ARCHIVE: LEVELS 96 – SINGLE TRACK ROAD


Rural idyll – the morning drive to work across Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 18 Nov 2016.

Sunrise tints the sky, and two cars face each other down on Totney Drove, the sole east-west tarmac strip across this dripping and glutinous area of lowland.  Driving here, we are below sea level.

The road is single track, someone will have to pull over or back up – but most of the drivers here are locals and usually they are very courteous – which only adds to the pleasure of visiting this little out of the way, backwater of a place.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 195mm; 1600 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.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 83 – RAINY DAY, MOTORWAY SERVICES


View through our windscreen on a rainy day; Membury Services, on the M4 in Berkshire; 1 June 2016.

Off eastwards to Berkshire to see a friend, with a (now habitual) stop in a motorway services for sustenance en route.  It was a wet morning and, quite by chance, we parked opposite a red car.  I blinked my way out of “driving mode”, looked around and this filled the view out in front of us.

This is very far from the first picture I’ve ever taken through a wet window, and I’m sure very far from the last too.  For me, blur and softness have their place in images, wall to wall sharpness is not the be all and end all of things.  Interestingly, this week’s edition of Amateur Photographer magazine (23 July 2016) is devoted to Sharpness, the Editor kicking things off with “Today’s photographers are obsessed with sharpness in a way that we never used to be.”.  And he’s right.  But, for me, its always the content of an image that comes first, and the technicalities second.  However next week’s AP issue is all about blur – so that’s alright then!

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D700 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 95mm; 800 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 81 – VIEW FROM AN ALLEYWAY


Alleyway in Bruton, Somerset; 14 Dec 2003.  I definitely have a visual fetish for partially obscured cars, there’s just something about pictures like this that really gets to me!  Weird or what?  

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

Technique: OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 3200 ISO.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 80 – WINTER SUN, IN A CAR PARK (2)


Looking low in the car park next to Temple Meads Station, just as the bright winter sun clears the skyline and floods the area with light.

I posted the lower picture a few days back, but then started looking at another version, which is the upper shot here.  I like both of these pictures for their great simplicity, their Minimalism.  There’s not much here, its just the nearside front wheel of a red car.  But then I’m a great believer that there need not always be a lot in a picture – and that one of the great no-no’s in photography is having too much in a picture.

But which of these pictures do I prefer, and why?  I’ve processed them slightly differently: the colour of the car’s bodywork is slightly paler in the upper photo – but then the upper photo is slightly higher key in some areas, it has slightly paler tones, and some burnt out highlights too >>>>> the photographic purists amongst you may not sleep too soundly tonight …..

I prefer the upper image because of its higher (and, yes, burnt out) tones, and the way in which the convex curve of the lit up tyre slightly mirrors the slight curve of the very high key and slightly burnt out highlight on the left.  And I prefer the upper image because is even simpler, more Minimal, than the lower image.  The details of the wheel’s hub and spokes have all gone, and there are simply three curves that are convex to the left, and that single straight dark line at lower left.  If I were a purist (now there’s a surreal thought!) I might have washed the car before firing at it too …..

Which of these two images do you prefer?  Do you agree with my choice, or do you have a quite different take on things?  Let me know >>> its always good to hear others’ views!

And so to a very firmly held mantra – one, perhaps, that six years of blogging have hammered into me >>>  in photography (as in many other things), there are no rights and no wrongs, there are only differing, subjective, visual opinions.

Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 206mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; car park beside Temple Meads Railway Station, Bristol; 1 Dec 2017.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 79 – WET AFTERNOON, GOING HOME


Going home from work.  Sitting glumly on a bus near Bristol’s Temple Meads railway station, while the rain streamed down and the dull winter’s afternoon grew ever duller.  It was sometime in February 2006, and the day had nothing in mind other than to expire gratefully, unremembered, into the darkness and anonymity of a wet night.

But I do remember this afternoon clearly – mainly thanks to this photo I suppose.  I was sitting in my favourite seat, right up in the front on the upper deck of the bus, but even that could not dispel the feelings of drabness and gloom brought on by the cold and damp weather – and, let’s face it, no approach to Temple Meads station passes through any of Bristol’s more attractive quarters.

