SOMERSET LEVELS 314 – LOOKING EAST, TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


.

Looking eastwards along Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac road on Tadham Moor.  Tall Willows are silhouetted by the sunrise, and water-filled rhynes (ditches) flank the road on either side.  The distance is shrouded in fog, but the ghosts of cattle can just be made out in the background on the left.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 313 – LAPWINGS, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 


.

Driving westwards across Tealham Moor, and a long line of birds, high up above, caught my eye.  There was no traffic on the narrow road, so I stopped, watched and waited, wondering where they might be headed.  They came lower and wheeled about overhead, and I saw them to be Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), a type of large plover, that form large flocks in winter.  I started taking pictures.

Here, the flock is flying across in front of a bare, winter tree, and there are a few smaller, darker birds below them, which are Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

Compositionally, the flock is almost “resting on top” of the tree, the combination of the birds and tree making a ‘T’ shape within the image.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 30 Nov 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 312 – SUNRISE BEGINS, ALLERTON MOOR (MONO)

 

 


.
Driving south across the flatlands towards the village of Mark, in the early morning.

The landscape is low and dark, the night seeming unwilling to relinquish its grip.

But to my left, still below the horizon, the sun starts to light the clouds.

This picture is best seen enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 800 ISO; spot metering;  Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Sepia Landscape preset; Allerton Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 30 Nov 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 311 – SCHOOL BUS OUTSIDE GODNEY

 

 


.
The images in this short series from the Somerset Levels were taken on an absolutely beautiful morning, when the sunrise coincided with banks of thick fog.  Most if not all of the other images celebrate the natural beauty of that early morning, but here is one that simply looks at a facet of Levels life.

There is no school in the village of Godney, and so those who are not taken to their schools by other means go via the school bus, which is seen here waiting on the outskirts of the village early in the morning, prior to going into the village to pick up the children.

What can we see in this picture?  Well, obviously, the bus waiting amidst open farmland – it’ll be in a place where it does not block the single track road.  And the red triangle of the road sign to the right of the bus warns drivers that this narrow road is about to enter a series of sharp corners: the road is following the bends of the little River Sheppey – the raised river bank can be seen immediately behind the bus.  Then there is a telegraph poll, carrying landline phone cables.  And right of the road sign, part of the inverted umbrella shape of a pollarded willow tree.

A short while ago, my blogging colleague Harrie Nijland was talking to me about two distinct types of photography.  The first type of photo is simply a straight, factual representation of something, a record shot perhaps, or documentary photography.  This is such a shot, showing an everyday facet of Levels life, without any artistic ambitions or endeavour whatsoever.  But the second type of photo Harrie mentioned does use artistic / compositional / etc devices in an attempt to make images more attractive to the eye: and, for better or worse, the other images in this short series are all of this type.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Godney, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 310 – CATTLE, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


.

Cattle grazing at sunrise: a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze.

I’ve been turning out old papers, and have come upon copies of a long defunct birding magazine.  One of these has an article on the area of the Levels that I regularly visit, in which there are two quotes that I think really encapsulate the place.  I’d like to share them with you:

There are many features in common throughout the whole area; the quiet scene of grassland and cows, rhynes and pollarded Willow trees, windbreaks and thick old hedges and dead straight roads and droves.

And then, secondly:

All seasons have one important factor in common, that is a peaceful scene with very few people in it, no summer crowds and no traffic clogging the quiet roads.

These words say it all about the Tadham and Tealham Moors.  They are of course not natural landscapes, they are (fairly rough and untidy) open pastures that have been reclaimed, over the centuries, from large areas of lakes and marshland.  But they are plain and simple, what you see is what you get.  And I will end by quoting from this post’s opening sentence:

… a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 106mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 309 – LOOKING EASTWARDS, THROUGH A TELEPHOTO

 

 


.

I’ve always enjoyed looking into the distance, looking out to the horizon.  Two of the beauties of modern (i.e. digital) photography are that even moderate telephotos not only allow me to do just that, but also allow me to see exactly (via electronic viewfinders) the result that the camera is going to record.

Here I was driving westwards in the early morning across Tadham Moor on the Somerset Levels, with the sun rising through shifting mist banks behind me.  As I drove, I kept looking in the mirror at the glowing landscape behind me and, on seeing this scene, I pulled off sharply into the open gateway of a field.

Jumping out of the car (well, as much as I can jump out of anywhere these days) I looked back, and the whole landscape to the east seemed ablaze with glowing, shifting colour.  My camera had a 305mm (equivalent) telephoto mounted on it, and I simply pointed it into the mist, started picking out details, and started firing.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – recommended.  Can you see the perched bird (top left!)?

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 308 – THE VIEW SOUTH, TADHAM MOOR

 

 

.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

So, where are we?  Well, early on a misty day, I’m standing on a rough track that goes off southwards across Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  The place that I’m standing in looks nondescript, but it is very special to me, it helped me through truly dreadful times long ago, and I call it the Magic Carpark.  There are four things to see.

