Swimming against the flow
Coot at Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 18 Mar 2013.

Chew Valley Lake is a large artificial reservoir that provides much of Bristol’s water.  It is fed by the River Chew at its southern end, where the river enters a pool that is channelled under a main road to flow on out into the main body of the lake.

The flow of the channelled water under the road is considerable.  In the picture above, the water is flowing in from the left and down over a small concrete step, and the force of the flow over that step is producing waves and turbulence on the right.

And yet this little waterbird has passed through all of this aquatic turmoil with speed and consummate ease.  Its wake, swept back around it by the force of the flow it is swimming against,  is still visible, right over to the image’s right margin.   Totally at home on the water, it has swum up and over that submerged step with complete unconcern.  I was impressed.

Compositionally, the small submerged step forms a dark linear feature that bisects the image from lower left to upper right, and which is the boundary between the calmer water on the left and the turbulent water on the right.  If this were a person swimming, they would be heading for a calmer, less hectic life.

The area of paler and relatively smooth water immediately behind the bird helps the image, I think, and it is real, i.e. not digitally induced.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset.



  1. I like the dark tones of this image – and the composition – very much. I also like the metaphor it represents, as you describe with your words about the swimmer heading for a calmer, less hectic life. I was looking for calmer water when I left that stressful job at the turn of the year. What replaced it was a hidden vortex beneath which has spun me around dragging me under from time to time. I’ve been grateful for the little periods of calm inbetween this disturbance, and I hope I’ve emerged stronger.

    I hope you are fine, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M – I have to say that I like this image for the same reasons that you do – and it has emerged really from nothing and I’m happy to have created it – how honest can I get??? We think similarly.

      Retiring and often private soul that you are, I have sensed that you have been on a spiritual and not always smooth journey since leaving work. There are various paths here. On the one hand, relinquishing work can bring guilt and also doubts regarding one’s continuing usefulness. But, then again, not having work to worry over and become stressed about can serve to open the doors to other, deeper things. I too hope, very much, that you have emerged, and, given that, emerged stronger too, and perhaps with a greater self-knowledge. Drop me an email, if you feel like it.

      I think I’m fine, but we’ve been under a lot of strain since the autumn, emphasised by the sudden sledgehammer blow of the death, and I’m certainly not through all of those things yet. However, that said, my wife suffers far more than I do and I remain with the feeling that, for her, the worst may still be to come.

      Let’s hope that 2015 will bring good things for all of us! A

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, how well I know that feeling. Though I’m slowly catching up in the face of all that’s been commanding parts of me that I want to devote to the fun things, it’s a heavy paddle, and my swimming legs are trying to keep up with the demand. As I take a little time to gaze at my toes, I’m grateful for the web.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I love this whimsy – as in “As I take a little time to gaze at my toes, I’m grateful for the web.” – >>> have you been at the catnip again??? But of course I know the reality, my friend, and I hope that 2015 will see you making a very speedy and full recovery. Thank you for these words. All good wishes from me. Adrian


    • Thanks, Paula! Yes, the original photo is less dramatic – and its been lying on my computer for a long time. I was thinking of presented it in horizontal letterbox format, but playing around with crops over Christmas, this appeared. The bird is heading straight out of the frame but I ignored that. And as a wildlife shot, well yes, its not a conventional portrait either. Thank you again. I wish you a very good 2015. Adrian


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