Heading west in filthy weather over North Moor, on the Somerset Levels, southwest of Wells; 27 Oct 2011.

Damp and murk on the Somerset Levels: strong winds, rain cascading from dense, dark overcast, and puddles building up along on the roadside –  a mile or so ahead, the road is completely awash.

I hope this photo conveys some of the wildness of that dark morning.  I’m safe and dry in the car of course, and the illuminated dials on the dashboard convey something of being on the inside, looking out.  The two dark, antenna-like structures protruding from the bottom of the windscreen (roughly on either side of the road as we look at them) are the bases of the frantically flailing wipers, and the headlights are on full beam to light more of the scene.

Two technical points.  The astonishing D700 is working at 25,600 ISO – how I love the abilities of this truly gutsy camera!  And, although the (image stabilised) wideangle is wide open at f4 (and 1/20th second), the 16mm focal length still provides sufficient depth of field the render both the dashboard and the road reasonably sharp.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 16mm; 25,600 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2.


And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.


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