SOMERSET LEVELS 285 – OH IT WAS COLD!!!
January 28, 2017 15 Comments
Yesterday, I left Bristol in the dark, something I don’t feel totally comfortable with now, my eyes no longer being in the full flush of youth. And the blackness was cold but, at least, there was no frost or ice – which would remove a definite danger from night driving. And the bulk of my journey would be on a large main road, the A38, which would (hopefully!) be less prone to problems than the small country lanes I usually infest.
So, driving down to the Levels – and on arriving there the roads suddenly started appearing white in the headlights. And, slow mentally as I can be, I started wondering what this whiteness might be. Well, you can guess what it was – it was thick frost and ice – and in emerging from the car for my first, before sunrise photos, I was hit by bitter cold and road surfaces I had difficulties standing up on.
But, what do you do? Turning around and heading home would be unthinkable, and, as usual (and this is an article of faith for Levels visits), I had a flask of hot, sweet coffee and thick, bitter marmalade sandwiches with me. So, nothing to think about really, just get on and enjoy the place, get the camera out and see what happens.
So I did just that. And although the Levels no longer inspire me photographically as much as they once did – most probably because I’ve photographed them so vastly much – I did take a few photos. And, as always on these visits, I had a pair of binoculars with me too – having been an avid (and, ultimately, professional) birder 1967-2002, birds are still very much in my soul. So rather than going down to the Levels with the rather stressful feeling that I must somehow find images, I just wander about with the bins – Leica 10×42’s, waterproof, heavy, excellent, rubber-armoured, built like a tank – and if photos appear they do, and if they don’t, well, they don’t.
Anyway, it was very early, a time of day I really like – and which I’ve recently been photographing in Bristol too. It was fiercely cold, but a delight being there, and I pressed on.
I fetched up at the Magic Carpark. a favourite place on Tadham Moor, and the sun was just about to rise. I drank the coffee, ate the sandwiches and conversed with the tall tree – a willow – that oversees all my visits. Thoughts of photographing the rising sun came to mind – but my fingers were by now so numb that I could no longer even feel the camera’s trigger let alone press it.
I think that, another time, I might put my fingers in the coffee to warm them up but, in this instance, I was driven to walking around this little, rough place with two fingers in my mouth. I was a bit like sucking an iced lolly, and I could only be grateful for the fact that no members of the tabloid press were on hand to document this undoubted example of the hedonistic and bohemian tendencies of the retired classes.
Anyway, here is one of the resulting images – the sun rising on 27 Jan 2017 above Tadham Moor, with a partly frozen water-filled ditch, a rhyne (rhymes with seen), bringing light and a little of the sunrise’s warmth to the foreground.
Technique: capturing Raw files as I invariably do (see below), it would of course be possible to considerably lighten the shadows in this shot, and to end up approaching something like a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. But I value shadows, I think that darkness adds greatly to many, many images – and in this case I’ve aimed at something like the way the scene looked like to my eyes, rather than illuminating every leaf and individual blade of grass. Chiaroscuro is a term in art (and photography is certainly an art) that describes the interplay of light and shadow, something of vast value in an image. There is a link to chiaroscuro in photography – here. Some pictures benefit from being totally lit, some don’t, its as simple as that.
Technique: Raw files are undoubtedly the format to use if you are contemplating anything like extensive post-capture processing of an image, i.e. rather than using the image straight out of the camera, or with minimal tweaking. I summarised the fundamental differences between Raw files and jpegs here.
Those with an eye for detail will notice (below) that I was using a Fujifilm X-T2 camera, rather than my usual X-T1. More on that another time.
X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 84mm (equiv); 1600 ISO.