Terracettes at Up Sydling, near Cerne Abbas, Dorset; 3 Jul 2003.

Terracettes are step-like features formed on steep slopes, when the soil detaches itself from the underlying rock and moves very slowly downhill under its own weight; this is soil creep. The steps mimic the puckering up of a loose table cloth being pushed across a table top.

Here, at Up Sydling, high angle summer sunlight catches just the outside edges of the steps.  The many pale and apparently floating flecks in the deep shadows are the seed heads of grasses caught by the sun – the grass stems are mostly in shadow.

For me, two things contribute to this picture: the dark, massive, frame-filling hillside with its four bright green layers that contrast with the angle of the more fully illuminated grassy ridge at the bottom right of the photo.

And then the brightly illuminated thistle with its tiny spot of bright colour, which is just about on the intersection of the lower and left thirds of the composition.

Clicking onto the image opens a slightly larger version in a separate window.

OM-4 with 85mm-250mm Zuiko; tripod; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide.

About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Truels says:

    Very fine effects of the backlight in this great image!


  2. Meanderer says:

    Beautiful, Adrian. I love it.


  3. bluebrightly says:

    Interesting, both the photo and description.


  4. amazing!! like steps! the shadow makes it very mysterious!


  5. krikitarts says:

    Are the terracettes caused by years of sheep grazing and walking back and forth along the slopes? I’ve seen a lot of these in New Zealand and, as you’ve proved here, they can be very photographically interesting. I like your choice of the darker hues!


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      There’s no doubt that terracettes can be exacerbated by sheep etc walking along them, Gary, but I’m not sure that such animals initiate them – and especially so in instances where whole hillsides are covered in such regularly spaced steps. However I can’t be certain about this – a google search might shed light. Adrian


  6. paula graham says:

    Superb, my friend, delightful light, mysterious and beautifully photographed


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