The bus in front is covered is a vast green advert for Asda supermarkets, and to the right of it, alone on a traffic island, is a derelict hotel.   The red lights bring a touch of colour to the otherwise drab scene, and the rain spattered window recalls my feeling at that moment of wanting to be anywhere else in the world but stuck on this damned bus!

Click onto the image to see a larger version of all this dreadfulness in a separate window.

Technique: Olympus XA2 with Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 800 ISO – and fellow passengers all too audibly wondering what the hell this fat weirdo was doing taking pictures from a bus on a rainy day …



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 83 – MOMENTS OF UNEASE


Driving eastwards on Hearty Moor, driving towards the rising sun.  A farmer in a huge 4×4 stopped, looked down at my little car and me, and announced that his cows were on their way down the road towards me, but “just pull over to the side and you’ll be fine!”.

Well, a narrow – in fact single track – road, there was nowhere else to go.  And so to really large, living things moving slowly down the road past me, to huge faces brushing up against the car windows and, catching sight of me within, shying away in panic; and in one unnerving instance, one of their significant bulks trying to squeeze through the little gap between the car and the hedge …

Well, you say, they were only cows, but I have two takes on this.

First, and on the positive side, I used to take paying guests on safari in Kenya, and often used to stop my vehicle in front of an advancing column of elephants, telling everyone to be very quiet and to keep still, and to let the elephants bear down upon us and flow around the vehicle like water around an island in a stream – once, one took even some greenery that had become entangled in our front bumper and ate it.   These were truly wonderful experiences, the great beasts moving slowly past us, the noises, the smells – it was said that an elephant can smell each individual occupant of a vehicle and remember the smell too!  BUT I was younger and less sensible then >>> although my hand was always on the vehicle’s ignition key, and I was in a larger, safari vehicle rather than my little car!  And having been studied for many years, the elephants of Amboseli Game Reserve were very used to people.  Although, even then, getting too near a big bull was really not a good idea.

But second, on the negative side – and much nearer home too – a cow broke out of its field near Bristol a few years back, panicked and ran off down the road.  And when confronted by a small car like mine, it ran up over the bonnet and roof in its panic, killing the driver.  And so to moments of unease on Hearty Moor, though still managing to fire off a few frames.

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 10-25 Fujinon lens at 36mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Provia/Standard profile; Hearty Moor, east of Glastonbury on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

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.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 78 – CAR BEHIND A WIRE FENCE


Brooding in the shadows just before dawn and all too beautiful; tantalising, seductive even; and prudently fenced off from those who might want – or perhaps even, desire – to take too close a look.

But a cold beauty now, dumb, metallic, inert, just a work of modern sculpture or an overlarge paperweight, even if all of that can be changed in an instant by the arrival of – no, not something with the elegance of Cinderella’s slipper – but more prosaically, in this mass-produced, machine-driven world: an ignition key.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 200 ISO; spotmetering for highlights; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; car park beside Temple Meads station, central Bristol; 26 May 2017.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 77 – STREET SCENE (3)


A collection of disparate objects: street furniture, the relentless imagery of the mass media, and a moving vehicle  – modern life along a city’s busy roadside, just before dawn. 

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format to give 450mm; 12,800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Pop profile; central Bristol; 29 Nov 2019.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 76 – CAR PARKED BESIDE THE PAVEMENT


Parked car reflecting houses as the sun rises.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 46mm (equiv); 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Vivid profile; south Bristol; 8 June 2021.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 75 – THE CAR PARKED NEXT TO MINE (2) (MONO + COLOUR)


The car parked next to mine; Bristol, 22 Nov 2012.

A day of high winds and showers; raindrops are visible on the window.

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

Technique: Canon G11 PowerShot at 63mm (35mm equivalent); 400 ISO; rotated 90 degrees clockwise; using Silver Efex Pro’s Silhouette 025 E +0.5 preset as a starting point, with some colour restoration.



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