Cows on Aller Moor near Allermoor Farm, a mile or so east of Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 13 Aug 2010.
I love cows because they are always so inquisitive. When I appear, they come over to see who I am and what I’m doing – and then as soon as I make a sudden movement or take one step towards them, they shy backwards in great alarm!
I’ve said elsewhere that I like to get close in and right down alongside animals when I’m photographing them and here, rather than just taking a picture of some cows, I crouched right down in front of them to take this almost abstract composition. The sole sharp element in this shot is a darkly shining, damp and dimpled muzzle sprouting a few thin whiskers – and this muzzle is somewhere near the intersection of the image’s left vertical third and upper horizontal third, i.e. at a strong point in the composition.
The remainder of this cow and indeed the herd are only seen as softly focused, dark legs, that form strong, dark vertical elements cutting across the bright and pale greens of the backdrop – their field’s lush Levels grass.
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Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.
SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS
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.