke photography training. He has provided the photography and text for a host of books, including Beautiful Devon and Wild Southwest, both of which are widely available.

Great British Life: Wild Southwest bookWild Southwest book