First, there is on the left a bank of dark green, spikey grasses, grasses which love to grow in damp, marshy places.

Then, the rhyne (rhymes with seen), the water-filled ditch, which makes off straight as an arrow southwards, and which acts as the fence for the field on its left.  I’ve talked about rhynes in earlier posts in this little series.  There is another such waterway, out of sight, immediately right of the large tree on the right: this little, dark track goes off southwards between these two, thin, flanking bodies of water.

Thirdly, the large tree on the right, a Willow, is very special to me.  Following the fairly recent (natural) toppling and deaths of three others behind the camera, it still stands proud but, perched right on the edge of one of these water-filled rhynes, it too could topple in at any time and, arriving here, I’m always relieved to see it still standing tall.  Furthermore, on these visits, I never fail to go over to touch and talk to it, though never knowing if I’m heard, or felt, or mad.

And, on a purely practical note, since Somerset County Council have not been idiotic enough to install a nice, completely incongruous, modern toilet block here in this simple, rural setting, standing on the far side of this Willow is a very good place to, as our American cousins so succinctly put it, take a leak.  Behind this big tree, after all, being out of sight of passers by along the nearby lane … although not out of sight of the farmer and his wife as they drive slowly down to check their stock in the early mornings.  But then, you can’t have everything.  And they do always smile and wave.

And the fourth thing about this totally simple and nondescript little place is that – along this track – is where an old and valued friend is going to sprinkle my ashes when I finally, as the phrase so happily puts it, snuff it.  And what will happen after that?  Well, the feet of the cattle, the sheep and the farmers’ dogs, the wheels of the farmers’ Land Rovers, the boots of walkers and the torrents of rain, will press and flush what’s left of me further and further into this ground, a fate which, when I think about it, is just fine with me.  And, since this ground is just about at or even a little below sea level and sea levels are rising, there will come a time when these Levels return to the marshes and inundated areas that they once (not so long ago) were, and that’s fine with me too.  Even though I can’t swim.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.

.

.

.

SOMERSET LEVELS 307 – THE POPLARS AT GODNEY

 

 


.

Sunrise over the group of trees – Poplars, I think – on the outskirts of Godney village.  Sited as they are on a small rise in the ground, these tall and slender trees are something of a landmark in this ultimately flat countryside.

And this small rise in the ground is important too.  For, according to a 1991 book on place names, Godney refers not to a god, but to an Anglo-Saxon named Goda, who presumably had some sort of settlement / farm on this hill, when it was a small island in the vast area of marshes and lakes that occupied the Somerset Levels before they were drained for agriculture – “ney”, in Old English, means island.  In AD 971, a manuscript named this place as Godeneia.

I grew up not far from here and, for most of my life, the place names were just, well, place names.  So that it came as a real revelation to find out that the majority of these names originated in Anglo-Saxon times (c. AD 410-1066) and they in fact actually mean something, as in Goda’s island.  It helps to bring this simple but intriguing landscape to life.  There are newer names too, which result from the Norman invasion in 1066.  And, more fascinating to me, there are also older, Celtic names, ie pre-dating the Anglo-Saxons: eg river names like Avon and Severn.

The pure naturalness of this image may be reduced by the telephone wire, which I may have been able to remove post-capture but, really, my aim is to show this area as it is, rather than as some manicured ideal.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 .

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Godney, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 306 – RHYNE BESIDE TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


.

Looking eastwards along the water-filled ditch, the rhyne (rhymes with seen), that runs along the northern side of Totney Drove, the single track road that can just be glimpsed to the right of the tree’s trunk.  The rhyne’s surface is mostly covered in water weed.  A very peaceful scene, yes, but there’s danger here too.  First, the tree (a Willow) is leaning slightly to the left, and the more this tilt increases, the more difficulty the tree’s roots will have in preventing its huge bulk from toppling right over.  The soils here are damp and loose, and should they become waterlogged or actually submerged, as may happen in the approaching winter months, then the roots’ grip will loosen and the giant will fall.  Second, a somewhat spindly wire fence at the rhyne’s edge aims to keep the cattle away from the rhyne: a cow falling into the deep water and ooze would certainly require a tractor to get it out again.

In the background to the left, cattle seen as ghostly shapes in the mist, with woodland further back.

And in the background to the right, there are several trees which are thick and heavy near the ground, but thinner further up.  These trees have been pollarded, they are pollards, which means that, one or more times in their lives, they have had the wood from their upper parts removed, for firewood, woodwork etc, while their lower parts are left unaffected.  Pollarding is an ancient practice, and more about it can be found here .

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 .

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 101mm; 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset and adding a light Coffee tone; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
.
.
.

SOMERSET LEVELS 305 – DRIVING WESTWARDS, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


.

A car moves cautiously westwards across Tadham Moor, through fog turned incandescent by the rising sun.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.

.
.
.

%d bloggers like this: